Are you thriving or just getting by?

My German shepherd was starving to death, and we didn’t know what to do. Sophie got twelve, yes 12 cups of food a day and at a year old, she was only forty pounds. After many tests, the vet diagnosed her with a pancreatic problem, called EPI, which kept her from digesting her food. As a result, whatever she ate went through her system without nourishing or feeding her body. With the help of pancreatic enzymes, Sophie is now thriving.

As a culture, America is starving. So are some of her churches. Why? We live to eat but don’t eat to live. We are not feeding on the one thing we need most, the Word. God made us to have intimacy with him through his Holy Spirit, prayer, and Scripture. Without the catalyst of God’s Word, we won’t thrive spiritually.

We need to digest the Word before we can absorb it and do what it says. But if we barely open the Book how will that happen?

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit…”

The word living means God’s words are alive, and they give life. Active is the Greek word energes which resembles the English word energy. God’s Word and words are full of life and energy. God’s words are to achieve something in our heart and life. Scripture needs to become more than head knowledge. We shouldn’t let it go in one ear and out the other, because we need the Word to be heart knowledge so it can be absorbed and nourishing to our very soul.

God’s word is sharper than a sword, able to pierce through the soul and spirit. The word pierce means to penetrate or get through. This may be one reason we may not care to read the Bible. Unless the Word penetrates our heart, we will not grow and change.

Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions, and our spirit is what the Creator breathed into us. They are often at war with one another. Our spirit communes with God through the Holy Spirit while our soul is everything which makes us who we are.

So, why would the Word divide the soul and spirit? God wants us to be Spirit-driven, not soul-driven. The Spirit is love, peace, truth, patient, gentle, kind, self-controlled, faithful, and joyful. This is how God wants us to function.

The soul can be moody, self-centered, turbulent, depressed, thoughtless, self-driven, lacking self-control, and deceitful. Satan influences our soul, by manipulating our thoughts. If we are not in the Word of Truth, under the perfect power of the Spirit of Truth, we get off track.

God wants us to be Spirit-led and Word-led. One without the other is only half the equation. Unfortunately, many overdo one or the other. We become so Spirit-led we assume everything we think is of the Holy Spirit and will act and speak out without the guidelines of Scripture. However, being overly Word-lead can stifle or quench the Holy Spirit so we can no longer hear him because everything becomes an intellectual experience. There needs to be a balance.

In Hebrews 5:11-12, the author rebukes his readers for becoming dull of hearing. He says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.”

The Greek word for dull refers to “a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual development.” [1] Isn’t that how we can feel, too?

Studying Scripture takes time and effort.

God does not think less of us if we are not in his Word.

But, have you ever thought how it must sadden him to see the time we invest in things having no Heavenly value?

Do we spend too much time on our phones, iPads or binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix? Yes. Do we need to improve? Yes. Am I preaching to myself? Yes.

The answer lies in putting those things away for a set time each day and getting out our Bibles to let the Holy Spirit guide us through the Word one verse at a time. Don’t set unrealistic goals. Reading one verse and letting God speak to you through it is better than reading one chapter or an entire book just so we can say we did it.

If you are a parent, can you imagine letting your ten or fifteen-year-old still drink from a sippy cup or a bottle for each meal? Unfortunately, that is the state of a lot of churches in our country. We need more than milk; we need solid food. We need to get back to reading, discussing, and studying God’s Word. Our spiritual health depends on it.


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1989. The Bible exposition commentary

The Lies of Rejection

I originally wrote this for a friend’s blog. I am reposting here, because today I received my first rejection from a publisher for my Bible study called The Jewels of Hebrews.

There was a post going around on Facebook which stated, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Its truth crashed head on into my thoughts of rejection.

Throughout most of my life it felt as though others rejected me. It’s one of those feelings which is so easy to believe, like fear. We can spend our entire existence thinking people are talking about us, believing no one values us, even feeling sure people don’t want us around.

I can feel excluded when I see my friends on Facebook sharing pictures of themselves having a great time together, wondering why they didn’t invite me. When people don’t attend my Bible study classes, I assume it is because of me. When people won’t buy my book, it looks, feels, and smells like… rejection.

I am not ignoring the fact people have distanced or removed themselves from my life. It hurt when a boyfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t right for him, and when friends thought I was a “Jesus freak”, or a woman didn’t want to be friends any longer.

Even though people have rejected me doesn’t mean I am rejected.

Rejection can become a stronghold in our Christian walk. It is the lie which keeps us captive by Satan, who tells us we are not worthy, wanted, or appreciated.

One night in a dream, I saw myself with different people, in a church, at a restaurant, and in a friend’s home. I saw myself looking down at the ground not making eye contact with anyone, feeling alone, and despised. Everywhere I went people treated me the way I saw myself. I woke up knowing I needed to stop believing the lie that no one wanted me around. If I kept acting rejected not only did I believe it but soon everyone else would as well.

Victory came when I repented for believing the lie that I am rejected. I asked God to replace that lie with His truth.

Psalm 94:14 (ESV) says, “For the LORD will not reject His people; He will never forsake His inheritance.”

We are His inheritance.

God has not rejected us—quite the opposite, in fact. He faced the ultimate rejection by His death so we can live as adopted sons and daughters.

We can turn the tables on Satan by rejecting him and his lies and forgiving those who rejected us. Forgiveness is a weapon for victory. It removes the power of the evil one and frees us from the captivity of unforgiveness. It will allow healing.

 One of the greatest gifts we have is being able to spend time with the Lord. He strengthens us through our relationship with Him. He affirms us and shows us love and patience while healing the hurts of our hearts.

Another source of truth for victorious living is God’s Word. Ephesians 1:4 tells us He chose us before He created the world and Ephesians 2:4 tells us God loves us with a great love.

I love Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV). Let your heart hear God’s love:

“The Lord your God is in your midst,

    a Mighty One Who will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness;

    He will quiet you by His love;

He will exult over you with loud singing.

Scripture memorization means we always have access to the truth even when we don’t have our Bibles with us. Satan cannot steal what is in our hearts. We can repeat verses when the temptation to believe a lie assails us.

Prayer is a mighty weapon for continuous victory over rejection. Be honest with the Lord. We can tell Him the emotions of our hearts and our desire to believe all He says. He wants us to tell Him about our hurts and disappointments. We can approach His throne confidently and we will receive mercy and find grace when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). Continuous conversations with our Father gives us hope and the power to stand even when we feel rejected.

How have you conquered the feelings of rejection?

A Tale of Two Teachers

     “…we love the wrong things.
We elevate youth and beauty. We want funny more than we want wise. We want our teachers to tell us a joke that we can laugh at. We don’t want to weep over our sin.”

This is good and so true. I wish I had written it. Amberlee explains exactly how I feel.

willnotbetaken

A while ago I went to a women’s conference in another state with some of my relatives. We heard two different Bible teachers speak. Both of these women had written books. Both were well known. That is where the similarities ended. One women was older. In fact, she was in her eighties. She spoke first. She shared her heart for us younger women. She shared from the Word. She spoke of women to whom she had ministered in countries where believers are being persecuted. Her voice broke as she spoke of her sisters in Christ, living under the constant threat of imprisonment and death. You could see the love she carried for them. She spoke of Christ and the gospel. Her knowledge of the Word was so evident, and her talk was so full of scripture that she just seemed to breathe it out. I left her session with a…

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This week’s blog post was written by my friend, Diane Virginia who is a wonderful story-teller. Her blog address and information will follow her post. Please take the time to visit her blog. 

Recently, while I was eating at a local burger restaurant, I felt an inner nudge to visit a clothing store after I was done eating. I did so. As I arrived there, I saw a homeless man I recognized named Mike.

I got caught up between two car mirrors. That sure did catch Mike’s attention. He laughed, and we struck up a conversation and he asked for money.

“I can’t give you money, but I’ll be glad to buy you a meal. Do you like hamburgers?” I pointed toward the restaurant.

“Can I get a hot dog? Or two?”

“Sure. Let’s go get you two hot dogs. And we’ll get you fries, a drink, and ice cream.”

“I don’t want no ice cream. It’s too cold fer that.”

“I understand,” I said, but then I wondered if I really understood the bone-chilling cold this gentle soul faced every winter.

We started walking.

As I stepped inside the burger joint, Mike hovered at the door.

“It’s okay. Please… come inside.”

“Okay, but I’s gonna eat outside.”

As is often the case, a homeless person is so used to being shamed he/she often will not enter a building.

Mike entered and cautiously looked around. He was probably wondering if he would get kicked out.

The server looked at me, puzzled, “Back so soon? Did you decide to get ice cream?”

“My friend is hungry. Mike, tell the lady what you want.”

“I wants a hot dog.”

“Make that two please…”

Mike was modest with his order. To drink, he asked for a cup of water without ice. He didn’t order fries because he had chips in his backpack that were “not too old to eat.” The entire order cost less than five dollars.

While we were waiting, Mike talked. I knew for sure this was God’s heavenly assignment so I listened to the still small voice within, knowing my Lord would guide our conversation. Mike shared his former employment as a painter. But that had been fifteen years prior. He had been unable to get disability even though he’d applied several times.

“Mike,” I said, “perhaps you haven’t been able to get disability because you can do something.”

“That’s what they says, too.”

“And?”

“I can’t climb ladders no more.”

“So, what’s stopping you from trying something new?”

“I drinks.”

“I care about you so tell it to me straight. Do you want help to overcome that?”

By this time, Mike’s hot dogs had arrived. He could have fled, but instead, he bowed his head like he was determining whether I was a safe sounding board. Mike rested his hands open on to the bar top. I gently touched his wrist. Mike grasped my hand, and with sincerity that melted my heart, and bore his soul.

“Alls I got is my drinking. Some days it’s lonely, an’ a good drink takes the edge off. Lotsa days, it’s cold ‘specially when the winds a knockin’ at ye collar like it was last night. If I takes to the bottle, I don’t feel it as bad. So, I don’t want to give up my booze. We’s friends, that bottle an’ I. We’s old friends.”

“Would you believe me if I said you can have a new beginning?”

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;

old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

II Corinthians 5:17 KJV

“Is ye talkin’ bout Him? I likes Him, see?” Mike rolled up his sleeve and revealed a cross tattoo.

“Yes. Jesus has a good plan for you. And He is just the man to help you get unstuck. When was the last time you visited Him at church?”

“I walk past a church from where I sleep in the woods. I wants to go in. I think ‘bouts that a lot! Purty much always… But I don’t think they wants the likes of me.” Mike glanced at his attire and frowned.

I could sense Mike’s quandary. He could go to the house of God in worn clothes while he watched church members show up in their Sunday best. He knew he’d be the oddball.

“Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes!”

Psalm 119:12 RSV

There it was again rearing its ugly head—a creature named, “Shame” had browbeaten this gentleman once too often. I was ready to act.

I knew exactly why I was there. The same Spirit who had nudged me to drop by the store Mike was sitting at was also prompting Mike to attend a certain church, and my guess was there was a preacher who was being prompted to deliver a sermon that would be just what Mike needed to hear. I was pretty certain congregants would be sensing urges to welcome this gentle soul into their fold.

God was converging forces, in an attempt to rescue a soul who had wandered for over fifteen years.

“Listen to me, okay? You go to that church and you hold your head high. God loves you just as much as He loves the preacher at the pulpit and the people who attend. You are welcome there. They are most likely waiting for you to visit. So, this Sunday, go up to the church steps and go inside. Even if you’ve been drinking, go in anyway, okay? When you go inside, listen to the message, because I’m sure the pastor has written it just for you.”

“Is ye sure?”

“Yes. Do you believe me?”

“I hope so….”

“Hold onto that hope.”

I knew Mike would answer my next question as candidly as he answered the others.

“Mike, will you go to that church this Sunday?”

Mike put his hand to his chin.

“Yes. Imna go…”

“Can I pray with you? Because I’m pretty sure your new beginning will start when you walk through those church doors.”

“And ye shall seek me, and ye shall find me,

when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the LORD.”

Isaiah 29:13 KJV

Mike removed his cap and grasped my hands before I asked him to. I felt the cold of his skin and the slenderness of his fingers clinging to my hands as if holding mine tightly would make his world straighten. I prayed and thanked Mike for allowing me to share part of his day. I hoped that because he relied on the generosity of others to provide meals, this also afforded him numerous opportunities to hear about how deep and wide the love of God truly is… I knew Mike’s new beginning would start when he chose to hold tightly to his Savior’s nail-scarred hands.

Father God, help me to hear Your inner voice. Fill me with love for those You send my way. Help me to help those who have lost their way, to discover the good plan You have for them. Help me to not be too busy to respond to Your Spirit-nudges, and to accept Your heavenly assignments.

Diane Virginia Cunio is the author of The Kiss of Peace: An Intimate Exploration into Song of Solomon (awaiting publication). She is passionate about sharing Beloved Jesus’ divine love for you, His bride, as allegorically portrayed in the vignette, Song of Solomon.

She has developed the model for motion-activated musical prayer-stations for use in the garden retreat, themed to the places you as Beloved’s bride travel to in Song of Solomon.

Diane is a regular contributor for Christian Broadcasting Network. She has written for Faith Beyond Fear, Pentecostal Publishing House, The Secret Place, and other ministries.

To schedule Diane as a speaker, please contact her via her website: Stories and Devotions Inspired by the Vine. You may find her on Facebook or contact her via email at email@vinewords.net.

Agape…and God’s Love

Are you a dog or a cat lover? Maybe you love all animals; most of them anyway.

I love animals. People who have been to my house and met my two dogs, six ducks, chickens, and three goats, know this about me.

My family especially loves German shepherd dogs. They are so easy to train and are loyal, protective and lovable.

Many years ago after the death of my beloved Nadia, a white German shepherd, my husband and I went looking for the perfect family dog. Our kids were only 6 (twins) and 4, so we knew we wanted a puppy. We found a German shepherd we fell in love with. She was about twenty-three pounds when we brought her home but my kids wouldn’t go near her at first.

We named her Agape. You may know it’s a Greek word which means unconditional love. Little did we know how she would fulfill her name.

After two days, they lost their fear of her and did not let her out of their sight.

Nor did she let them out of hers. She loved her pack (children).

My son, Matthew has cerebral palsy. Once Agape got a little older, she recognized something different in Matthew. She became protective of him. Not in an aggressive sense, but she stayed with him everywhere he went.  If he fell, she let him grab ahold of her to get back on his feet. If he was sitting down in the grass, Agape lay down next to him until he moved, then she moved with Matthew.

We have four and a half fenced-in acres of land with a long winding driveway. She followed my children all over it. One time, all three kids and Agape were at the end of our property down our driveway. I called to Agape to feed her. She looked at me but refused to come.

Now, Agape was a well-trained dog. She knew to listen and obey. But she was not leaving her kids. Once I called the kids, she followed them to me.

Every day during the school year, she trailed the kids down the driveway where they waited for the bus. She stayed just inside our gate watching them get on the bus and continued to stay there until the bus was out of sight. Then, she made the trek back to the house.

Another time, all five of us were walking around our property. Agape always took the lead. As we walked, Agape saw a hole where a drain had been. After putting her nose in it, she looked up at Mike and me, then put her nose back in the hole and looked up again. She stood over that hole until we had all passed her and then took the lead again.

Agape’s attention to detail and sensitivity amazed me. I wondered how far she would go to protect my kids.

My husband returned from work one warm, sunny day. This time Agape was not next to the kids. As he pulled up the hill to our house, Agape ran from the garage out in front of his car. He almost hit her. Our children were on that hill but she didn’t know Mike had seen them. She put herself between his car and our children.

He was a little shaken, but it made us realize how special this dog was to our kids and us. She would have given her life for them.

We serve a God and Savior Jesus Christ who also loves us with agape love. He does not base His love on what we do or have done. If it was, it would not be unconditional. He does not just love those who love Him, but even those who do not. That’s unconditional love. You can do nothing to earn it.

He is also a friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. He goes with us throughout our life even in the mundane comings and goings.

Agape spent her thirteen and a half years outside within our fenced in property protecting us and our animals from predators. It didn’t make her less loved because she was outside. She was family. She was a protector.

But she loved it when we came out first thing in the morning. It was as if she waited all night for us.

While we sleep, Jesus is the ultimate protector. He guards our hearts and minds. He protects us physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Have you ever considered that Jesus cannot wait for you to wake in the morning?  He looks forward to time alone with you.

Jesus gave His life for us. His agape love allowed Him to die a lonely and excruciatingly painful death for us. He did what He did to keep us from spiritual death and an eternity without us.

I thank God for animals, pets, and dogs like Agape.

But I can’t express how thankful I am that He loves me unconditionally. There is no condemnation. We cannot surprise or disappoint Him. He is all-knowing. He sees your past, present, and future and He still adores you.

Isn’t He worth knowing? Do you want a friend who is closer than a brother or a dog?

His name is Jesus.

And the Winner is…

I had the drawing for the verse study book Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

The winner is Kim Wurtz! Yay!! Congratulations Kim.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Although you didn’t win you will be able to purchase Feed Your Soul with the Word of God at Amazon.com starting June 20th.

I now have an author page on Amazon featuring Feed your Soul and The Few, the Humble, the Church, my book on Ephesians and Spiritual warfare. You can find it here.

Go to this link to buy Feed Your Soul. Thank you! I pray God uses this little book to get you into His Word.

 

A Feast of Words and a Free book

How do you feed your soul?

I just returned from a Christian writers conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating five days. This conference was a time for making new friends and catching up with old ones.

But, it also fed me.

This conference fed me spiritually, and it fueled my creativity. It inspired and challenged my writing.

I also realized How. Much. I. Don’t. Know.

Last year at this conference, I met a family whom I now deeply appreciate. They are the Kauffmans. Rick, Beebe, and their daughter Katy have inspired many people besides me. They are the founders of Refresh, an online Bible study magazine, and Lighthouse Bible Studies.

Beebe and Katy taught me a lot about writing devotionals for Refresh. Since meeting them, they published two of my devotionals in Refresh and gave me the courage to write for CBN.com and the Charisma online magazine.

I recently contributed to their book Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

This book is a feast of thirty short Bible studies written by twenty-six contributors; most of whom I know. You will love their stories and insights into Scripture.

Each short Bible study has a story, application, 4 to 5 questions, and a prayer. Easy peasy. You can get one in before work.

I have two short Bible studies in this book. The first one is How to Withstand the Predator and is about my dog and the deer she chased from my yard. Using this story and Scripture, I give you steps to withstand Satan’s schemes and understand Spiritual warfare.

My other short Bible study in this compilation is Psalm 18 — Retold. Psalm 18 is my favorite Psalm and I hope it will be yours after reading my version.

There are many other topics and scriptures used by great writers of this book to keep you engaged.

It is available on June 20th from Amazon.

But!

You can get your copy early by commenting on this post and sharing it. I will choose one random person to win a copy of Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

We want everyone to hear about this study, so sharing it will improve the chance of reaching more people with the Good News Bible study give us.

Remember, to win a copy,  first comment on this blog, then share it with your friends and family.

Thank you! I will contact the winner to get your address.