Sow & Gather

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When God Has a Better Plan

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

The Pharisees said to Him, "Do you hear what these are saying?"  And Jesus said to them, 'Yes, have you never read, "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise"?'  Matthew 21:16 (ESV) 

As a mom, my most exciting moments have been seeing spiritual markers in my kids’ lives.  It gives me joy, peace and hope to see my kiddos walking with Jesus. 

One such time happened when my son was only nine.  We had set sail on a cruise from Florida, expecting to have a fabulous, fun-filled trip.  We had already experienced disappointment since I was unfamiliar with cruises and had missed the deadline for signing up for the dolphin excursion.  My six-year old daughter did not receive the news well and had spent some time crying about that lost opportunity. 

On day two of our seven-day cruise, we learned that there were not one but two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the danger would force our captain to make the decision to reroute the trip.  I remember returning to the cabin as the news sank in that all previous plans had been cancelled and any new on-shore activities were uncertain.  We were pretty down and my daughter again began to sob. 

I can still see my sweet son's face full of hope, joy and child-like faith as he spoke fourteen little words.  "Maybe God has something better planned for us than we had planned for ourselves."  At that moment, my breath caught in my chest as I realized that he could be right. 

Now, I know that God does not give us everything we want, because He is at work through difficult situations just as He is in the good times.  On this occasion, though, He chose to affirm my son's faith and confirm his belief.  We experienced everything we wanted to, including a swim in the ocean with dolphins that had not previously been possible. 

This spiritual milestone in my son's life became a mom milestone in mine.   Even when I am not where I need to be, God is still working in my children's lives.  He will be more of a parent for them than I could ever be.  I just need to move out of the way and trust Him to do what I cannot. 

Dig deeper |

1 John 3:1-2, John 16

Action Item |

Are you trusting your child's future to God?  Or, are you trying to protect them from difficulties that are God's fertile ground for teaching?   

Prayer |

God, help me to trust Your ways are best for my child even when they experience unfavorable situations.  Help me have wisdom to know how to guide them through these times and teach them to lean on You.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Are You Gentle?

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 NIV 

What is the first thought that races into your mind when the word “grandmother” is uttered? I immediately think of gentleness. Gentleness means kind, soft and even tender. My own grandmother displayed this great gentleness. 

When I was a child, she would plop me on her lap and squeeze tightly exclaiming how much she loved me. She would sew cute clothes for me and always prepared a matching set for my dolls. She would bake sweet-smelling cinnamon rolls and other yummy favorite foods. She would even sit and listen as I sang silly songs written just for her. As I grew into adulthood, she continued to encourage me, showed interest in the activities of my life and displayed even more love. She exhibited gentleness. 

There is another person who is the perfect example of gentleness. Throughout His earthly life, Jesus showed this trait to many in His path. He would gather the children into His arms and bless them. Women like Mary Magdalene and the woman who had bled for 12 years of her life were healed by Jesus. And, when his friend Lazarus died, He wept. He grieved over his friend’s death with Lazarus’s family.  

Presently, Jesus continues to show gentleness to even me. He provides me with a home for rest and food to eat on a daily basis. He is with me and loves me despite my many weaknesses and even times of disobedience. He is merciful and shows amazing grace. He exhibits gentleness. 

With such an ideal example, I am to let my gentleness be evident to all, too. I am to be kind, soft and tender with my family, friends and those I connect with every day. I should exhibit gentleness.     

Digging Deeper |

Mark 10:13-16, Luke 8:40-47, John 11:17-44 

Action Item |

Be gentle! 

Prayer |

Lord, Thank You that You are gentle, God. Thank you for showing Your gentleness to me. Help me to be gentle toward others. I want to be like You. Amen. 

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Failure Only Defeats Us When We Quit

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down your net for a catch. Luke 5:4 NASB

My mom is probably the best cook I know.  She is a country cook but her food is delicious and when there is a potluck, people actually ask her what she made so they can get a taste.  Unfortunately, I did not inherit that gene.  I remember one day when I was about twelve, my mom was gone for some reason so I was determined to make my dad dinner.  I decided to make biscuits, which I had never done before.  

I found my mom's recipe and began mixing in the ingredients.  I read the words "baking powder" but thought “baking soda”.  The little teaspoon was easy; it was the biggest spoon on the ring, or so I thought.  I mixed everything together and placed the biscuits in the oven.  They were so beautiful when they came out, but a little more yellow than my mom's.  I was so pleased.  I decided to taste my creation because I just knew it was going to be heavenly.  To my surprise, I was not even able to get the first bite down because the over-powering bitterness drew my mouth shut. 

So back to the beginning; I made a second batch.  This time I used less baking soda but, as before, they were bitter too.  My poor dad ate two even though they were awful. 

Though that day I had set out with great hope and determination to accomplish my goal, I failed.   

Peter experienced something similar.  Early in his walk with the Lord, Jesus told Peter to let down his nets.  Peter, being unconvinced, said to Jesus, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." Luke 5:5.  Immediately, the nets were so full that the boat began to sink.  What if Peter had given up? 

Failure in a moment does not equal failure for a lifetime. 

From the roots of my own failure have sprung the tendrils of future success.  I believed that my failure was equated with my identity. But I am reminded that my identity now rests in Christ.  So I am encouraged to cast long and hard for whatever God has called me to do.  

Failure can only defeat me when I quit, but if I use it as a spring board of motivation, then accomplishment could be right around the corner. 

Digging Deeper |

James 1:2-42 Peter 1:5-8 

Action Item |

Where has God asked you to go deeper?  Decide to take the first step toward that calling.  Have you experienced failure at something you thought God wanted you to do?  Don't quit pursuing that goal. 

Prayer |

Precious Lord, help me when I don't want to go on.  Give me the grace to push forward, the courage to pursue You, and the wisdom to know what You desire for me.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Share The Message of Jesus

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  Philemon 1:6 NIV 

Recently I went into a convenience store with my youngest son to purchase snacks and after thoroughly looking at the wide array of candy, he picked out mints.  As we left the store, he popped out the mint container and asked me if I wanted one.  

As he handed me the mints, I noticed that the container was round and flat like a hockey puck and the label was full of color. I examined the container closely and noticed there were two openings on either side to acquire the mints. One opening was labeled “not to share” and the other “to share.” Upon opening the “not to share”, half of the container opened and it was so easy to grab one of the little mints. However the opening “to share” was teeny, tiny and you had to shake it vigorously to have even one mint fall out.   

This exchange of mints challenged me to examine my life and I realized I live the same way. I am a believer in Jesus and like the first believers in the city of Anitoch, a Christian. (Acts 11:26) My purpose is to share and tell everyone about the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and how to have a relationship with Him and live with Him eternally. 

However, I falter and there are days I can barely shake any words out about Jesus and when I do, the words are far and few. But Jesus wants me to do more, He wants me to share actively and generously and boldly speak about His love and life. Jesus wants my life’s container to be wide open shaking out Him and His love to everyone.   

Dig Deeper |

Acts 1: 1-9, Matthew 28:18-20 

Action Item |

Do you actively share your faith in Jesus with others? Search for reasons you chose “not to share” and ask God to overcome these obstacles and begin “to share” with others. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, you are a saving God. Help me to share you with others in this world generously and with vigor. I want others to know and love you, too. Amen. 

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God’s Word Nourishes

reviewMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

There is nothing more precious than watching a new born instinctively search for their mother’s milk which God designed perfectly for them to thrive.  

Spiritual milk is the sweet word of Christ in which believers also instinctively search for and grow in grace in their walk with Him. The word “craving” or “desire,” in other translations, means to yearn, intensely crave, earnestly desire and long after.  

Just as milk is physical nourishment for a baby, God’s Word is spiritual nourishment for the heart and mind. In Proverbs 4, it says that “God’s Word is life to those who find it and health to a man’s whole body.” 

If I am to grow in my walk with Christ, then I need to fill myself with His truth daily. I need God’s Word because it is living and active and it penetrates my soul and spirit, joints, and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). 

There have been many times I have desired worldly nourishment and not the life-giving water found in Christ. My supply never lasts and always leaves me feeling unsatisfied, weary, and longing for something else. 

Having tasted the goodness, kindness, and graciousness of the Lord, His Word not only fills me, but leaves me yearning for more of Him. I pray that above everything else, I would earnestly desire Him. What are you craving today?

Dig Deeper |

1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrew 4:12, Hebrews 6:4-5

Action Item |

Ask God to give you a desire for His nourishing Word daily. 

Prayer |

Dear Father, thank you for Your Word that nourishes my heart and mind. May my cravings only be for You. Amen.

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My Faith Is So Weak!

reviewMarci AnthonyComment
#sowandgather #obedience

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  II Chronicles 20:15B   NIV

I find it amazing that God has to remind me often that He wants to be involved in my daily life.  I don’t know about you, but I simply forget that He’s standing by, just waiting for me to turn to Him and let Him guide me through my problems.  He constantly has to remind me that if I’m willing, my battles are not mine….they’re His!  

In II Chronicles King Jehoshaphat hears that three armies have united and are on the march toward Jerusalem!  He knows his army has no chance to stand against them, so he makes an appeal of protection to the Lord.  “O Lord, God of our fathers…we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”   

God’s reply is immediate and wonderful:  They don’t need to be afraid or discouraged because the battle is His.   

But.....”Go out to face them tomorrow.”  What?!  God says He will fight the battle, but we still have to march up against an army that’s at least three times our size?!  

For King Jehoshaphat and all his fellow soldiers, it becomes a distinct matter of faith.  Is their faith in God real….real enough to march toward an army that will surely decimate them, unless God keeps His promise and enters the battle Himself?   

The way they respond is exemplary!  First, they all fall down and worship the Lord, then early the next morning they march – straight toward the enemy.  But then they set the bar really high for all believers who would follow in centuries to come (that’s us!), for not only do they exhibit great faith by marching toward this vast army, they also appoint a men’s choir to lead the way!  And as they march, with the choir in front, they sing praise to God for the splendor of His holiness!  Now that’s faith.  Simply amazing, life-on-the-line faith!    

Of course, God was faithful to His promise.  He ambushed the enemy armies and caused them to completely destroy each other.   

And I must remember that those soldiers were people just like me.  Same fears, same struggles.  But they sure stepped up to the plate and showed me what it means to put my life in the hands of my faithful God!

Dig Deeper |

II Chronicles 20:1-30; Ephesians 6:16

Action Item |

Do you sometimes feel that a vast army is coming up against you?  Do you truly believe God is willing to act on your behalf?  Pick up our shield of faith each morning before the day begins and allow Him to guide you throughout the day.

Prayer |

Lord, many times my faith is so weak.  Please help my unbelief.  Help me to take that first, hard step, believing that you will carry me the rest of the way.  And, Lord, help me to sing your praises as I go!!

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Sweet Fellowship

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.  I John 1:3    NASB 

Growing up the word “fellowship” meant Sunday lunches at my church. As a young girl, an all you can eat buffet of homemade dessert and playing hide and seek in the Sunday school rooms was pure joy! 

As an adult, fellowship has a deeper meaning for me. Fellowship is still gathering with other believers, possibly sharing a meal, but more importantly sharing life together. It doesn’t necessarily mean a large gathering, like my old church, but a smaller gathering.   

What makes this fellowship sweet are the people gathered together who have been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:9.  

It is a gathering where hurting hearts and struggling flesh are shared, answered prayers are celebrated and real life happens. It is a group of people who encourage you to stay steadfast in seeking the Lord and learning His ways.  Most importantly, there is a shared love for Christ and therefore a love for each other. 

There have been times in my life when I did not experience fellowship with other believers. Having lived without a church or a circle of godly friends makes me treasure the body of believers and the community it offers. 

“Be united with other Christians.  A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together.” Corrie Ten Boom(1892-1983)  Dutch author, speaker and concentration camp survivor 

Dig Deeper |

1 Corinthians 1:9, Acts 2:42 

Action Item |

You may find yourself today without a community of believers. Ask the Lord to show you the church you have been called to and a group of godly friends that you can fellowship with.   

Prayer |

Dear Lord, draw me to those friends who seek you first in all they do. May sweet friendships grow out of our love for you. Amen.

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Come To Me Jesus When You Need A Break

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 He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.  Psalm 91:4 (NIV) 

“I just want to crawl in a hole,” my sweet friend shared with me recently. Voicing what many feel in a variety of circumstances, she truly needs an escape. A deep feeling of sorrow surrounded me for this precious woman. She is facing many life struggles and difficult decisions. As I drove away from the conversation, my mind was flooded with the times I too have felt overwhelmed by life’s trials.   

Women face a variety of struggles.  The marriage relationship presents challenges through battles of the will, selfishness, and unmet needs. Parenthood brings a variety of insecurities, anxieties and indecision.  Life itself, with our jobs, our outside commitments and even our daily routines, can sometimes overwhelm us.  

All women have moments that lure us to the need for an escape. 

We are overwhelmed with options when needing this escape!  We can go with the Forest Gump solution and, “Run, sister, Run!”  We can choose the Hollywood option and get the Oscar for faking it!  We can take the Eeyore option and simply know that it won’t get better.  Possibly, we can go with the, “It’s all about me” option and do as much as we can to feel pretty, relaxed, and fulfilled. 

God offers us another option for escape.  You see, in His divine knowledge, He knew we would, at times need an escape, a refuge.  He very simply says,” when you need this refuge, COME TO ME”.  Coming to Him doesn’t have to involve a physical action.  It is a basic action of the heart and spirit.   

Are you feeling like you want to crawl in a hole?  If so there is truly only one escape that will give you true refuge; talk to Jesus.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, in your heart and spirit, go to Him now. 

Digging Deeper |

Psalm 18

Action items |

What do you feel you need to escape from? List those life struggles and talk to Jesus about them now.  Ask Him for wisdom. Resist the urge to escape in ways that will not truly help you. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, you are our place of escape, our refuge.  Let me hide here in your presence for just this moment so that I can receive your strength and power.  Jesus give me a vision for my future and the hope that only you can give. Amen. 

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Only One Fight

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV) 

Middle school lurked on the horizon for my oldest son.  This would be uncharted territory for our family, and I must admit fear crept into my mind on occasion.  With all of the unknowns, all of the questions and all of the fears, I did have one comfort.  I KNEW the school that he would be attending.  The comfort of knowing teachers and even the building, created some sort of relaxation for me until that dreaded day.  The day I received notice from the school that the school lines had been redrawn and my son would be going to a different school.  Oh mercy, it seems so trivial as I look back, but in the moment, it felt like a giant problem.  I joined the other moms in the neighborhood and began a fight with the school district.  The fight felt like a worthy one in the moment.  Hindsight tells a different story-- a story of wasted time! 

Have you ever fought a fight you regretted? The description above is certainly one of many that I have participated in that goes down in the books as complete and utter lack of judgment.  Over the years, God has taught me a thing or two about fighting fights.  As I spend more and more time in HIS word and in HIS presence, I am discovering that God has amazing plans for believers regarding fighting. 

 According to God’s plan, there is only one fight to be fought.  It is, “The Good Fight of the faith.”  Recognize that in the verse above the word fight is singular.  There truly is only one fight worthy of our time. 

Our fight is not a physical fight but a spiritual one.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:12 

As believers, we fight with spiritual weapons.  “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4

My dear sweet friends, with the culture in which we find ourselves, there is much to be angry about.  There is much to be upset about.  There is quite simply much to fight about.  BUT, there is only one fight that we are called to, the fight against satan. This very moment, satan and his dark forces are quite literally doing all they can do to destroy you, destroy your family and make you completely irrelevant. 

As Paul is sitting in prison in Rome, penning the letter to the Ephesians, he exhorts them to be ready to fight the good fight.  He gives them instruction in suiting up for battle with the full armor of God.  Then, he concludes by saying, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18. While it seems completely contrary to everything within us, the most powerful position in fighting this good fight is on our knees.  Moment by moment, calling out to the God of the universe, asking Him to fight for us, to go before us, to protect us, to use us, to empower us, to strengthen us and to make us ready for all. 

Even as I sit here typing, I am moved at the very thought of asking THE God to fight for me and to fight for my family.  I encourage you to resist the urged to get distracted with all that surrounds us in this incredibly perverse culture, and simply join God in conversation daily, continually.  Fight the Right Fight.  Choose well my friends. 

Digging deeper |

Ephesians 6

Action items |

Are you involved in battles that are “wasted time?”  Evaluate your schedule and determine if you are involved in fighting the good fight. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, fight for me!  Please give protection to my family.  Protect me from the attacks of satan.  Help me, Lord, to be relevant for you.  Help me to protect my time and to fight the good fight.  Amen.

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The Struggle Is Real

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

“The struggle is real!” Lately, this has become a common saying in my household over the hardship of cleaning dishes to not having a date to the prom. Neither of these issues is a true picture of a struggle, but we all face battles in this world that are real.    

Often times our struggles begin with those things that seem innocent enough but are actually disguised as temptations. Most temptation triggers never shout “WARNING – STAY AWAY!” Instead, they say, “That dress will make you look skinny,” “One bite never hurt anyone,” “It’s just a fiction book with some romance,” or "One more glass of wine with the girls.” We all have temptations; they just look different for each person.   

The problem with our temptations, if we are not aware of them, is that they can lead us down immoral, destructive, deceitful, and shameful paths. One small decision leads to another and before we know it, there is a fork in the road. Which way are we going to go? Are we headed down the path of destruction or do we take the path that God has created for us? This verse reminds us that when we are tempted (and we all are), God will provide a way out so that we can escape from it. The question is, will we take it? 

We have to remind ourselves that there is a battle for our attention, hearts, and minds. Daily we have to ask the Holy Spirit to cover us, to give us ears to hear the warnings and a heart that desires to obey those warnings. We need to spend time with God in prayer and in His Word to remind ourselves of His holiness and righteousness. When we do these things, we are arming ourselves for the battle.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV 

The battle of the spirit and flesh is real; temptations are real. The good news is that Christ came to end those battles. Jesus himself understands all of our temptations as He himself was tempted yet never gave in. When we give our hearts to Christ, we don’t have to give in to them either. The struggle is real; but, thankfully, God always gives us a way to stand up under it.  

Dig Deeper |

2 Peter 2:9

Action Item |

What temptations are leading you down paths of guilt and shame? Are you living in victory or are you living in defeat? Christ can set you free if you just believe in Him.   

Prayer |

Dear Father, may the Holy Spirit guard my heart and mind each day, warn me when temptation is calling, and open my eyes to see the door of escape You have provided. Please give me the heart to obey You and You only.  Amen.

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Does God Love Me Less?

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  James 4:2b

I have several kids and to be honest I love each of them differently; not more, just differently.  Recently, I was accused by a member in my family of favoring one of my kids. I didn’t say too much, but then, the “rumor” started spreading and before too long one of my kids complained about the same thing…I had a favorite child! It was pointed out to me that I did “special” things for this particular child. So, I really began to ask myself questions to see if indeed I did have a favorite?! 

No, I did not have a favorite, nor was I favoring this child. This child would ask for certain things and when I fulfilled the request, this one was very thankful. My other children never asked me for such things and if they had, I would have fulfilled their requests, also. The fact that they never even asked me for anything didn’t stop their assumption that just because I was doing something for one child, it must mean I loved that child more. 

Well, this got me thinking. How many times do I do the same thing with God? I look at someone else’s life and see all the blessings they have and think, “Wow, God must REALLY love them. He is not doing anything like that in my life!” The fact is that the other person is probably praying for wisdom, understanding, mercy, love, etc. and God is answering their prayer.  Have I prayed for God to give me wisdom in a certain area? Have I prayed for mercy? Matthew 7:7 tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Also, Psalm 84:11 reminds us, “…The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”   

The next time you are looking at someone else’s life and begin to think that God must love them more than you, ask yourself two questions:  Am I praying for those things? Is what I am asking for good for me? God’s word promises us that He will not withhold “any good thing” from us. Jesus “came that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10  

Instead of looking around and seeing all that Jesus is doing in everybody else’s life, open His word and spend some time with Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 He is waiting for you right now…what is stopping you? 

Dig Deeper |

Ephesians 2:4, Psalm 86:15, Romans 5:8, Job 34:19 

Action Item |

Are you running to God or away from God? You will find Him in His Word! 

Prayer |

Lord, instead of looking at others help me to look to You, to seek You with my whole heart, soul, and mind. 

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Is God Enough

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 NIV  

Eighteen months seems like enough time to transform. How about three years? 40 years? Or, even a 1000 years?  How long does transformation really need to take?  

I sometimes feel like my whole life has been spent trying to transform my body. I try not to, but I've bought into all the negative body image garbage the news media propagates. Thighs are too big; nose is too long; hair is too wavy; ankles are too this or that.  

I've always tried to be health conscious.  About three years ago I did get serious about my diet and joined the "clean eating" bandwagon. It's amazing how many times one person can fall off the bandwagon. Eighteen months ago, I committed to a tough but balanced exercise program. I keep falling off that wagon and occasionally rolling under the wagon and hiding. But, I get back up and get back on the program.  

I struggle every day with my choices of food and exercise. It's mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. While outwardly these struggles look like an issue of willpower or dedication, the true core of the issue is often the heart.   

Every day with every choice I make I'm asking: Is God enough?  

Is God enough to satisfy my longings and frustrations? Is God enough to encourage and support me? Is God enough to love me just as I am today?  

God doesn't love me more or less on days I exercise or eat a balanced diet. I'm not talking about earning God's love because I worked my plan perfectly. I'm talking about a God that loves me every day no matter what.   

God loves me because I am a work in progress.   

Over the last few months, I've read the first 1500 years of Israel's Biblical history. Talk about people that are a work in progress. The pages of the Bible came alive for me as tried to imagine why each person made certain choices. And, why God made the choices He did.    

I just finished reading the Old Testament book of Judges. It was too much. It was too hard. It was a time period when people just didn't believe God was enough. While there are glimmers of heart transformations in Judges, the last verse sums up the time period: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. Judges 21:25 NIV    

People did what they thought would satisfy their longings or frustrations. They looked for encouragement or support in themselves or others. The Israelites looked for love in something or someone other than God. The Israelites had a heart issue.   

Thankfully, this isn't where the story ends for the Israelites or for you and me. Our transformation continues because of the love of God, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We don't have to be enough. We don't have to have perfect bodies and live in perfect homes with perfect kids and perfect marriages.   

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our heart transformation begins in earnest. If you have questions about what it means to "accept Jesus Christ," please explore questions and answers at I Am Second. http://www.iamsecond.com/faith-questions/  

Dig Deeper |  

Romans 6; II Corinthians 3  

Action Item |  

Ask God to show you one area in your life where He wants to transform you. Write it down.  

Prayer |  

Dear Heavenly Father, today I give my transformation over to You. Amen  

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Our Confidence Comes From Christ

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV

Be confident…sometimes these two words seem so unattainable. As women we can sometimes struggle with this idea not knowing who we are or who we’re supposed to be. I have to daily remind myself to look at the person staring back at me in the mirror the way God sees me not as the world sees me. In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes that we should be confident in ourselves because the God of the universe is at work in our lives.

The second part of the verse states that “He who began a good work in you…” This says that God has a plan for each of us. When we are walking in his footsteps with Him as our guide, we have nothing to fear. I don’t know about you, but this gives me hope. God not only has a plan, but that plan is good!

I love the last part of this verse. It says that God will carry this good work until completion. You see, He already knows when we have so much going on in our lives that we can’t possibly handle anything else. What we don’t realize is that all of these “things” that we have going on are not necessarily God’s agendas. These “things” may be the world’s idea of what we need to be doing in our daily lives. I am comforted by the fact that God is in control of my destiny. 

I get goose bumps just thinking about the amazing things that God can do in my life if I let him. When I allow that thought to wash over me, I am struck with the realization that I have nothing to fear or be anxious about. When I look back over my past, I can already see his influence. No matter what poor choices I may have made, he has turned them into golden opportunities for me to succeed now and into the future. 

Be confident, put away all worldly agendas and gaze fondly in the mirror lifting your head high with the assurance that God has a plan for your life and it is good!

Dig Deeper |

Psalm 138:8; Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 10:35 

Action Item |

What areas of your life are you unwilling to let God control? Ask God to help you accomplish His goals for your life and have confidence that He is in control of every situation.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, As I examine my life, help me to be confident in knowing that You are in control. Help me to put aside my selfish ambitions and focus only on Your clear and perfect will.

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Jesus Is the "Easy" Button

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5 

"The holidays made easy." "Press the easy button." All phrases I keep seeing from the grocery store to the office supply store.  

Each of us would like less stress. I think the world is selling us a concept of less stress by making us think an "easy" life equals a stress-free life. In this fast-paced, often challenging world we live in, we've decided easy equals less-stress and hard equals more-stress. 

I don't believe it. I've had times in my life where I'm cruising along with my job and home life and not under deadlines. Times when I should have it all together - when life was easy - and I was miserable. Compare that to days, weeks, months I'm under constant deadlines, traveling like a crazy woman, and my house is a wreck -- I'm content and sleeping easy.  

I think of Mary and Martha - two sisters that were friends with and followers of Jesus Christ. These two sisters come alive for me in the pages of the Bible when we see how they cope with the death of their brother Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for four days and his body was prepared for burial. At last, Jesus arrives and Martha runs to him.  

Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”  

Martha's statement is not one of accusation, but simply of the facts. She knew Jesus could have prevented the death. She also knew Jesus could bring Lazarus back. Even more important, she accepted that what happened next had to be a part of God's will.  

In the grief, stress, and hardship of death, Martha found her "easy" button. Jesus never promised Martha (or us) an easy life. Jesus has promised us a joy-filled life if we trust him. Martha accepted that Christ was with her in the situation. That acceptance is what brings us a joy. 

When I present my prayers to the Lord humbly, with thanksgiving for all that God has provided, I receive a peace and joy that surpasses any "easy" button I might try to use.  

Life is hard. Jesus makes a hard life easy bestowing his followers with never ending joy. We just need to accept the joy each day. 

Dig Deeper | 

John 11:1-45; Philippians 4:4-7

Action Item | 

Write down one thing that is hard for you today. Then write out a prayer of thanksgiving and joy presenting your request for resolution to the Lord. 

Prayer | 

Dear Heavenly Father, life is hard. There are so many distractions pulling us away from you and from gratitude. Lord, you promise your followers joy if they follow your commands. May I follow your commands today. May I count my many blessings. May I live in today but, also, yearn for your return. Amen. 

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Can A Change In Perspective Takes Us From Lost To Found

reviewMarci AnthonyComment

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days, Judah will be saved.  Jeremiah 33:14,16a (NASB) 

In June 2001, I was joyously engaged and only a few days from being married to the man I loved. After a whirlwind of planning and bucket loads of stress, it was finally time. I drove to downtown Dallas to pick up my fiancé and parked at a little lot where I could walk to his office. He worked in a massive 787 feet tall building with sixty stories. The impressive structures distorted my directional senses so when I exited the parking garage on the wrong side, I didn't realize it was a different route. About twenty minutes into the journey, I ascertained I was hopelessly lost.  

I was certain I could retrace my steps back but the more I tried, the more twisted I became. I passed fancy shops, wealthy people, then vagabonds, and desperate people. Fear gripped me, and panic rose up inside swallowing my hope. Hours had passed and by now I knew my fiancé would be wondering what had happened to me. Crying started deep in my chest and I shook uncontrollably. Then I had a thought. If I could only see the building in the right perspective, then I might be able to find my way. I had hope. I walked until I was on the outer limits of the downtown and began the long trek around the circumference of this area. Finally, the buildings lined up and I found where I was supposed to be and also found my wonderful man. A few days later, I walked down the aisle and said an "I do" that has lasted twenty-five amazing years. 

Similarly, this life causes a hopelessness with its tall demands that confuse us. We try so many ways to get to God but get twisted in our own efforts to find Him. Perspective is what we need, God's perspective. We are desperately lost and need His help. Though Jesus Christ was born a tiny baby, He came with a purpose. He came to find us. We must choose to believe that we have sinned, that sin has a cost, the cost is death, death must be satisfied, and Jesus made the payment by dying. When we ask Him to forgive us and choose to trust His death for us, He makes us right with God. That is the perspective where we are found and God sees us as His.  

This is a hope that will not disappoint. 

Dig Deeper | 

Jeremiah33:14-16; John 14:6; I Corinthians 15:3-4

Action Item | 

Take time to remember and dwell on what it cost Jesus to come as a baby and live and die on the cross. 

Prayer | 

Father, thank You that You had a plan from the beginning on how to save me. Thank You for sending Jesus to come to earth to live and die so that I might be made right with You.  Please help me not to forget what it cost You to pay for my life. May Christmas this year remind me of the hope that I have in You. In Jesus name, Amen.

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