What Pleases the Lord? | Ephesians 4-5

Welcome to Real Life. The best gifts come from the heart.

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:10, NLT
In my early years of marriage, I found it difficult to buy gifts for my mother-in-law. Though she graciously received them, nothing thrilled her. Her daughters’ gifts, however, never failed to make her eyes shine. Over time, I came to understand what pleased Mom. Her favorite gift: a dinner-date with her son. She really didn’t need one more pretty thing. Time with her only son was a precious gift.

What gifts make my Father-God's eyes shine? Maybe it's easier to start with what doesn't please him. Let’s stop lying and stealing. Let’s get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among us. (Ephesians 4:25,28, 31, 5:3).

I often write about love and grace. God’s love is unconditional. His grace is bottomless. I can’t get enough of either. This doesn’t mean God’s okay with sin. He’s not. The kingdom of Chr…

Sweet Simple Faith | Galatians 3

Welcome to Real Life. I’m pretty good at complicating simple faith.

“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”  (Galatians 3:3, NIV, 1984)
In the weeks leading up to the writer’s conference, I was preparing like crazy. For at the conference, I'd have the rare opportunity to meet one-on-one with publishers, agents, and editors to tell them about my book, Do You Really Love Me, Lord? It’s God’s story really. The story of how he convinced me of his unconditional love.

I thought if I could craft the perfect pitch, maybe I could interest a publisher. I was feeling the pressure. I have to make this happen!

Or, do I?

While preparing for the conference, I was also reading Paul’s letter to the Galatians. They had come to sweet, simple faith in Christ. Then, some rule-keepers infiltrated espousing a new message: Do you really think faith in Christ alone will save you? Paul’s wrong. You must be circumcised. You must keep the Jewish law. You …

Come Home to God | 2 Cor. 5:19-21

Welcome to Real Life. Is God mad at me?

“The grace in God’s heart is always bigger than the sin in my life.”
–Pastor Jonathan Schaeffer
While listening to Moody Radio the other day, I heard a man named Julian call in and tell the program host, in tears, “It’s time. I want to come home to God.”

Julian knew God. He believed in Christ as his Savior. Earlier in life, he had walked with God, attended church, and prayed. But, somewhere along life’s journey, Julian walked away.

Far from God, Julian had become addicted to cocaine. His life was crumbling. He knew he needed God. So, he began looking for a way home. He turned to Christian radio.

Along with thousands in Radioland, I listened as Julian prayed with the host. I witnessed his homecoming. It was holy ground. Julian wasn't the only one in tears.

Are you and God at odds? Do you think God is mad at you?

As a young woman, I lived far from God. Though I believed in God and attended church, I did not know him. My heart was far from him.…

Love Never Fails | 1 Corinthians 13

Welcome to Real Life. What drives me? There is only one pure motivator.

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. –Charles Schulz
February is the month of love. No one would deny that love is real. Though, you can't touch it. Love is both noun and verb. It can be hard to define. (I tried once: What is Love?)

God is love.[1]It is the sum of his character. He is the author, creator, originator of love. I am His child. Do I take after my Father in heaven? Is my life characterized by love? Are my actions motivated by love?

1 Corinthian 13 is the chapter of love. It begins by examining motivation. After all, isn't that where every action begins? Recently, after reading it, I wrote my own paraphrase, to help me get a better grip on love.

If I fill endless blogs with my thoughts about God and Real Life, and
If I teach, mentor, parent, tweet, post, and discuss,
But I do so to be heard, to fill my need for significance, or prove I am right, and
Not because …

Only God Can Make a Tree | 1 Corinthians 3

Welcome to Real Life. Who do I follow?

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.(1 Cor. 3:6)
It seems we cannot help but idolize people. A popular TV show held a competition to see who would become the next… American Idol. A vocalist, actor, or athlete tends to garner the largest fan base. My Cleveland's superstar athlete, LeBron James, has 34 million followers on Twitter. However, at the moment, our nation is most deeply divided over whom we follow politically. Who will save America?

The church is not exempt. Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and C.S. Lewis are a few of our favorite mega-saints. Those whose lives inspire most are most admired. Many of us follow (i.e., attend the church of) the pastor we hold in highest esteem. In California, Rick Warren's Saddleback Church is attended by 22,000 weekly.[1]  We further divide allegiance to Christ by denomination—theological camps formed by men.

Early on, the first century church also followed their favorites. Bel…

Evil Father—Good Son | 2 Chronicles 30-31

Welcome to Real Life. One person can hold incredible influence.

Darkness had fallen on Judah. Ahaz, their king, turned his back on God. He embraced the detestable practices and pagan idolatry of the surrounding nations… even to the point of sacrificing a son in the fire to Molech. Symbolic of the completeness of Ahaz’s apostasy, he boarded up the Lord’s temple. All of Judah followed Ahaz’s evil example.

God will not bless a person or nation in their pursuit of evil. With God’s protection removed, the Assyrians attacked and overpowered Judah. They carried off plunder and captives. This should have been a wakeup call. Instead, Ahaz foolishly believed his enemy’s strength had come from their god. And so, he also began to worship the god of Assyria. Ahaz was blind to the fact that he was the cause of Judah’s downfall.

Eventually, Ahaz died. His son, Hezekiah, was crowned king. As his first official act, Hezekiah re-opened the temple. This was Judah’s turning point—away from evil and b…

The Narrow Road | Matthew 7:13-14

Welcome to Real Life. I know the verses well. I’ve heard them many times. Yet, when I read them the other day, they surprised me.

Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it.
(Matthew 7:13-14)

By faith, I gave my life to Jesus at age 16. This means that I have lived in the Christian community for decades. Many of my family members, friends, and associates are followers of Jesus Christ. I attend a church of 4000. Surrounded by the like-minded, I naturally begin to believe “everyone’s a Christian.”

I couldn’t be more wrong.
Even when America was primarily a Christian nation, many of us were Christian in name only. We attended church because it was socially acceptable. However, in reality, our hearts were far from God. (This was me, before I came to know and love Jesus.)

But today, in many circles, attending church is no lo…