Book Review: Live Full, Walk Free

We have all we need to cultivate holy, liberated lives

Girls, you know I love Bible study. So when I got a copy of my friend Cindy Bultema’s new Bible study, Live Full, Walk Free, I was excited!

Live Full, Walk Free is a study of 1 Corinthians, the New Testament book written by the apostle Paul. During Paul’s time, the city of Corinth was the Sin City of its day–a culture known for its immorality and idolatry. That might make you think: Not so different from the culture we live in.

So true.

Paul lived and worked with the Corinthians for eighteen months. After he had moved on to another city, he wrote 1 Corinthians as a letter to encourage the Christians there to not to give in to the culture. He wanted them to live full and walk free.

In her study Cindy sets out to answer the question, “How do we live full lives in a culture polluted through and through?” Through a detailed study of 1 Corinthians, she helps us discover God’s answer.

Cindy explores the historical and cultural background of Corinth. She examines the challenges these people had and how they apply to our lives. She challenges us to live victoriously in Christ, demolishing the lies Satan throws at us.

But don’t think this is a dry, academic study. Through Cindy’s personal stories and light-hearted humor, you’ll find yourself having fun even while you are learning eternal truths.

One of my favorite study sections was a chart where readers examine what the world says and what God’s Word says on topics like beauty, money, and self-worth. This exercise challenges us to see where we have allowed the world’s perspective cloud the freeing truth we have in Christ.

If you’re looking for an uplifting study that gives you hope in a sin-stained world, try Live Full, Walk Free.

Listen to Cindy’s words:

We have all we need to live fully and walk freely in this time and place. We have all we need, here and now, to be part of the solution and not the problem. We have all we need to cultivate holy, liberated lives, even in Sin City.

Check out the Live Full, Walk Free Bible study and the accompanying six-session DVD!

Cindy_HeadshotCindy Bultema describes herself as wife, mom, women’s speaker, author, hot lunch volunteer, and overcomer.

Cindy lives in West Michigan with her husband John and their children Jake, Benjamin, Amanda and Sarah.  When she’s not running a full household, you can find Cindy walking her adventurous dog Rocky, attending one of their children’s sports events, meeting friends for coffee, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school.

Find out more about Cindy at her website.

Find Live Full, Walk Free here.

 

live full, walk free

 

10 Reminders of God’s Relentless Love For You

there is no God like you who relentlessly (1)

 

Part of my husband’s job as a pastor is to visit people who can no longer leave their homes or retirement facilities to attend church. He meets many amazing people of the “greatest generation.”

One couple he met was especially memorable. Their love for each other was always evident, but the husband struggled to say the words. He said, “I told her when we got married that I loved her. I’ll tell her if that ever changes.”

Oh, but we need to hear the words! Hopefully, you’ve heard those three small words, “I love you” many times from your parents, friends, spouse, and children.

But sometimes we as humans fail to express our love. Especially to those who need it most.

Thankfully, God never fails to tell us of His love. His love is unceasing. And His Word is always available as a continual source of I-love-yous.

So if you are needing a reminder that Someone cares for you or would like a few sweet love letters, I’ve compiled some of my favorite Scripture passages that speak of God’s constant love for you:

There is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who … relentlessly loves (1 Kings 8:23 MSG)

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11)

There is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who ... relentlessly loves (1 Kings 8:23 MSG) Click To Tweet

Although the humans in our lives may neglect to tell us of their love for us, we can always hear God’s words of love in His Word.

Next step: Write out the verses that are most meaningful to you. Post them in places you will see them often: your bathroom mirror, your computer, your refrigerator. Remind yourself of God’s relentless love for you!

10 Reminders of God's Relentless for You

When You Struggle With Enough

YouHaveEnough

When I was a little kid sitting in church listening to the pastor read the Bible, I loved it when Psalm 23 was one of the day’s lessons. I would look up at the big stained glass window of Jesus holding a little lamb. I could easily picture Jesus as a Shepherd playing with the sheep, leading them to a bubbling creek, finding their favorite snack—green grass.

But one part of the psalm always puzzled me: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” What could that mean? Didn’t David want God to be his shepherd? Did he want a different shepherd?

One Sunday after church when Psalm 23 was again part of the service, I decided to ask my mother, “Mom, what does that part of that psalm mean—I shall not want?”

“Well, it means that because God was David’s shepherd, David didn’t want anything else.”

Mmm…this seemed even more confusing. I was still at the age when I thought my mother knew everything, so I didn’t question her. But I didn’t understand. Sure her answer made more sense than not wanting Jesus for a shepherd. But how could David not want anything else? Didn’t he want food or clothes? How could you not want chocolaty fudgesicles or Barbie dolls?

Now that I’m a little more grown up (I still love fudgesicles) I understand a bit more. David’s statement, “I shall not want” meant that he was content with what he had. He was saying, “Because God is taking care of me, I have everything I need.” He trusted that God would not only provide food and clothes but rest and comfort, protection and mercy. David was wearing the color of contentment.

When I’m wearing envy green I’m constantly looking at what I don’t have. I’m comparing what I have with what I see others possess. I complain that what I have is not enough.

But on those rare occasions when I put on the color of contentment, I remember that God has always taken care of me. I begin to trust that He really does know what He is doing and is leading me on the path that is best for me. Instead of complaining about what I don’t have, I start to notice the blessings already in reach.

Lately, I’ve heard God whispering the word enough. Through His Word I hear Him asking me to look at what I already have and realize that it is exactly what I need right now. The Shepherd gently tells me, “I love you. If you needed more, I would give you more. Trust me—you have enough.”

My Shepherd tells me, “I love you. If you needed more, I would give you more. Trust me—you have enough.” Click To Tweet

When I struggle to get rid of my envy green outfit, I try to take myself back to the view of the stained glass window of Jesus holding the little lamb. When I start to look at what I don’t have, I remember David’s confidence that his Shepherd would give him everything he needed. I repeat his words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” and ask God to help me wear the color of contentment.

Next step: Which color are you wearing today? Envy green? Or the color of contentment? Post the words of Psalm 23:1 somewhere you will see them often today to remind yourself of the Shepherd’s care.

Divine Makeover001This post was adapted from my book for teens and young women:

Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful.

Perhaps you have been looking for a resource for your youth group or a study to do with your daughter. Or maybe you need a confirmation or graduation gift for a lovely young woman.

Check out Divine Makeover at CPH and Amazon.

 

 

The secret for contentment

New eCourse: Christian Speaking

step out in confidence to share how God has worked in your life

How do you use your gifts and talents? Do you use your musical talents when you sing in the choir? Do you use your organizational gifts as Sunday School administrator? Do you use your flair for hospitality by opening your home for Bible studies?

God has given each of us unique gifts.  

Maybe you have a gift for speaking. Do you love to share how Christ has changed your life? Do you like to dive into Scripture and then share the truths you have learned?

If so, perhaps you would like to develop your speaking gifts with a helpful online course. 

A decade ago. I began speaking for an international organization. I was simply sharing my story–telling others how God had transformed my life. It seemed a simple task.

But at first, I was terrified. I hung onto the podium for dear life. I didn’t stray from my notes. I rarely made eye contact.

Now, however, after presenting in front of audiences for ten years, I can truthfully say that public speaking is one of the most energizing and satisfying experiences of my life.

So I decided to share what I learned during a decade of sharing God’s love in my story. Hopefully, my experience will help you step out in confidence to share how God has worked in your life.

With the help of the Women’s Leadership Institute and Concordia University Wisconsin, I developed a course on Christian speaking. This course has three parts:

  • Passionate Presentations–7 Steps to Speaking from the Heart
  • Dazzling Delivery–7 Steps to Clearly Communicating Your Message
  • Basic Business–7 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Speaking

Each learning engagement has a 30-minute video presentation and a short quiz at the end to assess your retention. The courses are reasonably priced and easy to implement.

If you would like more information on this course please go to the Women’s Leadership Institute Online Academy page or check out the course on the Concordia University page.

May God bless you as you step out to share His love with others!

Please note: I do not benefit from the purchase of this course. Proceeds go to Concordia University Wisconsin

Check out a new cCourse on Christian speaking

 

Three Creative Ways To Outline a Life-Changing Presentation

Three Creative Ways toOutline a Presentation

Outline. When you hear that word, you probably groan and think of English 101 in high school. Just how were you supposed to place those capital letters and Roman numerals? Don’t worry—outlining a life-changing presentation isn’t about perfecting the mechanics of outlining. It’s about organizing your information in a way that helps audience members listen to and remember your words.

Most of us have had the experience of listening to a speaker roam through a topic without seeming to have any particular destination in mind. His words strolled through the subject without purpose. And he wandered on so many side paths that at the end of the speech you were left wondering what he was trying to say.

Well-organized speeches are:

  • Easier to understand. With a clear and logical order, listeners can follow your thoughts.
  • Easier to remember. Clear organization helps audience members identify and recall your key points.
  • More credible. Speakers who offer well-planned speeches are perceived as more authoritative on their subject….

To read more and to discover the three creative ways to organize and outline a presentation, please click here to go to the Women’s Leadership Institute site. While you’re there, you might want to check out some of the other amazing articles on leading Bible studies, leading volunteers and more! (Click on the Equip tab to access more articles.)

I am pleased to be on the board of the Women’s Leadership Institute, an organization dedicated to educating, encouraging, and equipping women for exemplary Christian leadership.

Three Creative Waysto Outline aLife-Changing Presentation

4 Ways to Have a More Productive (and Meaningful!) 2017

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017

At the end of each year, I often make New Year’s resolutions.  As I put up a new calendar on my fridge I make lists of goals and plans. (I love lists!)

But most of the time what happens is that I make a beautiful plan for the new year–and then promptly forget about it.

So this year I am trying something different. To help me actually accomplish my goals (and have a meaningful life–not just a productive one) I’m making these 4 things my 2017 priorities.

A Daily Routine

I learned about daily routines from Crystal Paine. A routine is simply a set of things that you do in the same order every day. Choosing to do what is important or useful and then developing the habit of doing those things every day helps me actually do what I intend. I already had a morning routine that consisted of exercise, breakfast, getting dressed, and a quiet time with God. But Crystal suggests also using afternoon and evening routines.  So now I have developed a routine for the end of my workday. When I am ready to quit for the day, I:

  • save the day’s work
  • do a final check of email
  • check my calendar for upcoming commitments
  • neaten my desk
  • shut down my computer
  • say a prayer of thanks for work accomplished

My evening routine is:

  • clean kitchen counters after dinner
  • have time for reading
  • lay out clothes for next day
  • practice examen before I go to sleep

These simple routines help me end my day peacefully and start the day with a clean slate.

Weekly Review Time

The idea of a weekly review came from leadership expert Michael Hyatt. A weekly review is a specific time slot in your schedule set aside for evaluating the past week and setting up the next. During this time you will review:

  • your goals
  • the calendar for the next week
  • your to-do lists (What did you accomplish? What do you plan to do next week?)

I love the concept of a weekly review. For two years I have tried (unsuccessfully) to incorporate them into my schedule. But this year I am making this a priority because I think it will help me stay focused on my goals. It will help me concentrate on what is important and not just what is urgent.

Monthly Personal Retreat

The daily routines and weekly reviews help me be productive and goal-oriented. But checking things off on a to-do list doesn’t guarantee a meaningful life. Planning and goal-setting don’t get me anywhere but lost and frustrated if I’m not following God’s plan for my life.

I am convinced that I need extended quiet time to connect with God to hear His voice and seek His will for my life. So I try to take one day (or one morning) out of each month for a personal spiritual retreat. But again, I have not been consistent in this practice. So I am determined to make 2017 the year I make time to get away each month to read my Bible, journal my concerns and questions, and wait for God’s answers. You can read more about a personal retreat here. You can also get my Soul Spa Kit with 59 ideas for a personal retreat by entering your name and email address in the upper right-hand corner of this blog.

Live Like I’m Loved

My type-A personality loves goals and plans. but lately, God has been teaching me that these can get in the way of my relationship with Him. I tend to base my self-worth in my accomplishments. When I check off everything on my to-do list, I feel good about myself. When I don’t, I feel like a failure.

But God is teaching me that my self-worth is not based in how many goals I can accomplish. My value comes from being a daughter of the Most High King. I’m finding that a meaningful life does not come from to-do lists, daily routines, weekly reviews, and monthly retreats–but from abiding in Christ’s love.

Jesus said,

As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9

Living in Jesus’ love is the best way to have a productive and meaningful 2017.

Next step: Start by posting John 15:9 somewhere you will see it every day to remind yourself to live loved. Then consider if a daily routine, weekly review, or monthly retreat might be useful for you.

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017 2

 

 

 

Your Top Five Posts of 2016

your-top-five-posts-of-2016

2016 was quite a year! For me, it was time chock-full of family visits, writing, and volunteer work. How about you?

During January I often take time to evaluate the year before. So today I took a few minutes to check out what interested you–my readers–most in 2016. Here are your favorite five posts! Reread and be reinspired!

What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Luke 18-13Sometimes I struggle with prayer. How to pray. What to pray. When to find time to pray. And how on earth can I accomplish prayer without ceasing? This post talks about a short prayer that I use when I don’t know what to pray. Check out this prayer that has been used for centuries.

Breathe in your Savior’s name and breathe out a desperate prayer for grace. Click To Tweet
Five Creative Ways to Encourage Someone

encourage

Hebrews 10:24 says, Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out (The Message). I want to be an encourager, but I sometimes struggle with how to be supportive. This post gives a few ideas.

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out. (Hebrews 10:24 MSG) Click To Tweet
7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest

soulrest

Soul rest. That’s what we all need. The kind of rest that calms our hearts. The kind of respite that obliterates restlessness in our spirits.The kind of stillness that cancels out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out any pandemonium around us.

This post introduces the concept of soul rest and the habits that can lead us into that rest by drawing us into the presence of the Lord.

Soul rest is the rest that calms our hearts. It is the rest that draws us into the presence of the Lord. Click To Tweet
When You’re Feeling Unsettled, Dissatisfied

unsettled soul

When I’m feeling dissatisfied with my life or when I’m feeling unsettled, it is often because I have forgotten one crucial thing. Find out what that is in this post. When we’re facing loss and discouragement, we can realize that God has already given us what we need.

Even when I'm feeling unsettled and dissatisfied, Jesus knows what I need most. Click To Tweet
How to Truly Love Yourself

1 John 4-16

This post was inspired by a devotion I read by a tenth-century monk on the four degrees of love. Click to read about these four degrees of love and how the fourth degree allows us to love ourselves so that we can love others well.

We don’t love ourselves because we deserve love. We love ourselves because we see ourselves through God’s eyes. Click To Tweet

Next step: What do you most need today? Help with prayer, encouragement, soul rest, dissatisfaction, or loving yourself? Read the corresponding article and find hope in God’s Word.

your-top-5-posts-of-2016

Book Review: Making Marriage Beautiful

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I loved this insightful book on marriage. Author Dorothy Greco writes with transparency and humor. Because she wants to help others, she and her husband bravely share their own not-always-perfect endeavors to have a beautiful marriage.

Greco hits the nail on the head when she writes:

What differentiates a loving, joyful, intimate marriage from a disappointing, frustrating one is the willingness and commitment to be changed, to say yes to God’s transforming work, and to become increasingly holy with each passing year.

Isn’t that true? The willingness to be changed must be present in each spouse or the marriage simply will not work. And yet this is what we struggle with most. We would much rather pray, “Lord, change my husband” or “Lord, change my wife” than “Lord, change me.” But the author encourages all of us to say yes to God’s transforming power. To not only admit our failures to our spouses to receive their forgiveness but to confess our sin to God and receive His grace. Making Marriage Beautiful reminds us that we all need changing and that marriage is often the tool God uses to continually transform us to the image of Christ.

I wish I had had this book when my husband and I began our life together. The chapters on differences in family cultures and expectations would have been especially helpful! Although we have worked through these issues now, having this book would have made the ride through the bumpy waters of early marriage smoother. Greco encourages all of us to examine the preferences we have “stockpiled” and how these preferences may affect unfair expectations we place on our spouses. She also reminds us to celebrate our spouses “otherness.”

The author ends the book by using an illustration from her own backyard. She tells readers that her home is on property that is glacial till–in other words–very poor soil. It is a constant struggle to grow beautiful flowers and shrubs in this environment. She then likens her soil to the cultural environment we live in. Growing a beautiful marriage in a culture that encourages self-fulfillment instead of sacrifice and instant happiness instead of steady faithfulness requires persistent work.

But she says,

Keep clearing the rocks. Keep amending the soil and pulling the weeds. As the seasons pass, your faithful obedience will result in the gradual transformation of your soul and your marriage.

Whether you’ve been married three weeks or thirty years, this book will help your marriage become more beautiful.

Author Dorothy Greco is a talented writer and photographer. Her writing has appeared  Relevant Magazine, Christianity Today, Her.meneutics, Gifted for Leadership, Today’s Christian Woman, SheLoves, Start Marriage Right, UnGrind, Junia Project, and Sojourners. I am a featured contributor for Gifted for Leadership, CTWomen, and Start Marriage Right. Check out her website.

Find her book here.

 

When You’re Floored By Bad News

 

TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY

Christmas is a joyous season, but for some it doesn’t feel that way.

I understand. Some of the most painful events in my life happened in the month of December. The two miscarriages I experienced both happened in that month. My father died on December 7 in 2001. It was Christmas Day when we found out that my husband’s father had passed away.

Sometimes the happiness of the season only amplifies your pain.

Maybe this year you didn’t have a lot of good news. In fact, you had more than your fair share of bad news. Perhaps your job disappeared in the sinking economy. Or your doctor gave a diagnosis without much hope. Or you lost a loved one. You are waiting and hoping for some good news.

I bet the shepherds near Bethlehem on that Christmas night felt much the same way. The whole nation of Israel had been groaning under Roman rule. They were tired of seeing foreign soldiers in the streets. They were tired of obeying a ruler who lived far away. Life seemed like a long string of bad news.

So when the angel announced that he had good news for them, he immediately had the shepherds’ attention:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)

The shepherds didn’t waste any time in going to see what all the good news was about. They raced to Bethlehem to see the baby and immediately told others the good news (Luke 2:17). They praised God for all they had seen and heard (Luke 2:20).

As I think about the shepherd’s response I am humbled. 

You see, the good news they received did not immediately change their financial situation. Sharing the good news probably gave them their 15 minutes of fame, but it didn’t get them wealth or power.

Still, they realized that this was the best good news and so they told others and praised God.

I, on the other hand, may not always be exuberant about the good news of the Savior. I’m tempted to continue to focus on the bad news: the doctor’s diagnosis or the generally lousy state of the economy. I forget that the good news of Jesus overcomes any of the rotten news of this world. Yes, things might not improve right away, but God promises a happy ending in heaven for those who trust in the Babe of Bethlehem.

So this Christmas I’m praying that I will be more like the shepherds–rejoicing in the best news ever!

The good news of Jesus overcomes any of the lousy news of this world. Click To Tweet

Jesus Christ is born! We are rescued from sin and death! In Christ we have life and peace! We are welcomed into God’s family. 

Next step: Write a prayer thanking God for the best news ever. And if this year is one of those years with more bad news than good, I would be honored to pray for you. Send me an email or share your prayer requests in the comments below.

THE shepherds

When You Feel Ordinary

Luke 1-38

This holy season we are examining the characters of Christmas. Last week we looked at Elizabeth. (Click here to read her story.) This week we will look at Mary.

Mary’s story is so familiar to us. Every Advent season we hear the story of the angel visiting the young girl. We see the picture of Gabriel giving the news to Mary on dozens of Christmas cards every year. The artist usually pictures Mary sitting very serene, looking at the angel. And so it’s easy to assume that it was easy for Mary to accept this special role. That it was effortless for her to say yes to God’s plan for her. After all, she was given the most important task any woman would ever have. She would be honored for all time. Who wouldn’t want that?

But we know the whole story. We have the advantage of looking back at history and seeing how God worked everything out. We know the story has a happy ending. Mary didn’t have that perspective.

Young Mary was betrothed to Joseph–which is a little like our engagement process. But in the eyes of the law, a betrothed woman was legally bound to the man–even if the marriage ceremony hadn’t taken place. And so, if a betrothed woman was found pregnant by another man, she was accused of adultery. And the punishment for adultery was stoning by death.

And even if she was not put to death physically, Mary realized that life as she knew it was going to die. Friends would probably not believe her story of an angelic visit. Not to mention her fiance!

So if I had been in Mary’s shoes I probably would have reacted to the Gabriel’s message with something like, “Sure, I’ll go along with God’s plan if you will just go out into the streets and tell everyone that I, Mary of Nazareth, have been chosen to be the mother of the Savior.”

But what did Mary say?

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary was selected for the most special role any woman could have. But think about it—very few people during her lifetime would truly understood her unique calling. Most people would have seen her either as a tramp, someone who violated God’s laws, or as a crazy person, someone claiming to have a virgin birth.

And that’s why it’s so amazing that she responded to Gabriel with the words, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Mary’s humility enabled her to say yes to God.

Unlike Mary, I struggle with acceptance. I struggle with acceptance because I subconsciously put myself on a level with God. I don’t see how my life fits into God’s big plan and, truth be told, my mighty self sits on the throne of my heart more often than Christ does.

Maybe you struggle with acceptance too. Perhaps life is not going as you had planned. And there is no relief in sight.

That’s why we need to remember Mary. She accepted her God-given role. And even though we now see her as special, to most people in her day she probably appeared very ordinary. Mary was able to say yes to God because she understood her small life was a piece of God’s big plan.

You may feel like you are nothing special. But the Bible tells us that each of us has been selected for a unique calling (Ephesians 4:10). Only one woman is mother to your children. Only one woman is the wife of your husband. Only one woman can minister to the needs of your church with your specific God-given gifts. Only one woman can reach into your world with your particular skill set.

When you feel ordinary remember that is not how God sees you. God sees you as special. God sees you as unique. God sees you as a one-of-a-kind person with a one-of-a-kind life. All those tears you wipe away, all those dishes you wash, all those memos you type–all add up to one incredible life when you see them through God’s eyes.

God sees you as unique. God sees you as a one-of-a-kind person with a one-of-a-kind life. Click To Tweet

Sometimes it’s hard to accept the life you have right now. 

But maybe it’s a little easier when you remember that all the little things you do matter in God’s big plan.

God’s plan is more immense than we can imagine, but every little piece of the intricate design matters. You matter.

Next step: Read Mary’s story in Luke 1 (click here to read it online). Imagine yourself as Mary receiving the news from Gabriel. How would you have wanted to respond? Then write out Mary’s response, ““Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” and post it where you can see it often. Repeat this words back to the loving Savior.

mary