Monday, October 24, 2011

When you can't see with the eye...

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." Romans 16:20

Photo courtest,  Mcnamara,
As I read these words this morning, my heart leapt for joy. Have you ever prayed for something for a long time, knowing that God is able to resolve a situation and even knowing that He is willing to answer prayer, but still not see much happening?

It's those times when you must hold tight to your faith, pushing away doubts as they try to creep in...and they will try to creep in. When they do, stand firm. Proclaim that you serve a God who answers prayers, a God who is concerned with the affairs of man, a God who invites you to come to Him with every care of your heart.

Remind yourself of the times God has answered prayer in the past. Read and recite the promises that are written in His word. Thank Him in advance for the things that He is already doing that can not be seen with the eye, but are at work in the spiritual realm.

And then wait...patiently, for in due time...when the time is just right, the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. Until then, let the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Remember, He is a God of peace. Rest in that peace until you see the answer manifest.

He is a God who answers prayer!
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Warning - Snake Alert

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

Dan Evans, a missionary friend of mine, who ministers to an indigenous tribe in the Philippines sent an email update on his ministry this morning, which included, among other things, a report of finding two snakes in their compound. Here's his account of the event...

Below is a photo record of today’s encounter with a snake in our compound. The man who helps me around the farm, yelled for help in the tractor shed. He had found a very large poisonous snake trying to devour a small Python. When he appeared, they broke up and retreated to separate corners of the shed. He was able to bag the Python (so his family can eat it tonight). I used my pellet rifle to chase the larger snake into an open area where I was then able to kill it with a shotgun. This is the largest snake we’ve yet encountered, measuring about eight feet in length. It’s body was as large as my arm, and it’s head nearly the size of my clenched fist. I’m just glad I didn’t stumble on to this nasty critter in the dark (it was found between our generator and truck). A local villager was bitten by one of these last year and died within 20 minutes.

Oh, man...snakes just creep me out! I can't imagine living where I have to think about them all the time. Hmmmm...that makes me think - Satan took the form of a snake in the Garden of Eden.  No surprise there - snakes often lurk just out of sight, waiting for their prey to carelessly stumble into their territory so that they can strike and devour.

Sounds oddly close to the scriptures that tell us that Satan is always on the watch for someone that he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Perhaps we would do well to live as you live, ever mindful of the dangers that could be lurking in the shadows, just waiting to strike. After all, 1 Peter 5:8 does say that we are to be alert!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I think...

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Matthew 3:8 (NIV)
Yesterday I posted the verse above and asked what you thought about it. I received several well thought out responses.  I love it when people share their take on a particular scripture because I think you get a well rounded picture that way.

Now, I'll share what I think about when I read this verse.

Have you ever told your children not to do something only to have them do exactly what you told them not to do? When you confront them, they shrug and say, "Sorry, I forgot."  They might even seem genuinely sorry, but before too long, they're doing the same thing again.

Or may you've told them to do a certain thing only to check later and find that they didn't do it. You might receive the very same response when you ask them about it..."Sorry, I forgot."

How many times does this happen before you begin to doubt their sincerity?

The verse above reminds me of this very situation. God doesn't want us to keep saying we're sorry, only to continue in our disobedience.  If we are truly sorry - if we are truly repentant, our behavior will change.  We will begin doing the things He asks us to do on a consistent basis and we will refrain from doing those things He tells us not to do - again, on a consistent basis.

That's what it means to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  We need to let our behavior reflect our belief. I've said it before and I'll say it again...God's word means nothing if we do not allow it to change our behavior.

What are some good ways we can apply this verse to our daily lives?  How will you apply it?

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

What do you think?

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Matthew 3:8 (NIV)

While reading my Bible this morning, the verse above popped out at me.  Several thought concerning it's meaning and how I could apply it to my life jumped into my head, but as I was organizing my thoughts to write today's devotional, based on this verse, another thought came to mind.

Now, whether it was the Lord or me, I do not know, but the thought was...instead of always telling others what you think, why don't you ask them what they think?''

So, that's just what I'm doing today. I'm asking you to leave a comment and tell me what you think about this verse. What does it mean to you?  Will reading this verse change you in any way? If so, how?

I'm excited about reading your comments. I think God is going to use you to teach me something today!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's all temporary - or is it?

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

When life gets hard, when I'm struggling, I remind myself that everything in this life is temporary. When dealing with long-term health issues starts to get me down, I shrug my shoulders and say, "It's all temporary," because in Heaven, I won't be sick.

When financial hardships threaten to pull us under, I remind myself, it's all temporary, because in Heaven, there will be no bills.

When getting older makes me think I will never achieve my dreams, I remind myself that any measure of "success" I can achieve here on earth is all temporary and will mean nothing once I'm in Heaven.

It's all tempor......

Photo courtesy  melodi2,
Oh wait!  There is one thing here on earth that ISN'T temporary - our relationships with others. The way we treat one another has long-term, even eternal affect.. If we are kind and caring, showing the love of Jesus to those around us, it could lead them to seek God, and in so doing, lead them to salvation through Jesus Christ.  Conversely, if we treat people poorly, if we are uncaring when they are struggling, unavailable when they need us most, if we don't show them the way to Jesus, that has eternal effects, too.  They may think that Christianity is a farce, because of the ill manners of the believers they've encountered. They may turn away from God because of the way He was misrepresented by Christians.

So, I guess the best thing to do is to invest whatever time we have left on earth in PEOPLE, for they are the only things that are NOT temporary.  Everyone is immortal. Everyone will live one place or another.

As for me, I want to influence as many people as possible to take that next step toward a relationship with God.

Father, I know that my behavior toward others has an eternal and permanent affect on their spiritual lives. I pray that I will always treat others with love and that I will always represent You in such a way that they are drawn into a relationship with your Son. Grant that my life will increase the population of Heaven and decrease the population of Hell.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Faithful Provider

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians4:19 (NIV)

"And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Today is payday! 

That used to be the day when we thought about how much fun we could have with the extra money left over after paying the bills. Now? Not so much!

Now, I wonder how we are going to pay the left over bills after the money is gone.  Notice, I said wonder, not worry, because I've learned that God does indeed supply all our needs.  We live rather frugally, being careful not to waste money on things we don't need and not to run up bills we can't pay, but in this economy, our basic expenses have continued to rise, while our income has not.  It makes for a very interesting experiment in dollar stretching, but no matter how far we stretch the dollars we have, when we write it all out in black and white, we don't make enough to pay the bills...still, the bills get paid.  Isn't that amazing?

I believe that we live under the blessings of God because we have always been faithful in obedience with our giving. God says to bring him the tithe (10%) and offerings (anything above the 10%) and then promises that He will meet our needs...and He does!

It's always a joy to see that we can trust God to provide food for the table, gas for our cars, a roof over our head and clothes on our back.

Do we have lots of extras? No, but - our God supplies all of our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus!

Thank you, Father, that your Word is true and they we need not worry about our needs, knowing that you are faithful to keep your Word. Help us to be a blessing to others as you bless us. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Passin' the Faith Along

Ethan and David (a few years ago)
"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."  Psalm 71:18

Spent the last two days with my super grandsons, Ethan (12) and David (10). We had several hours together in the car, where I have Family Life Radio (KFLR) tuned in on the radio. Several songs sparked questions from the boys and some great conversations about God..  The boys have been in church since birth, so they know about God, but I love it when their questions reflect a growing desire to know Him more.

I pray that I will have many, many more opportunities to pass the love of God and His word on to the next generation!

Father, thank you for grandsons who love you and are eager to learn more about You and thank You for their parents, who love You and them enough to make sure they have every opportunity to know You. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Aim to Please!

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

For many years I was a people-pleaser, anticipating the needs and wants of others, doing what I thought would win their approval and affection, until I eventually saw that there is no pleasing some people and that living my life to please others was not God's plan.

His plan is for me to enjoy my life and to live it to please Him. The difference is, that I don't have to work to win God's approval and affection. He gives that to me freely as I live my life in Christ, doing the things I know He wants me to do and refraining from the things that he warns me not to do.  The coolest thing about that is that it's God, Himself, who gives me the desire to do what pleases Him, then he gives me the power to live that kind of life. I know I can't live it under my own power, because my human nature pulls me toward things that are not good for me and not pleasing to God, but He gives me the strength to say "no" to those things and the power to say "yes" to those things that I may not be drawn naturally to do, but will benefit me.

What a joy it is to walk through each day knowing that my life is pleasing to God. Sure, I slip up sometimes, but He always steers me back on course.  I'm so glad that I am not out here on my own!

Thank you, Father, for being the guiding force in my life, for helping me to live in a way that pleases you so that I can relax and enjoy my life. I love you! Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ya Get Whatcha Give!

"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit , from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people." Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)

Do you have children or grandchildren who treat each other rudely?  I have two wonderful grandsons, who on occasion, treat each other shall I say this?...less than brotherly love.

Yesterday, one was being rude to the other and of course, his brother retaliated in kind.  Since they were in my car, and therefore a captive audience, they got the good old "You Reap What You Sow" speech (sermonette) from Grandma.

This morning as I was thumbing through my Bible, I ran across these scriptures in Galatians and took a minute to highlight them.  As I did so, I was reminded that this is a immutable law from God.  We will reap what we sow.

If we sow love, kindness, generosity, sympathy, compassion and understanding, God will put people in our lives that will give these things right back to us...and if we are rude, selfish and uncaring - ignoring the needs of others, God will put people in our lives that will give these things right back to us.

Why? Because that's His promise: "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." and God always keeps His promises.

Father, help me to remember to operate my daily life, not from my selfish sinful nature, being unkind to those around me, but to operate out of the fruits of the Spirit that You have given to me... 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

and help me to remember to extend love to others...not love as the world defines it, but love as You define it:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

These are the things I want to sow, so that I may reap them in my own life. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Trusted Tour Guide

"Show me your ways, O LORD,
   teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long." 
Psalm 25:4-5 

I'm an explorer.  When I travel (which isn't often enough to suit me) I like to launch out on my own to see what I can find.  It can be an exciting way to go, but often I'm disappointed at where my path takes me.  It's not as wonderful as I thought it would be and later I find that while I was busy trying to discover new things, I missed the most beautiful sites and aspects of a location.  It's all because I don't want to travel like most others do.  I want to be different.

It all stems from that pesky poem by Robert Frost that I fell in love with in the fifth grade...

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference

Photo courtesy  micromoth,
It was this poem that set this wanderer's heart to explore the untried paths in life. Sometimes this has lead to new adventure and discovery, but just as many times it has led to disappointment and heartache.

Oh, that I would be wise enough to always let God show me the way - to allow Him to lead me down His paths for my life.

O Lord, you are my God and my Savior and I do long to have you show me the way and lead me in your paths, for I know that you have my best at heart. My trust should be placed in you and you alone - not in myself, for I have seen that independence from you leads me down the wrong path.  Help me to hear your voice clearly - to see your way and to follow hard after you, for truly, your way is the road less traveled and that will make all the difference. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Standing on the Promises

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  Luke 1:45

Do you have a special promise that you believe the Lord has spoken to you?  I do, and this verse helps me to cling to that promise in faith, believing that what God has spoken to me will come to pass. Sometimes the end result of the promise seems so very far off and sometimes it seems almost within my grasp, but regardless...I'm standing fast in that promise!

In fact, I apply this same principle to every promise God has made to me (us)...all those thousands of promises I read in His word - and there are some incredible promises written there.  Promises that stir my heart and some that make my heart tremble, but no matter what the promise or how I feel about it - it WILL come to pass, for God does not lie, what He said, He will do.

That truth gives me such hope for the future that I can look at the state of this world and the problems I face personally and say, "But God."

But God is my healer
But God is my protector
But God is my provider

But God has said.....

Father, God, thank you for your many promises that make my heart sing, that fill me with hope and joy as I look forward to the day I seem them accomplished and for those times when I doubt-when I am afraid because of life's circumstances, help me to remember that what you have said, you will bring to pass and that blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.  I do believe, Lord! Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sometimes the Bible Makes me Laugh

 1 Jesus said to his followers, "Things that cause people to sin will happen, but how terrible for the person who causes them to happen! 2 It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large stone around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So be careful!
   "If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in one day and says that he is sorry each time, forgive him."
 5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Give us more faith!" 6 The Lord said, "If your faith were the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Dig yourself up and plant yourself in the sea,' and it would obey you.
    7 "Suppose one of you has a servant who has been plowing the ground or caring for the sheep. When the servant comes in from working in the field, would you say, 'Come in and sit down to eat'? 8 No, you would say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Then get yourself ready and serve me. After I finish eating and drinking, you can eat.'9 The servant does not get any special thanks for doing what his master commanded. 10 It is the same with you. When you have done everything you are told to do, you should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done the work we should do.' " Luke 17:1-10 (NIV)

There's so much packed into these 10 verses that we could spend several days discussing it, but when I read it today, something in it made me laugh.

Jesus is teaching his disciples here. First he talks to them about the dangers of causing another person to sin, then he gets into the subject of forgiveness. Both of these are important, even crucial topics that are at the very heart of being a Christian.  You would think the disciples would have been asking Him some questions concerning sin and forgiveness or at the very least, they would have been quietly contemplating the seriousness of the topics...I mean, if someone tells me that it would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around my neck than to cause someone to sin, I'd be thinking long and hard about that. I'd be tattooing it on my brain!

So, what was the disciples' response? "Increase our faith!"

They asked Him for something for them, totally unrelated to what He had been discussing.  Had they even been paying attention? Or had they been daydreaming about all the miracles Jesus had been doing and wishing they had a little more faith so that they could do a few miracles of their own?

Jesus' response? First he tells them they have all the faith they need, they just need to exercise it a little, then he launches into the part that made me laugh.  He tells them a little story about a man and his servants.  Pointing out that the Master is the the one to be served, not the servants. Then he points to them and says...

"The servant does not get any special thanks for doing what his master commanded. 10 It is the same with you. When you have done everything you are told to do, you should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done the work we should do.'"

Jesus reminds the disciples that He is the Master and they are his servants, not the other way around.  He was not there to meet their demands, He was there to teach them how a follower of Christ should conduct themselves.  They seemed only interested in what He could do for them, not what they should be doing for Him.

Of course, we are not like that, are we?

There's nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs - about talking with Him about every little thing that affects our life. We are his children, after all and He did tell us to talk with him (pray) about everything, but we must be careful that we are not so focused on what we want that we are not paying attention to what He's trying to teach us.  We must remember who is the Master and who is the servant.  We are here to serve Him, He is not here to serve us.

Yes, I was laughing at those silly disciples until I realized that I sometimes behave just like them.

 Father, forgive me for the times I have been so focused on wanting you to change my circumstances that I am not paying attention to what you might be trying to teach me through them.  Help me to remember that while you have graciously made me your child, I am still your servant. A child must listen to and obey their parent and a servant must listen to and obey their master. Please make me aware of the times that I may be treating you like my servant - just there to do my bidding.  Forgive me, Lord, and help me not to be prideful about being a child of God, but to remember that I am also an unworthy servant who has been blessed by Your gracious kindness and that serving You is just me doing my duty.  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fan the Flame!

"...I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you...For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 6 & 7 (NIV)

Photo courtesy
 Adrian van Leen, Perth, Western Australia,
Is there something that you know God has given you the ability to do, but self-doubt and fear have held you back?

That happened to me yesterday. I'm attempting to write my first inspirational romance novel. I had completed Chapter 3, but something wasn't right and I couldn't figure it out. The words weren't coming, the plot seemed too muddled, my characters weren't cooperating with me.  I got really discouraged and started wondering what made me think I could write a novel.

I know some authors who are prolific with their writing and have cranked out scores of novels. I compared my feeble efforts to theirs and just wanted to scrap the whole thing and give up.  I finally just went to bed, sad and dejected that the one think I love to do...write...I was not able to do.

But, God!  God had a different plan. First he sent lots of friends to encourage me and pray for me. Then during my quiet time with Him this morning, he led me directly to the verses above.  Ya don't have to draw me a picture! I got what He was saying loud and clear.

I said a prayer and got right back on my horse...I mean went straight to my computer and started writing. God gave me a way to outline my work this morning that will keep me on track, then he showed me what was causing most of the problems...or "who" was causing most of the problems, I should say.   I got rid of one of my pesky characters and the rest started playing together nicely.

So, has the enemy been telling you that you haven't got what it takes to do what you feel God has called you to do?  Then I encourage you, my friend, to fan into flame the gift that is within you, know that He loves you and what He has called you to do, He has given you the power to do. All it takes is a little self-discipline and boldness on your part and you'll be back on track in no time.

Father, thank you for your incredible patience with me and for helping me to get right back on track.  I ask you to do the same for any of my friends who may be reading this and thinking about that one thing you have called them to do, which has seemed impossible. Empower them, Father, to push through the obstacles and to fan into flame the gift that you have placed in them.  In Jesus' name, I ask it. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Light that Shines in the Darkness

"4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God...6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Sometimes it's easy for me to get frustrated with those around me who have heard the gospel, but refuse to believe it. I wonder if they're just stubborn or if I didn't explain it right or if maybe my life is so flawed that they look at me and doubt the validity of a life-changing gospel. I wonder how they can hear about the incredible love that brought Jesus to earth and sent Him to the cross to die for our sins...about His resurrection and still not believe.

This morning, during my quiet time with God, I read these two verses and it gave me a new understanding about those who don't respond to the gospel message.

According to verse 4 above, the enemy has blinded their minds, so that they can not see the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ.

So, how did we come to believe? I mean, hadn't that same enemy blinded our minds to the light of the gospel?

The answer is in verse 6 - God made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

It's God who opens our blinded minds and sheds light into our hearts, making it possible for us to see the truth of the gospel so that we might believe and accept Jesus as our Savior.

This information gives me another way to pray for those people I love who are not yet believers, because I'm sure that my salvation is a direct result of the prayers of those who loved me, those who had shared the gospel with me many times.  I can tell you their names.

Who was praying for you? Aren't you glad they did?  So, let's not neglect praying on a regular basis for those unbelievers that God has placed in our lives.  Without your prayers, it's doubtful their blinded minds will ever break free to believe.

Let's pray...

Father, God, I ask that you open the minds of those who have been blinded to the light of the gospel by the enemy. Let your light of truth shine brightly in their hearts, breaking through the darkness and the lies that they have believed - the muddled thoughts that keep them from seeing Jesus for who He really is.  Destroy the works of the enemy, that the glory of Christ will shine and that those who have been deceived will come to know the freedom that is Him. Amen

*If you have loved ones you are praying for, be specific. Insert their names into this prayer and pray for them on a continual basis. Never give up because each time you pray for them, God sends His Holy Spirit to speak truth to them. Remember..."When a believing person prays, great things happen." James 5:16 (NCV)

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

You can go with this...or you can go with that.

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."
Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

I love having choices. Choices means freedom. We can choose which car we drive, which college we go to, what kind of house we live in, what city/state we live in. We can choose what we wear, what we eat and even what we think.  Choices are great, but they also come with responsibility and consequences. We would be wise to consider our choices wisely.

In the book of Galatians, Paul talks about some choices that were facing the early church...choices of behavior.  He made two lists of behaviors - consider which list you prefer:

You can go with this...

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)

Or you can go with that...

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

If given the choice (and we are given the choice), I'm going with the last list...the fruits of the Spirit!

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
Galatians 5:24-25

Thank you, God, for allowing us the freedom to make our own choices. You do not force us to follow you, to love you or to serve you. You simply lay out our choices and we are free to choose, but, Oh God, help us to realize the consequences of our choices and help us to make wise ones. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, may we always keep in step with the Spirit and may our choices always bring honor to the name we bear - the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Whatever you do...

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

glory: worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving 

The truest form of worship is a life that is lived to glorify God. From the smallest of our decisions, like what to eat or drink to the largest, like a career choice, selecting a spouse or the way we raise our children - if each decision is made with the one thought in mind...what will bring the most glory to God, we can't go wrong.

Father, help all my decisions today be ones that spring from a heart of worship, whose only desire is to bring you praise and honor out of a heart filled with thanksgiving for all you've done for me.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Doing Follows Thinking

"Those who live following their sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do.If people's thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace." Romans 8:5-6

Do you ever watch the Food Network on TV? I do.

Do you have a weight problem or a health issue that requires that you stay away from certain foods? 
I do.

So, I've noticed that when I watch the Food Network, which I love, it's not long before I find myself poking around in the fridge or pantry for something to munch on...even if I'm not hungry. This results in a continuous battle with my weight and keeping my sugar levels under control.

As I read these verses this morning, I was reminded once again that we have two natures - our sinful selves who crave what we shouldn't have and lean toward self-indulgence.  And our spiritual selves, who...if we are Christians, have the desire to do what the Spirit (of God) wants us to do.  The Spirit leans toward self-control and leads us to life and peace.

What jumped out at me today was the word thinking in the verses above. If we "think only about things that their sinful selves want" then we end up doing the very things we don't really want to do. On the other hand, if we spend time "thinking about the things the Spirit wants", then we will find ourselves doing the things we really want to do - the right things.

It's clear to me that my doing follows my thinking, so from now on, I'm going to be paying more attention to my thoughts, knowing that what I dwell on is what I act on.

Bye-bye, Food Network!

Father, thank you for your word. It's always relevant, always wise and always steers us in the right direction. And this is my prayer: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14) Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beware of FFPP !

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Today I was working on a craft project while listening to Chuck Swindol on the radio.  My project is hand embroidered words of affirmation in cute little 4" hoops. I'm focusing on words that uplift and encourage. Words like...grace, forgive, laugh, love, joy, believe, adore, sing, life, praise, hope and serve.  These words exemplify the character traits that we should embrace as Christians. My aim is to put these little hand-crafted encouragers up for sale in my Etsy store so that others can hang them in their houses or office to brighten their day.

While stitching away I heard Chuck say four words that caught my attention...fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  He went on to explain that when our focus is on obtaining any one of these four things, our pathway is leading us into sin.  How true, Chuck, how true!

I thought of other words that get us into trouble...envy, strife, greed, pride, self, hate, prejudice.  Yuck!

Now, I'm even more determined to fill my home and the world with words that build up, not tear down, words that remind me who I want to be and who I want to encourage others to be.  I took a short break from my embroidery to write these words to you, hoping that you would pause a moment to think about the words that describe your life.

Are they words you're proud of? Words that portray the real you? I hope so.

Now, back to my embroidery....must fill the world with good words!

Father, remind me to examine my life on a regular basis to see if the words that describe my life are ones that would make you smile.  Help me to encourage others to reach for the highest goal...a life that pleases you.  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling Flat on my Face

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:22-24  (NIV)

I remember reading these verses over thirty years ago when I first surrendered my life to Christ.  I wanted to leave my old self behind. I wanted to be free of the desires and attitudes that I knew weren't pleasing to God.  Oh, how I tried to be my new self. I tried being righteous and holy...but I often fell flat on my face!

Someone would say something offensive or hurtful to me and my old self would rise up and fling ugly words right back at them. I'd see something I knew I couldn't afford and didn't need and I would ignore the fact that what money I had was slotted for paying bills - I'd charge it and worry about it later. I'd see a movie trailer that titillated my senses with it's horror and I'd rush right off to see it just to feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Or I would glance at someone, give them the once-over and make a snap judgment about their character, based on their appearance. Nothing righteous or holy in any of these things!

Nope, I wasn't very good at squashing the desires and attitudes of my old self.

One day in frustration of yet another failure to behave in a way that pleased God, I cried out to Him that this righteousness and holiness thing was just too hard.  "There is no way I can do it, Lord. I'm just not strong enough to be the person you want me to be!"

And then He opened my eyes and heart to the truth...there is no way we can do it on our own!

The only way to put on your new self (the one that was created to be created to be like God), is to begin each morning in His word and on our proverbial (or literal) knees, seeking His strength, His wisdom, His guidance and then to walk through the day with an ear inclined to His voice, so that when He prompts us to make the right choice, or say the right thing or respond the right way, we can clearly hear his prompting and then be swift to obey.

It's a daily, step-by-step process that allows us to put off our old self and become the kind of people who behave in ways that please the Lord, because that pesky old self is not so easily put off!

Father, thank you for creating me to be like you - righteous and holy in character and thank you for making it possible, because in my own strength, it's an impossible task, but your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Help me to stay tuned in to your voice and to be swift to obey your leading, that I might be all that you created me to be and that I might be a good witness to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. And thank you for forgiving me on those days when I still fall flat on my face!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Can I Pray For You?

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."  Ephesians 1:17

"How can I pray for you?" my friend asked.

Wow - what a great question!  First of all, it means so much to me when I know that someone is praying for me. To know that a friend is taking a little time in their day to ask God to touch my life tells me several things...

One, they care about me
Two, they want to be involved in my life
Three, they know that the very best thing they can do for me is to ask God to meet my needs

To me, the greatest expressions of friendship are lending a helping hand and praying for another. So, when someone asks, how can I pray for you? my first response is to quickly scan my brain for what I need.  Money, healing, wisdom for decisions...all these come to mind, but what I really want, what I truly need, what my heart cries out for most is to know God better.

I want to be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I will be able to sense His presence, know His will, see His hand moving in my life and know the next step that He wants me to take.  I want to know his character, I want to know...really know God.

So, if you want to truly bless your friends, pray for them as Paul prayed for those in Ephesus - pray and keep on praying that God will give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they might know Him better. If that happens, everything else in their life will fall into place.

And now, let me pray for you!

Father, I do ask that you would stir your Spirit within those who have received you, that we might be given wisdom and revelation, so that we might know you better. And I pray for those who do not yet know you, those who have not yet received your Son, Jesus, those who have not yet received your Spirit at the moment of salvation - that you would reveal yourself to them, that they might believe on you. I ask that all who read this might be stirred to know you better. Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Have Good News For You!

"As the Scripture says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."

But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them; and before someone can go and tell them, that person must be sent...

So faith comes from hearing the Good News, and people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ." Romans 10:13-15a, 17 (NCV)

I love talking with people. As a writer, I talk through the written word, but whether I am talking with someone face-to-face or through my writing, my favorite subject is Jesus Christ.  Why? Because I know what faith in Christ has meant to He has changed my life and how wonderful it is to walk with Him in an on-going relationship each day - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world.

Once, my sins separated me from God. I was on my own, doing my own thing and my own thing got me into lots of trouble. With the "freedom" to do anything I wanted, I freely messed up my life, broke my own heart and hurt many people around me. I had big plans for my life, but my dreams would never have come true because I kept making stupid decisions along the way that derailed my best intentions.

Then, someone told me about Jesus. Actually, several someones told me about Him. Until finally one day the lights came on and faith was birthed in my heart. At that moment I believed in Him. I knew that not only was He the Son of God, who had come to Earth to take the penalty of sin upon Himself, but that it was my sins that He bore on the cross.

It was for me that He died, that I might be forgiven and that my relationship with God might be restored, but I have Good was for you, too!

God's Word says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."

So, here's the bottom line. Before you can ask the Lord for help, you must believe in Him; and before you can believe in Him, you must hear about Him; and for you to hear about the Lord, someone must tell you.

I have been sent to tell you...that Jesus Christ loves you,. He wants to forgive your sins. He wants to change your life. He wants to restore a right relationship between you and God. He wants to walk with you everyday through this life. He wants you to spend eternity in Heaven. He wants you to experience the joy of a new life with Him.

I have been sent to tell you the Good News and you've just heard it.

So if faith comes from hearing the Good News, then faith should be stirring in your heart right to believe in Jesus Christ, faith to receive Him as your personal Savior and faith to pray this prayer....

Jesus, I do believe in You and I do want to receive forgiveness for my sins.  I want to live the rest of my life led by you.  I give myself to you, now and receive all that you have for me.  It is my intent to live for you all the days of my life and to allow you to guide my decisions and my path until I go to Heaven to be with you.  I may not be sure how this all works, but I am willing to follow you. Come into my heart and be my Lord.  Amen

*If you just prayed that prayer with a sincere heart, then Jesus Christ has just cleansed you from sin and has come into your heart to live. I am so happy for you and I would love to know about your decision to follow Christ. Please drop me a line at jan(at)janiceeileen(dot)com...and welcome to the family of God!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

But, I'm too comfortable to move!

"Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb." (NIV)

Can you imagine a child refusing to be born?  Imagine it fighting to stay in the womb even as muscles are constricting around it, forcing it into the birth canal (a place much too small for it to fit, I might add). Perhaps it is afraid of what lies beyond the comfortable home it's known for 9 months. Perhaps even the discomfort of labor seems better than the unknown world.

Of course, that child doesn't have much choice. It will be born. It's mother and the doctors will see to that because they know that a new and exciting life awaits that child and staying where it is would eventually mean death.

Have you ever sensed God prompting you to make a change in your life, but you were too scared to move?  Or maybe you were too comfortable to move?

A few years back, I had what I considered a great job. I enjoyed the work and the people I worked with. I made decent money and I knew that I had job security...then I felt God prompting me to move on. I shrugged it off because I was comfortable where I was.

Then things began to sour. The situation at work became uncomfortable. It wasn't bad at first. A few staff changes made for a different office atmosphere, changes in my personal life brought new responsibilities that added stress and my work load changed.  Again I felt God nudging me toward the door, but I resisted.

I couldn't imagine leaving my job...worse, I couldn't imagine trying to find another job. The prospects for a 50 plus woman with only a high school education were not great, so I dug my heels in, determined to tough things out until they got better.

But, they didn't get better. They got worse, until finally I was forced to leave. I walked out the door crying like a baby - hurt, confused and scared to death of the future.

Looking back, I can see exactly why God prompted me to move on. He has moved me into a new phase of my life. My relationship with him is richer and more satisfying than it has ever been. He has called me to a ministry of intercessory prayer and to a ministry of writing - both of which are more fulfilling than I can ever say.

So, let me encourage you...if you feel God nudging you out of your present circumstances - move, because one way or another, you will move - even if He has to make it extremely uncomfortable for you to stay where you are...remember Jonah and the Whale?

Thank you, Lord, for caring enough about us to move us on to the next phase of our lives, even if you have to drag us kicking and screaming from our comfort zones. Thank you also that stepping out in obedience to you does not have to be a fearful thing, because you always have our at heart.  Let us always remember Jeremiah 29:11 - "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."   Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Vanishing Word

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11 (NKJV)

I subscribe to a writer's site called Writing Forward. Today they posted a Journal Prompt that included this picture:

The minute I saw the picture, I was reminded how often I find a scripture in the Bible that really hits home with me. It usually speaks directly to an issue I'm having or something that's been on my mind.

I underline it in my Bible and write it on an index card, which I keep with all the other index cards I've scribbled scriptures on so that I can have them handy when I want to review them.  So often, though, I find that after just a day or two the scripture that meant so much to me forgotten in the busyness of life. The words just seem to have fluttered away from my mind.

How much wiser would it be if I took the time to memorize the verses that mean so much to me? I'm sure I could do it. It wouldn't take long and then they would be with me forever - locked away in my memory bank, able to be called up at a moment's notice by the Holy Spirit when I need them.

Father, thank you for your Word, which is so important to me. It speaks to my every need if I will just listen and remember. Help me to hide your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against you, but also because your Word brings peace and comfort, healing and strength, courage and joy. Increase my ability to memorize your Word. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anything for a laugh!

I've been doing one of the lessons in Beth Moore's study...Living Beyond Yourself, Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. This week's study is on the fruit of self-control. Today (day 2 of the study) I read about the life of Sampson in comparison to the life of Daniel. Sampson was totally disrespectful of his calling from God. He indulged in unclean habits, a lustful lifestyle and he had an inappropriate sense of humor. He liked practical jokes and riddles, but they were always at the expense of others...always disrespectful of others.

One part of today's study talked about this...

Often we can observe an unspoken rule of thumb among Christians. "Inappropriate subjects are admissible as long as they are humorous." We can tell an off-color joke as long as it's funny. We can show disrespect for a person as long as people laugh."

Then the study asked the following questions...

Do you have an appropriate sense of humor?
Are you more likely to laugh at an off-color joke than one that is "clean"?
Do you talk to others about inappropriate subjects?
Is it often for a laugh?

Followed by this observation...

God loves laughter. His Word tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that "a cheerful heart is good medicine." but when it is at the expense of God's character, another's character, or our own character, the medicine becomes toxic. ...We must never compromise holiness for the sake of humor.

After reading this portion of the study this morning, I was embarrassed by comments I made in jest during a planning meeting at church last night. Comments that were disrespectful of another's character and spoken to get a laugh...although I didn't realize it at the time.

I had to write an email to those who attended the meeting (4 wonderful sisters in Christ) and ask their forgiveness.

Man, this self-discipline and spiritual growth stuff is hard! It hurts when God points out your sin, but I'm glad He does that so that we can clear the air between us and so that I can go on from that point - forgiven and clean.

If you have the opportunity to pick up this study by Beth Moore, I would encourage you to do so.

Anyway - I am going to be careful about coarse joking at the expense of anyone's dignity, character or reputation and about telling or laughing at off-color jokes, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE....if you know me and hear me being inappropriate or disrespectful for the sake of a laugh (or any other reason)...please stop me and remind me about this incident...okay????

Father, forgive me for the times I've disrespected another for the sake of a laugh and for the times when I've not only told off-colored jokes, but have laughed at them when others tell them. Making something funny does not excuse inappropriate topics. I pray that if I do that again, you will bring it to my attention immediately. I want to be self-controlled. I want to continue to grow so that my life might please you. And I want to honor you in everything I do. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

That's enough for now!

"As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'" Acts 24:25

In the last couple of days the Lord has been putting information in front of me about self-control. First in something our Pastor said, next in a passage of scripture and next in a bible study I'm doing.  It doesn't take a genius to know that He's bringing the subject to my attention and I'm smart enough to know that when He brings something up, I need to pay attention.

Self-control means knowing when to say yes, when to say no and interestingly enough, Felix hit the nail on the head when he said "That's enough for now!"  Left to it's own desires, our flesh will cry out for things that are not good for us - too much food, unhealthy food, laziness, continual pursuit of material things, status, love and attention...etc.

None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but without the exercise of self-control they can all lead down the road to ruin and misery. We can become trapped in habits and cravings that drive us to do the very things we don't want to do. Left unchecked, our fleshly cravings will drive us far from God.

Self-control is not a negative thing...a list of rules and self-denial.  It's the practice of wise choices that protect us from sin. It's just as important to say yes to somethings as it is to say no to others and it's always good to know when to put on the brakes and say...that's enough for now.

Felix made that statement to Paul because he didn't want to hear the truth. He didn't want to think about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. He didn't want to face the fact that at some point we will all give an account to God for our actions.

Let's not be like Felix. Let's embrace self-control. Let's be determined to make wise choices...ones that will enrich our lives and our relationships - especially our relationship with God.

Thank you, Lord for giving us self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Help use to exercise self-control in all areas of our lives, making wise decisions about when to say yes and when to say no. Father, we understand that in our own strength we are weak, but in our weakness, you make us strong, so we ask you to give us wisdom and strength to practice self-control each and every day. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did you mean that the way it sounded?

"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." Proverbs 20:3 (NIV)

 I've really come to enjoy Facebook. I'm able to stay in touch with family while living thousands of miles from home, become reacquainted with high school friends and made new friends in the writing world. With just a quick sentence or two I can encourage a friend, let them know I'm praying for their needs or give a quick update on what's going on in my life.

I have notice one drawback to Facebook, though. Unless you're careful with how you phrase things, the written word can be easily misunderstood. What you mean in jest can be taken as an insult, a casual question could be taken as prying and a simple comment can be misconstrued and offend the reader.

Because you can respond immediately to a post, it's easy to zip off a retort to a perceived slight, which can then set off a whole string of replies, leading either to a full-blown argument or a lengthy back and forth explanation of what was intended accompanied by lots of apologies.

Long ago I read in the Bible that love is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 13) and made up my mind that someone would have to go a long way to offend me.  I decided to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that their intention was not to offend...even if it sounds that way.

I haven't always reacted the way I would have liked to a perceived offense, but I've come a long way in realizing that life is just too short and friends too valuable to waste time being offended by every little thing.

Father, help us to be slow to take offense, to assume that the other person did not mean to offend us, to carefully consider our response to others and to always...above all, respond in love. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

One Step at a Time

Earlier this month, I posted a poem called The Journey. It was part of the blog chain for May.  Each member selects a day of the month to post, then writes an entry on the theme of the month.  May's theme was journeys.

After reading these stories (links to the stories are at the end of this post), one thing has become crystal clear to me.  It's the steps you take TODAY that are the most important in your journey!

Yesterday's steps have been trod. We can't change them, but we don't have to be defined by them because, today is a new day. We can choose steps that will continue along the same path we've been walking - if that's the path we want, or we can choose to alter our steps to put ourselves on a new path.

So, where are today's steps leading you?
Where is it you want to go?
Are the steps you are taking today leading you there?

For me, the most exciting part of my life's journey is knowing that God has a good path laid out for my life and I choose everyday to walk in that path. Sometimes I stumble, sometimes I fall and sometimes I veer off the path, but always God draws me back to the right path through His incredible love, His grace and His mercy.

Father, thank you for the gift of choice. Help us to see clearly that the choices we make today determine where we will be tomorrow. Lead us in the paths that you have chosen for us. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Other journey stories on the blog chain:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slow down, people!

I made a trip to Walmart this morning to pick up a few things and almost got killed!

Ok, maybe my life wasn't in danger, but still, I almost got run over by three women, who were obviously in a hurry to get somewhere.  The first one shot out from between the clothing racks into the main aisle with a cart full of groceries. I almost T-boned her.  She shook her head and mumbled "Sorry, I didn't even look." and rushed on toward the check-out lane.

The second was a Walmart employee with a cart full of pretzels that she was moving to a display in the middle of the main aisle. She did a quick two-wheeled left turn when she spotted me. She narrowly missed me, but didn't lose one bag of pretzels from the cart, most impressive!. A sheepish grin was all I got by way of apology.

The third was my neighbor - a sweet little old lady who can barely drive a car - or a cart. She stopped in the middle of the aisle, so I couldn't get around her. She was bent on giving me all the latest gossip from around the neighborhood.  I told her I was in a hurry and moved on, but not before I almost cut a lady off in the laundry detergent aisle!

Why are people always in such a hurry?

I wonder how many of us rush past our Bibles each morning, too busy to take in a little of God's word? How many blow right past the Holy Spirit when he attempts to give us some guidance? And how often do we cut God off when He is just about to direct us down the path He's chosen for us, in favor of our own short-cut to where we want to go?  I wonder.

Anyway, I survived Walmart. I even let a young man go ahead of me in the 10-Item Only express lane.  He only had 6 items...I had 14.

Father, please help me to slow down enough that I can connect with you and so that I don't run over others. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hey, no fair, Jesus!

While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house.Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to him teach. But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me."

But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her."  Luke 10:38-42 (NCV)

I used to dislike this story in the Bible. It seemed so unfair that Martha was saddled with doing all the cooking and housework while her sister sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking up his every word. When Martha complained to Jesus, expecting him to chastise her sister for not helping, she was the one who got chastised!

I would have been screaming, "No fair!" At least that's what I did when I was a kid and had to help my Mom with the housework while my brothers got to go outside and play, so I'm pretty sure that would have been my first response.

Now, however, I identify more with Mary. I chose to sit at the feet of Jesus each morning, hanging on his every word. As I read my Bible, especially the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) I imagine what it would have been like for Jesus to live through each event. After all, they're historical stories for us, but for Jesus, they're his story. If he were sitting with me, reading them, he would say, "Oh, I remember that time!" or "You should have seen the look Peter gave me when I told him to cast his net on the other side of the boat after fishing all night and catching nothing!"

These stories are exciting and I'm with Mary - the housework can wait a little while. I want to sit with Jesus first!

Father, help us to see your word as an opportunity to sit at your feet and learn from you - to get to know you in a deeper, more personal way. Help us to put you first and as we do, would you please make the rest of the day...including housework go a little smoother?  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Need a little Encouragement?

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11a (NIV)

Encourage - to give courage to someone to stand, to move on, to take a chance

That's what we are called to do...

To encourage others to take a stand for Christ among their peers
To encourage others to move on from past mistakes, hurts and bad habits
To encourage others to take a chance - to dare to step out and do what they feel God calling them to do

These things take courage - incredible courage in some cases, and it's easy to let fear hold us back. Perhaps it's the fear of rejection by someone we care for, perhaps it's the fear of embarrassment or failure, but we need not be afraid, because we are not alone. God is with us, but it's also good to know that there is another human being standing with you.

It's easier when you know that someone "has your back" - when someone is on your side, cheering you on, when someone believes in you.  We all want someone in our lives like that. We all want an encourager, so why not start by being an encourager in the lives of those around you?

"...A man reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:7a, 9, 10 (NIV)

Father, open our eyes to those around us who are in need of encouragement. Help us to give to them the kind of encouragement we would like from others. Strengthen our relationships with others through the gift of Encouragement. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Journey

The journey was hard
The way, clouded - confused
Alone I struggled
No one to show the way

I thought I found it
Only to lose it again
Bad decisions
Brought much pain

But He was there
Lighting the way
One step at a time
back to the foot of the cross

I thought I had arrived
But to my surprise
My journey had just begun
The hardest part lay ahead

The transformation process
The steady walk of faith
Through good times
Through hard times

Until I reached the valley
The valley of the shadow of death
Until I lay down my will
Until I relinquished it all

And then a deeper journey began
Down the path to truly knowing God
To dying to self in order to live for him
To take His will as my own

Moving forward, pressing onward
I move to the rhythms of His grace
Until the final leg of the journey
When I shall see him face to face

But, will that be the end?
Or will it be just the beginning
Of another journey-
One that will continue on into eternity?

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved

Monday, May 2, 2011

No More Christian Status Quo!

I am tired of the Christian status quo - that safe, sweet kind of Christianity that requires only that you attend church, play the part and don't rock the boat.  We live in desperate times and that kind of Christianity just won't stand up to the onslaught of evil in this world.

I'm talking about that refined and civilized version of the good news that goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence or the flip-side of that coin that says if you'll simply confess that you're a sinner and believe in Jesus, you'll be saved from the torment of eternal hell fire, then go to heaven when you die - if you can hang on to your faith until then.

Both are way too domesticated for the true calling that Jesus puts on our lives, which is one that demands action and He never lied about the danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He began His public ministry with a simple invitation: "Come, follow Me." and warned "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)  His closing instructions to His disciples can be summarized in one word, "Go!".and He told His followers up front, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves." (Matthew 10:16a).

Jesus understood His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness.  We have a purpose to fulfill. Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could build for ourselves haven, but so that we might expand the kingdom of His love. Because invisible kingdoms are at war for the hearts and lives of every human being who walks on the face of this earth.

Looking around at the church today, one would think that His invitation was to "Come, and listen" and that our response to His command to "Go" is "No!"

It's time we shake ourselves out of our complacency and our perpetual pursuit of comfort and become the revolutionary force that storms the gates of Hell in order to reclaim souls for Christ - the force that bombards the gates of Heaven with fervent prayer for the souls of the lost and that God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

I for one do not want to leave this world having lived a safe, but bland and ineffective life. I may not be able to single-handedly wipe out the evil forces of this world, but I can bring them to their knees as I wage spiritual warfare on mine!

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Father, forgive our complacency, forgive us for living a pablum brand of Christianity. Show us the power we have to change the world, to root out evil and to be your hands extended to the hurting, lonely and lost in this world. Shake us to wake us, Lord. Give us the courage to set aside our comfort to be all that you have called us to be and call your people to a renewed commitment to Christ, to righteousness and to fervent prayer.  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)
(adapted and inspired by an excerpt from The Barbarian Call by Erwin Raphael McManus).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

He Touched Me!

Early in the morning I stumbled toward the well to draw water, just as I did every morning.  It was a long walk, made longer because my legs didn't work so well. The sun had not yet peaked over the crest of the mountain to the East to spill her sunlight into our sleepy little village.  I was glad to be walking in the half-light of dawn, because that meant fewer people would see me - gawk at me, the crippled girl.

My legs used to be strong. I used to run with the other kids in the dusty streets of Philippi, but I haven't been able to do that since Papa's mule kicked me.  It took a long time for me just to be able to limp along and even longer to be able to help Mama with simple tasks like fetching water. I was glad to be useful again, but still terribly embarrassed by the clumsy way I walked.

As I neared the well, I saw a man, all alone. He was kneeling near the well, praying. I stopped a ways off, so as not to disturb him, but he must have heard my feet scuffling along in the dirt because he turned and smiled at me.

"Good morning, Sara," he said, motioning for me to come closer.
"You know me, sir?" I asked.
"Yes, child, I know you." he said, then he asked me to draw water that he might have a drink.

As I lowered my vessel into the well, the man spoke again.
"Sara, I see you limp, does it hurt?"

I nodded as I drew the vessel back to the top again. "Yes, it hurts, but my father says that there is a man named Jesus, who can touch me and make me well again. We have heard that he is coming to our village soon."

"Do you believe this man can heal you, Sara?" he asked.

I hesitated.  I wanted to say yes, that I believed it with all my heart, but the truth is, that I just didn't know if any man could heal a person just by touching them. "I want to believe," I said. "I hope he can."

"Sara, I am Jesus," he said.

There was something about the way he said his name that caused my heart to jump in my chest.

"You are the man sent from God?" I asked.

He nodded.

"I am," he said and again my heart leapt.

"Can you really heal me?" I asked.

Again he nodded and this time he reached out and put his hand on my shoulder, then raising his eyes to heaven he said, "Father, bless this child with health that she might be your witness in Philippi."

With that, a warmth moved through my body, moving from where his hand rested on my shoulder downward to my legs and feet. I heard or felt (I'm not sure which) a popping and stretching and then the pain was gone. My bent leg was straight again. The funny thing is that I hardly noticed the newness of my legs until he removed his hand, for I was mesmerized by the way he looked at me.

"Sara," he said in the most loving voice I had ever heard, "You are healed, go and tell your family, tell everyone you know that today God has touched you and tell them that I am coming."

Before I knew it I was running, yes, running! Straight and strong and fast! I ran all the way through the village, passing several women on their way to the well. They stopped to stare, but I didn't mind. I kept laughing and running all the way back to my house.

I had completely forgotten about the water and had left our jar sitting near the well, but I didn't get in trouble, because when Mama and Papa saw me running towards them, they were so happy they cried!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

I'm Feelin' Blue

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:5

Oh, I just hate days like this when I feel blue for absolutely no reason. What? You thought Christians didn't have those kind of days? Sorry to disappoint you, but we have them, too.  In fact if you read through your Bible, you will find that many of the pillars of the Old Testament and New Testament went through times when their spirits were low, too.

It's nothing to worry about. Just because I'm feeling blue doesn't mean my faith is weak or that God has let me down. No matter how I feel, I know that very soon my feelings will catch back up to the Truth - that God is still the Lord over all my life and that He has great plans for my future.

So, even when I am down, I will put my hope in God and I will take time to praise Him for He is worthy to be praised no matter how I am feeling.

Father, I praise you, even when my spirit is downcast, for you are worthy, you are loving and kind, you are my protector, my provider and my hope for the future. I love you with all my heart. Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Unfathomable Mystery

(Jesus speaking) "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you...On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you...Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." John 14:16,17,20,23 (NIV)

No matter how much I contemplate it, I can not fathom the truth that the God of the universe lives in me and that I am in Him.  It's a mystery too wonderful for me to comprehend, and yet, I believe it with my whole heart!

Some days I can sense His presence and other days I can not, but regardless of what I sense, or what I feel, the truth is that He is within me, guiding me, counseling me, changing me, protecting me, loving me and working through me to love and reach out to others.

What a profound and wonderful life this is!

Father, thank you for the saving grace of Jesus Christ, by whose sacrifice I am forgiven and adopted into the family of God, indwelt by your Holy Spirit, living with the promise of an eternity spent with you. Thank you for living in me. I submit myself to you once again. Use me to be your hands extended to those you have placed around me. Help me to show them all the love you have for them. In Jesus' name, Amen.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Day the Cross Became Real to Me

"They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again."  Matthew 27:28-30 (NIV)

Several years ago we attended an evening Easter service at our church. It was a reinactment of the the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I was delighted to be seated on the aisle seat so that I had a perfect view. At one point in the play, "Jesus" carried a large wooden cross down the center aisle. He was followed by two Roman soldiers who where beating his already bloodied back with whips. (They were actually hitting the wooden cross with the whips, not the actor.) The room was dark, the makeup and the sound of the whips cracking and hitting the cross made it all seemed very real.

As they reached the place where I was sitting, tears were streaming down my face at the thought of what Jesus had to endure to so that I might be forgiven. Just then one of the soldiers raised his whip and struck the cross again, but they were so close to where I was sitting that the end of the leather strap whipped back and hit me on the arm. It hurt - really hurt, and I realized the pain I felt could not even begin to compare the pain and suffering that Jesus took upon himself in order to bring salvation to us.

From that day forward, every Easter reminds me of His incredible love for us - and all because I got just a tiny, tiny taste of what He went through that day.

Father, it was your incredible love for mankind that caused you to send Jesus, your only Son to earth, to live as a man, to set a perfect example, then to be crucified for our sins that we might receive forgiveness and have a renewed relationship with you. As we remember His incredible sacrifice, may our hearts be humbled and may we reach out to Him and invite Him to come into our hearts and be our Lord and Savior forever. Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)