Thursday, October 29, 2009

Living Water

Watching, waiting
Clouds overhead
Darkness all around
I wait for the heavens
To pour out it's tears

Mouth open, tongue waiting
Parched and dry I wait
I wait for just one drop
A single drop to wet my throat
And quench my thirst

Just one drop
A living drop of water
To begin the down pour
And wash over me
Bringing soul relief

Alone, afraid
Aware of my need
Dryness all around me
I wait for the rain
Living rain from heaven

Lord, send the rain
I cry out loud
Let it cover my soul
Before I shrivel
And blow away

Walk, No, Run
The distance gleams
A pool glistening
Tears from heaven
Gathered in one place

I climb the stairs
I reach the top
Bounce, jump, up, then down
I arch my back and point my toes
Splash I'm in

Covered by it
Refreshed by its goodness
I stay awhile
Enjoying its cooling touch
Alive by its truth

The Word
The Word of my God
It is the rain
It is the water
It is all I really need

Monday, October 26, 2009

God Saves Bad People

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last week I posted about marriage being difficult. Thank you everyone for your comments and advice.

I do want to clarify. My marriage is not in jeopardy. Although we have our struggles, my marriage is solidly in the hands of Jesus. We made a covenant five years ago that we both intend to keep.

We do experience times that are tough in a married couple’s life. Finding the way to put ourselves aside and give instead of get is not always easy. This is especially difficult in a second marriage. The failings that happened the first time around have a way of creeping in the second one.

Seems that the second time around you have even more strikes against you from the start. You each bring extra things to overcome. Failures from the past, children, etc. In our case there were four children on his side and two on mine. When the children came before the marriage, it can be very easy to feel more loyalty to them. What you really have to work at is putting each other before the children.

My husband and I are strongly rooted in Jesus Christ. In each of our lives Jesus is first. Then we come together with Jesus at the head of our relationship. The problem comes in when we forget to put one another’s needs before our own. When we become selfish we both lose. I don't get my needs met and neither does he.

I believe this is a common failing in all of us. Not just in our marriage relationships but in all our relationships. It's called self. "I want my way." It's a prideful heart that says this. It's at the center of all of us. We are concerned with ourselves before anyone or anything.

So this week, I’m asking God to help me put my selfish "self" aside and meet my husband’s needs before my own. Change me Lord. Take the pride from my heart and help me to love others with Your love.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why does marriage have to be so hard?

It's late and as I sit here tonight my mind is full of whirling thoughts. Mostly about marriage and what the world sets you up for. As a small girl, we each spend odles of time playing wedding, house and dress up. We put on the veil and pretend to walk the isle. Dreaming of that day when our prince will sweep us off our feet and we will live happily ever after.

I don't know about anyone else, but I carried that dream around with me into adulthood until the wedding day finally materialized. What everyone forgot to tell me was how hard it would be at times.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband. But marriage is much harder than I ever anticipated. We are at year five and all pretence is gone and the blinders are off. We see each others faults very clearly. Probably way more clearly than we should.

Sometimes, I am just exhausted by trying so hard. Anyone been where I'm at?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Through the Passenger Window

Clear and brilliant. Blue as the sky. Full of kindness. They seemed to pull me in, say hello and smile at me all at the same time. They twinkled like two stars that had dropped from the sky. Those blue eyes that met me on the passenger side door were something I’d never seen before. I rolled down my window to get a better look.

Never had I seen such love or kindness in a pair of eyes. I wondered “what might he know that I don’t know?” It was such a thing that they affected me deeply. They embraced me. They surrounded me. They filled me and touched me at the same. It was as if the soul of this man was on display for all to see, right there on his face. But his soul didn’t just sit there, it reached for me. It pulled me in and caressed me with gentleness. It was if his soul could reach deep inside and hug me. His eyes seemed to say everything I needed to hear without uttering a word.

My heart seemed full as he looked at me. It was as if he knew me. I was filled with wonder by the thought. How could looking into someone’s eyes tell you so much? Yet, I knew he loved me. But how could he? He had only just met me.

I had never met a man like James until that day. I had never met a man that loved God so much that it showed in his eyes. A man that did what God called him to do, love God and love others. But he did just that and it showed in his blue eyes. Without a word I knew this about him. I was changed by his presence from the moment I looked into those big blue pools. He was a man true and loving that stood tall in the face of trail. Although his face was weathered from time and adversity, his eyes told me everything. He was a man full of love. He was a man full of God’s love. So full of God’s love that it spilled out all over me.

James was my father-in-law. He taught me a lot from that very first meeting. Not with words but with his heart. He has gone to smile for Jesus now, his time here on earth is done. But I will never be the same because of knowing him. If I had only been blessed with that one encounter, I would still be forever changed. He said everything I needed to hear that very first day as I looked in his eyes. He said, I love you and he meant it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So What About Us?

For several weeks now we have looked at many aspects of being called to follow Jesus. We have looked at the way Jesus spoke the words "Follow Me" and immediately the disciples followed. We have explored the lives of each of the twelve disciples and what they experienced on their journey with Jesus. We have looked at the transformations that took place in the lives of the disciples. We have even looked at counting the cost to follow and what we gain in return.

Today we must conclude with a question. What about us? Where does that lead us?

I believe it leads each of us to answer our own question. Jesus stands before us today and he is saying "Follow Me." We must answer Him. Will we do as the disciples did and get up immediately to follow Him? Or will our delay answer for us?

Take a moment and imagine Jesus Christ standing before you where ever you are. He is requesting the same thing of you that every true disciple must hear. "Follow Me" He says. How will you respond? Will you lay down all you have and follow?

You can not lead. This is a request to follow. That means you must put EVERYTHING in His hands and do with it what He requests.

What if that means all your material wealth must be forfeited and given to the poor like the rich man? You lack one thing Jesus told the rich man. Sell everything you own and give all the money to the poor. The rich man went away sad. Will you?

What if it means you must give up your career or your hope of a family? What if you must forfeit your dreams of children? What if you have to walk away from everything you know, everyone you know and not know where you are going?

This basically, is what’s expected of us. We are to be willing to give up everything we know and everyone we know if necessary. We do not own anything in this world. It is not ours to hang on to. We have been given the privilege to spend a short while on this earth enjoying the things that belong to God. But we are expected to follow after Jesus not lead.

If we only had a realistic view of what it meant for the disciples to follow Jesus. Close your eyes and try to get a mental picture of what it was like for them. They would walk all day. No money of their own. Family and all comforts of home long left behind. They had no home which they would return to each night. They would travel by day and hope to have someone keep them in their home at night. What if no one asked them to stay, then what? Sleep outside with a rock as your pillow? Was it cold? So cold that their feet and hands got numb with frost bite? Were they dirty for long periods of time? Itching and sore from lack of hygiene? What about hunger? Did they always have enough to eat? Did their stomachs rumble at times or their throats get dry from thirst? Waiting long periods before a place was present to drink?

They had nothing to call their own. On top of that, they didn't even have a clue where they were going each day. Get up every morning look for Jesus and follow after Him. Go to the next place and watch the Savior preach and teach. That was the life the twelve disciples chose.

So often, we enter into salvation with the intention of it improving our lives. We want happiness, good weather, nice people and lots of material wealth. What we fail to understand is that we were not created for our own benefit; we were created for God’s benefit. We were created for His pleasure not the other way around.

It's not about us. It's about Him. It's about following where He leads not taking Him along where we decide to go. It's about His agenda for our lives. It's about doing His will not our own. It's about His glorious message, not ours. We have no message. We have nothing that wasn’t given to us by Him.

So our job? What is our job? Get up in the morning. Look for Jesus. Follow after Him. That's it. That’s our job. Follow where he goes.

The next question is how. How do we do that today? First, we must know Him personally. We must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can not follow someone you do not know.

John 10:27 - "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

Jesus is the shepherd and we are His sheep. We are to know Him personally. When we do, we will begin to hear His voice. Then we will follow where His voice directs us.

I know that some may read this and say "how do I hear the voice of God?"

It is not an audible voice but an inner voice that speaks to us. It is the voice of the Holy Spirit that lives within. It could be the small still voice within that sends a thought to your mind. A thought that is so odd that you would have never thought that way. It takes time to discern these thoughts as the voice of the Spirit. So there is no harm in asking for more confirmation through other things like the bible and Godly council.

Besides, prayer, preaching and Godly individuals, Jesus speaks to us through the word in the bible. If we are to discern what the will of God is, we must be grounded in the bible. We must have daily time in Gods word and prayer. We must soak ourselves in the word so that we are filled to the brim with the goodness of it. The word of God is living and if we feed ourselves with it at every opportunity, our Spirit will grow. We will soon have little trouble knowing the way Jesus went.

Now, we want to follow, and we are trying to discern his will, but what if we fail? What if we go the wrong way? What if, next thing you know Jesus is nowhere in sight?

The good shepherd that He is, He will come find us. His sheep do not stray without His notice. When we turn around and begin to seek Him again, He will come to redirect us. There is no condemnation, just merciful correction and redirection. Once we are refocused, He can assume the lead again.

So what do you say to the request Jesus poses today? Will you follow? The cost is high but the return is eternal. Will you lay everything at His feet? Are there things you need to address today? Or will you go away sad?

The choice is yours.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Called to Follow - The Final Three

Today we look at the final three disciples, James (son of Alpheus), Judas (not Iscariot), and Simon Zelotes. I put them together as one days work because unlike the others, these three had almost nothing written about them in scripture. They each show their name on the list as one of the twelve but otherwise we see very little about their journey with Christ.

James, son of Alpheus is believed by many scholars to be the brother of Matthew. They believe this to be true because of Mark 2:14 which tells us that Matthew's father was also named Alpheus.

Others believe that this James is the one called "James the Less" in Mark 15:40. Although, there really is no real proof to this claim. If it were to be true, he could have been a cousin of Jesus.

If James wrote anything, it has been lost to history. He never really rose to any kind of fame or received any real notoriety.

Judas (not Iscariot) was also referred to as Lebbeus "whose surname was Thaddeus" and Judas the son of James.
We see one account in scripture where he is in conversation with Jesus on the night before Jesus’ arrest. The disciples, having eaten their meal, were being taught by Jesus. Judas (not Iscariot) questions Jesus, trying to understand his teaching.

Jesus teaches “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

John 14:22 - Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?"

He didn't get it. He didn't understand what Jesus was trying to say to them. But he had enough of a closeness to know he could let Jesus know his uncertainty. However little written about him in scripture, we see that he was certain of Jesus' love. He also knew he could approach Jesus with his lack of understanding. He was teachable yes, but he was also humble enough to ask Jesus to explain when he did not understand what was being taught.

Then there is Simon Zelotes who was also known as Simon the Canaanite. Simon the “zealous one.” Zelotes in Greek meant "zealous one." Canaanite is an English transliteration of the Aramaic word Kanna'ah which also means "zealous one."

We are not told when he was called to follow Jesus but it stands to reason it could have been at the same time as Andrew, Peter, James and John.

Simon Zelotes had a fiery temperament and belonged to the Jewish sect Zelotes. Zelotes were considered political outlaws, extremist. They stubbornly resisted Roman rule and stirred up rebellion among the Jews. Simon's spirit was a stubborn and rebellious one. At least it was until Jesus got a hold of him.

All three of these men were not stand outs in our text of scripture. They did nothing of great notoriety that was written about. But it does not mean they did nothing important for the cause of Christ.

They were all founding members of the early church. They preached the gospel and were consider enough of a threat that they were killed for their faith. They may have been in the background with little fame shown to them, but that by no means says they were less important.

For most of us who serve Jesus Christ, this will be the type of disciple we will be. In the background, little notoriety, doing the small stuff that must be done. Does that make us less important to the kingdom? I would say absolutely not!

The woman that makes a meal to help another. The man that mows a neighbor’s lawn. The child that is taught by the Sunday school teacher. The mother who molds her child. Are these jobs less in the kingdom? No, they are vital. They are humbling yes. But Jesus was also a humble servant who washed the feet of others.

Matthew 11:29 - Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus tells us to "learn" from him. We are to learn who to be from who He is. What does he say about who He is? He says, "I am gentle and lowly in heart."

He is gentle and humble in heart. He says "I need no approval from man! I need not to be thought of as the Pharisee think of themselves. I am here to be a servant. To do My Fathers work."

Jesus says to be like Him, gentle and humble, a servant to others. Not needing the accolades and notoriety. Doing the work of the Father no matter how lowly it may be feel.

What does he say we will get when we do? Rest for our souls! We get rest for our souls! Don't you want rest for your soul? I know I so need that. I need to stop striving and learn from Jesus. I need that rest for my soul.

His yoke is easy and his burden is light because it is no longer our burden. If we just follow and take his yoke He will carry us through what ever our circumstances are.

Let's learn from him and find the rest that we need. Let’s go to Him now.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Called to Follow - Judas Iscariot

Traitor! Betrayer! How could he? How could he betray the living God, the coming Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ?

When you hear his name does it cause a strong reaction in you? Do you have a physical response to it? Are your thoughts and questions like the ones above?
How could he have betrayed Jesus?

Let's put aside our anger and what ever physical reaction we might be experiencing from hearing his name and give a little grace. At least long enough to begin to understand this man and gain some insight from his life. I believe we will find that we can learn quite a lot from him.

Believe it or not, Judas Iscariot was called to follow by Jesus just like the other disciples. He was part of the inner circle and one of the twelve. But did he ever really accept the call? Did he ever really love Jesus and commit his life to his service?

We don't know for sure but I would wager to say the answer is no. He was not fully committed to Christ. Maybe his background will shed some light on why.

Judas last name Iscariot was an Aramaic name. Iscariot meant "Man of Kerioth." Kerioth was a town near Hebron in Judea. This would make Judas Iscariot the only Judean out of all the disciples. A little history lesson on the people of Judea tells us that they despised the people of Galilee. They thought of them as crude frontier settlers. With this type of attitude, Judas may have been alienated from the others and left out in the cold.

As we all know, not being accepted hurts. Seeking inclusion by a group that wants nothing to do with you can bring great pain. It hurts when you’re left out and looked at as the odd ball. It can stir up all kinds of emotions, the main ones being anger and bitterness. Bitterness breeds and grows if left to continue and fester. Maybe our dear Judas had a bit of bitterness brewing inside him.

Bitterness can spoil a person. It eats away at you and causes you to do things that you never thought yourself capable of. Have you ever sat in your own vile bitterness until you did something you just weren't proud of?

Job 21:25 says - Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure.

It is very easy to fall into bitterness when we have been wronged. We have every right to be angry at times. But if we stay in our anger to long and don't forgive, we fall into a bitterness that consumes our soul. That kind of bitterness can take us over and rob us of experiencing pleasure in life. Some people act out of it and do unspeakable things because of it. Others take their hatred and bitterness to the grave with them. What a tortured life they leave this world with. Lets not be that person. Let's instead give our anger over to God and forgive.

On top of what might have been bitterness in Judas, we also see that he had a selfish and greedy attitude. Acting as treasurer for the twelve, Judas was in charge of all the funds accumulated and used. When Mary broke her jar of precious ointment to pour on Jesus' feet, Judas was fit to be tied. Let look at it the story and see.

Mary, who loved Jesus even before his miracles, was overcome with love after. She had seen her brother Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus. Her love for the Savior was worth anything to her. So she takes her jar of very expensive oil and uses it to anoint Jesus' feet. Then she lets down her hair and wipes his feet with it.

Unheard of in those days. Women did not let down their hair in the company of men. They certainly did not use what might have been their dowry to make someone’s feet smell better. Nor would they expose themselves to shame and ridicule with such behavior in public.

But Mary did. Because of her great love, she would have done anything for Jesus. Judas responded immediately to Mary's action with criticism.

John 12:4-5 -But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

We are told in verse 6 the reason for his comment. It wasn't because he cared greatly for the poor. No, it was because he was a thief. He had control of the disciple’s money box and was used to dipping his hand into it for himself. His motivation was shear greed.

Judas Iscariot’s heart had been established, it was unaffected by his time with the Savior. His heart was hardened, unpliable. His hard heart would be the one turned over to be used by Satan.

Sitting in the upper room, we see Jesus lounging with the twelve after their last meal together. Satan has already put into Judas' heart to betray Him. Knowing this, what does Jesus do? In his kindness and mercy he still gives Judas one last chance. Laying aside his own garments, in humility Jesus takes a towel and kneels at Judas' feet to wash them.

How can a heart remain hard while Jesus is kneeling at your feet? With the Son of God gently cleansing the filth and removing the grim you've accumulated? You’re sitting there, dirty and unworthy while the Savior washes the sin from you. I don't know how it’s possible to have your heart remain hard but Judas' heart did. Jesus was troubled by it also. Troubled enough to testify to it.

John 13:21,26 - When Jesus said these things, He was troubled in Spirit, and testified and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." "It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it." and having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

The moment Jesus handed the bread to Judas; Satan entered him to fulfill his work. To fulfill the work of betraying Jesus and sending Him to the cross. A work that would end up backfiring on Satan. Jesus would die on the cross alright, but the grave wouldn’t hold him. He would rise from the grave on the third day and defeat death for eternity.

In the end, Judas was remorseful for what he had allowed himself to be used for. He tried to return the money he had taken for his betrayal. Yes, he was remorseful enough. We see him throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple and leaving. He was devastated. He even took his own life by hanging.
But I ask this..... Was he repentant? We can be remorseful for the consequences of our actions but not be repentant. Without repentance, nothing changes. It takes repentance to truly turn from our wickedness and sin. If all we feel is remorse, it’s not enough. Our heart must face God with humble repentance if we want God to pour out His gracious mercy on us.

How’s your heart today? Are you harboring bitterness? Do you need a little repentance? If you do, don't let it wait. God is waiting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Called to Follow - Thomas

Today we explore the walk of Thomas; nicknamed "Doubting Thomas" Who was this man hand picked by Christ to walk with him? Why exactly would Jesus pick a man always questioning to walk along the road he was traveling?

Thomas, also called Didymus was one of a set of two. The word Didymus is Greek for "twin". Thomas had a twin somewhere that we are never told anything about. We don't know if his twin was a boy or girl. Whether they were identical or not. But from what we know about twins, they either want to be totally different or you can't separate the two. So what does that tell us about Thomas? Maybe it could have been that he wanted his own identity, to be different than his sibling. That would explain some of his willingness to do the different thing. To leave it all behind and follow Jesus like he did.

Often when we speak of Thomas, we speak only about his doubt and weakness. Thomas had other character traits that we rarely acknowledge. Like his courage and his quest for truth and understanding.

When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days before deciding to return to him. When his disciples were told they would return to Judea, they were fearful for their master’s life.

John 11:8 - The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?"

The Jews in Judea were threatened by Jesus and wanted to rid themselves of Him. They sought to stone Him to death. But as always, Jesus is not afraid. He is in control of the situation. His power is much larger than they could ever imagine. Jesus had His father’s agenda to fulfill and he would not be deterred from it. He instead, teaches a lesson on walking in light and not darkness. Then informs them that Lazarus dead. He is glad that he was not there to save Lazarus from death. Now maybe these twelve men would finally understand his glory and believe. Our courageous Thomas speaks up.

John 11:16 - Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him."

Thomas was ready to go to his death with Jesus. He understood that the Jews wanted to kill Him. He understood that if they stoned Jesus, he too would likely be put to death. Still, he was ready to endure that for the one he had chosen to follow. We may think of Thomas as weak but he was courageous enough to follow Jesus even if it meant death.

That would not happen though. Thomas would not go to his death in Judea. Instead he would see the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead. We often read the account of Lazarus and brush right over it. But this event was unheard of then and still is now. Right before their eyes, a man dead for four days comes out of the grave. What if it happened before your eyes?

Imagine with me. Close your eyes and think of someone you lost to death. Remember back to when you attended the funeral. Picture yourself sitting in the chair as the service is performed. Jesus walks in, walks to the casket, and says " _______ Come forth" Your loved one sits up in the casket and has to be helped out of it because they are alive!

Would seeing something like that change you? It would me. It had to of change Thomas. It had to secure his belief that Jesus was who He said He was.

The last night before Jesus was arrested and went to the cross, the group shares a meal together for Passover. This famous meal is observed by many today as taking communion. That night Jesus spent much time with His loved disciples. They broke bread together. Jesus shared the truth about being a servant and washed their feet. Then He shared many lessons with them before they would be left on their own. As Jesus tried to explain His departure from this world, He told them this.

John 14:2-4 - "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know."

Thomas, wanting to understand questions the Lord.

John 14:5 - Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"

"I don't understand Lord, I want to understand. I want to know so I make sure I go the right way. ”This basically what Thomas was saying.

Have you ever spoken these words yourself? "I don't get it Lord. I want to but I don't" I have spoken these words many times myself. I want to do Gods will, but what is that? Thankfully, instead of a condemning voice we hear a merciful God answer us and tell us the way. The same was done for Thomas. Jesus told Thomas, "I am the way." He would get to where Jesus was going through no effort of his own but by the effort of Jesus.

We can not leave this exploration of Thomas without looking at the whole reason he was nicknamed "Doubting Thomas" in the first place. It comes from the encounter we see in John chapter 20. Jesus has risen from the dead. The tomb is empty. He appears to the disciples where they are assembled. Thomas is missing from this encounter. He missed the meeting and in turn was not there to encounter the risen Christ like the rest did.

John 20:24-26 - Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them "Unless I see in His hands the prints of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

Thomas had seen his Lord crucified and buried. He knew what his eyes had seen. He would not believe just anything people said. Even if it was his friends and fellow disciples. But Jesus would not leave him in his unbelief. He would not be left to continue his doubt.

Instead, eight days later, Thomas now at the meeting. Jesus comes into the room again and says "Peace to you!" Immediately, he addresses Thomas.

John 20:27-28 - Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus came that day just for Thomas. To show His unbelieving child that He was real. To show him that the resurrection was true and He was alive again.

Just like Thomas, we are not left to stew in our unbelief. God gives us plenty of proof all around us that He exists. He left us four accounts of Jesus' life, death and resurrection so we can believe in who He is. We also get to see it in the lives of others. The resurrected life of believers around us shows us the reality that Jesus is alive today.

Jesus was not finished speaking to Thomas that night. He had one last thing to say to him about his doubt.

John 20:29 - Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Friends, this is us Jesus was referring to. We are those that must believe without seeing. We can not see Jesus in the flesh face to face. We must rely on the truth we see in scripture to believe. But we are still called to follow the same way as the disciples were. And we are asked to believe the same way.

We must take our doubt to Jesus and let Him take it from us.

What fills your heart with doubt today? Use this time now to take it to Jesus and believe.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

So What is Normal Anyway?

Have you ever felt like you were different than other people? Like maybe you weren't normal? That you just don't fit in?

I struggled with this feeling for most of my life. I always felt different. I felt like I wasn't as good as everyone else. I wasn't normal like everyone else around me.

As I've grown stronger in my faith and gotten to know God a little better, I have come to realize a few things about this whole thought about being "normal." Let me share what I have found out. First and foremost, this thought is wrong. We all need to hear the truth on this subject loud and clear.

I have realized recently that I have not been alone in my dilemma. Most people feel the same way. We all have the same need to be accepted. We think the other guy is normal and we need to be like that person to be considered acceptable. Satan would love for us to continue in this thinking and chase our own tail until we drop. Why? Because it is futile and leads us to nowhere but misery. If we are consumed with trying to fit in we will never stand out like Christ would rather we focused on.

What is normal anyway?
Normal - conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model, or pattern. Corresponding to the median or average of a large group in type, appearance, achievement, function, development.

Conforming to an acceptable standard. Being the average of a group. So what exactly is the acceptable standard when it comes to a normal person? What do we gauge average with? Unbeknownst to us, the standard is something we create in our own mind. So guess what? Everybody’s standard of what a normal person looks like is different. With that kind of standard, I will never find normal, nor will you.

I have to share some truth with you here. I did not grow up in the church. When I became part of a local church body, I looked around and thought everyone was perfect. These people had it all together. I needed to be just like them if I wanted to be normal. So I pasted a smile on my face when I walked through the church doors and tried to be just like them. But inside, I knew I wasn't. I was a mixed up mess that needed work and in my eyes they were not.

So often we use the term normal and think it refers to those who are doing things right. The normal people serve God right. Normal people don't have all the struggles in there life. Normal people are happy. Normal people don't struggle with sinful behavior. Normal people don't have problems like me.

Here's the truth. There are no normal people. We are all flawed. We are all dysfunctional. We are all full of sin. Whether our sin is visible to the naked eye, closed up in our thought closet or hidden in our hearts, we are all just fallen creatures that don't deserve the mercy God offers. Thankfully, He gives it to us anyway. Those that think they deserve the mercy of God should check their heart. They will probably find pride hiding there.

When Adam and Eve bit into the apple, all humanity became fallen creatures. Since then we have struggled to be normal again. We have struggled to be considered the good person, to be the one called acceptable.

Nothing we do makes us acceptable or good enough. It is only by the covering of the blood of Jesus that we are finally considered acceptable.

I have decided that since it is impossible to be normal, I will instead be what Christ intended me to be. I will be extraordinary. I will be the one that stands out in the crowd. The different one that people stop and try to understand. Why is she so different? That is what I want people to say. What does she have that I don't have? I want that! They will say after they meet me.

Mother Theresa, was she normal? No, she was not. She had an extraordinary heart that loved. Billy Graham, was he normal? No, he was not. He had an extraordinary love for God and for the lost. Beth Moore, is she normal? No, she is not. She has an extraordinary heart that loves Jesus.

I don't know about you, but instead of worrying about being normal, fitting in or being accepted, I want to stand out. I want an heart that loves Jesus and loves others so much that people think I am not just average but extraordinary.

My standard is Jesus Christ and He was nowhere close to normal.