Lord, Make Me Usable

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, given God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1, NIV)

Who says dreams don’t come true? Our son grew up with one dream in mind: to have a career in football. That dream came true.  Bradley was involved in football in college and then became a football coach, 

When colleges began to court him and offer scholarships, it was great fun to watch him decide—making the best choice because he wanted to learn more about football. Life is much the same.

If I were running the world, I would assemble a team of winners, choosing the smartest, brightest, most experienced, most talented, wealthiest, and most successful as my team members.  However, there is a God, and I am not Him.

God has written a different plan for the most critical invasion ever.  It is the plan to invade Satan’s territory—Earth- and retake it under the banner of His son, Jesus Christ. It requires us to offer our lives to Him as a living sacrifice.  The choice is holy and pleasing to God and an act of worship.

Consider God’s choice of recruits for the job- the weak, the poor, the broken and sick, and the lonely and defeated.  God chose the most ordinary people to accomplish the most extraordinary feats.  Why would God choose such flawed people to do His most important work? The answer is a straightforward and yet profound spiritual principle.  God’s power shows up best in broken people.

Do you want to be used by God? I have good news.  God wants to use you.  He will use you because that is His plan and has been all along.  When we pray for the Lord to use us, we ask Him to do something He already wants to do.

Perhaps our prayer should be, “Lord, make me usable.” Only He can fully prepare us for service. The Father is not concerned with our ability but our availability. Today, make yourself available to the One who knows and loves you best. Celebrate the truth that God chose you for His team and is even now preparing you for the game of life.

Father, I want to do what You want me to do.  Please help me seek You and Your plan above all others.  I know I am broken, Lord.  I need Your power working through me.  I want to be usable in Your kingdom work.  Make me usable, Lord.  I am here, and I am Yours.  In Jesus’ precious and powerful name.  Amen,

Examine your heart. Be honest.  Do you want to be used by God? Are you ready to fully surrender your life to Him?  Write a letter to God expressing your heart’s desire.  Sign and date that letter and keep it in your Bible as a reminder of your commitment today.

Back to traveling

Due to illness, moving, cancellations due to COVID, it feels like we are getting back on the road more. If we can come and serve at your church we would love to.

This song has been on my mind a lot as we have been out more. You may have heard it. It is an old, old hymn called “Be Thou Near Me”

Be Thou Near To Me 

Oh Lord, I come with heart here open

For in my hour of darkness I may be

Seeking the joy of love unspoken

Oh Lord, be Thou near to me

Chorus:  And the holy voices sing Hallelu

              Ever will Thy reign be

              As I wander through this life

              Oh Lord, be Thou near to me

Tho’ in this burden of my making

Yet in the shadows still a Light I see

Maker whose love is not forsaken

Oh Lord, be Thou near to me

The Value of Discipleship

A true mark of spiritual maturity is taking our eyes off ourselves and thinking of others. As believers, we should be looking for ways to tell others about Jesus and “disciple” them.

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19=20 NKJV. This is called the Great Commission, and Jesus is saying here that He will be with the person who does this. What does it mean to “disciple” people? It means taking them under your wing and helping them get on their fee spiritually.

Discipling is important not only for new believers but also for older believers. The older believers discipling the younger believers stabilize them and are in turn energized by doing so.

When you’ve been going to church for 10 to 20 years, you might start critiquing things. The music is a little too loud, or the sermons seem a little too long. Maybe your gripe and complain sometimes. But if you have a brand=new believer with you, you won’t be critiquing the sermon or criticizing the church. After the service, that new believer might say, “The pastor said this, and I’ve never heard that before.” Suddenly, you find yourself elaborating on the message. It’s helping you and them.

Yet, many of us aren’t sharing the truth; we’re horading it. But there’s joy in sharing. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NKJV)

Look for opportunities to initiate conversations about Christ. To the best of your ability, seek to lead people to the Lord and then “disciple” them.

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35.


In times of chaos and uncertainty, there always seems to be a return to hymns, so it is not surprising that so many artists, both gospel and secular, have recently released recording projects of hymns.

A hymn is not just an “old song” we used to sing.  In fact, there are many new hymns being written and whole hymn movements of new writers rising up, not only in the U.S. but in the U.K. and Scandinavia.   Then what is a hymn, and why do we need them?


First of all, a hymn is meant to be sung corporately.  When we gather with other Believers, we sing together praise to God or remind each other just who this God is that we serve. In general, we could think of hymns as those songs of praise and worship we send up to God identifying for all to hear His attributes and thanking Him for His amazing intervention in our world and in our lives.  We sing of the incarnation: God who was before anything existed, the Cause and Source of all things, God of grandeur, power and infinite glory chose to become one of us and to walk with us – Immanuel!  Hymns are God-centered and call our attention upward.  They are lofty in message and lift us above the earthy.  They remind us of our original glory that preceded any “original sin” and remind us of God’s intention to see that glory restored in us.  The exchange in hymns, then, is vertical – connecting us to God and seeking to hear His voice speaking to our hearts in return.

Hymns are firmly rooted in God’s Word and, since they are intended to be sung corporately by the fellowship of believers, pull us above our petty differences by reminding us of God’s dream for us – that we would be one.  


Because hymns are intended to reflect the qualities of God, they must have poetry that is beautiful, reverent, simple, accurate, and pure.  The theme of a hymn should be focused and at the same time universal and not sectarian in its truth, drawing together and then upward all the divergent believers to oneness in Him.

There is no more distilled form of writing than the song lyric, and there is no more condensed form of lyric writing that hymn writing.  The thought must be scripturally sound, purely true and without embellishment.  This requires that every word count – every verb, every noun, every conjunction, every adverb or adjective accurate – the perfect choice to convey true meaning so that there is no misunderstanding.  Every skill of the poet’s art must be called into play in hymn writing so that the clarity and beauty, creativity and purity reflect the Maker Himself in its expression. The music, too, must be harmonically, rhythmically, and melodically singable so that congregations can sing it together.


It is equally imperative that the singer or recording artist not take liberties with the words of a hymn. It is not acceptable to embellish or be careless by changing an “at” to “in” or “Father” to fathers or an “and” to a “but”.  Such changes can totally change the meaning and the theology and violate the integrity of the scripture from which the hymn was taken.

Yes, many of the great hymns have been sung literally for centuries, but we do not sing hymns because they are old; we sing them because they are so true that they have survived all the fads of language, rhythm feels, and musical trends.  If new hymns live, it will be for the same reason.


No wonder, then, that when times are confusing or the world is in upheaval, we find ourselves needing songs that nail to the wall the deep cardinal truths of our faith and the always available and ever dependable qualities of God.  When we cannot sing them as a congregation, we sing them to ourselves to help us remember that the Body of Christ is always at the table and the great cloud of witnesses are always present to encourage, love and support.  When we sing hymns alone, we refocus on the ways this great God has delivered us before; this focus turns our anxieties to praise and our questions to certainties.  

I love the promise found in Revelation (12:11) that we would overcome the obstacles of any age “by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony.”  This explains the power we find in hymns—those songs that extol and express praise for the qualities of God and the work that Jesus did for us on the cross.  Let’s sing our hearts out in great hymn confirmations of truths that transcend the shifting winds of public opinion and trends of the times. 

A Sure Foundation

In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

When you’re building a house, the most important time is not when you put on the roof or paint the walls or decorate the rooms. The most important time is when you lay the foundation and put in the wiring, the plumbing, and all those other important features of the house that will support everything yet to come.

Yesterday our pastor preached about our responsibility to spread God’s word and these thoughts came to mind.

In the same way as building a house, the most important time in life is at the beginning, in the time of our youth, when the foundation is being laid. It’s when we’re developing our habits and forming our attitudes.

It’s during our youth that we make decisions on things like careers and marriage that affect us for the rest of our lives. We sow seeds that we’ll reap in the years ahead.

Time is passing on, and that is fine. But I’m not interested in living in the past. I’m interested in what God is doing today and what He will do tomorrow. I’m interested in pressing forward and reaching new people.

However, it doesn’t mean that in the process we should neglect people who have faithfully attended church with us over the years and are growing old with us. Nor does it mean that we stray from the ways of the Lord to which we’ve committed ourselves. But we do want to continue to reach the next generation.

If we can give our kids the message of the gospel so they’ll turn their lives around and lay a proper foundation, then they will be the leaders of tomorrow.

What Gift Can You Give Yourself For Christmas?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

Gift-giving is not my strong suit. I stand in the aisles of stores slack-jawed with my eyes glazed over. I don’t know how to choose between the Cranberry Cinnamon Scone candle or the Christmas Cookie one. I just get hungry and go home empty-handed. Or if I dare to pick one it turns out to actually smell like the poor old pumpkin that has been on the porch since Halloween.

I’m not only like this with gifts for other people; I’m the same way with myself. I need quiet and instead I say “yes” to one more event on the calendar. I desperately want peace and instead make a to-do list so long it rivals Santa’s. I long for joy and yet I tell myself the holidays need to be perfect until I’m gritting my teeth and stress-eating candy canes leftover from last year. Ever been there?

So I, quite audaciously, decided to pause and intentionally ask this question: “What gift am I going to give myself this Christmas?”

I already have pink fuzzy socks and flannel pajama pants with hearts on them so I settled on this: Permission to rest.

In Mark 6:31, right after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus says to the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

This invitation is extended to you and to me as well – this Christmas season and every day of the year.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

What does rest look like to me? It’s the little things: a nap, a cup of tea, a few moments sitting with my husband on the couch, a cozy blanket, a “no” instead of “yes” sometimes, leftovers for dinner. And, perhaps most of all, giving the critical voice inside my head the holiday season off. I’m sending her somewhere sunny like Florida or the Caribbean or Australia. Anywhere that’s far enough away that I can’t hear her. A one-way ticket, I hope.

I used to think “rest” was selfish, but then two things happened:

I read a whole lot of research that showed happier people are more giving, kind and generous.

And a friend said something to me that I’ll never forget: “Sometimes rest is an act of worship.”

Both of these makes good sense to me. So I’m picking “permission to rest” as a gift to myself because I know if I do then this gift will ultimately be passed on to the people I love and the Savior I serve and this weary world.

I may never be the best gift-giver, but I’m slowly learning. Maybe next year I’ll even be brave enough to venture back into the candle aisle.

God, it can feel as if we have to carry the weight of the world in our shoulders. But the truth is, we are children who are cared for by a loving Father. The weight of the world isn’t on our shoulders, it’s in Your hands, and we are too. Help us to be children who rest and trust and delight in You.

In Jesus’ Powerful Name, Amen.

Next Step
What gift would you like to give yourself this Christmas? 

How to Invite Jesus to His Birthday Celebration

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19 NIV).

Friend to Friend
Every year, I search for Christmas poems, stories, and traditions that stir my soul and keep my focus on Jesus. Perhaps none has tugged on my heartstrings like the treasure I am sharing with you today. It is a letter that could have been written by Mary. Join me now and let’s peek over Joseph’s shoulder as he reads this letter from his beloved.

I had a dream Joseph. And I don’t understand it not really. But think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. Well I think that’s what it was about. People had been preparing for about six weeks. They had decorated their house, bought new clothes, gone shopping many times, and bought elaborate gifts. But it was peculiar though because you see, the gifts weren’t for our Son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes! A tree, Joseph, right in their house. They decorated a tree.

The branches were full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. And there was a figure on top of the tree that looked something like what an angel might look like. Oh, it was so beautiful. Everyone was laughing and happy and all excited about the gifts. They gave gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don’t even think they knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn’t it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate somebody’s birthday when they don’t even know Him. I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding.

Everything was beautiful, Joseph. Everyone was full of cheer. But it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus, not to be wanted at His own birthday celebration. I’m glad that it was only a dream. What if it would have been true?

What if it had been true? This story pierced my heart because in my home growing up, it was true. My childhood was a cauldron of violent arguments, alcohol inflamed fights, and long passages of passive aggressive silence. My parents were a mess, and their children were even messier.

Amazingly, the tensions ratcheted up a notch at Christmas. Dad’s business associates gave him liquor in ornate bottles—alcohol that fueled his volatile anger. My mom went into a stressful frenzy to have a perfectly decorated home with mounds of gifts under the tree. I dreaded December…every year.

On Christmas morning, I tore into elegantly wrapped presents. Right now, I can’t even recall what five of them were.

What I really wanted was a little bit of that “Peace on Earth” we sang about in church. I longed for Emmanuel to bring some of that “Silent Night” into my chaotic life. I longed for a mommy and daddy who loved each other. What I didn’t care about was more stuff.

Think about Mary’s words in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” What do you think she treasured? Gabriel’s visit? Her cousin Elizabeth’s proclamation? The shepherds appearing in the middle of the night? The wisemen coming from a faraway place? Anna and Simeon recognizing baby Jesus as the Messiah? I think she remembered them all. And notice, not one of those things were wrapped in shiny paper wrapped box with a big bow on top.

One day I had a child of my own. I held that squirmy bundle of love in my arms and made a commitment to keep Jesus the center of our home. That decision included keeping Christmas from becoming a stress-filled retail event, and making sure it was a love-filled Christ-centered celebration.

This year, let’s make sure to invite the honored Guest to His birthday celebration. Set Him a place at the table. Read about His birth on Christmas morning. Wrap Him a gift and place it under the tree. (In our home we write what we’re giving Jesus on slips of paper, wrap it up in a little box, and place it by the nativity. It could be a commitment to pray more, love better, forgive quicker.)

Then in the years to come, we will have many memories to ponder and treasure in our heart.

Let’s Pray
Precious Jesus, forgive me for getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and forgetting why I’m doing this in the first place. Help me to rein in the retail frenzy and keep You the focus of the holiday season. I can’t wait to honor You in my home this Christmas Day.

In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
What are three ways that you keep Jesus the focus of the holiday season? Leave a comment and share!

Here are three of mine.

At dinnertime, we pray for the people who send us Christmas Cards.

I have a collection of nativity sets from around the world and place them in various rooms around the house.

We read Luke 2 and pray on Christmas morning before we open any gifts.

Do You Have Room for Jesus?

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

—Luke 2:7

It’s easy for us to vilify the innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph when they arrived in Bethlehem. After all, we wonder how his heart could be so cold. But I think, in many ways, this innkeeper was like a lot of people today.

It’s not so much that he was evil; he was just busy. He was preoccupied. More specifically, he was interested in making money. A lot of people were in town, and there was a lot of money to be made. He didn’t want to waste his time with a young couple that obviously was very impoverished and had nothing to offer him.

I’m sure if they would have pulled out some major shekels, he could have found a nice place for them. But they didn’t have that. So he essentially said, “You can go back there in the barn and sleep.”

We don’t know whether it was a barn or a cave. Back then, they often would keep their animals in a cave. The word in the original language doesn’t seem to give us clarity here. However, we do know that it was a place where people kept their animals.

The basic problem with the innkeeper was that he didn’t have time. There are a lot of people like him today. They don’t have time for God. They don’t have time for church.

But you’ll always find time for what’s important in your life. If you want to do something, you’ll do it. And if you don’t want to do something, you’ll make up excuses.

Is there room in your heart for Jesus right now? Would you make room for Him in the coming year? Would you make room for Him by carving out time each day to study the Word of God? Would you make room for Jesus by praying? Would you make room for Jesus with your involvement in the church?

Is there room in your life today for Jesus?

It’s Time to Forgive

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
—Ephesians 4:32
As Christmas approaches, you’ll probably be gathering with family. Maybe you’ll be traveling, or maybe your family will be coming to you.

There are some family members that you’re probably looking forward to seeing. And there are some that perhaps you’re not looking forward to seeing because they’ve hurt you. So I’d like to offer a word of advice this Christmas: forgive people who’ve wronged you and hurt you in life.

I don’t know what those people have done. But I do know what God has done. Ephesians 4 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (verses 31–32 NLT).

Here’s my question for you: Do you deserve to be forgiven by God?

No, you don’t. Neither do I. But He forgave us. Therefore, we should forgive others.

It isn’t about whether they deserve forgiveness. Forgiving someone isn’t letting them off the hook. Forgiving someone is a way for you to be free from a life of bitterness. Otherwise, you can be living in a prison of anger and even despair.

Really, forgiveness is more for you than it is for the one who wronged you. As I’ve said many times, when you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free: yourself.

You’re the one who’s being tortured, so let it go. Forgive. That is the unique characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ. We have the ability, given to us from God, to forgive people who have done horrible things to us.

It might surprise you to know that failing to forgive others, even when they have sinned against you, is a sin on your part against God. If you’re a Christian, then you need to be a forgiving person.