{Becoming living stones in a dying world} ~ Are you living buried, or ALIVE?

people in bokeh, street of London

My first three children are boys. Listen.

I’m no stranger to dirt. Or sticks arranged in a heap on my kitchen table. Or rocks mysteriously tucked away until they experience the freedom victory lap in my dryer. Heh. I even made the mistake once of throwing away a leaf that was on a boy’s dresser, unaware that it was that day’s precious find. Glory.

boys

In the early days, I saw this endless collection of nature as irrelevant, misplaced, and disposable. But not my boys. They could see what I couldn’t…

A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

My favorite was when they would dig holes for me to plant flowers in Springtime. Without fail, they’d come across a rock that had been buried down deep. But because they chose to see beyond the filthy mess? Instead of tossing the rock off to the side, they’d run to the nearest water spigot and wash it clean, exposing a beauty previously unknown.

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Becoming living stones in a dying world…

As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him…

Christians in the Roman empire were being persecuted beyond belief, living in a society that was ignorant about the one true God.

But say-it-like-it-is Peter has a message for God’s people:

The world is dying. You were once scarred by sin, and even now rejected by men. But because of Jesus, you’re alive. Oh Christian, rise up and live like you’re ALIVE.

Were they tempted to wonder if all of the suffering was really worth it? Had they forgotten the curse of death from which they had already been rescued? Were they distracted just long enough to take their eyes off of their capable Rescuer? Or maybe they were so afraid that they buried their faith down deep in an act of self preservation…

Sometimes it’s really hard to live ALIVE.

I don’t know… maybe you can identify?

You’ve suffered for so long that you wonder if God is really there.

You’ve given into apathy, you’ve disregarded grace, and you’ve grown cold to your own sin.

You’ve pursued the things of this world instead of running hard after your Savior.

You’ve buried your faith down deep because you feel afraid, broken, unworthy, ashamed, forgotten, or  __________.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light…

Fiery Peter speaks Truth as the war rages on around them:

Remember the cross. Your foundation is secure. The world may be dying, but Jesus has made you alive. Become like living stones – no longer dead and buried – but alive and built up…

Do you feel buried by the weight of the world? Then let today be the day that you find yourself at the foot of the cross, looking up, washed clean, remembering Whose you are:

 A beautiful masterpiece in spite of imperfection.

A creation worthy of being reclaimed instead of flippantly discarded.

A treasure kept, protected, and designed for great purpose.

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…

Father, take us back to our firm Cornerstone and help us to live…

Alive.

At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: Are you living buried, or alive? What do you need to bring to the surface and surrender to Jesus today to let him wash clean so that you can live fully ALIVE? If you feel brave, comment and share that thing as a statement of surrender. If you feel brave but are unable to be specific, simply type, “I surrender, Jesus. Help me to live ALIVE.” so that our team can pray for you too. How I love the encouragement and acceptance that goes on in this place…

{Week 2} Video:

 {If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

{Week 2} Challenge: Find a small rock in nature, clean it, and carry it in your pocket every day this week. Let the presence of the rock be a reminder for you to embrace your role as a living stone in a dying world. Then go and live ALIVE.

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{Week 2} Reading Plan:

Week2

{Week 2} Memory Verse:

Peter MVWK2

Preparing our minds to suffer well…

people in bokeh, street of London

She came to visit me over Christmas – her sweet voice as gentle and patient as always. What a joy it was to catch up late into the night as we took turns snuggling her newest baby girl.

I smile at how our now twenty year-old friendship began: I was a college student, and she was part of a posse of seventh grade girls I was privileged to mentor through their early youth group years. She tells me the story now about how her mom dragged her to youth group crying because she didn’t want to go, and we laugh hard because to know this girl now? She’s one of the most even-keeled, committed Jesus followers I know. Heh. God matured us both during those critical growing years, and formed a bond between us that would last through time, distance, and all kinds of life changes.

Sarah L

{The early years: Sarah’s the one in yellow, and I’m at her right shoulder..}

Now all these years later the roles are reversed, and Sarah has been teaching me about what it means to suffer well.

When you’re young and full of life, no one expects to hear the words “brain tumor.” But after an out-of-the-blue seizure and a whirlwind of specialist visits, this was my friend’s diagnosis a few weeks ago. Brain surgery quickly followed. Critical brain surgery for this precious friend, daughter, wife, and momma to four young girls.  I thought of my own children – and her tiny newborn that I had just snuggled at Christmas – and I could barely say the words out loud.

But from the beginning, this girl was determined to focus on truth.

Love God Greatly- Peter Study

I remember her telling me that she didn’t want to waste this.

Would the journey be easy? Far from it.

Have there been moments of uncertainty? Absolutely.

But in Sarah’s words, “Knowing that God could somehow use it to bring himself glory suddenly gave purpose to this trial.” 

My friend has not wasted her suffering. Instead, she has confidently allowed Jesus to shine brighter through her in the midst of it. 

Over and over, I have watched Sarah meditate on Scripture, intentionally filling her mind with truth as the waves crashed in harder. How beautiful that as followers of Christ, we’re now able to view our suffering through a different lens than the rest of the world…

No matter what the outcome, my future is secure in Christ (1 Peter 1:4).

This trial will serve a purpose that is greater than my comfort (1 Peter 1:7).

Even in uncertainty there is inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).

Yes, there’s even this “unexplainable” joy, and the world is noticing.

It’s one thing to look back, see God’s hand and recognize the good that comes from suffering after it’s over and resolution has come. It’s quite another to find joy smack in the middle of the hardest days when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The question is not if suffering will come, but rather how we will respond when we’re in the midst of it.

 “Jesus lost all his glory so that we could be clothed in it. He was shut out so we could get access. He was bound, nailed, so that we could be free. He was cast out so we could approach. And Jesus took away the only kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God. He took so that now all suffering that comes into your life will only make you great. A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous.” ~ Tim Keller

And since our sufferings can’t really destroy us, let’s view them as an opportunity to shine Jesus to the world…

 

 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while,
if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 
so that the tested genuineness of your faith 
—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
~ 1 Peter 1:6-7
 
At his feet,
 
*Let’s Talk: What are some of your favorite passages of scripture you cling to in suffering? Let’s share and encourage those who might need to embrace those truths today… 
 

TEN {1 & 2 Peter} Translations… NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Love God Greatly-Translations

Celebrate with us… our {1 & 2 Peter} Translations are available TODAY!!!!

The internet is an amazing thing, amen?! Not a day goes by that we don’t thank God for the incredible opportunity He’s given us to inspire, encourage and equip women all over the world to get into God’s Word with the click of a mouse. That’s a privilege we don’t dare take lightly. But you guys, it gets even better…

There are these precious, precious women. 

Women who are gifted in languages, and my goodness do they have heart.

And willpower.

And determination.

And a whole lot of selfless love.

They work hard at their jobs, at school, and in their homes by day, and then translate our LoveGodGreatly studies by night. What.in.the.world. When no one is looking, they make words come alive, and in doing so, they put tools in the hands of women who might never otherwise have access to Bible study materials in their own languages! This is kingdom work, my friends… overwhelming, beautiful behind-the-scenes kingdom work, and I wholeheartedly believe that one day heaven will look a little different because of how God used these faithful women.

Soooo… without further ado, we are delighted to announce our TEN {1 & 2 Peter} translations!!

Afrikaans.

Chinese.

Dutch.

French.

German.

Hungarian.

Italian.

Malagasy.

Russian.

Spanish.

A huge THANK YOU to the incredible women who have made these translations possible. We love you, we are inspired by you, and we thank God for you… over and over and over again!!

Can you – or someone you know – benefit from {FREE} resources for our {1 & 2 Peter} study in one of the languages listed above? Simply click on the link below to access the {1 & 2 Peter} Study Materials for the TEN translations offered this session:

http://www.lovegodgreatly.com/1st-2nd-peter-translations/

 “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

let your glory be over all the earth.”

~Psalm 108:5

At His feet,

THERE’S STILL TIME to join us for our Spring Online Bible Study, but don’t wait long – our study starts on MONDAY! {Looking for our 1 & 2 Peter study materials in English? Find out more here.}

How, as followers of Christ, can we stand strong in a world filled with persecution, hardships, suffering, division and false-teaching? God’s Word has the answers! The books of 1 & 2 Peter address these very issues – not only identifying them as real and present dangers – but also practically empowering and equipping weary believers to rise up, suffer well, and press on because of the hope that lives within us!

Are you feeling the weight of the world? Have you endured suffering at length with no end in sight? Do you feel more and more like an alien in a foreign land? Then find HOPE with us as we dive into {1 & 2 Peter}, our brand NEW ‪#‎LoveGodGreatly‬ 8-week online Bible study!

“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones are being built up…” ~ 1 Peter 2:4-5

Don’t miss this opportunity to grow and be encouraged in your faith as we study God’s Word TOGETHER! Grab some friends and join us starting March 23rd… it wouldn’t be the same without YOU!

#LoveGodGreatly #1&2Peter

Peter

What if we stopped trying to decide if they’re worthy?

Love God Greatly

Kids often say what we adults are already thinking… but with words we wouldn’t dare let come out of our mouths.

“Why are they homeless? Don’t they have jobs? Daddy has a job…”

My husband had just walked in the door from delivering food to the homeless shelter across town. His family plus a generous spread of food was waiting at the table upon his return, as well as a host of questions that none of us really knew the answer to.

“Life is just hard sometimes, guys. We don’t really know what they’ve been through.”

His voice was quiet and reflective, and I noticed that he wasn’t touching his food. The visit had obviously impacted him in ways that he wasn’t yet able to verbalize. So instead of pretending to have answers that were nowhere within reach, he began talking about the people.

People just like you and me, really.

People with hunger. People with dreams. People who have experienced firsthand the harsh reality that life doesn’t always turn out how we planned. People who are ready for change but just don’t know how to get there. People who wish they could be free from the daily struggles that plague them but don’t really know where to start. People who need a whole lot less of themselves, and a whole lot more of Jesus.

Just that morning, I’m pretty sure I was hung up on my dated kitchen decor, my sketchy internet, and the fact that I need to lose ten pounds. Oh, how easily we become discontent and make our narrowed worlds all about us.

His tender words were directed towards our children, but God meant those words for me.

There is a world that is dying.

Across the globe, across town, and right on my very street. And we’re sitting at our tables in abundance, trying to decide if they’re worthy.

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We weren’t worthy.

God knew the depth of our sin, but he gave his Son willingly. For the sin that had already flooded the earth, and for the sin that was yet to come. He didn’t insist that we clean ourselves up or check into rehab or work until we could earn our way.

No condemnation.

No discrimination.

No expectation of having it all together on our own.

He simply entered the darkness and gave, so that we might live. 

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

___________________

I don’t know who it is for you.

Maybe it’s a nation of hurting people half a world away, or maybe it’s the complete stranger you’ll run into later this week.

But this I know for sure: someone in your path – and in mine – needs light to shine in their darkness. 

Will we look at them with compassion in our eyes, or will we look away as we try to decide whether or not they’re worthy?

There is a world that is dying, and the medicine they need is Jesus.

Oh yes, it will take effort.

Probably, it will be messy.

Certainly, it will be costly.

Over and over, it will mean dying to self and all of the comforts we hold onto so tightly.

But by the grace of God because of our genuine love for God, we can intentionally {live in community} with our world.

Not because you or I or the world in any way is worthy…

But because Jesus is worthy.

Oh children of God, may we not look away…

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you invited me in,

I needed clothes and you clothed me,

I was sick and you looked after me,

I was in prison and you came to visit me.

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,

you did for me.‘”

~ Matthew 25:35-36

Let’s enter the world and give, so that through Jesus they might live.

 At His feet,

*LET’S TALK: What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to shining your light in a dark world? Where is God calling YOU to shine?

{Living in Community in our Spheres of Influence}… Why aren’t we loving?

Blog Banner Week6

One thing was clear…

It wasn’t about her.

Listen, her job wasn’t fancy. My kids knew her as “the pretzel lady” at our local wholesale club. I knew her as the gentle soul whose kind eyes and generous smile comforted this weary mama every single time she humbly served me behind the counter.

Two soft pretzels – no butter – and a frozen ICEE split five ways was my sanity treat once a week when I could talk myself into making the trip out with so many littles. I’d be sweaty by the end of it all, but without fail she made it a risk worth taking.

I’ll never forget one especially challenging week. Four cranky ones were nuzzled into one tiny cart, not-so-patiently waiting for our turn to order. By the time we arrived to the front of the line, my cart-full had managed to create quite an embarrassing scene. With bruised pride and deep regret for even trying, I couldn’t even lift my eyes to meet hers. My voice trembled as I ordered. But before I could finish, she grabbed my hand, leaned in and tenderly whispered… “I’ve been there. Don’t give up. He gently leads those that have young.”

A hand outstretchedA compassionate heart. An encouraging word. 

She didn’t have to.

Her “job” was to serve me pretzels that day. The line was long. My lot was a nuisance. She had other things to do. But from behind that non-glamorous counter, she overlooked my mess and she lingered. She made sure that it wasn’t about her gain or comfort.  She saw a need, she resisted judgment, and she recognized an opportunity to love.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22

Across the street. In waiting rooms and conference rooms. Down grocery store aisles and on park benches in your town and mine. 

Why aren’t we loving?

{If you’re unable to see this video, you can view it here.}

The need…

People are broken, lost and weary, carrying burdens that we often can’t even see. They’re barely surviving, without hope, and looking for more than this world can provide.

Our natural tendency…

Oh Father, we’re so prideful. Quick to judge and assume they deserve the pit that they’ve found themselves in. We’re so resistant of the extra work. So in love with ourselves. So hesitant to extend mercy, even when so much mercy has been extended to us.

The opportunity…

Resist judgment. Give grace freely. Love our neighbors, even when they haven’t loved us first. Do more than just go to church and talk about Jesus and make ourselves comfortable and love ourselves really, really well. Instead, radically see and sacrifice and love others like Jesus.

Why aren’t we loving?

Maybe we’re too distracted on our phones and can’t be bothered. Maybe we’re too busy serving and loving ourselves. Maybe we’re wrapped up in debates and agendas and so in love with talking about all of the things we’re against. Or maybe we’ve forgotten where we came from, and just how extravagantly God first loved us.

Across the street. In waiting rooms and conference rooms. Down grocery store aisles and on park benches in your town and mine. What if we saw a need, resisted judgment, and recognized an opportunity to love?

And then what if we actually did it…

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,

as good stewards of God’s varied grace…” ~ 1 Peter 4:10

At His feet,


*LET’S TALK: Will you boldly commit to our {Week 6} Challenge right now? Share your action plan in the comments below so that our team can encourage you and pray for you…

{Week 6} Challenge: Think of someone God has placed in your sphere of influence who needs practical help or encouragement this week. Write down details of how you can love them well through your sacrificial service to them, and then schedule a specific day and time to follow through with your idea.

W6-Challenge

{Week 6} Reading Plan:

RP W6

{Week 6} Memory Verse:

Wk6MemoryVerse

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