1. We Are the Focus of God’s Love {Podcast}

    February 26, 2015 by admin

     

    Do you believe that God loves you and delights in you? Do you believe that you’re the focus of His love and that He is a safe place?

    Today I’m beginning a new podcast series called The Ephesians Sessions! In the first podcast, We Are the Focus of God’s Love, I’m going to talk about those questions and share what the first chapter of Ephesians has to say about them.

    Then we’ll spend some time over the next few months talking about some other themes in the book of Ephesians. In each chapter I’ll highlight some main points that stand out to me and I would love to hear what stands out to you!

    I hope you’ll join me for The Ephesians Sessions! CLICK HERE to listen.

     

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  2. God Loves Us in the Midst of Our Mess

    February 16, 2015 by admin

    My husband and I just adopted a dog named Martin. He’s a 10 year old rescue dog and he’s kind of a mess. The vet says Martin is morbidly obese. He needed immediate surgery and almost died. (He made a full recovery!) He howls when he doesn’t have the amount of attention he wants. And he loves to sneak into the bathroom and eat toilet paper.

    But…

    He also has the sweetest personality ever and seems genuinely thankful to be rescued and loved.

    The other day we gave Martin a bath. Even though we dried him off, he immediately ran around the house rolling all over the carpets.

    My first thought was, Great, he’s now covered with all of the germs we’ve tracked in on our shoes. (Did I mention I’m working through being a bit of a germaphobe?) Then he wanted to sit on my lap even though he would get me wet.

    So…I let him.

    Here’s the girl who’s a bit iffy about germs choosing to disregard all of it so a scruffy, wet, just-rolled-all-over-the-carpet-dog can sit on her lap and be happy.

    Why did I disregard the mess and snuggle him anyway? Because I love him and delight in him.

    That’s the same way God feels about us—only even more so! He loves us (John 3:16) utterly delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17) and, in fact, He has so much love for us that Romans 8:38-39 tells us that NOTHING can separate us from His love.

    Not. One. Thing.

    The other day I was feeling angry about some circumstances and was venting my frustrations to God. Truth be told, I was feeling kind of angry at Him! The Bible is full of honest conversation between people and God. It’s ok to tell God anything and everything, because He already knows what’s in our heart and wants us to be completely honest and vulnerable with him.

    Have you ever read David’s conversations with God? Or Job’s? Or Moses’? They are full of respect and praise to God but they are also intensely honest, real and raw. They are sometimes messy. And yet God always responded back from a place of truth and love.

    So, after I vented to God, I asked Him how He wanted to respond to me and immediately a picture came into my mind of God handing me a bouquet of flowers. This is the God I love and serve. Not one who wants to beat me over the head because I’m fuming about something, but one who offers grace upon grace; full of mercy.

    “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145: 8-9

    So…

    If you think you’ve blown it and life is beyond repair, or if you think your life is too messy for God to love you, it’s not. God is waiting with love, mercy, grace and restoration. He wants to help you get out of the mess. Make a decision to turn to Him.

    “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

    Remember, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Not our pain, our mess, our failure, our venting, our anger, our anxiety, our sin, or anything else.

    God is always right there waiting to welcome us back; to sit on His lap even when we’re a mess.

     

     

     

     

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  3. Dancing at the Crossroads

    January 26, 2015 by admin

    Going through a time of transition can be one of the most stressful experiences in life. Even if it is a fun transition it can cause stress as you manage all the details.

    A couple months ago my husband was talking to someone about being at a crossroads in his life. The person mentioned that in Ireland people used to gather at the crossroads in the city to dance. I thought this was interesting so I looked it up to find out more.

    “It was a type of social event popular in Ireland up to the mid-20th century, in which people would congregate at the large cleared space of a crossroads to dance; often to the accompaniment of a single accordion.” (Wikipedia)

    After reading this I immediately thought, being at a crossroads in life is an invitation to worship God!

    Being at a crossroads can feel like a blessing and a curse, can’t it? We can be filled with the excitement of all that is to come but often I think it’s more a time of experiencing waiting, fear, confusion, or fretting about making a decision. Sometimes it’s all of those emotions rolled into one giant emotional roller coaster.

    But here’s the thing…either way, it’s a perfect opportunity to worship God!

    Why worship?

    Two reasons. First, no matter what is happening in our lives, God is worthy of our praise.

    Also, worship breaks the chains that are binding us! And other people get to witness God’s powerful response in our life.

    I love reading about Paul and Silas in Acts 16. They were in a city sharing the good news about Jesus when some people got mad at them and started accusing them. It quickly escalated to a riot with the local authorities ordering that Paul and Silas be stripped, beaten with rods, and imprisoned.

    As they both lay shackled in the jail cell, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, this is what they were doing:

    “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” (vv 25-26)

    Not only were Paul and Silas freed from prison but all the other prisoners were loosed, too! Those who witnessed Paul’s and Silas’ worship–and God breaking the chains–were deeply affected. As a result the jailer and his entire family believed in Jesus.

    Just like in this story where God broke off physical chains, worshiping God breaks off the invisible chains of fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, and other negative emotions. And…not only are we set free, but the people around us who witness our worship and God’s response to it get to encounter God as well.

    So…

    +Are you at a crossroads in your life?

    +Are you experiencing a difficult situation where you are tempted to turn from God rather than turn to Him?

    I want to encourage you to worship God even if you don’t feel like it. Just try it and see what happens.

    Worship isn’t just singing or dancing, it takes on many forms, but even just simple verbal praise to God is powerful.

    This is one definition of worship I like as it relates to God:

    “Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.” (Theopedia)

    Worship is a choice. Always. Some of the times I’ve been most encouraged by God are times when the last thing I wanted to do was worship Him. But as soon as I start making myself thank and praise Him, it always snowballs from there and carries me to a genuine place of peace and encouragement.

    Like the psalmist, sometimes we just need to tell ourselves what to do. “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)

    So, when you find yourself at your next crossroads, take a minute to dance!

    (photo credit: National University of Ireland in Galway, 1891.)

     

     

     

     

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  4. Hope of Wholeness

    December 4, 2014 by admin

    I hear the church bells near my home begin to ring and hope sings out to my heart.

    As we celebrate the first week of Advent, I’m reminded that Jesus is not just our hope for eternity, but He is also our hope moment by moment, day to day, no matter what we face. Hope for the mom who is sidelined by depression; hope for the man riddled with guilt and regret; hope for the orphaned child who has been abused. Hope for you and for me.

    Jesus.

    He is The Hope who was prophesied about for thousands of years…

    “The people who walked in darkness 
have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! sunbursts of light! … For a child has been born—for us!
 The gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world.
 His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father,
 Prince of Wholeness.
 His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.” Isaiah 9:7-12

    He is The Hope who became flesh when His light was born into our darkness…

    “The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:10-12

    He is The Hope who reigns over eternity…

    “I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone.’ … The Enthroned continued, ‘Look! I’m making everything new.’” Revelation 21:3-5

    Even in the midst of our darkest night. Even in the depth of our deepest fear. Even in the wail of our devastating heartache. Even in the shadow of our darkest sin. Jesus reaches out to each one of us and offers us the hope of wholeness. The hope of redemption. The hope of healing. The hope of new life.

    Hope sings out. Can you hear it?

    (I originally wrote this two years ago for a friend’s site but wanted to share it again here as we head into the Christmas season.)

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  5. Pursuing Your Passions

    November 14, 2014 by admin

    Last month I had the honor of speaking at a women’s conference where I spoke about pursuing your passions.

    I spoke about learning to identify and pursue your passions, using the gifts God has given you, and I shared about my journey of pursuing my passion for writing.

    A big part of my journey has been learning to step through fear, be brave and walk by faith into the fullness of life and purpose that Jesus brings. After all, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat!

    Below are both parts of my talk. I hope that my story will encourage you to discover your passion and learn how to move forward in it!

    (If you want a quick dose of encouragement to step through fear and take faith-filled risks, watch the first 12 minutes of Part 1!)

    Pursuing Your Passions-Part 1
    (San Diego Women’s Advance)

    Pursuing Your Passions-Part 2
    (San Diego Women’s Advance)

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  6. Do You Come to Church to Worship?

    October 27, 2014 by admin


    “Do you come to church to worship, or do you come worshiping to church?”

    Years ago I heard someone share that quote and I have always remembered it.

    The deeper meaning within it asks if you simply spend an hour or two at a worship gathering on Sunday and then ignore God the rest of the week or if you are living a life of daily connecting with God.

    If it is the latter, then you come “worshiping to church” because it’s about a daily lifestyle rather than a short weekly event.

    I thought about the idea behind that question a lot after an overseas trip earlier this is year. In my daily life I do connect with God in a variety of ways that include talking with Him and praying throughout the day, telling Him what I’m thankful for, singing worship songs, reading the Bible, praying for other people, and serving others.

    But my trip afforded me so many extra hours of “down time” to thoughtfully connect with God.

    Listening to hours and hours of worship music and sermons on my iPod while on planes and trains; leaning on Him to sustain my energy levels in the midst of busy travel days; connecting with lots of other followers of Jesus at a conference.

    After I returned home and went to church I noticed how much more ready and “primed” I was to jump right into worshiping God, encouraging others, praying for friends with big faith.

    I came “worshiping to church” because I had been worshiping so much all day each day throughout the trip that it was easier to connect with God, sense His presence and serve at the church gathering.

    So, do you regularly come to church to worship, or do you come worshiping to church?

    The point isn’t to be legalistic about it but rather to cultivate a relationship with God that is thriving in daily communion.

    That will probably look different for everyone and may look different for you during various seasons of life. But God created us for relationship, with Himself and others.

    He enjoys us and wants us to enjoy Him and be in continual communion and communication with Him.

    He longs for us to experience the abundant life He came to offer each one of us.

    In John 10:10 Jesus says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NASB)

    The “they” in this passage is you and me. The word “life” comes from the Greek word zoë, meaning “life, both of physical (present) and of spiritual (particularly future) existence”.

    The Greek word for “abundantly” is perissós, meaning “more, greater, excessive, abundant, exceedingly, vehemently.” Also, “all-around excess, beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation.”

    That’s the kind of life Jesus offers us and wants us to experience with Him, beginning now and going into eternity!

    And just a point of clarification…we are the church; you and I as followers of Jesus are the church. In the New Testament “the church” refers to the followers of Jesus rather than a building or a specific service. So, really, we don’t “go to church”.

    We are the church and we gather together to worship God. Furthermore, each one of us, everyday, everywhere has the opportunity to bring the love and light of Jesus to each person we interact with.

    So…what two things can you do this week to begin connecting more with God on a daily basis?

    If you’d like to connect more but aren’t sure how to, take a few minutes to read Three Practical Ways to Remain in Christ.

    This week join me in being more intentional about connecting with Jesus, the source of life, and experience more and more that abundant life He offers us. And then share it with others!

     

     

     

     

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  7. Now is the Time to Be Brave

    October 9, 2014 by admin

    When I think back over the last 15 years, there have been so, so many times that God has come through for me in my weakness. At this point, it’s almost impossible to doubt that He will come through for me…because He always has.

    But I would have never known that kind of faith, assurance, trust and strength in Christ if I hadn’t been weak.

    Especially in America where I live, there is a great importance put on doing things in your own power and strength. Whatever you do don’t ever look weak or admit a weakness, for goodness’ sake!

    And yet, when we are weak, Christ’s power comes through so strong!

    Paul, a hero of the faith who wrote a majority of the New Testament, wasn’t afraid to admit his weakness. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 he wrote, “Each time (God) said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (NLT)

    Weakness is actually a good thing because it’s God’s power that works through you. You know you can’t take the credit for it!

    That doesn’t mean that we should view ourselves as a victim or be lazy or feel sorry for ourselves. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be intentional about working through issues and being strengthened in what Jesus has done for us. We should!

    But it does mean that I am happy to lean on God’s strength to supply all my needs, especially in those areas where I often feel weak.

    For example, in my physical limitations dealing with many years of chronic health problems; or when I battled through a prolonged period of  intense fear and anxiety; or when I feel ‘in over my head’ with work and ministry opportunities…I lean on God and He always shows up with His strength. Always.

    It’s what He does.

    In myself, I am often weak. In Christ, I am strong and lean into His “limitless strength” (See Psalm 147). Limitless means “without end, limit, or boundary”. That is the kind of strength God has and that’s what He offers to us.

    I don’t know about you, but that is the strength I want to rely upon.

    King David, who is described as a man after God’s heart, knew about that limitless strength and continually relied upon God to pour out strength in his weakness, trials and vulnerabilities. David even said to God, “O my Strength, I will watch for You, for You, O God, are my fortress. My God in His steadfast love will meet me…” Psalm 59:9-10 (ESV)

    David knew that God was his strength, and that God would meet him with love and protection.

    This morning I felt like God gave me this word of encouragement for us:

    “Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to live out our part in the story of Christ; to be brave and walk into what He’s created and called us to do, even if our heart is pounding and our legs are shaking. It’s time to take ground, to advance, to walk the talk, to not shrink back. The time is now!”

    When I see other people being brave, it gives me more courage to be brave. And in turn, others will be encouraged when they see me (and you!) being brave.

    Now is the time to follow God and to be all that He has created you to be. Don’t shrink back. Don’t give up. God’s grace is sufficient for you. Rest in His faithfulness and strength even when you feel entirely weak.

    What do you need to be brave in today? Where do you need to take a risk, a leap of faith?

    Join me in taking that step today. Because now is the time to be brave, knowing that God’s strength will meet us and carry us forward.

    “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

     

     

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  8. Overcoming Fear of Commitment

    September 23, 2014 by admin

    Recently the dating website Christian Mingle asked me to become a contributor to their sister site Believe.com, providing articles and videos about healthy relationships. I want to share with you the first video I made for them, where I share my personal story of overcoming fear of commitment in a relationship.

    In it I talk about ways to determine if the fear you’re feeling is due to a deeper issue or if it’s simply the normal “what ifs” most people think about when making a big decision.

    While this has a relationship theme to it, the main ideas are applicable to many areas of life where you need to make a commitment.

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  9. I’m Releasing My First Book!

    August 25, 2014 by admin

    I’m excited to share that I have a new book called Ten Marriage Lessons From a Semi-Newlywed: Make Your Relationship Come Alive! It’s a collection of ten of my most popular marriage articles.

    It is available right now on Amazon and Kindle. Click here to buy on Amazon.

    It makes a great gift for anyone who is engaged or married, and also for singles who want to prepare for a healthy marriage.

    Here’s more from the back cover…

    Ten Marriage Lessons From a Semi-Newlywed is a quick and encouraging read full of biblical wisdom for real life situations. With a friendly yet no nonsense approach, Rayni will help you discover what it takes to create and sustain a healthy and thriving relationship. Whether you are single or engaged, have been married for two weeks or 40 years, these lessons relate to every relationship.

    Some of the subjects covered include healthy communication, forgiveness, emotional health, financial health, ways to stay connected, speaking well of each other, joyfully serving and receiving, and more!

    I hope you will enjoy reading it and giving a copy to someone who could use some hope and encouragement in their relationship!

    What people are saying about Ten Marriage Lessons From a Semi-Newlywed

    “Rayni’s straight shooting no-nonsense approach kept me hooked from the very first paragraph. I am beyond the semi-newlywed years and I learned a truck load that I am taking to heart and applying as we speak.” -Shelley

    “I’ve been married for over 21 years and was challenged to be a better wife to my husband while reading this book! The wisdom that Rayni shares is timeless and relevant if you’re an actual newlywed or one who’s been married for much longer. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to have a strong marriage relationship!” -Heather

    “Each concise lesson has a nugget from the Holy Spirit to apply in every relationship. This book is saturated with truths about love, giving, forgiveness, and honor. This book is not about just facts, it is about freedom! It gives us tools for choosing to act and walk out love as God would have it!” -Kiersten

    “I love this book! Rayni offers practical, doable advice that will empower and give hope to any marriage. She has thought through many issues and gives sound wisdom to anyone who is serious about having a successful marriage.” -John

    “Solid advice, humor, and practical applications made this book an easy, delightful read. Although I’ve been married for almost 30 years I found many of Rayni’s lessons applicable to my marriage – and I was deeply encouraged by her wise and godly advice.” -Paula

    “Rayni provides thoughtful applications that are both doable and relevant. As a newlywed myself, I appreciate the recommendations this book provides.” -Jennifer

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  10. Shine!

    August 8, 2014 by admin

    Have you ever spent time with someone who shines? Someone who has a healthy confidence and isn’t afraid to use their gifts and abilities to the full? As a result, attention is drawn to them and opportunities arise; yet they’re not seeking the attention, they’re simply living full-out.

    I have a friend who is like that. He’s talented, fun, funny and people are just drawn to him. He is living full-out and unashamedly using the gifts God has given him to serve others and to glorify God.

    He shines simply because he’s living out who God created him to be. Watching him makes me want to live fully, too.

    It’s contagious!

    “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Nelson Mandela

    St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

    It brings glory to God when we are living with passion and freedom; being who He uniquely created each of us to be.

    And yet it isn’t always easy to do.

    I’m a major introvert. I don’t like to be the center of attention and when I do something well and receive attention for it, it usually makes me extremely uncomfortable. And yet, some of the gifts God has given me cause me to be in front of other people. Like leading or speaking or teaching.

    My initial tendency is to shrink back.

    When I receive attention it makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel bad for others who aren’t receiving that attention. I don’t want the attention and so sometimes I don’t want to use those specific gifts that bring attention.

    But here’s the problem, God created me to use those gifts. For HIS glory! I have no business shrinking back. I was made by God to shine.

    And guess what? So were you!

    Jesus says to and about us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

    We get our light from Jesus. He is THE light.

    “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

    So…

    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

    In that verse, the Greek word for “see” is horaó. It means “to see, to look upon” but it also means “to experience”.

    So, whether someone sees you doing a good work, or they directly experience the effect of your good work, God will be glorified.

    Can you imagine a world where no one is living to their fullest potential?

    Where no one is living the abundant life Jesus came to give us? Where everyone is living a dulled down version of themselves because they were either afraid to be brilliant or were afraid others would be offended at the attention they receive from shining brilliantly?

    Where would our world be?

    We’re all meant to shine the light of Christ. We’re meant to use the gifts He’s given us. If we shrink back and hide that serves no one. Only fear or misplaced humility makes one shrink. The love of God casts out all fear and makes one rise up with boldness and shine.

    Because in the end, it’s not about shining for our own sake or our own glory; it’s about God’s light shining through us for His glory.

    Like I said before, it’s contagious. So, shine. Go ahead, do it. There will be a chain reaction and someone else will be encouraged to light up and shine, too.

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