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The Beauty of Grace 

Grace. It's something we all need, but certainly don't deserve. It's something we readily accept, but find hard to give. God gave us the ultimate gift of grace when he died on the cross for our sins, coming back to life on the third day. We do not deserve his forgiveness, but he gives it to us anyway... just because he loves us. He loves us so much more than we will ever even know.

Now turn the situation around. Imagine somebody wronged you in every way possible. How would you respond? How did Jesus respond? After all, we wronged the King of Kings in every way possible.

Bitterness is not the answer; it never is. We're so much more effective when we choose love. God himself is love... which means we need to be Christ to people. It doesn't matter how much someone has hurt you. Extend grace and love. In Matthew, it says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. It's not about choosing sides, or deciding who's right and wrong. It's about honoring Jesus Christ in every choice we make, with every step we take. It's choosing love when everything inside us screams otherwise. Forgiveness is extending mercy where it isn't deserved. It not only sets them free... it sets you free. That's the beauty of grace.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
 

17 Ways to Bust a Bad Mood 

1) Just breathe. Give yourself a few minutes and try to cool down from all the negativity. Go outside, soak up some sun, and get ready to tackle the cranky.
 
2) Find the core of the cranky. What is really bothering you? This will help you to solve the problem, as opposed to blaming your bad mood on trivial things. It might help to write down how you're feeling. This helps you to process any emotions you didn't realize were even there.
 
3) Be sensitive to the people around you. Negativity can spread like wildfire. Before you know it, everyone is feeling down. So before you lash out, just think of the difference you could make if you let your joy be contagious, instead of your negativity.
 
4) Don't shut people out. If it's more than obvious that you're in a bad mood, there will be two kinds of people. People who will do anything to avoid you, and those who will go out of their way to help you. Whatever the case, don't push people away. Somebody might even have some words of wisdom to share with you.
 
5) Listen to the world's happiest songs. Personally, I think it's nearly impossible to listen to "Walking on Sunshine" and not be at least a little happy. The songs we listen to most certainly impact our mood. Keep those lyrics healthy and positive! Most people say we are what we eat... but maybe we are what we listen to.
 
6) Laugh. Smile. Skip. Whatever you do, just express an attitude of happiness. After awhile, you'll find it's pretty contagious!
 
7) Give somebody a giant bear hug. Guaranteed to lighten any bad mood.
 
8) Count your blessings. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
 
9) Think positive. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
 
10) Doodle a gazillion smiley faces on a piece of paper. Totally random, but totally effective. This is coming from somebody who's tried it herself! Eventually, you will be so overcome with smiley faces that you'll just have to smile too!
 
11) Sing. Find an instrument, and write whatever's on your mind. It's like musical journaling.
 
12) Watch some stand-up comedy. Even if you don't want to improve your mood, you'll surely end up laughing at some stupid joke that isn't all that funny.
 
13) Embrace optimism. Carry yourself with confidence and look for the best in life.
 
14) Keep things in perspective. If you're in a bad mood, chances are, you won't be cranky forever. (At least I hope!) Don't forget that there is indeed a bigger picture.
 
15) Demonstrate a Christ-like Attitude. No matter how stressed or cranky you may be, you still need to display the love of Christ to others. Never lose sight of that.
 
16) Always keep your end goal in mind. If you know where you want to be, find out how to get there.
 
17) Talk to God about what's bothering you. Sometimes we overstress and try to handle it all by ourselves, instead of letting God step in and help. Even when you don't find the answers easily, just pray this one through. All the quick fixes in the world can't compare to talking one on one with God. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7).
 

Hosea: A Story of Unconditional Love 


The book of Hosea paints a beautiful picture of God’s unconditional love for his people. God instructed Hosea to take an adulterous woman as his wife and love her. Hosea married Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. Repeatedly throughout the marriage, Gomer was unfaithful to her husband. Despite her unfaithfulness, Hosea loved his wife unconditionally with the same love God still gives us today. 

In the remaining chapters of the book, an analogy is drawn between Hosea and God. Israel disobeyed the Lord, and was unfaithful to Him over and over again, as Gomer was unfaithful to her husband. God still extended agape love, even when Israel turned her back on Him. Hosea 14:1 and 4 tell how God yearned for his people to run to Him again. “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God. Your sins have been your downfall! I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them”
 
After reading this incredible story, it made me re-evaluate how I love others. Is my love conditional, or am I loving selflessly? 1 Corinthians 13:5 explains that love is not self-seeking and keeps no record of wrongs. That verse perfectly sums up Hosea’s character. God taught him so much about putting others first, even when they don’t deserve it. I think we can all learn from Hosea how to love the unlovely.

 

Jonah 


God puts us where He can use us most effectively. It might not be where we want to be, but it’s where God needs us to be.

Look at Jonah, for example. God instructed Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh. This was the last place Jonah wanted to go to. It was a very wicked city; headed for destruction.

Jonah intentionally tried to flee from the presence of the Lord, sailing towards Tarshish. He was well aware of his own actions, that he was disobeying God. After being thrown into the sea by fellow sailors, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. He stayed there for three days and three nights, praying long and earnestly. God spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon dry land.

A second time, God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh. This time, Jonah did as the Lord asked. He went and boldly spoke to the Ninevites, and the city turned back to God. Because of this, the Lord spared Nineveh.

Jonah didn’t necessarily want to go to Nineveh, but that’s where God needed him to be. We need to look beyond our comfort zone to see the needs of others. What is God calling you to do?

Just a Little Bit More 


John D. Rockeller was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Living the “American dream”, the guy clearly had it all… or did he? When asked how much would be enough, he replied, “Just a little bit more.”

How much is enough for you? Would you really be totally happy with just a little bit more? So here’s the thing: We will never be satisfied until we are completely satisfied in God. If you are basing your happiness on the things of this world, you will never be content, because God’s love alone satisfies. It’s not about what you can gain, but rather what you can give to glorify the King of Kings.

Hebrews 13:5
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Recognized 


A few years ago, my mom and I were at a music festival when a woman came up to my mom. The lady thought my mom looked awfully familiar. After talking for a few minutes, the two of them agreed they did not know each other, but realized they were both Christians. The woman smiled and said, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit just recognizes itself.”

The words she said were so thought-provoking. It made me re-evaluate how other people view me. Do unfamiliar faces instantly recognize there’s something different about my life? Can they identify the Holy Spirit in me? I challenge you to live your life in such a way that even a complete stranger sees Jesus in you.

Matthew 5:16 (ESV)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Defining Moments 


Life is full of defining moments. One second can completely change your life in ways you never thought possible. These moments refine you; never again will you be exactly the same. 

For better or for worse, the future awaits. Though your heart may stop, the clock cruelly keeps ticking by. Time mourns not the wounded soul. When heartbreak shakes you to the core, the only thing you seek is clarity. How could a God of love allow this to happen?
 
You know what they say – when it rains, it pours. Sometimes it flat out hurts. No matter how much it stings now, you are reminded that life goes on. In the middle of the darkest night, there is always hope.
 
Tragedy has a way of making you feel tiny. I guess you realize how little control you really have. Faith drives you to believe in something greater than yourself. As you draw near to the Savior of the world, he draws near to you… and that is the most incredible feeling one could ever know.
 
The more you encounter life’s struggles, the more you fall back into God’s loving arms. He’s always there to catch you, no matter what. The number of hearts affected by your faith in Him simply cannot be counted. In the midst of it all, you’re an example to people in ways you’ll never know.
 
So there it is. The struggle is not just about you after all, but those who learn from your walk. You don’t get there overnight, but over the course of time, God shows you how to be thankful for the deepest sorrows of your heart. Without the struggle, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. I suppose it is in these defining moments that you realize how weak you are and how strong He is.

Radical Results 

1) Drastic measures. Radical results call for drastic measures. In Revelation, God mentions the lukewarm church of Laodicea. He wishes they would be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Does this sound familiar? A lot of people today are living as lukewarm Christians, blending godly morals with the things of this world. It just doesn’t work. You can’t live for God and the world; it’s one or the other. Live your life on fire for Christ!

2) Transformation. If you’ve accepted Christ into your life, you are a new creation! The old has gone and the new has come.

3) Committed change. Change is something you decide in your heart ahead of time. With God on your side, you can do anything. So don’t lose heart, because through God’s amazing grace, you have the power to change. You can make a difference, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

4) Accountability. Set goals and be held responsible for your actions. You’ll find that accountability really helps grow your character.

5) A Biblical lifestyle. You can talk Christianity all you want, but what matters most is living it out. You need to back up your words with actions, because they speak louder than words. Make it real, and own your faith.

6) Pass it on. If you’re radical about something, you don’t keep it all to yourself. Share the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive!


Empty Wells 

Jeremiah 2:13 (NCV)
My people have done two evils: They have turned away from me, the spring of living water. And they have dug their own wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water.


Various times throughout Scripture, Jesus is referred to as the Living Water. He fulfills our every need and satisfies our weary souls.

John 4:13 (NCV)
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.”


Now, it seems kind of stupid to reject the Living Water for an empty well, right? Why trade holiness for such imperfection? The thing is, we do it everyday. Over and over, we go back to our own empty wells, thinking we’ll find love, happiness, acceptance… you name it; but every time, the broken well fails us. It’s a cheap substitute for something far greater. It can never give us what we truly need.

That’s where Jesus comes in. Only when we run to our Savior’s arms can we find love, happiness, and acceptance. I’m not talking about an earthly love. I mean an everlasting, perfect love that only Jesus can offer us. The best part is that it’s completely free! Whatever it is that you’ve been holding back, just let it go. Identify your empty well that leaves you thirsty. You’ll never thirst again once you accept the Living Water.