It's All Grace

Amazing things can happen when you allow the Lord to work in your life.

Choose the Right Entrance

Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter ye in at the strait gate:  for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

The gate is wide and stands open.  You may go in this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no checks to appetites or passions.  It is a broad way and there are many paths

The way to eternal life is narrow.  We are not in heaven as soon as we enter through the strait gate.  Self must be denied and corruptions mortified.  Daily temptations resisted; duties must be done as we will go through trials and sufferings.

We go through gates of many kinds.  However, some are more like turnstiles.  You know, like at airports and amusement parks?  Most of the time, they are one-way.  You go in and you don’t back out.

Jesus tells us to “enter by the narrow gate”.  He also speaks about the way being hard is the way that leads to life.   Going through a narrow gate in itself is uncomfortable, and now He tells us the way will also be hard.  Expect it.

There is also a wide gate. Many will go through this gate because it is easy.  It won’t require much of us.  We won’t feel uncomfortable and rarely ever make a sacrifice.  We will always be accepted by others.  All you need to do is say a prayer, admire Jesus, and say you believe in love.  It’s lazy and lets you move along with the current.  It’s what we do naturally.  But what does Jesus say it leads to?  Death.  Eternal death.

I had a friend one time who made a “profession of faith” and when things began to get difficult…I mean really hard…she told me, “If this is what Christianity is all about, YOU CAN HAVE IT!  I DON’T WANT ANY PART OF IT!”  After gasping at what she had said, I was stunned then sickened as I immediately thought to myself, “have I given her the wrong image of Christ?”  Since then, I have come to realize that there are people everywhere who want a ticket to heaven…but they want the easy road.

Many Christians think that trusting Jesus as their Savior makes life easy, and now that they have Christ, there will be nothing but smooth sailing.  That’s not what Jesus has told us – yet the contrary.  We will be constricted.  We will need to believe things we cannot see.  We will have to forgive those who hurt us, and be kind to those who really irritate us.  We will have to say no to some things that others are free to do.  We will be mocked, made fun of, and slandered.  We will standout and be very different at times when we wish we could just blend in with the crowd.  We may even lose our life.

What do we get as Christians?  Well, everything.  Even through all the difficulties we will encounter we can live with joy and peace.  We will have courage when others would cave in fear.  And best of all, we have the promise from One that cannot lie.  We have the hope of life eternal in His very presence.  I would say that’s worth some discomfort.

You have to choose:  narrow or wide?

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Conquering the Guantlet of Life!

IMG_0278  6 foot slanted wall  IMG_0456  IMG_0499  IMG_0523  IMG_0515  IMG_0508     IMG_0562
Three friends started on a journey together.  All smiles, looking pretty with a great outlook on the road ahead.  The road of life brings with it many obstacles that we must jump over, crawl under, go through in the dark, some laced with barbed wire, while some  you will be on your hands and knees with one eye open, battling the mud that someone has thrown at you!
This past weekend, our 15 year old daughter and two of her friends decided and purposed they would attempt to “Conquer the Guantlet”. . . AND THEY DID!  However, I must say, they looked and felt quite different when crossing the finish line, than they did on the starting line.  In the end, they were much dirtier and covered with mud, exhausted, fatigued, marred with cuts and bruises, thirsting for water and nutrition and not near as excited in the end as they were in the beginning.  This trio was relieved to cross the finish line standing up and breathing, yet ready to get cleaned up, lay down and rest.   *Psalm 23:2
Olivia, Megan and Kayla headed out together on a 4 mile journey along rough terrain that encompassed potholes and thick stobs – not exactly fit for running!  90 degree temps with high humidity only added to the difficulty of this event.  There were over 25 of the largest, most unique and challenging obstacles along this 4 mile stretch.  It was this 2 hour and 15 minute journey, that stretched these girls and pushed them to their limits, trying their physical, mental and spiritual ability like never before!
The further into the trails they went, each one began to realize just how important it is to “not go it alone”.   We need friends on this journey through life.  Not just “friends” but the friends that will encourage you and push you to keep running — not ones who will give up and encourage you to quit!  *Proverbs 17:17
They also began to verbalize what things they would lay aside next time, that were a (bothersome) “weight” for them.  For example:  their tu-tu’s – cute and fun, but not needed for such a race.  How many things do we carry through life that is not needed or just an added weight?  *Hebrews 12:1
It was neat to listen to them encourage each other.  As one began to grow weary, not sure she could press on or challenge the next obstacle, the other two would pipe up exclaiming, “YOU CAN DO IT” while pulling or pushing the other one up or over the obstacle.  The obstacles on this course were optional.  You could take the challenge or go around, watching others push themselves above and beyond what they “thought” they could do!  *Galatians 6:9
I was informed by my husband just minutes AFTER the starting gun went off, that I could go along the course and take pictures if I wanted to.  This meant I had to hurry and catch up!  I was able to follow along (tongue hanging, tail dragging and sweat pouring down between my spectacles) taking pictures while cheering them on!  I definitely was NOT equipped in the best attire or shoes to travel this journey with them, alongside them or even behind them, as I did not attend this event prepared for the same journey.
There were several different walls they were challenged to climb over.  Some were approximately 15 feet tall with different length ropes to run and grab, pulling yourself over then climbing down the other side.  Some were 8 feet tall straight up and down, some were 6 feet tall and slanted for you to run up as far as you could and climb over.  As I watched the girls on the 6 foot slanted wall, it was difficult for them to make it over.  So, two of them would get at the top (leaning from opposite side) while the other would run up the wall.  The two girls would grab her hands helping to pull her over.  They had great difficulty and tried several things to beat this obstacle. I was immediately reminded of how it is in life, when others will pull us down easier than we can pull them up.
**We don’t know what life’s journey holds, but the Lord does.  May we be prepared and equipped with God’s Word and great friends to embark on this journey through life that brings with it, rough terrain, obstacles, marred flesh, etc.  There is so much spiritual application to this event.  Hope you enjoyed the snippit of their journey to Conquer the Guantlet.
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Wringing Your Hands

We fret — We worry — We strive  — We wrangle — We manipulate — We scheme — We are frustrated — We are anxious — We are troubled — We wring our hands in despair.  Sometimes we panic.  Why?  Because, we do not trust, obey and pray.  We do not really believe that God can do what He says He can.  We do not really trust Him.

You have probably seen when a toddler will jump with excitement from the edge of a table top into his fathers arms?  Some may be reluctant and some may leap with enthusiasm grinning ear to ear.  Why is that?  It’s because he trusts that his father loves him and will catch him, keeping him from harms way.  This trust comes from seeing an established pattern.  We can learn a lot from this “picture” of trust.

Some of you know someone you TRUST more than anyone in this world.  Think for a minute, who that person might be.  How do you KNOW that you trust them?  What would you trust them with?  When you begin to answer these questions, realize that there is a reason that you trust them — it is because you really “KNOW” them.

When you are asked “as a believer in Jesus Christ”, “Do you really KNOW the Lord in this way that you would TRUST Him with your life?”  Can you answer yes to that question?  Many times we don’t trust God, because we don’t truly KNOW Him.

There are Christians who are truly saved, yet don’t really KNOW the Savior.  Get in the Word and read about the ONE who died on the cross for you so that you might have abundant life.  I pray that you fall in love with Him, as you walk through the “love letter” He has written down for you in the scriptures.

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What to Do When You’re Going Under

Devotion by Pastor James MacDonald – too good not to share!

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

—Matthew 14:28-31

There’s nothing quite like a familiar and confident voice in a dark place saying, “I’m here. There’s no reason to be scared.” It doesn’t matter if you are 4 or 44. It doesn’t matter how many times you been in a dark and unpredictable situation. Hearing that voice can be the difference between sinking and safety.

Matthew 14:22–33 describes a night crossing when the disciples got caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had sent them ahead in the boat alone. Interestingly, about half of the disciples were fishermen. They knew how dangerous the lake could be. It’s hard to figure out who was more afraid, those who knew what could happen or those who were wondering what would happen. Either way, there was a boatload of nervous guys out on the water in the dark.

Then, as the wind and the waves threatened to take them under, Jesus walked by—on the water! Without a flashlight on board, all they could see was a dim figure making His way through the swells toward the boat. They immediately forgot about the storm in their terror over the ghost! The disciples “cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid’”(vv.26–27).

Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (v.28). I love this about Peter. He concluded, If Jesus says I can walk on water, I can walk on water. As usual, Peter’s mouth and actions were about ten seconds ahead of his brain. But Jesus said, “Come,” and over the side went Peter. Imagine his wonder when the water held him up—like a kid playing on a waterbed.“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me’” (vv.29–30).

Aw, Peter! You were doing so well—what happened? Here’s what happened: he took his eyes off the Lord. He forgot the reason why he could walk among the waves.

Does that ever happen to you? When your eyes were on the Lord, life was good no matter what was going on around you. But the moment you become focused on the wind and waves, you started to sink.

Where are your eyes today?

If you’re going under, it’s because you’ve been looking at the waves (like your health or the pitch and roll of your retirement funds). You’ve been listening to the howling wind (like the constant voices of doom and gloom in our society). You have been taking your cues from what others are saying or the way they are acting instead keeping your mind stayed on Christ (Isaiah 26:3). But you can do better! When things look bad you don’t have to conclude that they will remain bad; instead you can be watching for Christ to show up!

And if you do get distracted and start to sink, it’s time to call out like Peter, “Lord, save me!” The Savior will always rescue you.

Pray:     Lord, it bothers me that every storm feels like the first time I’ve been out on the water. Why can’t I do better at remembering all the other times You have been faithful? Why do I so easily forget Your constant demonstrations of care? Forgive the way I’m prone to wander. Forgive my effortless distractions. Thank You for being equally patient with me as You are faithful to me. Continue to guide me toward greater faithfulness on my part. I know I’m doing better than I did even a year ago. Thank You! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Wasn’t It Smart Of God To:

Make the palms of our hands flat so we can write notes to ourselves on them — and give us the ability to fold our hands when we don’t want anyone to know what we wrote.

Design the human brain to triple in weight between birth and adulthood — but wrinkle as it grows so it will fit inside our skulls.  (Speaking of brain wrinkles, if you removed your brain and flattened it with an iron it would cover an extra large ironing board — but that would really hurt!)

Make 300 million cells die in the human body every minute.  (Many preachers wish God would do the same for cell phones during sermons!)

Create a world that contains more chickens that humans — and then make us big enough so we won’t get eaten by them.

Give the alligator 2,000 to 3,000 teeth during its lifetime so we won’t complain about having to floss our measly 32.

What are you grateful for today?  Make sure you take every opportunity to laugh at yourself and love God!

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Are You Falling or Flying?

How many times do we miss opportunities to see the Hand of God working in our lives?  He provides opportunities (both good and bad) that we may see His character and how HE has our best interest at heart.

When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust HIM fully and let go.  Only one of two things will happen.  Either He will catch you when you fall, or HE will teach you how to fly.

What are you waiting for?

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Nag . . . Nag . . . Nag

As a woman, are you a living testimony or a living nag?  Many times we “nag” and believe we are just repeatedly “asking”.

God created men and women “not wrong but different”.  Different in the ways we perceive what is being said, as well as hundreds of other ways we are different.

How many things around the house would get done if we only asked once and not 5 or 6 times?  How many men would have come to Christ had they not been nagged?  Nagging is NOT a spiritual gift. OUCH!

Inviting them to church instead of nagging them has a much greater success rate.  My husband has a pasture full of nags – he doesn’t need one at home!

May you be challenged today each time you open your mouth to your husband.

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If I Had Known

Looking back over your homeschooling experiences, what would you do differently? Enjoy these reflections gleaned from other homeschooling parents just like you:

  • If I had known that teaching my children would be so much fun, I would have started homeschooling sooner.
  • If I had known my children were going to grow as fast as older women said they would, I would have treasured our time together even more.
  • If I had known that my son was going to become an archeologist and dig in the dirt for a profession, I would have never worried about removing the stains when washing his clothes.
  • If I had known that all my children would go on to receive college degrees, I would have never second guessed my curriculum choices and teaching abilities.
  • If I had known how unimportant it was to keep a spotless house, I would have gone to bed on time instead of spending countless hours cleaning, organizing, and tidying up for the next day.
  • If I had known how living on one income would build a solid faith in God, I would have gladly lived with less without all the complaining.
  • If I could only experience the thrill of one job to last an entire lifetime, I would homeschool my children all over again.

Whatever lessons you’ve learned from homeschooling so far, you’re incredibly blessed to teach your children. Praise God for the wonderful opportunity to be both your child’s parent and teacher! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

AOP Homeschooling Devotions

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Personal Use of the Sword

Satan strongly desires the destruction of anyone who keeps his or her sword of the Spirit sharpened by personal use. He knows that weapon becomes dull once the believer’s use of Scripture becomes mechanical.

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Transformed or Encounter Only?

If your teenager or spouse came home from work or school and said they’d just been hit head on with an 18 wheeler, yet looked just like they did when they left home that morning, you could only assume a few things based on what you “saw” in them:

1. The accident wasn’t as intense as they described, but more like a close call.
2. This 18 wheeler incident must have happened months ago.
3. They have severe memory loss.
4. They are exaggerating or flat out lying.

If you had an encounter with that kind of power, you would be transformed, looking, sounding and walking much different than before. And that is how it should be when you’ve come in contact with the power of Jesus Christ. You should be TRANSFORMED, looking and living much different than before!

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