“Are You Religious?!”

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Yesterday, the woman helping me at the Bank asked, “what do you do?” I responded, “I am a student.” She asked, “Of what?” I said, “Honestly, in the Fall I will begin my pursuit of a PhD in Biblical Studies.” Without missing a beat she asked me, “Are you religious?!”
I confess, I did not answer straight away. I waited a moment praying she would give me some context. By her body language I stated, “I am devout.” Immediately she responded saying, “That is how I am!” After hearing her story, I learned that she comes from a very legalistic background. God was to be feared not out of awe and reverence, but for His judgement. She also shared a personal story of how one of her family members will not associate with anyone or anything outside of their church.
Right or wrong I said, “That is a tough one. We are called to go out into the world; but, to not look like the world. We are not called to live in a bubble.” We each discussed our church experiences and she ended our time saying, “thank you for the conversation!”
I have been repeating this question in my mind over and over again. “Are you religious?!” and each time I think of how I could have answered differently. Then, this morning, in my TWiG (Time With God) I felt like the Lord asked me, “how would you respond if she asked you, “are you spiritual?!””
Ultimately, I am spiritual in my devotion to Christ. I am religious but not a legalist. I am devout, deeply devoted and committed to our Triune God. I am thankful the Holy Spirit helps us to speak when we do not know what to say! Peter tells us to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15 ESV). May we be prepared to speak anytime, anywhere, any place with any person!

Father God, thank You for this reader! Thank You for opportunities to grow and stretch our faith. Thank You for all the different ways You make Yourself known to us. Lord, grow us in our awe, reverence and devotion to You. May we always be prepared to share our faith, answering the questions that others have with gentleness, sincerity and authenticity. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments on how you would respond! Thank you in advance! Blessings, Mandy

Welcome, July!

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Father God, thank You that every day is Independence Day in Christ. Thank You Father, for the gift of freedom and liberty from bondage to sin. Lord God, many countries celebrate Independence Day in July, may our celebrations and thanksgiving lead us to worship and praise You. Lord God, for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution across this globe, we ask You to be with them and strengthen them.

Lord, may we not take our freedom for granted. Lord, for those of us who are in countries where we can worship You openly and publicly, may we do so authentically and sincerely. Lord God, prepare us for this new month. Prepare our characters to do the work that You are calling us to do. Thank You Lord, that each new day is an opportunity to love and serve You, if we are open and willing to do so. Lord, thank You SO much for convicting me of my wrong attitudes toward people and unpleasant situations.

Thank You that You are God in the Valley and on the Mountaintop! May we shout Your Name and praises from wherever it is that You have us. Lord God, for the reader who is struggling, fill them with the peace of Your presence. For the reader who is on the mountaintop, may they savor the moment knowing that it is You who brought them to the top and not themselves!

Lord God, thank You that You are Just! Lord, may we seek justice for all people. Your Word reveals that You have compassion on the oppressed and You also call the oppressor, may we join You in doing the same, even when it is hard and makes no sense.

Thank You Father, there is no such thing as luck or chance; You see and know it all! Lord God, thank You that no matter how dark or cruel life becomes, Your light shines in the darkness. Lord, may we be a people who do not just talk about meeting needs, but actually do it. Lord God, for anyone who is in the process of moving, please Lord God, keep them focused on You in their time of transition!

Lord God, for those who are married, may they lay their pride and desires at the foot of the cross, allowing You to transform them into the spouse their husband or wife needs. Lord God, for those who are single, give them strength and courage. Help them to know they are NOT alone and there is nothing wrong with them. Help all people Lord, whether single or married, to live in the freedom that Jesus has purchased for them.

Father God, I pray for safe handling of fireworks for those who will set them off this Independence Day. Lord God, thank You again for this reader. Thank You for the opportunity to pray with them and for them. Lord God, may we never lose sight of who You are and may we trust in You and not political parties.  Triune God, lead us into a deeper understanding of what it means that You are One God, Three Persons. Amen.

The Navy and the Cavapoo

I have lived across the street from Denise for three years. Much of this time was spent saying, “hi” or “we should get together sometime” yet, we never followed through. I knew from the beginning that Denise was retired Navy; yet, I had NEVER met or understood how anyone could wash their driveway (scrub the deck!) and run a leaf blower like Denise. This would drive me bonkers when I was working on assignments!

Tiva sitting on Nathan’s lap

At some point in time last year Denise bought a puppy. Nathan absolutely loves dogs and so this gave Nathan an opportunity to speak with Denise and play with her cavapoo puppy named “Tiva.” Around this same time, I had a final discussion post for my Leader’s Life and Work class (Nov 2018) which challenged us to leave our comfort zone and interact with someone outside our normal sphere of influence. I felt like this was the opportunity to invite Denise for dinner. This invitation was more than just fulfilling an assignment, it was a chance to literally answer the question, “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

What transpired has profoundly changed my life! Denise is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ with a gift of hospitality second to none. Denise is one of the most honest, intelligent and authentic people I have ever met. I am grieved that I did not take the time to get to know Denise sooner.

Denise and I at Graduation

On May 10, 2019 I graduated from Capital Seminary and Graduate School with a Master’s in Biblical Studies. Denise was at my graduation along with Nathan and my parents. Because of this assignment, I learned how much I love Denise and “Tiva” puppies (cavapoos). I am so thankful for Denise, I could not have asked for a better neighbor. On June 5, 2019 Nathan and I started our drive (move) to St. Petersburg, FL. While Denise and Tiva may not live across the street from us, I know for a fact they will come and stay with us and vice versa.

So, who is your “neighbor?” Who is the person in your backyard that you have seen but have not taken the opportunity to get to know? It is my heartfelt prayer that you will not wait to answer that question. It is sad that as we grew closer to Denise and Tiva, we were also closer to leaving. We shared many meals and laughs together over these past few months and in so doing, God has built a bond between us built on faith, love and loyalty.

Father God, make us sensitive to our neighbors. Help us to see past our own comforts and desires. Lord, we do not exist to please ourselves. Lord, I remember my patient Shirley who taught me that JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself. Lord, may we put You first, followed by others and lastly ourselves. Lord, thank You for Denise and Tiva. Thank You Lord for the neighbor that You have for this reader. Lord, may we take steps towards people rather than steps from them. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy. Thank You Lord for this reader! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Denise, Tiva, me and Nathan

Abba Father

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In light of tomorrow being Father’s Day in the United States, I wanted to share that Abba does NOT mean “daddy.” I know it is a popular teaching that God the Father is your heavenly daddy, but a closer look at the original languages reveals this is not the case.

Three times Abba Father is found in the New Testament (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Each time the Aramaic Abba is accompanied by the Greek word FatherAbba Father is a term of respect and reverence. It is an intimate term but again not a term of infancy (“daddy”). “It is a cry of the heart, not a word spoken calmly with personal detachment and reserve, but a word we ‘call’ or ‘cry out'” (George, Galatians NAC, 1994, p. 307). Kenneth Bailey notes, “The Aramaic word abba (father) was used by an Aramaic-speaking person in talking to his or her earthly father. It was also used to address a respected person of rank. A student could use this word to address a teacher or a child his father (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 2008, p. 96).

All three times Abba Father is recorded in the NT is in conjunction with prayer. Jesus is praying (calling) to His Abba Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36),  Paul says the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of believers allows them to address God as Abba Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).  The word Abba is Jesus’s normal way of addressing God. Because Jesus called His Father Abba we too as believers may do the same.

Abba Father, thank You for all that You have done for us. May we worship You in a way that pleases and honors You. May we bring You glory in all that we say and do. Lord, may we revere You and keep your name holy. May our conduct reflect You and give You the respect that You deserve. Lord, thank You that You do not abandon us when we sin. Thank You that Your grace is greater! Prepare us Lord to celebrate Father’s Day. For some this day is one of the most difficult Sundays to attend church. Lord, may we not view You like a Father but as the Father, the ultimate Father and the One in whom all fatherhood flows. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord that You have designed and know all languages. No language is better than another, hence the Aramaic Abba alongside the Greek Father. Your Word is truly multilingual yet has one message, Christ crucified, buried, resurrected, ascended for the forgiveness of sins.  Lord, may this reader search for themselves what Abba means in its original context. May anyone who reads this blog be a Berean, holding this writing up to the light of Scripture. Father God, thank You for Your care and provision for us. Thank You for being intimately involved in our lives. Thank You that You care for us beyond what we can understand. Thank You Father that we can come to You through Jesus Christ Your Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Hi, June!

Father God, thank You Lord for this new month. Lord God, I cannot believe this year (2019) is half over. Help us to reflect on the year so far and to look forward to what You have in store for us. Lord God, lead and guide those who have just graduated or are graduating. May they allow You to lead in their undertakings. Lord, I ask boldly and fervently that You will raise up a generation on fire for You! Lord God, now more than ever I pray for the leadership in the Church. May we stand for Truth and may we love passionately and boldly. Lord God, prepare us to celebrate Father’s Day. Surround those who need healing with Your grace, mercy and presence. For those who are joyful, may they be joyful in a way that is contagious and draws people to You. Lord, prepare us for what is next and what is next for us. May we never settle in our relationship with You. May we continue to seek Your face, hear Your voice and do Your will. Thank You Father for the gift of this reader. May this reader be renewed and refreshed in You today and in this new month. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Happy Mother’s Day

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I want to live to see Mother’s Day 2020, so I will not include a picture of my mom! I often joked, “my mom gave me life and she will take it back” when I did things that she found less than humorous! While I know that Mother’s Day can be filled with joy and celebration, it can be a day of loss and heartache. I want to celebrate women today. Whether you are married or single, have children or not, you precious woman, have impacted children and people at large in your sphere of influence.

For those of you who are waiting for God to do a mighty miracle in your family or if you think that restoration and reconciliation is not possible, I assure you that it is. My mom and I are as close as we are today because we are relationship tried by fire. I was horrible to my mom for most (if not all of my childhood). I did not understand why she did the things she did nor did she understand me. My mom walked through hell and back, facing my rejection and scorn.

When I first came to Christ, I was amazed and overwhelmed by mom’s forgiveness, mercy and grace toward me! I confess I can be quick to anger and quick to speak. A few years ago, I went off on my mom because I was frustrated. The look of hurt on her face brings me to tears even as I type this. I have asked God to burn that memory in my mind  because I do not EVER want to cause that look on anyone’s face, especially my mom. I am not a mother and I can honestly say that I do not and cannot understand a mother’s love. Knowing my personality and temperament, I highly doubt I would be as kind and merciful. I love you Mom and I am thankful to call you both “mom and friend!”

My mom’s forgiveness, grace and mercy humbles me that our Heavenly Father has forgiven even more. Precious reader, while I do not know what today looks like for you, what I do know is that you have a heavenly Father who is waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32). While your familial relationships may be difficult and challenging, God has given you family in Christ Jesus. May you celebrate the women in your life. May you reflect on how God has used you for His glory and His Kingdom purposes. As God has worked in me and through me, please know that He will also work in and through you.

Father God, thank You for the women that You have placed in our lives! Lord God, may we reflect on the godly  influence that women have had and are having in our lives. Jesus, thank You for elevating women; thank You for calling us to be Your disciples. Lord, fill this reader with Your grace and mercy. Where there is hurt and loss today, I ask for Your comfort. Lord, I thank You for this precious reader. For the men who read this, may they celebrate all the women in their midst. For the women who read this may they receive Your love and the love and thanksgiving from others. For those whose parents and/or children are no longer with us, may they reflect in a manner that brings them closer to You. Father, for those who are struggling with not being a mother, I ask Lord that You will help their heart. Meet them in their desire and pain. Thank You Lord for the gift of community so that we do not have to go through life alone. Make us sensitive and aware of those around us. Lord God, I humbly ask that You will remind each woman today of her love and worth to You and to me. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Hello, May!

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Father God, thank You for this new month! Thank You Lord for warmer temperatures and longer days for those of us in the North. Lord God, prepare us for this new month of May. Lord, help us to hold on where we want to give up. Help us to embrace the monotony of consistency when what we desire is something new and exciting. Help us to live by faith and trust as we partner with doing Your work in this new month.

Lord, prepare us to celebrate Mother’s Day. Lord, I know for some of us, it is a day filled with hurt, loss, longing and unmet expectations. Lord, may we be mindful to celebrate all the women whom You have allowed us to cross paths with and share our lives with.

Lord God, thank You for this reader! I ask Lord, that You will meet this reader right where they are! Lord, may this reader meet with You in different settings. May their heart be filled with gratitude knowing that You are with them! Lord, whether this reader is coming out of a trial, in the midst of a trial, or about to go through a trial, may they be filled with faith, trust and obedience.  Lord, may we keep our hearts, minds and eyes focused on You and who we are in Christ as this world becomes an ever darker place.

Lord, thank You that Your light shines bright in the darkness. May we be vessels of love, hope and healing to this dark and hurting world. Lord, give us ears to hear, eyes to see and mouths to speak Your Truth. Thank You Lord that time is going somewhere. Thank You that You have a purpose and plan for our lives. Lord, may we love You and love others in a manner that brings You glory. Thank You Lord that each of us is unique and yet part of one body. Lord God, may we serve You and each other well. May we be known for our love, even when it is difficult. Lord God, may this reader know they are loved by You and by me. In Jesus’s Mighty and Holy Name I pray, Amen.