Five Truths about the Power of Forgiveness

forgive-finger-art_siForgiveness is a staple of the Christian faith. We know that Christ died so we can receive forgiveness, and we know we’re called to forgive others. But sometimes we might not fully grasp the necessity and power of true forgiveness due to a lack of knowledge, or feelings of bitterness we haven’t dealt with. Here are a few truths to remember about forgiving. Read…

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5 Scriptures that Will Re-Define Your Prayer Life

woman-praying-3-1Prayer is one of the most intimate ways to connect with God, one of the most powerful spiritual warfare tools, and for me, the clearest way God demonstrates his love. But what’s amazing is after more than 15 years of being a Christian, I’m still learning so many principles about prayer that I never realized. Sometimes we either treat prayer too lightly, or pray about half the things, half of the time we should. It’s  easy to forget or take for granted the sheer awesomeness of being able to talk to God, but here are some scriptures some I’ve recently re-discovered that reinforce the power of prayer. Read More…

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Why I Cry About God’s Goodness, Every Day

woman-591576__340I literally cry, every morning, thinking about God. It usually happens on my drive to work, or during my quiet time, after the kids go to school. I’ll blast my Bethel Worship music, focus on him, and then bam: tears. Not the violent, Claire Danes from Homeland kind of sobs. But just a silent trickle, after instantly being overwhelmed at how quickly I can personally connect with the creator of the universe, and how quickly I feel his love, when I do. Read More…

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3 Things Prison Ministry Has Taught Me About God

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Sometimes we think we have God all figured out. Many of us base our spiritual fortitude on the fact that we’ve attended church for years, read the Bible cover to cover and lead a pretty solid prayer life. I was one of those Christians, and then I joined a ministry visiting institutionalized teens, and it rocked my world. After a life-changing journey of holding Bible studies within juvenile detention centers, I understood some concepts about God in a much deeper way.

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Best Biblical Promises That Banish Fear

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When I think about the root cause of so many mistakes and spiritual pitfalls in my life, the source seems to be the one and only, the ugly, fear. Fear will cause us to buckle and settle for less than God’s best. It’ll cause us to disobey after diluting our trust in Him, and even when do stay strong, it’ll rob us of our peace and joy. Here are some of the best scriptures helping us overcome fear by increasing our faith. Read More…

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Father’s Day for the Fatherless…Why God is So Sovereign

I haven’t cel10632876_10153167405295196_1846698188967097241_nebrated Father’s Day since 1991, when my dad passed away when I was 12. My  last Father’s Day memory involved my sisters and I bursting into his study, adorning his head with a paper crown and a bed sheet around his neck, donning him “king for a day.” I can still hear his laughter, as all three of us piggybacked atop his back, while he commanded his loyal subjects to give hugs all day long.

It’s such a fitting memory, too. My dad always had this respectable, noble, presence about him, while at the same time having such a humble servant’s heart. And he was so strong, but had such a meekness about him. I’ll always remember him doing pushups or bench pressing in the basement, and then challenging each of us to give his biceps our “toughest punches.” My knuckles hurt just thinking about it. Such a juxtaposition to watching him become choked up when praying for people at church, or even a random stranger in public. One of my worst childhood punishments resulted after protesting him bringing a homeless woman to live with us. I wasn’t a Christian then,  and didn’t understand my dad was simply living as Jesus did-not just loving with words, but in action-showing love to the “least of these” and giving God glory, instead of himself. I was always annoyed having to answer collect phone calls from inmates he’d ministered to in prison, and never understood his need to pray every morning in the basement closet-sometimes 5 a.m. when he had his grocery business.

I’m not sure whether it was his sudden passing of a heart attack at 38 years old, that turned my heart against God, or if I really never knew God to begin with, but after finally coming back to him in my mid-twenties, I get it now. My dad just loved loved the Lord, with all his heart. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have spiritual talks and get his advice on ministry work, along with the other thousands of memories I wish he could share. He’s missed so much. Eleven grandchildren and counting. My mom still as beautiful as the last day he saw her. My sisters following in his footsteps doing great things for God. My youngest sister literally talking with the same calm, rational inflection he did, without even realizing it. And his former friends-pastors, business people, ministry leaders-still stopping us to talk about what an impact he made on those around him. “He was the real deal,” they always say.

Some people have asked if I’m upset with God, or have a hard time trusting him, when he let such a good, Godly man leave us so soon. But now that I know God, it’s not even a question, because he actually is, and has been my father, ever since. Whether I knew it or not. I believe in God’s total sovereignty, which means he makes up for pain and suffering we’ve endured, and turns our situations around. I’m not sure all the details will completely make sense until we meet in heaven, but for me, God has been my complete protector, counselor, provider and father, in a way I’m not sure those with living earthly fathers can know. I feel those who’ve lost a parent are able to tap into a part of God’s heart that gives us a special sense of security and love we’d never get to experience without that deep loss. I’ve made the most ridiculous mistakes and continued some pretty bad patterns through life, but God has never failed to instantly forgive, pick me up, and continually shower blessings and goodness on my life. Over, and over again. Like a true father.

Nothing and no one can ever replace the bond between a parent and a child, but God can heal and fill that void, tenfold, if we allow him to. I might never truly understand why my dad’s time came so soon, but I know God will be my father every day, until I meet both of them in heaven.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. We love and miss you….

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Gorilla Shooting Just Might Have Ushered In the End Times

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I realize Jesus said no one can predict the official end of days, but this week’s news of protesters a rage over the shooting of a gorilla to protect a 3- year-old boy might officially signal his near return.

What else can explain people losing their minds over the death of an ape, instead of a collective sigh of relief that a toddler wasn’t murdered by a 450-pound mammal in front of his parents and a few dozen field trippers? 2 Timothy describes end time people as “unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous and reckless.” In other words, they might not only grieve and hold a candlelight vigil for a caged primate, they might even criticize the family for not keeping their son on a leash. One angered animal nut went so far as to say the life of an animal is synonymous to a child’s. I think I hear an earthquake. Read More

 

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5 Lies That Keep Us From God’s Best

5 Lies That Keep Us From God’s Best

The Devil Whispering in Your Ear --- Image by © Peter Holt/Illustration Works/Corbis

If we lived according to how God sees us, I think our lives would look drastically different. So often we settle for less, give up or don’t even bother praying for our hearts’ desires because we’re trapped believing lies that keep us from God’s best. Thoughts like, “it’s too late anyways,” or “I’ve sinned too much to deserve better” become patterns of thinking that eventually evolve into strongholds if we don’t identify these lies, and dispel them with the truth of God’s promises. Many long-time Christians are kept from the best that God has for them-freedom over bad habits, career or ministry triumphs, relational breakthroughs-because our thinking is out of line with God’s. When we learn to see ourselves through His eyes, and understand our power and ability to overcome is through Him, it absolutely changes the way we approach life Here are a few of the enemy’s fan faves.
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How Daily Time with God Will Change Your Life

Last New Year’s I decided to start the year off with a spiritual bang and commit a formerly-believed act of cheesiness by choosing a ‘year verse’ for myself. Why not. 2015 was less than memorable, aside from the blessings we take for granted like our children’s health and a steady job. Oh, and the kittens that still pee on the laundry. Super thankful. But I thought to myself, I really want this year to have more God in it. More of his involvement and spiritual ‘umph’ to my every day. So I made Matt. 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all else shall be added to you” my verse. I decided for the first time in a decade, to have ‘quiet time’ (Christian-ese for locking the kids out of your room for 20 minutes) and read the Bible, pray and worship every day.And within one single year- every dream of my life has come true.
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Dear Varicose Veins…It’s Been Real

IMG_0557There are certain unseemly rites of passages mothers experience, usually within their mid to late thirties and most always after multiple babies. For some it’s the dreaded stretch marks that defy nine months of aggressive coconut oil lubing. For others, it’s hip fat that’s here to stay despite every Paleo Diet promise or boobs that have waved the white flag to gravity after breastfeeding through a decade. For me, it was varicose veins, a hereditary blessing that results in thigh-long engorgements ruining any chances of wearing shorts, swimsuits or Victoria’s anything without visually offending the masses.

It’s awful for all, but I felt especially grieved when making it to my third child before looking downward one day to discover the first trace of bulging capillary. What the-awww HECK no!!! I’ve drunk a gallon of water a day, jogged through winters in CT to ensure circulatory perfection and this is what I get: green, veiny treachery running from my crotch to my knee cap. This mutiny against my own body might have been less disturbing if I had any other womanly assets intact. But since I’ve basically evolved to a 5’9 version of Skeletor, losing any boobs after nursing and any trace of Anglo-Saxon booty when I hit 32 (like, seriously, what the heck?), this veiny attack was unacceptable. The stems are all I got. Take them away, and I’m basically reduced to an extended femur bone. So with a few emboldened clicks on the worldwide web one solitary eve, I found my haven of hope: The Vein Center of Connecticut. Removes veins in the matter of hours. Hmmm…..

I felt a hardy sense of guilt, pondering this option at first. Spending money on such a vain endeavor.  Being haunted by that II Peter verse with a virtuous woman’s beauty coming from the inside. Reminding myself I’ll never be a Sally Hansen Legs model, and the check engine light that’s been on since August begs more maintenance than my legs. But then I realized that wasn’t a sense of guilt I felt. It was the ever-present pressure weighing my dern leg down because of my gimpy blood flow. Nope, I’m not adorning my hair with jewels, or measuring my worth in fine linen, dear Peter. I’m takin’ back what the devil stole: my ability to wear trendy spring rompers this season.

So when I awoke last Friday I felt the exact opposite of the typical dread one might feel the day of microsurgery. It felt like Christmas, come early. I sped to that office with the gusto of a spring breaker set for Cancun.

“Are you nervous Ms. Kastner?”
“Heck no, yank these suckers out!” Kind of like childbirth being a “good pain,” where you know you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful baby at the end of the journey. Except in this case you get two summer-ready legs and a Motrin prescription. God is good, in both cases.

The only thing I slightly regretted was refusing the Xanax prescription for anxiety. Jesus is on my side, people, pedal it elsewhere. However there were moments, just fleeting moments, between the random poking of holes through my legs when it might have helped to have industrial strength flow of alprazolam to ease the tension.

But all in all, operation hot legs was a good experience. After the first hour of “prep,” when you’re needled to numbness, Magda the vein tugger takes over, literally pulling strands of veins through spaghetti sized holes in your legs. This woman plugged away at that leg with the fever and precision of a concert harpist. Hands from heaven, I tell you.

And the next three hours turned out to be the most productive, enjoyable time of my week. I knocked out a day’s worth of emails by propping my laptop on my stomach(my non-existent bosom enabling complete typing mobility, of course), then was moved to tears watching an online John Piper sermon, and even found a lawnmower on Craigslist. All while trading house hunting stories and pizza topping preferences with Magda.

Thank you Magda, and thank you Lord, for putting me on the Earth during a technological age allowing us to remove unsightly genetic fails, and thank you varicose veins, for carrying me through the birth of three children and 37 years of adventure. May you RIP.

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