May 28, 2014

Lord, my hope is in You. Forgive me for relying on my own strength. Help me remember that eventually all things of this world will fail and disappoint, but You are forever faithful and Your Word is true. I choose to trust You and live as a redeemed, forgiven, child of God. In the name of Jesus, amen.  

May 27, 2015

Lord, God, help me focus on the things that matter today and not be distracted by worthless pursuits. Strengthen me to work diligently at the tasks You lay before me and may You be glorified by everything I do and say today. And tonight, when this day is over, may I have made a difference for Your Kingdom! In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!

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The Gift of Today

What a gift today is!

Today was not guaranteed to happen. Yet, here I am with air to breathe, food to eat, and clean water to drink. I have clothes to wear, and, if I choose to put them on, I have a dozen or so different colors and styles of shoes that I can even match to what I’m wearing!

I take all this (and so much more) for granted each and every day. Rarely do I wake up and just thank God for today. I do sometimes remember to thank Him for my family, but most often I am asking for something~help, healing, or stuff for myself or someone else.

Luke 17:11-19 tells us the story of the Ten Lepers who are healed by Jesus. All ten are healed, but only one gratefully returns to Jesus. Too often, I am like the nine who accepted their gift from God and continued on their way, rejoicing and celebrating, but not grateful enough to even say “thank you”! Forgive me, Lord!

I want to be the one who shouts His praise, falls at His feet, and thanks Him for what He has done!

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done…. (Luke 17:15-16)

God has given me life, and He has given me family and friends to do life with. He has blessed us with the things we need, and He has abundantly blessed with things we enjoy. Today is a gift, and I want to be grateful. 

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So, Today, I will…

Be Still~

I will take time to remember God, focus on His character, and praise Him for Who He is. I will intentionally put God first in my day, and let Him direct my priorities, my time, and my life. I will quiet the noise of my life long enough to hear from God. And then, I will face the rest of my day with joy, peace, and determination to live as a reflection of Jesus–and when I fail, I will rejoice in God’s grace, ready to try again!

Be Thankful~

I will focus on the blessings God has given me, rather than the problems and busyness of my day. I will purposefully and intentionally be grateful and I will try and show that gratitude  through acts of love, generosity, and kindness. I will remember how abundantly I am blessed. I will remember the things God has given me. And I will be thankful!

Be Intentional~

I will be intentional with my time. All too often, in the busyness of day-to-day life, I go from one flurry of activity to another, never stopping and asking God His plan for the day, His goal for me. And His plan is always better than mine. Today, I will not miss the important moments. I will not focus on the minor and miss the eternal. I will ask God to reveal what matters, and I will be intentional to do those things.

~*~

Today is a gift. Tomorrow, if it comes, will be a gift too. But, we are called to enjoy the moments right now. God has a plan and He will reveal it in His perfect timing. We have so much to be grateful for!  What has He done for You?


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Leave me a comment and share your thoughts, praises, and prayer requests so we can rejoice together and encourage one another as the Body of Christ, and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ every day!

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You may find this post linked up with some incredible linkups found here. I hope you will visit them and find even more encouragement!

This post was inspired from a past post: Today’s Gift

photo credit: daisy via photopin (license)

05/21/15

Lord, help me not be selfish. I want to focus on pleasing You, not waste time trying to impress others. Where there is pride, teach me humility, and strengthen me to think of others as better than myself. I don’t want to be the kind of person who only looks out for my own interests, but rather, someone who takes an interest in others too. (Philippians 2:3) Help me love others the way You love me. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Further reading: Philippians 2:3

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I pray you are blessed beyond measure with the fullness of Jesus as you enjoy His presence and spend time at His feet!

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The Beauty of Hope

Today is a day of rejoicing! It has been one year today since Connor’s life-saving, life-changing surgery and he is doing amazing! We are praying and thinking about his future–and we rejoice in the goodness of God!

We rejoice and celebrate life and are so thankful that God answered our prayers with “yes,” but even more so, we rejoice and are thankful simply that God hears and answers our prayers!

God is not good because He gives us what we want. God is good because God is just good. He is holy, righteous, perfect, and He loves us with a depth we can’t even understand. Yes, God is good!

We celebrate life today and thank God for every second, looking forward to whatever God has planned.

 

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So, in remembrance of all that God has done and is doing, here is the original post, The Beauty of Hope, originally shared in June, 2014 with a few updates)

Hope!

We all need hope! In scary, painful situations, hope brings renewed energy, positive thinking, and determination. Hope brings purpose and strength to persevere. Hope is indeed a beautiful thing, and without, life can become unbearable. Yes, we all need hope.

Over the last few years, our son has faced serious life-threatening health problems with countless doctor’s visits, procedures, hospital stays and life-saving surgery.  Facing these dangers and situations has been scary, but the fact that doctors could rarely offer us hope made it all the more difficult.

Specialists had no idea what was going on and were very clear with us that they had no idea what could happen. They were clear about the dangers, the unknown outcome, and they rarely offered hope.

We have continually heard words like “interesting” and “anomaly” but rarely words of encouragement or hope.

After the life-saving decision to remove his spleen in 2011 and then a frightening stay in ICU, (another miracle, you can read about here), Connor miraculously began to improve—and we rejoiced!  He was getting better right before our eyes and improving minute by minute. We rejoiced and thanked God—not just for the healing, but for His peace and His presence!

But his doctors, amazed and a bit confused by the improvement, warned us, “We have no idea what caused this, so we have no idea what to expect…he may never have another problem or he could develop serious complications or other problems at any time—we just don’t know.”

These are very scary words, and words that reveal our true dependence on God. We rely on God even for our next breath, and that’s exactly what we have done!

The incredible fear that comes from the unknown, especially in the absence of hope, can be debilitating and overwhelming!   Through it all, God has always been faithful and gifted us with incredible peace beyond understanding!  He truly knows the best plan for us and we have learned to enjoy each day.

It’s amazing the perspective you gain when you are forced to constantly be aware of the possibility of fewer—or no—earthly tomorrows!

We are now 3 weeks post-op from Connor’s most recent surgery and this time, the doctors have offered us hope. They believe they have found the underlying problem and Lord willing, this surgery has fixed it!  Yes, we have no written guarantees and must still watch, wait, and trust God, but don’t we always?

God is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider in every way. So, yes, hope from our doctors is a beautiful thing—but the hope from our God is even better!

The hope God offers is indescribable and unexplainable! The peace beyond understanding comes in the darkest times, when there is absolutely nothing in this world that can offer hope, God does!

We are preparing for the future in exciting ways and talking about
amazing possibilities…the “what if’s” are now exciting rather than scary, and the possibilities are endless—we can do all things in Christ!

The hope we have and the difference it is making in our lives is incredible and it reminds me how precious our hope in Christ is—it makes all the difference day-to-day and for eternity!

We are never, ever hopeless with Christ—rather we have abundant, never-ending hope that continues into eternity!

We don’t have to face tomorrow—even a scary tomorrow full of every sort of challenge and difficulty—with fear.  We can look forward to an eternity of joy, hope and love and be filled with indescribable peace even in the midst of the deepest pain.  This is the faithful gift of Jesus!

What are you facing that is bigger than you? Is the world saying, “There is no hope”? That’s a lie! Our hope, our peace, our joy, are based on God, and, beloved, there is always hope in Him!

~*~

Hope is in the Lord

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your peace in the midst of painful moments, and scary situations!  Thank You for loving us and protecting us and never leaving us alone in this world of sin and struggle.  Thank You for the incredible hope we have in Jesus, Amen!

Do you need hope? I would love to pray for you! Have a story of hope? I would love to rejoice with you! Please share so we can rejoice together and encourage one another as the Body of Christ, and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ every day!

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This post is linked up with some amazing blogs– you can find them here and I hope you will go visit them!

 

The original post The Beauty of Hope was originally published in June, 2014. This has been updated and edited.

How do We Ignite Faith in the Next Generation and Keep Them From Leaving the Church?

I have seen a number of news stories and articles lately about how the Christian church is losing the younger generation. And I will admit, as a Christian mom to two teenagers, this is alarming!

Young people, even those raised in church, are apparently leaving. Kids, active in their youth group, are growing up, graduating high school, and, as they enter into adulthood, many are leaving the church building behind. They have no desire to attend services or “fellowship” with other church members. They want nothing to do with organized religion, and they have no intention of calling themselves “Christian”.

And we say the church has lost our youth. Have we? Can you lose something that was never truly yours? I can’t help but wonder…

Have we lost them or have we failed them?

Are they leaving Jesus, or just our out-of-date, gossip-filled, judgmental congregations? If our youth have had true encounters with the living, life-changing Jesus, could they really just walk away?

And, if after years of fun-filled youth group events, they haven’t met Jesus, we have a much bigger problem than diminishing membership numbers. We’ve missed the point, we’ve lost their hearts…and they are missing Jesus!

Not all churches are “losing” the next generation. Some churches are actually growing with large groups of college-age, early 20-somethings and beyond. Some believers are actually leading new people to Christ! What is the difference?

The difference is Jesus!

Jesus says,"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, they follow Me."   (John 10:27).

So how do we ensure our youth meet Jesus? How do we keep them active in a Body of believers?

John 10:27 is the key! Believers know the voice of Jesus, know that He loves them, and they follow Him! This is what we must teach the next generation–but first, we have to evaluate our own relationship with God!

Who do We Belong To?

As believers, we belong to Jesus. We have confessed that we believe Him and we trust Him for our salvation.  But do we know His voice? Are we listening?

If we aren’t listening to Jesus, how can we ever hope to teach our kids to hear Him? When our words and actions don’t match, the discrepancy is deafening! If we confess to know Jesus, but don’t trust Him, don’t believe Him, don’t live our faith in every moment, we have no reason to expect our kids would want to join the charade!

Kids who see genuine faith and have met the Risen Lord Jesus don’t leave the Body of Christ. They develop a relationship with Him and begin to grow in their faith.

Have we taught our youth to listen and follow Him?

The Shepherd Knows His Sheep!

He knows every detail, every sin, every thought of our lives…and He loves us with an intense, unconditional love. Our relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship we will ever have. It is one that affects every other relationship in our lives. So, it is worth our time to evaluate how well we know Him!

Prayer is open, direct communication with God. If we neglect to spend time in His presence, sharing our heart and listening for His voice, we miss out on the divine knowledge and wisdom that can be ours. We miss out on His presence!

Believers who have genuine conversation with God, know Him, they know His voice. If we want our youth to know God intimately and follow Him courageously…we must teach them how to pray! Genuine, heartfelt prayer from the innermost secret heart. Not memorized, not automatic, but dialogue with our Creator, Provider, Protector, and Friend.

Sheep Follow Their Shepherd

We can’t lead our children somewhere we aren’t going ourselves. We can’t expect them to follow Jesus, be active members in their church, if we aren’t leading and guiding them by example.

Jesus will lead us on the right path. It will not always be the easy path. In fact, it usually isn’t! But it will always be the best path, the safest path, and the one that brings Him glory!

 ~*~

Finally, if we want to keep younger people involved in church, we must understand what church is…and what it isn’t. And, as always, the real issue, the deeper issue, is a heart issue.

We have to decide, “What is our goal?” What is our hope for the next generation? Do we want church members, or do we want Christ followers? Because those can be two very different things.

If church is the building, the service, the fellowship, then it can be easy to leave. “I don’t like it”, “It’s not for me”, and “I’m not comfortable” become valid reasons to avoid it.

But, if the church is alive, the living, breathing, Body of Christ, … ordinary people striving to live holy lives, honoring Christ, and sharing His love, then through His followers, people meet Jesus and experience His life-changing power, and they are transformed into believers. His power, love, and peace are undeniable and He changes everything!

When Jesus changes you, you know it, you feel it, and you want more of Jesus!

~*~

So, as Christian parents, leaders, youth pastors, as believers who are part of the Body of Christ, it’s time to evaluate…

~ Are we leading our kids to Jesus or just taking them to church?

 ~ Are we teaching our youth to love their youth group, or are we teaching them to love Jesus?

~ Are we taking them to a weekly performance, or are we showing them how to worship?

~ Are we hoping they have fun, or are we discipling them into a growing, passionate relationship with Christ?

~ Have we taught with our words, but failed them with our attitudes and our actions?

~ Are we reaching out to the hurting, the scared, the lost? Are we effectively changing lives and changing the world?

~ Are we Jesus to our world, or have we become an exclusive social club with restrictive rules, “secret handshakes”, and membership guidelines that our kids can’t wait to escape from?

The answers matter!

~*~

As a mom, and as a believer, I want nothing more than to see those I love find Jesus, to know they have discovered their purpose in life, and secured their hope for eternity. There is truly “no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth!” (3 John 1:4).

Our family has been incredibly blessed with dedicated youth pastors that have taken the time to invest in our boys. We are part of a life-giving church that exists to bring others to Jesus and is reaching the next generation. Pastors have taken time to get to know our kids and are teaching them how to follow Jesus. And for them I am eternally grateful! At home, and at church, our kids are learning that there is nothing more important than Jesus. And I pray that they will follow Jesus every day of their lives!

I know there are no guarantees. God brings the increase and every person must decide about Jesus for themselves. But, clinging to the Word of God, I pray my kids have a firm foundation and solid understanding of what it means to truly be a Christ follower, a member of the Body of Christ.

I believe there is incredible hope for our youth and for the next generation. I believe God is about to do some incredible, amazing things through them. They have exciting possibilities of being used by God in ways that we, their parents and grandparents could never have even imagined. They can reach around the world in a second. When this generation gets hold of God’s power, they absolutely change the world! The fire and passion in their young hearts is powerful. They are not window shopping. They want genuine, transforming faith in a living Savior.

It’s time the church wakes up and starts acting like the Body of Christ for the sake of the next generation!

I think it is beginning to change. I think lifeless, monotonous, empty traditions are being replaced with meaningful, genuine, life-altering transformation.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with church events and youth groups. There is nothing wrong with fun, laughter, and friends. These are good and important things. We love ours and will continue to be involved. But they can never eclipse the power of God’s Word, the love of Jesus Christ, and the need for salvation.

It’s time for the Body of Christ to stand up, stand out, and stand on the Word of God. We must live boldly as Christ followers. We must believe God’s Word, every word, and be who He has called us to be. It’s time to be real, genuine, humble servants of Christ and let His love, His power, and His glory shine through us!

As believers, we must believe. As followers, we must follow. And as redeemed, we must say so! And leave the results to God.

Jesus Changes Everything!

Follow Jesus, and bring someone with you! Lives depend on it!

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Lord, I want to follow You so closely, there is no room for anything in between! Transform me, strengthen me, and equip me to share Your love with others. Help me never be a stumbling block, but use me to point others to Your Son, Jesus. Those that are leaving the church, grab hold of their hearts, and help them see You, hear You, and know You, in a deep, powerful way that can never be denied. Change their hearts and empower them to change the world for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

~~*~~


I would love to connect with you on facebook or through my website! Please visit www.micheleellison.net  or  www.facebook.com/faithtosoar

I would also love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or leave a prayer request– and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ!

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This post is linked up at these encouraging blogs: Weekly Linkups including Grace and Truth @A Divine Encounter, Faith and Fellowship @Simple Moments Stick, Christian Fellowship Friday @Holy Splendor, From to House to Home @I Choose Joy

 

photo credit: Sheep High On Blencathra via photopin (license) (edited)

Witnessing the Miraculous, Seeing Jesus!

I have not shared this story with many.  It is supernatural, incredible, and miraculous. And it is true.

In 2011, I faced the greatest fear of my entire life…and witnessed the miraculous.

In the most terrifying and difficult season of my life, I was blessed with the most intense peace…a peace that absolutely cannot be explained in human terms.  A peace beyond my understanding and impossible to explain apart from Jesus!

I “saw” Jesus holding my child.  I “saw” angels circled around his hospital bed.  I “heard” Jesus say, “I’m going with him.”

My son was about to be taken into surgery, a surgery with unknown results, unforeseen consequences, in the hopes of correcting an unknown problem. We knew his symptoms, we knew he was dying, but no one knew why.  We were scared, exhausted, and unsure, but after weeks of consultations, discussions, and countless hours of prayer, everyone agreed the surgery was the best option–no guarantees, just hope.

Right before time to wheel him away from us and into surgery, waiting in his room, praying for Jesus to ease the fear and ache in my heart…Jesus did that and more!

In an instant, a flash really, I “saw” Jesus sitting at the head of the bed holding my son in His arms. In my spirit, I heard Him say, “I’m going with Him”!  I couldn’t go with my son, but Jesus reminded me that He is always with him, and would never leave him.  He would go with him into surgery while comforting me as well.

As I stood motionless, staring at the hospital bed, filled with the most intense, incredible peace I’ve ever known, suddenly, in another flash, I “saw” protection and strength–an army of Jesus’ angels circling the bed of my son, flaming swords raised up and allowing nothing to penetrate their protection. No darkness, no fear…just light and love.

I did not hallucinate. I did not hear voices. I am not crazy. I can’t explain it in human words or worldly understanding. But Jesus, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, let me glimpse His love, His mercy, His protection. Through a miraculous moment, He gave me peace.

~*~

“And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30).

This past Sunday, our pastor taught one of my favorite passages of Scripture, Acts 4. One that many years ago changed my view of “church” and one that changed my life…and continues to do so every time I pray it.  I must confess, I don’t pray it often enough, and I don’t believe it enough.  It is one of those verses that the more I think I understand it, the more I realize how little I understand. But, through His Word, God will continually increase our understanding as we begin see just how big, powerful, and mighty He is.

No matter what our understanding of God is, He is more. He is bigger, more powerful, move loving, more holy…He is more, and He is enough!

As my pastor preached about the power of God and the incredible signs and wonders still happening around the world today, he revealed the reason we don’t see more here in America. We don’t have because we don’t ask. How many miracles have we missed out on because we didn’t ask for the miraculous?

As I listened, I was overcome with the memory of what God allowed me to “see” years ago, aware of the spiritual war raging around us, and, most importantly, reminded of God’s incredible, amazing, awesome love for us!

The peace that flooded that hospital room was not of this world. I was distraught, exhausted, weary, and an emotional mess before that moment. Yes, we trusted God. We had “surrendered” our son to God, deciding that no matter what, God was good and His will was perfect.  But, as a mom, I was still a wreck.

The peace Jesus gave me in that moment was complete, palpable, it filled the entire room, and was completely beyond understanding.  It was a gift from the Lord Jesus to bring me, and hopefully you, comfort and strength to keep going, to trust Him, in the painful, hardest moments of life.

So, in the spirit of Acts 4:29-30, I am boldly sharing this story, and I pray you have a glimpse of God’s glory too; I pray for more of the miraculous! I pray you and I both are transformed by His love and grace, and believe Him that in Him, nothing, no-thing, is impossible!

I don’t know if you will believe me. I don’t know if you will think I imagined this. But, as Beth Moore says, “I know that I know that I know” this happened. And I know God wants me to share it. I’ll leave the rest to Him.

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide;  for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19)

Acts 4:29-30
Acts 4:29-30, The Message

Lord, I thank You for Your love, grace, and mercy. I praise You for Your goodness. Holy Spirit, we want to be part of Your miraculous acts. We want to see healing, signs and wonders today! We surrender our human understanding, worldly limitations we’ve placed on Your power in our lives. Fill us with a supernatural, confident boldness to proclaim Your Word and help us not be surprised when You answer. Help us expect miracles through the name of Jesus! Amen.

~~*~~



I would love to connect with you on facebook or through my website! Please visit www.micheleellison.net or www.facebook.com/faithtosoar

I would also love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or leave a prayer request– and I pray you are abundantly blessed in the fullness of Christ!

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Undivided

Teach me your way, LORD, 
that I may rely on your faithfulness; 
give me an undivided heart, 
that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11) 
 



So many things pulling at my heart,my time, my life– some good, some not, but countless things demand my attention, scream for my focus.

I am called, just as every believer is, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength—all of it! Not pieces, not half, not most, not what’s left…but all!  Undivided, complete, whole–all for God!

~~*~~
So how do we accomplish everything on our to-do list without becoming divided, distracted, and exhausted?  How do we honor God and bring him glory through dirty dishes, laundry, and “normal” day-to-day responsibilities?
We remember Who we are doing it for!
Actions and tasks are only as important as the One we do them for!  What we do becomes important because of Who we serve!  As followers of Christ, we have the glorious opportunity to do “all things for His glory”! (1 Cor. 10:31).
The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary when we follow God and live for Him!
When we seek Him first, He equips us with strength and perseverance.

God has been incredibly faithful to me and I am learning to rely in Him in every situation. I want my heart to be completely whole, without even a tiny piece divided, but I can’t do this on my own—only in His strength can I learn to love God completely.

~~*~~

 

Father, teach me to trust You and rely on You—You are faithful! I admit my heart is divided and distracted. Create in me a pure heart that is whole and teach me to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. In Jesus’ name, Amen!



photo credit: Retro Tree via photopin (license)  (edited)