I invite you to join discussions, it enhances the reading experience for everyone. Please share your thoughts, opinions and knowledge in a respectful manner. May we all learn something in our endeavor to educate our hearts and minds. I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hindrances to Becoming like Christ, Part 6: Ungrateful Hearts

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1 NIV

This is one of many passages that instruct us to THANK God because HE IS GOOD!

As I reflect upon this Thanksgiving season I’m wondering how THANKFUL we are.

I wonder:

Have we forgotten God’s goodness?

Do we overlook His loving provisions?

Are we undervaluing His blessings?

Do we think WE’VE accomplished things without Him?

Have we forgotten that all we have is FROM Him? (I’m not saying we don’t work hard, but everything—even our abilities, strength, jobs, and talents come from Him. Outside of Him we can do nothing)

Are we truly THANKFUL?

It’s hard for me to see grateful hearts as people rush from Halloween straight into Christmas—almost completely bypassing Thanksgiving. Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if people were rushing to celebrate the birth of Christ, instead of obtaining material goods.

It’s like Thanksgiving is an unwanted and underappreciated holiday.

I can’t help but think that our culture is like this because we’ve forgotten to be GRATEFUL.

As a society we focus so much on what we DON’T have, and what we WANT to have, that we forget to set aside time to be THANKFUL for what we DO have. 

As Christians we shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us to be thankful, but since we do have this holiday, why are we not showing the world what it means to be truly thankful?

As I type this, its 14 days till Thanksgiving, 15 days till BLACK FRIDAY, and already people are lining up outside stores for the “special buys” offered to entice people to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need (this is not a dis on those who do black Friday shopping, so please don’t take it that way).

For 15 days people are going to stand in line for material goods?

I can’t wrap my mind around it.

First, I wonder how they get off work for that long…or if they work. I mean, who can devote that much time to standing in line?

Next, I wonder if they’d stand in line to go to church? 

(To be honest, I’m not sure I’d stand in line that long for either.) 

I also wonder what is so good of a deal that they through the ordeal of standing in line for days on end. Do they really need an item that badly or is it just for “fun”? 

That people do stand in line that long for material goods makes me think we, as a society, are far too focused on material goods.  

So I’m asking you:

Are you already thinking more about Christmas than Thanksgiving?

If so, are you thinking of the birth of our Savior or about buying gifts and/or receiving gifts?

How can you not only be more thankful but show that gratitude to others? 

I can’t help but think that in order for our culture to change, for our kids to learn Gratitude, that the Body of Christ must first learn to GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD.

Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world (John 15:19 & 17:14, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15 & 4:5, 1 Cor 5:9-10, 2 Cor 4:18 & 5:6, Eph 2:19, 1 Peter 2:11, Rom 12:2, Psalm 119:19, etc).

That means, we shouldn’t be acting like the rest of the world.

I challenge you to ask yourself where your focus is.

If it’s not aligned with God, I pray you take time to find a grateful heart.

The Bible says a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44-45, Matt 12:44, Proverbs 4:23)

What’s your fruit this holiday season?

Hint: your focus will point you to where your heart is and what type of fruit you're producing. 

Happy Thanksgiving. BTW: I’m grateful to you for reading my blog. See you in Dec.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hindrances to Becoming Like Christ, Part 5: Downplaying God’s Word

Kingdom Building.

Simply put: we are either working toward building God’s Kingdom or our own. 

Jesus says, "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against meMatt 12:30 NLT (emphasis mine throughout)

You might be thinking, “I go to church, I volunteer, I tithe, I’m not building my own Kingdom more than God’s.”

But God is showing me ways we (me) ARE building our kingdoms more than His.

In Luke 14:33 Jesus says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
In this verse Jesus is telling HIS FOLLOWERS to renounce, give away, forsake, and say “goodbye” to the things that possess them otherwise they CANNOT be His disciples. (No minced words there, pretty straight forward)

There are things we all hold onto (technology, check book, drivers license/pass ports, etc). Possessions we all hold dear (cars, homes, boats, cell phones, etc.). Titles we are all proud of (mom, daughter, graduate, etc) People we love more than life itself (children, parents, siblings, etc).

All these are good things. Gifts from God. 

God wants us to enjoy life, to love others, to work hard, to take care of our possessions.

He does NOT want those possessions, gifts, or people to OWN us.

EVERYTHING and EVERYONE belong to Him.

They are in our lives by His will, His grace, and are on “loan” to us. He gave them and He can take them away ("Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21 NIV)

We cannot hold onto them so tightly that we elevate them higher than God, refusing to let them go, refusing to trust God with them, refusing to praise God more than the things/people in our lives.

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 NIV
Strong’s Concordance defines “hate” in this verse as “loving less” or having a preference for one over another.

Again, these are strong words by Christ.

He is saying nothing, and no one, can come before our devotion to Him. 

His Kingdom, His will, MUST come over our own.

That isn’t the only place Jesus tells His disciples this harsh reality. 

Matt 6:24 Jesus says to those who want to follow Him, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

You cannot be holding onto your Kingdom and think you can squeeze into God’s. 

Very plainly, Jesus says you CANNOT serve 2 masters, you CANNOT be His disciple if you don’t love Him more than everything/everyone else, you CANNOT be His follower if you don’t renounce the things that hold onto you.

Matt 7:14, Jesus tells CHRISTIANS, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” 

A few verses later Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt 7:21 NIV

How much plainer can He say it? 

The way to heaven is narrow. There are tons of wonderful things in this life, things HE gives you—that satan distorts—that will get in your way of your devotion to Him.

 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matt 16:24 NKJV
Over and over Jesus is telling His church to DENY themselves. Deny their flesh. Deny the pull possessions have. Deny the lie that says you can “have it all”. 

You cannot live with one foot in the doorway to heaven and one foot in the world. In Rev 3:16 Jesus says He will vomit those people (luke warm Christians) from His mouth. 

It’s time we take God at His Word.

Stop downplaying, distorting, or outright ignoring His Word.

Enjoy life. Enjoy His blessings. But DO NOT let them own you. You were bought at a very high price. You're life is NOT your own. (1 Cor 7:23)

I encourage you to ask yourself, “Do I downplay the meaning of these verses? Do I believe everything He says? Do I justify certain aspects of my life so that I don’t feel the sting of His Words?” 

Lastly: Congrats Betty from Wise Hearted! You won a copy of “A Christmas Chance” by Laura Hodges Poole.Betty, I'll email you soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"A Christmas Chance" Book Review, Interview and GIVE AWAY!

A good writing friend of mine, Laura Hodges Poole, has just released her first self-published Christmas Novella, “A Christmas Chance.” (For those who don’t know, a Novella is a short novel.)

Her book is a quick, yet emotionally charged read. I found myself teary eyed more than once in this captivating story.

I instantly fell in love with the characters. I felt what they did and couldn’t wait to turn the page to know what happened next.

Perhaps I loved this story so much because the subject matter is one close to my heart…but I think it’s also because Laura is a great writer. 

“A Christmas Chance” is about infertility, adoption, aging parents, and God’s ability to answer our prayers in amazing ways (click to tweet). 

I highly recommend you purchase this book. It will bless your heart as it did mine. 

You can do so by clicking here

Now here’s a “novella” interview so you can get to know this amazing Christian lady better:

1.       Laura, you have a passion for protecting the lives of children.  Please share with us what inspired “A Christmas Chance.”   First of all, TC, thank you for sharing about my book today. The inspiration for the book came from the brokenness I see in the world around me. So many people go through the holiday season feeling depressed. Some of this comes from within, broken dreams, unfulfilled goals or desires, and loneliness for family. Some of this comes from never having a family of one’s own. The desire to have children is instilled in women by God, and like Hannah (Samuel’s mom) in the Bible, many women would do just about anything to become a mother. Their empty hearts become even bigger during Christmas when other families have children to celebrate with. On the other side are the children who lose parents or are in the foster care or adoption system, and often they don’t get a fair shake from the beginning of life. All of this inspired my writing “A Christmas Chance.”

2.       What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?   I hope readers will take away the message of Ephesians 3:20—that God is able to do more than we can imagine. Now, this doesn’t always match our answer to prayer. We tend to pray and offer the solution to God at the same time. If only you would do this…What I pray people will understand as they read this is that God does answer prayer in His perfect timing. Often the answer to prayer is dependent on our willingness to be flexible in our expectations and accept what God sees as the best solution. In doing so, we find that He does come through in immeasurable ways. 

3.       How can people get more involved in helping protect the lives of Children- whether it’s the unborn, the orphan, or the kid down the street?   First off, if you’re not the nurturing, hands-on type person, you can always find a charity to contribute to—World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, or your local homeless shelter. Remarkably, there are about 1.6 million homeless children in this country. Local shelters always need monetary assistance. Internationally, organizations exist that we can support who provide protection against human trafficking. Prayerfully consider becoming a foster parent or adopting a special needs or biracial child. These children are often overlooked in the adoption system. However, both fostering and adoption require tremendous commitment, one I wouldn’t consider without much prayer, to enter into these situations.

4.       You’re a great writer. Your work has been published in several places, and you’re also an Associate Editor for Christian Devotions ministry. Please tell us what motivated your decision to self publish.  And will we see more self-published books from you?    Thank you, TC. I really appreciate the compliment. The publishing market is tough, both Christian and secular. The top publishers are hesitant to take a chance on debut authors. While I still plan to pursue this path of traditional publication, and currently have manuscripts under consideration, after much prayer, I decided to step out on faith and publish this novella for Christmas. I’ve really felt God nudging me this year to get my work in publication. My next self-published work will be a devotional that will release in January 2015 entitled “While I’m Waiting,” which will delve into the trials we all walk through while waiting for God to answer prayer. Some of the devotions are anecdotal, sharing from my life experiences, and others are more the typical Bible study devotions. 

5.       You inspire me and have helped me with my writing in more ways than I can express. What words of advice do you have for others who are uncertain if they should self publish?     The biggest word of advice is to make sure you are ready. This means not publishing your first manuscript but take the time to become an experienced writer through smaller publications with articles or blogging. Join a critique group with writers of your genre, ones who will give you honest feedback. Once you’ve gained experience and polished your manuscript, hire a professional editor to edit your manuscript and a graphic artist to do your cover. If you feel you can’t afford an editor, consider hiring a proofreader and ask other writers to act as beta readers before you publish. A compelling, well-written story free of errors is a must! Millions of books are sold on Amazon each year, yet the average per author sold is about 200. If your product is not topnotch, you can forget attracting an audience or traditional publishers for your future work. 

6.       Lastly, please share all the ways people can connect with you online. Please check out my blog, “A Word of Enouragement” at http://laurahodgespoole.blogspot.com. You may also follow me on Twitter at Laura_Poole. I’m on Pinterest but haven’t yet mastered that, but please feel free to look for me there and Google Plus.

For a chance to win an ebook copy of "A Christmas Chance" simply leave a comment below. A winner will be randomly selected and announced on Monday's post and be notified by email.  Also, if you would kindly spread the word about this heart warming book on your social media sites that would be much appreciated :)

What questions do you have for Laura?

FYI, come back here Monday to resume our discussion on Hindrances to Becoming Like Christ and find out who won the FREE copy of "A Christmas Chance".  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Technological Advances...Good, Bad, or Both?

I'm pausing this weeks series on "Hindrances to Becoming Like Christ" to share with you something that's caught my attention about upcoming technological advances. These are things I think you should be aware of.

In my book, “The Precipice: When Everything We Know Ends” I talk about a helmet that protects people from having their thoughts read by the government.

While purely fiction, it’s not as farfetched as some would like to think.

Since writing that book, I’ve read articles about advances in technology that sound purely science fiction! Here are a few examples that could have been listed in my Reality Check Section. 

While these research studies are mind blowing, I’d rather you click on this next link:

While I don’t want to alarm you, I do want you to be aware of some of the things that could be coming in our near future. Things that sound almost Sci-Fi, but aren’t. Things that may appear “good” on the surface but could have far reaching consequences to how we conduct our lives

I’m not going discuss all 9 “real technologies” but here are a few that really caught my attention (no particular order):

A.       Cyber pills that talk to your doctor: 
I think this will be Advertized- as a way for your doctor to improve your health. A way for doctors and family members to know if their elderly loved one is taking their meds as prescribed. As a way to reduce drug abuse and prevent overdoses.
Potential problems I see- What if you don’t want to take this “cyber pill”? Will insurance companies still provide you coverage? What if you reject the diagnosis your doctor has given you and you don’t want to take the med? Will you be in trouble? Example: your kid is diagnosed with ADD and given a drug you don’t want them to take. The doctor is notified. Will your child be taken from you and you charged with neglect? (Look up 15 year old Justina Pelletier)

B.       Implantable Birth Control with external remote:
I think this will be Advertized- as an alternative to having to “remember” to take your birth control pill.  
Potential problems I see- besides the obvious, what if you lose the remote, I want to know who controls the remote? While it may begin with individual responsibility, what if it eventually goes to some external source controlling it? Sound crazy, think of China. They decide how many kids a family can have. Think of Nazi Germany, certain people should breed and certain people shouldn’t be allowed too.

C.       Smart Dust, nano-devices inside you doing the work of a doctor:
I think this will be Advertized- as a way to treat diseases before the happen. As non-invasive alternatives to surgery. As a way of being proactive about ones health.
Potential problems I see- Again, what if you don’t want some nano inside you? Will a doctor treat you? Will an insurance company cover you? What if something goes wrong with the nano? What if the nano is hacked and someone other than your healthcare provider is controlling your health?

D.       Verified Self:  A way for you to be tracked, no matter where you go.
I think this will be Advertized- like the device implanted in animals. That way they are never truly lost. You can find them. Perverts can’t kidnap your child, because you can quickly locate them. A system like this will reduce crime. Just think, no missing people, no amber alters, no wondering if your loved one is dead or alive. Besides, there are similar things being used in our military. Why not use it on citizens?
Potential problems I see-What if you don’t want to be found? What if you’re running away from an abusive spouse? What if the government uses it to monitor and control your movements? What if our society turns into the movie, “1984”? What if “Big Brother” gets out of control?

These are just a few of the things on this list. You really should check it out. You might be interested in reading more about Implantable Smartphones and Smart Tattoos.  

What are your thoughts on this new technology? 

Join me next week as we continue our series on "Hindrances to Becoming Like Christ"