You’re Not Entitled


thCCETYUECToday there seems to be an overbearing sense of entitlement in our country. Many people believe they are entitled to various things such as being treated a certain way, certain benefits and earnings or certain material items. Some even believe they are entitled to happiness. Many of those who have these expectations have put forth very little effort to earn the very things they believe they are entitled to.

Even those who don’t think they have this attitude can quickly find themselves harboring feelings of entitlement that they may be completely unaware of. Take my husband for example. There is a gentleman he works with that brings my husband a Dr. Pepper to work every day. Not some days, not occasionally, but every day. My husband never asked for him to bring the Dr. Pepper. He just did so because he noticed Dave would sometimes buy one from the vending machine and he began bringing one in for Dave because he’s a kind and thoughtful person. Dave looked forward to the drink every day and knew he could rely on his friend to bring him one.

Then one day his friend failed to bring him a Dr. Pepper. He had run out and hadn’t had a chance to go to the store. Dave confessed to me when he got home from work that he actually felt deprived that he didn’t get his daily dose of Dr. Pepper. Although his friend didn’t owe him the drink, had never asked if Dave  wanted the drink or forced it upon him but simply offered him the drink each day out of the goodness of his heart – Dave felt he was entitled to it. And when he didn’t get what he felt was owed to him, he felt disappointed.

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It happens sometimes without our even realizing it. We begin to believe we deserve more than we do. We take on the attitude that we are owed something. And most of the time it’s something we know we haven’t earned. We just want it and we want it now.

There is one thing and one thing only that we are entitled to. And ironically, it’s the one thing we deserve the least. We are entitled to the free gift of salvation. What we really deserve is the punishment Jesus Christ endured on the cross for us. But His love for us is incomparable. Instead of allowing us to receive what we deserve, He gave His life so that we can be forgiven and set free from the power that sin holds over our lives. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. And by doing so He ensured our entitlement to an eternity with Him in heaven if only we’ll  believe (Romans 10:9).

On this Memorial Day I want to share with you a wonderful saying I saw posted online. It said “Today I give thanks for the two defining forces who have offered to die for me and you – Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for our souls and the other died for our freedom.”

Please join me in giving thanks not only to those serving our country who sacrificed all but to the One who sacrificed to give you what He thinks you deserve.

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Out of Focus


IMG_2933Have you ever gone back years later to visit a place where you played as a child? Did you notice that it wasn’t quite like you remembered it? Or worse, it was nothing like you remembered it as a child. Have you ever told your children stories of the enormous hill you went sledding on or the tree that you climbed that was bigger than any tree your child has ever seen? And then you take them to see the hill or the tree and suddenly you look like the biggest liar EVER. Well, it happened to me.

In that moment I wondered what in the world happened. How could the hill and the tree have gotten so much smaller? I looked at the hill with disbelief because the hill that I went sledding down at 10 years old was so much bigger than the hill that now stood before me. And the tree. I thought the tree that I used to climb with my friends was the biggest tree ever known to exist. And then there was the wall I used to walk on. My dad would hold my hand and walk alongside me. I felt so high up in the air and it was so scary. Yet when I drove by that wall many years later it was only 3 feet tall. Seriously?! It couldn’t be the same wall – the wall I walked on was towering up to the sky. But it was in fact the same wall, on the same street, in front of the same house my grandparents used to live in.

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It’s funny how when you look back sometimes, the things that you thought were so huge are not really as big as you thought they were. You have a picture in your mind that has been there for years but in that moment, they just don’t seem the same as you remember them.  The thing is, the size of the hill and the tree or the height of the wall didn’t change over time. What changed over the years was my perspective. I had changed. I had grown. The way I saw things and the perspective from which I saw them had changed. They had not changed, I was just seeing them with a different set of eyes.

How different could our lives be if we changed the way we look at things? What if instead of looking at the challenges of life with childlike eyes that viewed everything as so much bigger than us, we looked at them through mature eyes that see them as not so big after all?  How much easier would life be if we were able to look at our problems and think “That’s it? Wow, that’s nothing!”

IMG_2932What if, instead of being fearful of the enormity of what we face, we could see that in reality it’s nothing like we imagine it to be? What if we could see things in the moment as they really are and it not take years later to see our situations and circumstances as a small bump in the road instead of a huge obstacle that seems impossible to overcome? What if we could see the good in a situation now instead of focusing on the bad? What if it didn’t take a really long time to see that what is happening now may actually be a good thing instead of bad like we think it is? What if we could pick out the positives and discard the negatives now instead of years from now when we look back on this season?

Does this sound impossible? Difficult, yes. Impossible, no.  The reality is already there, we just have to learn to see it. The hill, the tree and the wall didn’t change. There were always the size they are now. But the way they appeared to me changed because my perspective changed. The same can be true for our circumstances. They may not change. But the way we see them can definitely change. If we begin to refocus our eyes on God and how big He is, then our problems suddenly begin to look smaller. Instead of saying “God, I have a big problem!” we should be saying “Problem, I have a big God!”.

th (5)God never promised that our lives would be problem free but He did promise us that He will be right there with us as we face our problems. Many times we fail to recognize when our perspective is out of focus. We become fearful, worried and obsessed with our problems because we are seeing them through childlike eyes. But we have tools available to us that can help us to refocus. When we spend time reading the bible, in prayer and quieting our busy minds in order to seek God’s presence, we find that our perspective begins to change. The problems we face begin to diminish and we begin to grow in our faith in Him. Before long our focus is restored and our perspective is renewed. It’s not easy to refocus, but it is possible (Phil. 4:13).

Has the way you see things gotten out of focus? Do the problems you face seem impossible to overcome?  It’s time to refocus on the One who has overcome it all (John 16:33). Don’t wait until years from now to see the truth. It’s time to see your situation for what it really is and not what it seems to be. Refocus.

The Fixer


scandal 2One of my favorite shows on TV is “Scandal”. The show’s main character, Olivia Pope, is known as a “fixer”. Or more appropriately, she is The Fixer in Washington, DC. When someone finds themselves in the midst of a major problem or scandal that needs fixing, Olivia is the go-to girl. She has an uncanny ability to know exactly how things will play out in each situation and she has a response plan in place before her client hardly knows what has hit them. She is cool under pressure and a brilliant communicator. She is a strong woman who can handle most anything thrown her way and she never reveals her hand before it’s time. Even her own team many times has no idea what she is thinking because she is unbelievably difficult to read. The show’s characters are complicated, Olivia being the most complex by far. Her life revolves around her repairing the damage of one scandal after another. But like everyone, even the seemingly unbreakable Olivia Pope has a weakness. And while she is the Queen of fixing everyone else’s problems, the one thing Olivia cannot fix is herself.

mr fix itLike Olivia, many of us live our lives as fixers. We are constantly attempting to fix things like our marriages, our finances, our family drama, our job situations, our kids, our loneliness, our sadness, our addictions, our hurts and our brokenness. Some of us accept the help of others by receiving their advice, counseling, methods or resources. Others simply say “I got it” and attempt the needed repairs all alone because they have all the tools they think they need at their disposal. Olivia Pope has a team that works with her but she is undoubtedly in charge and what she says goes. And each team member is forever indebted to Olivia because they too have been “rescued” from impending disaster by the one and only Olivia Pope. Although she is surrounded by others she is completely in control and very unwilling to relinquish one bit of that control.

You may be like Olivia Pope and you may be a really good fixer. In fact, you may be the best fixer among those you know. You may have fixed long-standing family feuds, you may have fixed your marriage or your finances, you may have even fixed a personal addiction, a problem with your child or a major job issue. But like Olivia Pope, you too have an area you cannot fix, yourself. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to fix certain things. There will always be areas of hurt, unforgiveness, anger or other wounds to our hearts for which there is only one fix.

God healsGod is the original fixer and He alone can fix the areas that you and no other person or thing can fix. I was a fixer and I always found a way to fix that one thing that I just knew would make my life complete. The problem was that I never really fixed what was really wrong. Each thing that I thought would bring me happiness was only a temporary “fix” and I found myself right back where I started, feeling empty and looking for my next fix.

Finally someone told me I didn’t have a happiness problem, I had a joy problem. I based my happiness on my circumstances. I thought that if everything was fixed in my life then I’d be happy. What I didn’t realize was that there would always be something that needed fixing. But that if I would surrender my life to The Fixer, Jesus, then I could still have joy even when there was some area of my life in need of repair. I didn’t need a better husband, a bigger house or more stuff. I desperately needed a Savior. I needed to admit I couldn’t fix everything and that I needed Him to fix me.

nativity 2I needed to stop living a life of sin where all I thought about was myself. I needed to surrender my life to Jesus and seek His will for my life and not my own. I needed to stop trying to pretend like some things I couldn’t fix would simply fix themselves with time. I needed to trust God to heal those areas I’d never be able to fix or the areas I didn’t want to face. I needed the love of Christ and the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill the voids of my life. I needed the strength I have in Christ alone to overcome the things I’d never be able to in my own strength. I needed the promise of eternal life that I received the moment I said “I believe”. I needed His comfort in times of sorrow and His guidance in the times I felt lost and confused. I needed to believe that things could get better and they did when I placed my hope in Christ alone and no one else, including myself. I needed that precious baby born in a manger so long ago who came from heaven to earth to die the death that you and I deserve so we don’t have to. I needed his forgiveness of my sins so that I would be able to forgive others. I needed His unconditional love and acceptance more than I ever realized. I needed fixed. I needed Jesus.

Who Do You Say I Am?


Last week my son graduated from high school. In the picture he’s the one in red 😉 I always thought it would be pretty cool when your children grow up and leave the house to enter into adulthood. Now that it’s actually happening to me I realize it’s soooo not cool. It’s really very emotional, exciting, sad and inspiring all at the same time. It was 7 minutes into the ceremony when they played the graduation march and the graduates began to file in. And it was around 7 minutes and 2 seconds into the ceremony that my typically unemotional self lost it. In that moment I became fully aware that this single event marked a finality to his childhood. It was really over. There would be no do-overs for the mistakes I had made, the opportunities I had let slip by, the lessons I had failed to teach or the moments I had missed because I was simply too busy. That season was now over and it was time to enter into a new one. I couldn’t help but wonder what Ryan was thinking as he sat there with his 310 fellow graduates. I wondered if he was thinking, as I was, that the time had come for him to be a man and that whatever had taken place during childhood was now just memories mixed with the occasional regret.

As with all graduations there are the speeches filled with inspiration and encouragement and I listened intently to each one for nuggets of wisdom. One of the most profound to me was a simple statement from the principal. He said “Everyone will be remembered for something in their life. What will you be remembered for?” I thought about Ryan and wondered – 25 years from now when he’s my age, who will the world say he is? What will people think of when his name is mentioned? What will he be known for? It’s such a simple yet significant question for us all – when my name is spoken, who do people say I am?

Jesus asked this question to his disciples in Matthew 16:13. The answers were as varied then as they are now. People thought he was a prophet, a teacher, a dead prophet returned to life, John the Baptist and even a demon-possessed lunatic. His own family even thought he was a little crazy. Today people say he was a good man, an inspirational teacher, a leader or even a fictional character in a make-believe story. But after Jesus asked his disciples who others said he was, he asked them “who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15).

As Christians the question Jesus asked is just as important to us today as it was to his disciples in the moment that he asked them over 2,000 years ago. We all need to ask ourselves:

  • What do I say when someone asks me who Jesus is?
  • Am I prepared to answer that question?
  • Do I know in my heart who He really is?
  • Does my life reflect who Jesus is to me? And if so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

When asked by Jesus “who do you say I am” Simon Peter responded “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus was and still is the promised Messiah. He is the substitute for our sins, the Lamb of God. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator of the Universe. He is the Great Physician and by His stripes we are healed. He is the sacrificial Lamb and the Savior of the world. He is the Great I AM and is Lord of all. He came to fulfill the law and He is the new covenant. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the One I adore and He is my Strong Tower. He is my Rock and my Comfort.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the King of Glory, the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Lion and the Lamb, the Prince of Peace and the Lion of Judah. He was, and is, and is to come and He is God with us. He is my Lord and Savior. He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Who is He to you? Only you can answer that question. But I do know that you are the world to Him. He loves you more than you can ever imagine. When you reach the end of your life it won’t really matter who others say you are. It won’t really make a difference what you are remembered for because eventually it will probably be forgotten. The only thing that will matter is how you respond in the moment Jesus says to you “who do you say I am?” Are you prepared to answer that question?

Sky Diving and Rocky Mountain Climbing


Several years ago Tim McGraw released a song called “Live Like You Were Dying” from his album by the same name. The song reached number one on the charts and earned McGraw a Grammy.  The message of the song was simple – live each day as if it were your last. Do the things that you always wanted to do, make amends with anyone you still hold a grudge against, show love to those who you hold most dear, and spend more time with God. Each of these suggestions are definitely things we all should be doing whether we are dying or not. But what if, instead of living like we’re dying, we chose to simply live like we really believed that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just die for our sins, He overcame the power of sin in our life?

Many people today say they believe in God and they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. But the worry, fear, doubt and perpetual cycle of  sin in their life says they believe something very different. Still others are filled with guilt and condemnation because they don’t believe they are good enough for God to love them even though they have received the gift of salvation. The problem for both is that they haven’t reached a point of understanding the full extent of what Jesus did the day He died on the cross. They believe He died for their sins, which is vital for salvation. They also believe that all their past sins have been forgiven. But what they fail to understand is that when Jesus died on the cross, He not only died for all of their sins, He overcame sin.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we know it is not up to us pay the price for our sins. The price has already been paid and it only needed to be paid once. There is no need for anyone to keep paying the price. It is finished. When we accept God’s forgiveness of sin, it is erased from our life along with the power it has over us. We are set free from the bondage of sin and the power it weilds over us. But for many, they live their life as if sin still reigns over them. They walk down the aisle of the church to the altar, respond to the gospel and receive the forgiveness for their past sins. Then they attempt in their own strength to make changes in how they act so they won’t sin anymore. At that point they are simply practicing behavior modification when they should instead be surrendering their lives to Christ and trusting in His power to overcome sin in their life. Once we are saved, we are never separated from God. But those still trapped by the guilt and condemnation of past sin feel the separation that sin causes and for this reason many end up turning away from the church. They believe that as long as they behave a certain way they will be close to God but when they don’t behave “right” they feel as if they are separated from God, even though that’s not true. They believe God and other believers will no longer accept them because they have failed. They wrongly believe that they are the only ones who have done anything wrong and that everybody else has it all together so they choose to isolate themselves. And it’s in their isolation they become an easy target for the enemy. The message of the gospel is not about doing all the right things and being a good person so God will accept us. It is accepting God’s promise that we are forgiven once and for all and trusting in Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to change our sinful nature and transform us into His image.

However, knowing our sins are forgiven – past, present and future – does not give us free reign to go sin because we won’t have to pay the price for that sin. What it does do is give us confidence in knowing that no sin – past, present or future – has any power over us. We are free from the control that sin once had in our life and from the guilt and condemnation it made us feel. We do not have to live in fear that we will disappoint God. In His eyes, we are white as snow because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. We do not have to isolate ourselves when we do fall short because there is nothing that can separate us from God once we are born again. We do not have to feel the pressure to be a “perfect” Christian because we accept that we are sinful by nature and know we will be forgiven when we repent and turn from our sins – past, present and future. We don’t have to perform for God to love us, but out of our love for Him we choose a life of obedience to His commands. We do not have to fear death and eternal separation from our Father because the Word promises that through our salvation we will spend eternity with Him in heaven. We don’t have to live like a prisoner bound by the power of sin because we are free through the power of God. Tim McGraw sang we should live like we’re dying but I say it’s much better to live like Jesus lived, glorifying the Father by living victoriously over sin. How much better would our lives be if we all lived like we really believed that Jesus not only died for our sin, He overcame it!

Prison Break


I confess – I watch too much television. One of my favorite new shows is Alcatraz, a drama that revolves around the prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and the efforts of a team of investigators to track a group of missing prisoners who mysteriously reappear decades after they disappeared from the prison. On a recent episode an inmate appeared at the home of a friend who thought he had died while being held prisoner at Alcatraz. When the friend saw him he said “I thought you were dead! When did you get out of prison?” The inmate answered, “When you’re in prison, you never really get out. You just move from one cell to another.” Many people today are being held in captivity. They are a prisoner to some form of bondage, desperately seeking the key to freedom. They believe the key lies in the “ifs” of their lives. If I had more money. If I was with someone who really loved me the way I deserve to be loved. If I could forgive them for what they did to me. If I could just find a way to overcome this addiction. If I could lose 50 pounds. If I could get a better ____________ (fill in the blank…….job, car, house). If only I were prettier, smarter, funnier, more confident. They keep wandering from one cell to another searching for their elusive freedom.

What I found in my own life is all of your “ifs” can be overcome. You can conquer every perceived obstacle and still be a prisoner. The freedom most find is only a temporary freedom and after the initial break from captivity they find themselves right back in bondage. They may have found short term liberty in a new relationship, new job or a move to a new geographic location, only to find that what they thought was freedom was simply a move from one prison cell to another. There is only one true key to freedom and it is found in Jesus Christ. He alone is the lasting key to a life of liberty. It was never God’s plan for you to be captive. His desire for you is to live a life without limits, an open and expansive life. (2Cor. 6:11-13 MSG).

If you are prisoner to the bondage of addiction, lonliness, insecurity, depression, unforgiveness or anger it is time to be set free. It’s time to break away from that which holds you captive and seek the only One who can truly set you free. All you have to do is ask. Jesus stands waiting to open the door to the wide open, spacious life. (Matt. 7:7). Isn’t it time you break free? You have nothing to lose and your freedom to gain.

Make ‘Em Pay


Forgiving someone means accepting their apology, right? Well, yes. But there’s a second part to forgiveness that many of us leave out, especially us ladies. We tend to forgive but we also tend to make sure that the one we’ve forgiven doesn’t soon forget their wrong against us. We are quick to forgive because we don’t want to carry the guilt of withholding forgiveness from them. But we want to ensure that there is still a price to pay – that they have to earn that forgiveness in some way.

The problem with that way of thinking is that it doesn’t fit the definition of forgiveness, true forgiveness – the kind of forgiveness that Jesus died on the cross for. Forgiveness means to release a person from punishment, to exempt them from penalty. When you truly forgive someone then you do not expect anything in return. It’s over. It is finished.

You see, we are often too quick to forget what Jesus did for us on the cross. Oh, we remember the part about how He forgave our sins and so we in return are willing to forgive others. But we leave out the part of what He did before He died on that cross, the part where He paid the penalty for our sins. He received the brutal beating and punishment that our sin deserved. He never said “I’ll forgive you, but it’s gonna cost you”. Not only does He forgive us but He also paid the cost for us. (Isaiah 53:5)

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to forget the wrong that was done to you. But it does mean that you do not expect them to earn your forgiveness. If you forgive someone you forfeit your right to impose a penalty on them. When you forgive them you relinquish the need to make them pay for what they did to you by withholding affection or constantly reminding them of just how bad they hurt you. Many times as women when we forgive someone we falsely believe that we have the “right” to do what we want, spend what we want or act like we want without consequence because after all, we earned it because of what they did to us. In true forgiveness there is no penalty phase. There is no set time period that we get to treat the one who hurt us with an attitude of revenge while we practically dare them to react negatively because we’ve decided they deserve the harsh treatment as payment for their wrong.

What we all deserve is everything that Jesus endured on the cross on our behalf. But when we seek His forgiveness we receive it – no strings attached. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it with flowers or gifts and there’s no certain time period that He gives us the cold shoulder until He decides we’ve finally earned full forgiveness. He forgives our sins the moment we repent. The moment we seek His forgiveness with an attitude of Godly sorrow, it’s done. There’s no penalty phase because the penalty was paid in full for our sins.

In response to the cross, the very least we can do is to fully forgive others who sincerely seek our forgiveness with Godly sorrow. We owe them forgiveness with no expectations of them earning that forgiveness. Those who ask for our forgiveness deserve the same forgiveness we receive from God when they do so not because they were caught doing wrong, but because they know they caused us to hurt and they never want to do it again.  Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive? Is there anyone you need to completely forgive?

Behind the Scenes of An Extreme Makeover


For my son’s birthday we decided it was time to redo his bedroom to give it an updated and age appropriate look. So we set out to perform a much needed extreme makeover. We started by removing three layers of wallpaper then painting the room a warm shade of blue. We bought a new bed, new bedding and a new rug. We brought in a floor plant and changed the ceiling fan to a more modern one. And a new lamp and some new wall hangings finished out the job. His room now looks completely different than before. But the thing is, nothing has really changed. If you remove all of the new items from the room, what’s left underneath the surface is still the same. Many people live their lives much the same way. They try to cover up the pain they feel on the inside by changing things on the surface. They change their appearance. They change relationships, jobs, homes, surroundings, and spouses. They do so in hopes that if they make “surface” changes then they will feel a change on the inside that will overcome the wounds and hurts that nobody can see on the surface. But when you strip all of that away, nothing has really changed on the inside. The only option for real transformation on the inside is when we are born again and become a new creation through Jesus Christ. We keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results. But the truth is nothing will change until we surrender our lives to the only One who can bring about real change. Jesus came in human form so that He could die on the cross the death that we deserve. He gave His life so we don’t have to give ours as payment for our sins. So as you give and receive gifts this Christmas, receive the gift of salvation, eternal life and a new life transformation so that you may be healed of the hurts and pains that have held you captive for so long. It’s time for a real change, a below-the-surface life transformation that is found only in Jesus Christ. Ask Him into your heart and to forgive your sins and you’ll have the joy this season of receiving a real Extreme Makeover.

The thing about Christmas


Over the years I’ve come to realize that the excitement and anticipation most of us feel about Christmas is not because we are going to get presents, although they are always fun to receive. It’s not about eating a big meal and then napping while watching football. It’s not about being with family and friends, the lights and decorations or the time off from work or school. I believe the reason there is an excitement in our hearts is because our hearts belong to the One who’s birth we celebrate during this season. The anticipation we feel inside is by design. We look forward to this holiday more so than any other because we all have an internal longing to be with the One who created us. And because we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas the longing is more evident because the holiday is all about Jesus and the fact that He came in human form so that He may die for us because of God’s overwhelming love for us, His children. That longing we feel is purposeful so that we may seek God to fill the empty places in our hearts. But many people search to fill those places with a variety of things like relationships, food, alcohol, material things, power or position. And it is never more evident than at Christmas of how empty we are without Christ. What should be a happy time is a time of great sorrow for so many because the excitement and anticipation build and once Christmas comes and goes those without a Savior are left to realize that once again their expectations are unmet and the emptiness remains. If that is you, let this Christmas be the one where you have great expectancy not for the holiday to bring about the happiness you long for but expect God to fill the empty places in your heart and allow Him to give you the gift of eternal life through His son Jesus Christ who’s birth we celebrate. Simply ask and He will freely give you the peace and true joy you seek.