Marveling at Jesus

Let’s really marvel at Jesus this week.
Let’s marvel at the fact that Jesus changed how the world expresses compassion,
that he shaped education, revolutionized art and changed political theory. In him,
we find hope and the one and only path to God.

For centuries, people lived distinctly
divided lives. Identity remained defined by the group into which each person
was born or married. Then Jesus taught people about God, himself, and the Holy
Spirit that would reside within them after his death, and he gave them a new
way to define themselves. Jesus presented an idea of community that no one had
ever seen. In this community, all manner of people, wealthy or poor, Gentile or
Jew, slave or free, were welcome.
           
Think
of all the dissimilar people that Jesus brought together! People like C.S. Lewis,
Bono, Joel Osteen, Denzel Washington, and Tim Tebow; all of them united
because of one man—Jesus Christ!
           
We
are all one body united in Christ. As sinners and broken people, whether we are
black or white, Asian or German, tall or short, single or married, parents or
children, hip or nerdy, new believers or spiritual authorities, we are one
community. Only one thing matters: Our identity is found in Jesus Christ, and
he lives in all of us. Jesus brought us all together. He gave us hope through
community. Who else could do that?
One of the most predominant principles shared in most westernized
societies is the right of citizens to obtain an education. From about five
years of age until around age eighteen, it is expected that children will
attend school and be taught the knowledge, skills, customs and values necessary
to shape them into productive members of society. This has become such a common
occurrence that it’s pretty much taken for granted. But it wasn’t always so.
           

The life and teachings of Jesus would radically alter the “status quo”
of education being a privilege only for the elite and would shape the
foundation of education. Jesus, the
ultimate Teacher of all time, set the precedence for making no distinction
between fishermen, women, rich, poor, outcasts, young or old. His classroom was
on mountaintops, in boats, synagogues, roadways and private homes. He taught
one-on-one, in small and large groups, both privately and publically. He used
methods that everyone could understand through parables, stories and everyday
life occurrences and examples.

Jesus revealed to us the mysteries of God; of His immeasurable truth,
love, mercy and grace. Through his teachings, Jesus gives us the hope of a
relationship with God and his death on the cross. His burial and resurrection
make that relationship a certainty. 
In Mark 3:17, Jesus taught that we are to
follow the rules laid down by government while still surrendering to God all
that belongs to God…which, of course, is everything else. In his time, Jesus’
statement was an abomination because he pointed out that, while government is
an important element in our lives, there is also another realm, a second and
ultimate authority by which we are governed. The Pharisees realized that, under
this man’s reign, their dominion could be profoundly limited, and they were
having none of it! But even by killing him, they couldn’t change what Jesus had
set into motion.
From that time until now, disciples of Christ have been standing on
these precepts. When it came time for our forefathers to design a governing
document for this new world, they purposefully based it on the teachings of
Jesus Christ: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, and have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights…”
           
Jesus was also the architect of our global concepts toward human rights
and dignity. He delivered a fresh perspective, and Galatians 3 reported that,
in Christ Jesus, there is no longer a   
distinction between people, and that we are all one our servanthood to
him. In this election year, it’s important to remember that this powerful
perspective grew sturdy legs throughout political history. Martin Luther King,
in fact, was inspired by scripture at The Mall in Washington, D.C. when he
began to quote the Book of Amos and   
ultimately moved forward to declare to the gathering crowd: “I have a
dream…that one day…”

 
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Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian market. Her most recent book, Always the Baker Finally the Bride is the final novel in the Another Emma Rae Creation series from Abingdon Press Fiction. Check out her website at www.SandraDBricker.com. 

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church.
Today’s devotion is borrowed from the Living It Out study on HOPE. If you enjoyed it, feel free to check
out the daily
studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Our Calling is Connected to OTHERS

It’s refreshing to know that God called us to be
connected to others; think of how lonely you would be otherwise!

Your calling, the assignment, purpose, vision or
dream that God has for your life, is connected to other people. It is
impossible to fulfill your purpose in life by yourself. Apart from others, we
cannot succeed in our calling. 
Pastor Rick Warren emphasizes, “Calling and
community go together. You cannot be what God wants you to be…fulfill what God
wants you to fulfill…enjoy your destiny on your own. You have to do it
connected to other people.”

Think about the different parts of your body. An
eye can translate the world into beautiful pictures for your brain to store as
memory. An ear can bring you the sounds of the ocean or the voice of a friend.
A hand can write, fix things, or support a friend. But an eyeball outside of
the socket cannot see. An ear lopped off cannot hear. A hand removed cannot
pick up a child. Apart from the body, each part is worthless—powerless, talentless,
purposeless—because they are not connected. You have to be connected to the
body to fulfill your calling.

There is a similar example in nature. The beautiful
and grand redwoods are magnificent trees that commonly grow to
between 200 and 275 feet tall. The tallest one currently measures 368.6 ft.
And as tall as redwoods are, they have a comparably shallow root system. How is it that they so rarely fall? 
The redwoods’ root systems reach out for
great distances and are intertwined with one another, literally holding each
other up.

We are a church family—God’s family. In order to
reach our full potential, we need to support each other and hold one another up! 

“Brothers and sisters, you are
holy partners in a heavenly calling.”
Hebrews 3:1

# # #
Sandra D. Bricker
is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always
the Baker Never the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the
Baker FINALLY the Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s devotion is based on the Living
It Out study on the importance of community within bodies of believers. If you enjoyed it, feel free to
check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

Giving Thanks Keeps Ungodly Attitudes in Check

 “Decide to turn blessings into praise: Every
blessing you pour out, I’ll turn back to praise. Every blessing I don’t turn
back to praise turns into pride.”

 – Craig Groeschel
Ungodly attitudes include envy, pride, entitlement,
covetousness and more. Gratitude keeps these all in check. The situation may
remain the same, but maintaining a grateful outlook will adjust your attitude.
It’s all about perspective.
Author and speaker Craig Groeschel tells a story
about his family’s vacation to a beach resort. It rained the whole week and he
was not happy about it. He grumbled, whined, and made the whole family
miserable as well. On the last day, the sun came out and they raced down to the
beach.
The Groeschels have six kids, so each parent took
three, and off they went. Craig got distracted for a moment and when he looked
around, one of the little ones was missing! They searched all over and in were
serious panic when the little guy came over a sand dune, pulling up his pants.
After they resumed breathing, they laughed themselves silly and finished up the
vacation in great spirits. At first, Craig chose to be miserable because things
didn’t go according to plan, but then he chose to be grateful for his family
and the time they had together.
Consider the story of the Prodigal Son. All the
youngest son wanted to do was get out of his boring life and spend his fortune
having fun. But when he realized that the party was over, all he wanted to do
was get back to the people he loved. He was grateful to go home and be a slave
because he knew his father would treat him fairly. A grateful heart changes our
perspective.
So
what’s next? What do you do now? How about praising God for all of the amazing
gifts He’s given, beginning with His precious Son? Let’s pray together and ask
the Lord to rid us of any ingratitude, envy, pride, or entitlement within our
hearts.
# # #
Sandra D. Bricker
is a best-selling and award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy
for the Christian market. Her most popular series (that started with Always
the Baker Never the Bride
) will conclude this spring with Always the
Baker FINALLY the Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.

Sandie leads a team of writers in creating the Living It Out daily Bible study for CedarCreek Church. Today’s devotion is based on the Living
It Out study on the importance of gratitude. If you enjoyed it, feel free to
check out the daily studies by e-mail or audio podcast by clicking HERE.

The Writing Prep Zone

Sandra D. Bricker is a best-selling and
award-winning author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the Christian
market. Her most popular series (that started with Always the Baker Never
the Bride
from Abingdon Press) will conclude this spring with Always the Baker FINALLY the
Bride
, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.Connect with the author on her website or on Facebook.
  

My
name is Sandra D. Bricker, and I’m a serial prepper.
Okay. Let me explain.

Every
few months, I schedule a Skype session with a favorite girlfriend of mine. The
other morning, we had coffee together across the miles between Southern
California and Central Florida, and – as usual – one of the first things she
asked me: “So how’s the writing going?”
“I’m
in the Prep Zone,” I replied.
Because
she’s known me for a couple of hundred years, she understood exactly what this
meant. Ever since my college days, I’ve referred to the hours before an
important date as The Prep Zone. If
you’re a woman, you’ll understand. These are the hours burgeoning with activities
like a fresh mani/pedi, an extra-long/extra-hot bath, a snack of protein so we
don’t sit down for dinner feeling ravenous … The Prep Zone.
My
time before beginning a new writing project is very much the same. I have a sort
of laundry list of things I like to do to find the appropriate mood for the
story I’ll write. It goes a little something like this:
I read. Something
completely UNLIKE what I’ll be
writing; a sort of palate-cleansing adventure. A Frank Peretti, a Brandilyn
Collins, or a Colleen Coble. I like a little something to take my mind off the
last project and away from the one to come.
I listen. To music – all
sorts of music! – until I find that just-right soundtrack for the story I’ll
soon start. When I wrote The Big 5-OH!,
Michael Buble made the cut. And I enjoyed him so much that he carried over to
the next novel, Always the Baker Never
the Bride
. By the time I started the second book in the series, Always the Wedding Planner Never the Bride,
the classic rock of Bob Seger rose to the top. For Raw Edges (my upcoming Quilts of Love book releasing in the fall), I’d
found inspiration in vintage Van Morrison. The music is as important to the
writing as the words themselves for me.
I go
people-watching.

I can sit in a Starbucks or on a park bench or in my favorite wine bar for
hours, just watching the folks who cross my path. Every now and then, a
platinum blonde with an enviable sense of style walks by…and an Audrey Regan
(from Always the Designer Never the Bride)
is instantly born!
I scribble. I almost never
leave home without a small leather notebook in my purse. When a funny line or
situation pounces, I’ve learned to write it down before it escapes. If sudden
plot inspiration falls out of the sky, I’m ready to catch it. Not with a net,
of course; but with a sturdy gel pen and a page of my journal.
By
the time my handsome date arrives – err, I mean by the time I type Word 1 – I usually feel fairly
well prepared already. I’ve started getting to know my characters. I know what
music they enjoy, what clothes they wear, what kind of person they’re attracted
to, and whether they have a dog or not. Because of my prep time, I’m ready to
put characters and situations that have already become very real in my mind to
the page so that my readers will feel the same.
What
about you? What’s the most important part of your preparation process? If you
share something that I want to “borrow,” I’ll put you in the running to win a
copy of the final book in my Another Emma
Rae Creation
series from Abingdon Press. Always the Baker Finally the Bride releases on April 1st.