You can’t tread water forever
Stop Loving God More
Children and their Questions
Studying Personally
Green Thumb to the Rescue

You can’t tread water forever


Goggles from Walmart. Check.

One-piece swimsuit from Marshall’s. Check.

Two weeks ago I began my career as an Olympic swimmer. Forget the fact that I haven’t swum laps since I was eight and taking swimming lessons. And the fact that I barely passed the “Goldfish” class even then.

I jumped feet first into the shallow end and shuttered as my swimsuit absorbed the cool water. I pushed my goggles against my eyes and tested their suction to my face.

Gold medal time. I pushed off the wall and let my arms go into auto pilot with the freestyle stroke. As my feet propelled me through the water, I was feeling confident. My feet kicked a rhythmic splutter behind me while my arms counted left, right, left, breathe; left, right, left, breathe.

Suddenly, my left foot cramped, pulling my foot at an unnatural angle. The rhythm fell apart. I couldn’t straighten my foot, couldn’t kick, couldn’t get my arms under me enough to tread water. Sputtering chlorine-filled water from my mouth, I doggy paddled myself to the edge while the seventy-year old man in the next lane swam smoothly along. Fail.

Life lesson: swimming is awesome. Drowning is awful.

When we talk about our walk with God, we use the phrase that we are drowning in our sin. I remember the pain of basing my self worth on good grades, only to realize that no one liked me any better with A’s than with C’s. I even remember the helplessness of trying to get out of big problems by my own power. There are some situations in life that are too big for us to handle by ourselves.

I recently reread the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in the gospel of John. The conclusion of the story occurs in John 4:39-42. Without the woman admitting it, Jesus knew that she had five husbands and that she was currently living with a man who was not her husband. She was drowning in her sin. Yet she came to believe that this man, Jesus, was the Messiah.

She could have kept it all to herself. But she didn’t. Rather, she testified to the Samaritans that this man, Jesus, had told her everything she had done. What was the result of this confession?

Verse 39 says many believed based on her testimony. After that, Jesus Himself went to those people. Verse 41 says that many more believed. They came to understand and accept Jesus as the Messiah! Did Jesus act in their lives? Absolutely! But this woman’s testimony sparked people’s interest. They were perhaps even more willing to listen to what Jesus said because they had heard her tell her own story.

I’m wondering; how many times have I told my swimming story? But who is in my life that may need to hear my testimony about how God has rescued me?

Stop Loving God More








My husband loves football, the whole sport. When we started dating, I knew that this “hobby” had the potential of being a deal-breaker in our relationship. I could pretend to love football for a year maybe, but not much longer than that. At some point, if I did not start loving it for myself, I would stop liking it altogether.

It’s the same way with Christ. We are not called to love Christ more than we love ____ (fill in the blank with your own example). We are called to love Christ. Period.

Let’s go back to football. I can love football more than I love soccer. But loving football more than loving soccer falls short of loving football period. Because the moment my husband asks me to get off the couch, drive eight hours, and sit on cold bleachers to watch a football game live, I’m out. I no longer want to associate with him. By no means do I condemn him, it just suddenly becomes evident that I have been pretending. At that revelation, it’s too late to go back, my husband and I would be confronted with the truth – I do not love football.

Look at our relationship with Christ. We have to stop loving God more than ____. 1 John 15-16 says, “Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle – is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

We have to start loving Christ period. It’s not enough to love God more than I love my car, my popularity, or even my husband. I love God. Because I love God, I obey Him. God calls me to respect my husband. I love my husband because I love God just like I have learned to love football because I love my husband.

God has given me a car and allowed me to be well-liked. So what? I am wasting both if I do not use them to show my love for God to people. I give friends a ride because I love God and God has told me to love my neighbor.

Don’t get it backwards. I do not love people so that God will love me. It doesn’t work that way. We can never work our way into God’s grace. God first loved me. And now I love God.

Children and their Questions

Last week I got to spend the morning with a mother from our church and her two young children. At the kitchen table, we began to discuss what Kevin’s job entails. I began by explaining that he works at the Star Center, a place that helps adults and children with disabilities. Not missing a beat, her three-year-old daughter asked me, “Mrs. Renae, what’s a disability?”

Children ask great questions. When they encounter new objects, people, or concepts, they don’t hesitate to ask about them. Some questions catch us adults off-guard and leave us stammering through unrehearsed answers. But there is one question that we should always have a ready answer for, “Why do we do all this “Jesus stuff?”

In a recent sermon at my church, one of our pastors used Deuteronomy 6 to support his main point. After referencing the Shema, he pointed out the difference between the word “when” and the word “if” in the proceeding passage.

20 “When your son asks you in the future, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees, statutes, and ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 tell him, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord inflicted great and devastating signs and wonders on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his household, 23 but He brought us from there in order to lead us in and give us the land that He swore to our fathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to follow all these statutes and to fear the Lord our God for our prosperity always and for our preservation, as it is today. 25 Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’

I have never been a slave of Pharaoh in Egypt. But I have been a slave of sin in death. I have never seen the blood turn to water, locusts fill the sky, or any of the other plagues, but I have watched houses and lives ripped apart due to living selfishly.

God has brought us out of sin with His strong hand. And He anticipated the day that our children and youth turn to us and ask, “Why do you follow Jesus?”

Studying Personally


For the past two weeks, I have been studying Ezra 7:9b-10. It’s a beautiful description of Ezra’s character and commitment to God. It’s also a great challenge to us as believers.

“…the gracious hand of his God was on him, because Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

1. It’s a matter of the head. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to explain a topic that you have never studied. For example, I am a pro at explaning how to make a pb&j. After all, I eat one almost every day for lunch. However, it would be impossible for me to explain how to tile a floor; I’ve never done it. To live the Gospel, we must know the Gospel. We must study it for ourselves. We cannot depend on the teaching of others around us. It’s a personal study.

2. It’s a matter of the heart. Once the Gospel has taken firm root in your head, it cannot stay there. This can be called obedience-it’s not just knowing right from wrong, it’s choosing the right because it’s right and fleeing from wrong because it’s wrong.

3. It’s a matter of the hands. The truth of God’s love for us ought to break our hearts and stir us to action. Knowing that God loved me so much that he sacrificed himself for me creates the passion to share this love with the people I come into contact with.

All three of these aspects of belief play into each other. It starts with personal Bible study. This is when you have the opportunity to sit alone with God and read His word to us. Lord, thank you for giving us your Word. Help us to become more diligent students of it.

Green Thumb to the Rescue

My mother is the person with the green thumb in our family. Most of the time, I manage to keep a plant alive, but I can never save one once it decides it wants to die. However, mom can.

Junior year of college, mom and I went shopping and I decided to buy my second favorite plant to put in a pot outside my dorm room – the bleeding heart plant. Ever since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the intricate flowers that bloom into hearts and which, over time, sprout little flowers that give the appearance of bleeding.

I kept it alive all semester. But the day we moved out, one of my roommates hit it with her suitcase. The base stem cracked in half and plant juice oozed from it. Within a day, the whole plant turned brown. So I took it to Dr. Mom, Plant Rescuer. After spending the summer in ICU on her back patio, the plant sprang back to life. It grew to twice its size and beauty since being with her.

We all have moments, maybe even days and weeks that we feel crushed beyond repair. All it takes is one blow for us to turn brown and quit thriving.

There is a point in the book of Hosea in which God has finished listing the graphic way in which He is going to destroy the wickedness In Israel. At the end, He tells them, “…you have no help but Me” (Hosea 13:9). Other translations phrase it as a question, such as, “At your destruction, Israel, who will help you?” Israel knows that no one but God Himself is mighty enough to prevent the destruction which God is planning.

We have to learn to turn to God in these times of crisis. If we’re crushed because of our own sin, then we must first turn away from it and then turn to God.

The Lord is faithful. Hosea 13:14 reads, “I will ransom them from the power of Sheol, I will redeem them from death. Death, where are you barbs? Sheol, where is your sting?”

God is powerful over the death in our lives. When we seek Him and obey His commands, then He will heal us – not so that we will return to our former life – but so that we may live with greater joy.

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