Junk

I have a love and dislike relationship with my husband’s truck! Yesterday, I found myself wandering in a pick and pull (junkyard) for hours looking for a VERY specific part for Nathan’s truck. Now, for those of you who do not know me, let me assure you, that is a SHOCKING statement! I do NOT like junk, I do NOT like being around unclean things and I most certainly did NOT know what a pick and pull was prior to yesterday!

As soon as the vehicle was in park I said to Nathan, “I will wait here.” He gave me a look and I said, “fine.” I got out of the vehicle with camera in hand ready to take a picture to send my mom, only to be greeted by a sign that read in big black letters, “NO CAMERAS, NO PICTURES!” I am already a bit on edge so imagine my surprise when I learned that just to enter this place was going to cost $2 USD per person! I was baffled at the thought that I had to pay to look at junk! I confess I did say rather loudly, “I should have stayed in the car!”

To help make this experience even more pleasant, some nice soul (yes, that is snarky!) decided it was a good time to burn plastic. Don’t you know the wind starts to pick up and the smoke blows right at me! At this point I am choking and miserable. I said a quick prayer asking God, “to help me NOT freak out on Nathan!”  God, in His mercy, responded by opening my eyes to my surroundings. He brought to mind Job sitting on the ash heap as his once well oiled life was turned into a dump/wasteland.  [What amazes me about the book of Job is that it is the oldest book in the Bible. Job lived after the Tower of Babel (Gen 10) and before Abraham (Gen 12), I mention these details because this means God addressed human suffering from the beginning!]

As I was staring at all the junk, I could not help but to think of Ezekiel 37 and his vision of a wasteland with dry bones; I thought about Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth, who we are first introduced as barren women. I also thought of Moses roaming the backside of the desert.

While I was walking around and watching Nathan dig and pray for this VERY specific part, God opened my eyes to see the junkyard as a metaphor for life. How many of us have circumstances where we are sitting on ash heaps? How many of us think our lives are a wasteland beyond hope? How many of us if we are honest think our lives are worthless junk, never amounting to anything? How many of us are going through a dry, barren and desolate time?

I do not know what Nathan said to interrupt me, but I could tell he was getting frantic he might not find this VERY specific part! It wasn’t much longer when Nathan let out a triumphant shout. He had found his VERY specific part! I hurried to give him the tools he had me carry. I will humbly confess, when I looked inside the beat up, foul smelling truck, I noticed what was left of the flooring and said, “there could be rats in this thing!” and at that, I freaked out! I said loud enough for anyone to hear, “I am SO glad that we are laying up treasure in heaven free from moths, rust, rats and thieves!” (Matt 6:20).  I will freely admit, the junkyard is a great reminder why we are to store up heavenly treasure rather than earthly treasure (Matt 6:19-21).

Each one of us has a VERY specific part in God’s story! Some of us have more miles than others, some of us have rougher exteriors, but the one thing that we have in common as believers is that we are NOT junk! No hurt, no pain, nothing that we go through is EVER wasted. Remember this: God never wastes a hurt! God also cannot and will not live with junk; you have inherent worth as being created in His Image (Gen 1:27).  I have NO idea what you are going through; however, for the person who endures and perseveres, the Lord will transform and restore. That does NOT necessarily mean God will restore in the same way as Job or reward with the VERY specific part for a truck. However, He will dust us off and give us new hearts. He will also give us peace with Himself and each other.

Father God, I thank You Lord that whether a person is a Jesus follower or not, they are created in Your image. Lord, I thank You for the VERY specific part each believer has in Your family, story and Kingdom. Lord while we may have junk in our lives, I thank You we are NOT junk! Remind this reader Lord, even if their life resembles a junkyard or wasteland, it does not mean it will always be this way. Lord, impress on this reader the importance of storing up treasure in Heaven rather than here on earth. Lord, thank You for Nathan. Thank You for his heart, humility and support in allowing me to share this experience! Thank You Father that You desire to pick and pull people from sin, junk, and darkness and place them into Your light and family, Amen.

For those wondering, Nathan has a 1975 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup truck that I have affectionally dubbed, “Gremlin.”

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Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn, 18 October 2017

 

 

Affirmation

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Yesterday in Residency my professor had us do a team building exercise to affirm members of the class. After the exercise was finished, my professor asked, “did you think it was hard to look the person in the eye when you were affirming them? We have no issue looking people in the eye when we are correcting or disciplining them, yet we tend to not make eye contact when we say something positive.”

In typical Mandy fashion, I blurted out, “I have NO problem making eye contact with the person I am affirming, but I have difficulty making eye contact with the person affirming me.” There were other people in the room who agreed with what I said.

All morning I have been asking God to examine me and reveal to me, “how well am I affirming those whom I come in contact with daily?” I think I am good at encouraging and affirming people who I do not see often or people I know who are hurting, but again, how well am I really affirming those I interact with daily/live with? Am I affirming my husband or am I tearing him down? Am I affirming my mom or am I impatient and mean? I do not have children, but I would like to think I would ask myself if I am giving my child as much affirmation as I am giving them correction/discipline?

How about you, how well are you affirming those you live with/interact with daily?

God truly has a sense of humor! While I am asking God to test me to reveal how well I am affirming others, the Lord is asking me, “how well are you receiving affirmation?” OUCH! I confess, I do not take affirmation well. When someone affirms me, I do one of three things: I deflect with a joke, say thank you quickly, or change the subject. I just realized, when someone corrects me or speaks sternly to me, I keep my head up and look them in the eye, yet when they affirm me I gaze avert or put my head down.

As I reflect over my actions, I cannot help but wonder how many times my fear and pride hurt a well intended person? When I affirm someone, I want them to receive the message even if they feel uncomfortable. Again, as I reflect on this, what right do I have to dismiss someone when I do not want them to dismiss what I have to say? That is hypocrisy at its finest.

As believers we are called to affirm and support each other. I hope, dear reader, you will allow the Holy Spirit access to examine your mind, heart and actions when it comes to how you give and receive affirmation.

Lord God, help us to give and receive affirmation in a way that builds the body and displays Christ to this dark and hurting world. Thank You Father for the gift of community. Father God, thank You for this reader and may You meet with them right where they are, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

Who Are You Representing?

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My mom had a motto growing up that I still hear to this day, “when you leave this house, you represent this family, how you act will determine how people view this family! Mandy, do you understand that you are a representative of this family?” I cannot tell you how many times I said to people when I did something foolish or ridiculous, “my family does not do this,” “I am not representing my family,” “please do not judge my family,” “only I do things like this!” My mom is one wise woman! No other line or motto has done more in/for my life than this!

Every single day you and I are representing something and someone; from the clothes we wear, to the car we drive and the food we eat. We represent our families, jobs, friends. Every moment of every day we are representatives of our beliefs. If you are a Christian, how well do you represent the Christ that you profess?

Are you representing Jesus authentically or are you selling some great version of yourself that only those super close to you would know is not 100% accurate?! Are you confident, timid, fearful, anxious, gentle in representing your faith? Do you fear judgment from others based on your faith and beliefs? If you are a Christian, whether you are in the home or outside of the home, you are Christ’s representative. How people view you is how people will view Christ. How you act will determine how people view Christ and His family (I told you my mom was wise 😉

Do not take my word for it, the Bible makes it clear that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation! Christ’s work on the cross has reconciled God and the believer. As such, you are Christ’s Ambassador and God is making an appeal of reconciliation through you to others (2 Cor 5:17-20). You, yes YOU are Christ’s Ambassador, you have the joy, privilege and responsibility of representing Christ! How confident are you that God will use you as an Ambassador to bring the message of reconciliation to other people? How motivated are you to represent Jesus in a way that brings Him glory, honor and praise?

Father God, I thank You Lord for Jesus and His Work on the Cross. Jesus, thank You for reconciling believers to the Father. Holy Spirit, thank You that You live in us, equip us and give us strength to be Christ’s Ambassadors. Lord God, I pray for this dear reader to represent You, to be Your Ambassador at work, home, school wherever this reader is located. Lord, I ask that You will give this reader confidence in their personal and public walk with You. Lord, I pray this dear reader will represent You well, Amen.

 

 

 

Goodbye August, Hello September

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Hello Reader!

Please allow me to pray for you:

Father God, I thank You Lord for getting this reader through August. I ask Lord that You will prepare this reader for September and all that this month will hold for them.  Lord, I ask that You will continue to make Yourself known to this reader. Lord, I ask that You will prepare this reader for weather changes, health changes, family changes that may occur this coming month. Lord, I ask that You will flood this reader with wisdom, help them to make decisions based on what they know about Your character and Your Word. Thank You Father, that You are not a God of chaos. Lord, I ask that you fill this reader with the peace that passes all understanding. Lord, with all my heart I thank You and praise for all that You have done, are doing and will do for this reader! Prepare them for the coming month, in Jesus’s Holy and Precious Name I pray, Amen.

 

How Do I Respond?

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I have always been an inquisitive child. I have always wanted and at times demand to know “why?!” I have a tendency to feel that I am entitled to knowing “why” and can become quite indignant when there is no answer. In my life, “why” always leads to asking more “why” questions, which breeds greater frustration and despair if the “why” is unanswered.

Job is a great example to me of a person who asked “why?” Job did not have the knowledge or foresight to know that God was allowing him to be tested by Satan (Job 1:6-2:10). Thankfully, Job never cursed God and died as was suggested by his wife and friends. Throughout the book of Job, we learn how Job went from knowing about the Lord, to knowing Him personally through his trials and tribulations! The “whys?” drove Job to God, not away from God.

When I get frustrated, angry and consumed by asking “why,” I tend to pull away from God, not draw closer to Him. In those times, I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV). These verses humble and discipline me.

God is under no and I mean NO obligation to tell me/us “why.” God did not punish Job for asking why, but God did correct Job and his thinking. For Job and for us, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. While there are some days I find contentment and acceptance with that thought, there are other days where I do not.

A few years ago, in my God Time (quiet time/devotional time) I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Mandy, you are asking the wrong question, why does not matter. Stop asking why and starting asking, how do I respond.”

This was a light bulb moment for me. As I said above, God is under NO obligation to explain or answer why. However, God is obligated and will most certainly help me/us respond to any situation, circumstance, person, event etc. in a way that aligns with His Word and Character. Going from asking, “why?” to “how do I respond” takes the focus off of the situation and places the focus on God. By asking “how do I respond?” I become responsible for my conduct/actions. Human responsibility and God’s Sovereignty are married.

“Why” is truly an unending cycle if it does not drive us to God. The “whys” of life can only be satisfied when we trust and rest in knowing that Jesus is our Sovereign Lord and that He knows what He is doing. We need to trust that He will enable us to respond as He wants us to respond.

Father God, this life is NOT easy! It is not easy to ask “how do I respond” instead of staying in the mire of “why?” Lord, help us to respond to life’s adversities in a way that honors You. Lord, I have no idea what this dear reader is facing. I pray this reader will know that I am in NO WAY dismissing what they are going through, nor do I suggest they should never ask “why?” Lord, may their “whys” drive them to You! Father God, I praise You that You know both why and how this reader should respond to whatever it is they are going through. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord, that even when things do not make sense, we know that Isaiah’s words are true. Lord, in all things, in all situations may we seek You. Lord, help us to endure adversity like Job so that when You say to Satan, “have you heard of my servant…” we will respond in a way that pleases and honors you. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

What are you murmuring?!

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I can be a champion of murmuring negative things to myself and about myself. It is amazing how I can let a negative thought tank me and if I let it, my entire day. Negative murmuring for me ranges from thinking I am fat to God cannot possibly use me. Zach Williams’s song “Fear is a Liar” is most certainly true and I wish I did not buy fears lies as often as I do.

We are repeatedly encouraged in the Bible to meditate on Scripture. In Hebrew, the word “meditate” means “to murmur.” When Moses tells the Israelites to meditate on the word of God, what he is telling them is to murmur it to themselves. He is saying they should repeat the word softly out loud to themselves (see Deut 6). Joshua  is commanded to be strong and courageous (Josh 1:6). He is also to mediate on the Word day and night and to not let the Word depart from him (Josh 1:7-9). The Psalmists also write about the concept of meditating/murmuring God’s Word.

There are times when I am experiencing a satanic attack where I murmur to myself, “I am a child of the most High God” or “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed” over and over again until it brings me peace. When I am saying God’s truth softly out loud to myself, I cannot be saying lies and negativity. I would like to encourage you to take inventory on what it is that you meditating on. What is it that you murmur or mutter to yourself? Is what you are murmuring positive or negative? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal verses, truths and promises for you to murmur.  May we be a body of believers who want to murmur God’s truth and what God says about us rather than what the enemy, his minions and this world want to say about us or have us believe.

Father God, fear is a liar and yet all of us experience it. Lord, help us to meditate on Your Word. Help us to murmur Your Word day and night. May Your Word be so engrained in us that we cannot help but for You to be our first, middle and last thought each day. Lord may we NOT turn from Your Word. May we not look to the right or to the left but look to You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). Thank You Father for the ability to be humble, open and transparent. Thank You for helping us to be honest about our vulnerabilities when it is so easy to run and hide. Lord, teach us to see ourselves as You see us. Help us to be obedient to Your Word and murmur Your Word even when it is difficult and unpopular. Thank You Father that Your Word NEVER changes. Thank You that You NEVER abandon us! Lord may we choose to murmur Your truth and murmur what You say about us (for ex in Eph 1:3-14) rather than what the devil and world say about us. Thank You that You do not leave us on our own. Lord, may You teach this precious reader how to murmur Your Word so that when the lies come, they can dispel them immediately. Thank You Father for being our all powerful God who knows us better than we know ourselves. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

Moving Targets

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I HATE inconsistent and undefined expectations! I HATE inconsistent and undefined expectations to the point that I call them “moving targets!” I HATE trying to guess what a person wants! I HATE wondering if it is good enough or meets what they are looking for!

I HATE moving targets to the point where I give them power over me (hence the word “HATE”).  I become agitated, irritable, angry and frustrated. The worst part is, I take this out on those around me (thus becoming a “moving target” to them) leaving a wake of hurt and destruction. This is wrong on my part! It is completely unChristlike! (I have NO idea if you have ever experienced this; if you have, then I am glad I am NOT alone!!)

Humility and contentment go hand in hand. I confess, when it comes to moving targets, I am prideful (opposite of humility) and discontented. Instead of being honest and saying, “I am afraid to fail,” “I do not know what I am doing” or “I need help,” I turn into a monstrous person who is not fit for society.  As much as I do not want to say that, it is true. My pride and discontentment by moving targets truly becomes all consuming. I get so frustrated to the point where I just want to scream and hit something. God knows the situation I am in and yet I act as if He has forgotten me or it is His fault there are no clearly defined or consistent expectations. At times, I do not seek God because I am so focused on getting out of the situation that I try to handle this in my own strength, power, might, wisdom, knowledge etc.

Even though God’s Word tells me how to live and respond in every situation, I fall short more than I can count or even realize. Currently, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is one of the most popular/trendy  verses.  Yet, it is in the realm of contentment that Paul makes this declaration. Paul is able to be content with much or little (Phil 4:11-12) because he knows that God’s grace is sufficient for him (2 Cor 12:8-10). I need to reclaim the real meaning of this verse and live content in whatever situation I am in (whether expectations are clearly defined or moving targets!).

The Bible is consistent, it is NOT a moving target. God’s Word is Truth and Standard. God is infallible and unchanging; man is fallible and ever changing.

Whatever moving targets that are in your life, I pray that you will know that God sees you, He hears you and He is not surprised by any of this. His grace is more than sufficient to help you (and me) live in humility and contentment.

Father God, confession truly is good for the soul! You know that moving targets, inconsistent and undefined expectations freak my soul and spirit! Lord, I pray that if this reader experiences this, they will know that You are with them. I pray this reader will find comfort in knowing they are not alone! I praise You Lord that Your Word is both Truth and Standard! I ask Lord, that for the reader who has NO idea what I am talking about, that You will give them words to encourage others who struggle in this area. Lord God, humility and contentment go together. Help me, help us be honest about what we are experiencing and not go at it alone. Help us to respond to moving targets in a way that pleases and honors You. May our responses to life’s situations be an encouragement to believers and unbelievers. Thank You Father for calming my anxiety, may You do the same for this reader. Lord God, may this reader hold me accountable to live in humility and contentment and may I do the same for this reader, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Plans

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I have been really pondering chapter 6 of Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God. The main point of the chapter is to stop/forget asking God’s will for your life. Chan is correct because very rarely am I asking God for His will moment by moment. I am asking God’s will in the sense of like a ten year plan! I know that God calls us to submit, obey and follow Him, yet I still want to know more than that! I have come to the conclusion that God will not give me the big picture because if He did, I would become focused on and motivated by the wrong thing.

Luke 10:30-37 Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. To summarize, there was a Jewish man who was beaten by some bandits and left half dead along the side of the road. A priest seeing this half dead man crossed the other side of the street so as to not help the man. A Levite (or Temple assistant in some translations) also crossed to the other side of the street when he saw the man in need. A Samaritan man (who would have been despised and hated by the Jewish people) had compassion on this Jewish man and cared for him.

What does this have to do with plans? Well, I think that if God gave me the big picture/plan, I would become/respond like the Priest and Levite. Sadly, I would miss the man/woman/child in need. I would walk with a purpose to go and do God’s business/ministry/will that I would miss the need right in front of me. In my pride I would think I cannot stop to help you because I am on my way to do a good work for the Lord. I know this about myself.  I can be SUPER task focused almost to the point of tunnel vision that I do not recognize the need around me (and in some instances I may not even care- man that is humbling to admit!). I also have no regard to the attitude that I display toward others because I am so focused on the “important” work that I am doing for God. I genuinely hate being interrupted (my mom, dad and husband can verify this!) and if God gave me the big picture, I know that I would look at that person’s need as an interruption/distraction to my day, my work and my plan.

I am in NO way suggesting that we should never ask for God’s will! What I am suggesting and want to challenge us with is to take inventory on our motives for why/how we are asking God for His will/plan. Are we asking God for His will to glorify Him or we asking God’s will/plan for our own comfort/security/ease etc.?

In my humble opinion, if we are loving God and loving others with the right motive(s), no matter what is going on around us, we are doing God’s Will. God will never will us to treat anyone with contempt, hatred, animosity, indifference etc. I have no clue where in your life you may resemble the Priest and Levite rather than the Good Samaritan. I encourage you to pray Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT).

Father, it is so easy to want to please You and work for You and do things for You that we miss what is going on right around us. Lord, I ask that You help us to seek Your will with the right motives. Remove from us any fear and anxiety about the future. Help us to hold tightly to You and loosely to our plans. Father, I thank You for this reader. I pray that whatever it is they are seeking and searching for, that You will reveal Yourself to them in a way they clearly know is You. Reveal to us our pride and where we have attitudes like the Priest and Levite. Give us the strength and courage to respond like Christ. Help us to live and show Christ to others in this dark and hurting world. Lord, I ask that we lay our plans at Your feet, that we seek Your will in a manner that pleases You.  Lord God, I thank You for the opportunity to share. May this reader be an encouragement to others wherever You have them today, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

New Beginnings

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Sunrise, June 22, 2018. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

“My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you” 1 Peter 5:12 (NLT).

For the past two years Stacey and Kelly C have pushed, motivated and encouraged me to start a blog. I absolutely love to write; however, I fought this idea over and over again. So, what changed?

On July 25, 2018 before going to bed I read 1 Peter 4. For the next eight days, I had been ignoring the Spirit’s promptings to read 1 Peter. I finally obeyed the Holy Spirit and read not just 1 Peter 4 but I read all of 1 Peter in one sitting. To make a long story short, when I came to 1 Peter 4:10 “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well” (NLT) I started journaling prayers about using the gifts the Lord has given me well. Out of nowhere I wrote, “Lord, if I am to start a blog, I ask that You help me to step out in faith and begin TODAY.” From the moment that I wrote that prayer, I felt restless that God was doing something but I was not sure what/why/how. God’s clarity came in 1 Peter 5:12, “My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in that grace.” Where Peter ends his letter, is how I begin this blog, which is confirmed by my life verses:

Vertical- “my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to finish the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus- the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Horizontal- “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Cor 9:22b) and “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

I have NO idea if what you are going through is from God or from personal choices. What I do know is that God is willing and able to see you through your situation. It is my hope that this blog will help/motivate/encourage you in average, everyday life to “stand firm in [God’s] grace.”

Father, I thank You for this opportunity. I ask Lord, that You will meet this dear reader right where they are. I ask Lord, that as You have encouraged, empowered and emboldened me to step out in faith, that You will do the same for my fellow brothers and sisters. Father, I ask that You will use this site to be a place of encouragment for average, every day life. Far too often, we seek Your gifts and not You as the Giver. Lord, make us sensitive to You. Make us aware of the needs of those around us. May we use the time that You have given us on earth wisely as You prepare us for eternity, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

What is a “Blue Collar Theologian?”

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Everyone and I mean EVERYONE is a theologian and far too often we are cerebral or emotional theologians. We profess Christ, we think about Christ, we want to feel Christ, but our hands and feet are not doing the work of Christ.

In a post for my Introduction to Christian Theology class I referred to myself as a “Blue Collar Theologian” (it has stayed with me since). Too often it seemed as though we discussed Christ and His Work on the Cross but that it did not really apply to us, like it was only for the people we minister to. To be fair, our class was completely online, so I very well could be wrong about this (I hope and pray that I am!).

“Blue Collar Theologian” is a term/word/reminder to be humble and vulnerable for Christ. It is NEVER easy to be vulnerable and to show the outward signs of struggle, especially in professional or academic circles. Being a “Blue Collar Theologian” is a reminder that Christ is my Boss, my Master, He directs and guides me. I am His hands and feet. A “Blue Collar Theologian” is one who is willing to get in the trenches with people no matter how dark, ugly and dirty. A “Blue Collar Theologian” also recognizes when they need to lay aside pride and ask for help from their fellow believers when life is dark, ugly and mundane. A “Blue Collar Theologian” is one who will do whatever is required/necessary to help others to come to know Christ and to build up His Body.

Please know I do NOT nor am I suggesting that I get this right all the time or even most of the time! I fail a lot. Being a “Blue Collar Theologian” is not without risk. It is having the heart and mind of Christ with the boldness, courage and confidence of Paul. Being a “Blue Collar Theologian” requires me to decrease and Christ to increase (John 3:30). I pray you will join me!

Father God, it is my prayer that each one of us will become a “Blue Collar Theologian.” Lord, I ask that You will convict us where our theology does not align with Yours and where we are not putting Your Word into practice. Lord, may we seek You as we live out the faith You have entrusted to us. It is in Your strength that we are able to do anything. I thank You Father for Your grace, mercy and love. Lord, good theology moves from head, to heart, to hand. May we be so moved by You and for You that we will risk vulnerability and embarrassment to bring others closer to You. Lord, I ask that we will become “Blue Collar Theologians” in Jesus’s Name, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father, Amen!