Some What Ifs

Imagine this scene:

It’s Sunday morning.
People are gathering and finding a seat in your church.
The music begins as some are still chatting in the aisles.
Everyone joins in the familiar song. Excitement fills the
sanctuary. God’s presence is among His children. Praise is lifted from
the instruments as well as from hearts throughout the church. There’s
a pause in the music as folks turn and greet each other.
Announcements are given.

You sit down and open your wallet to prepare for the morning
offering, but as you glance around the church, you notice the ushers
aren’t moving forward with the offering plates.

The pastor faces the congregation and says, “We’re not taking
an offering this morning.”
Hmmm.

We always take an offering.
What’s going on?
“We’re not taking an offering, because I’m asking you stop
giving,” your pastor says.
“Seriously. Please stop giving. We have more than enough.”

* * *

This actually happened!
We find the story in Exodus 36:6.

“Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout
the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering
for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing
more, because what they already had was more than enough to do
all the work.’ ” (NIV)

Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t outgive God.”
These people knew firsthand the truth of that statement!

Do we know this truth?

What would it be like to give God so much, that we’re
“restrained” from giving more? Let’s imagine a few what ifs.
What if we made it our goal to try and outgive God? By that, I
mean what if we just gave and gave and gave—and did so joyfully?
What if we gave more than 10 percent in tithes and offerings?
What if we gave our time?
What if we gave our talents, our skills, our gifts?
What if we gave ourselves?
What if we gave to those around us?

What would happen if we actually made these what ifs reality?

Thoughts?

What’s the Big Deal About Easter?

It doesn’t get as much splash as other holidays, but it can hold its
own!

We need to give Easter a little help. Bless its heart. It just
doesn’t measure up to Christmas. Of course, how can you compete
with lighted trees surrounded by brightly wrapped gift packages?

If we surveyed everyone in North America, they’d probably
place Easter behind Halloween. While Easter gives us a few
chocolate bunnies, Halloween gives us entire sack loads of candy.
And for those who choose not to participate in the world’s custom of
trick-or- treating, churches open their parking lots, malls extend their
hours and people can still get all the candy they want without ever
having to mutter “Trick or treat.”

And Valentine’s day captures our hearts. It’s the time for
romance, and the opportunity to share love with friends and family members.
The day is filled with the smell of roses, boxes of chocolate
hearts, candy hearts, exquisite cards—all declaring love.
But Easter?
No tree. No parties. Not many decorations.
What do we get at Easter?
A sermon.
And sometimes even that’s a little flat!

A Little Help, Please

So maybe we should spruce Easter up a bit. If we could get
some really cool celebrities to get behind it, Easter might mean more.
It seems whenever we have a devastating tornado, tsunami or
earthquake that takes out a city, the celebrities rush to get involved
and make a difference.

So maybe we could get the celebrities to promote Easter on
television ads!

That would be a great start, but we’d still need a good
marketing plan. Maybe we bring the fashion industry into this. Put a
few models in some super cool T-shirts that boast “Easter Is Cool,”
“Vote Easter Best Holiday,” “Easter Is #1,” “Easter Rocks!”

Yes. If we can get the celebs, the athletes, the models and a
creative marketing plan, Easter might have a chance!

Wrong Plan

I’m glad it’s not up to us to make Easter popular. Easter was
never created to be popular.
Why?
Because it’s the message of the Cross.
And the Cross is an ugly message.
The Cross means death. And death doesn’t sell well.
You see, even if we could get the celebs to promote Easter . . .
if the celebs haven’t experienced and embraced the Cross the way
Christ did, what good would it do?

The truth is: God doesn’t need any celebs to take on Easter. He
doesn’t need help promoting it. He doesn’t even want help promoting
it. He doesn’t want people embracing Easter for the wrong reasons.
He wants true followers.

The God of color and rhythm and the Grand Canyon and
kangaroos and gravity and Niagara Falls and sound and lightening
and donkeys who talk and hyenas that laugh could have created an
amazing marketing strategy to promote Easter. But He’s not into
marketing. He doesn’t think strategy. He thinks love.

The Truth

The message of the Cross is an invitation to die. “Wanna follow
Me?” Jesus asks. “Then pick up your cross. We’re going over there.
It’s a hill called Golgotha. We’re going to die.”
How do you market this?
How can you make this sound glamorous?
You don’t. You can’t. If you try . . . you’ll miss the meaning.
But the truth behind Easter is dying with Jesus.
Why would anyone do that? They wouldn’t.
Unless—they’ve experienced first-hand the death of Jesus for
their own sins.

You see, once a sinner realizes that Jesus willingly picked up
the Cross and died in her place, she’s overcome with joy and love for
her Father. She wants to live for Him, obey Him, serve Him, follow
Him, die with Him.

A High Price Tag

Jesus told everyone to count the cost before deciding to follow
Him. (See Luke 14:25-30.) He reminds us that a contractor doesn’t
start to build a house without first counting the cost of all the
materials. If he doesn’t do this, he may only build half a house and
run out of money.

What does it cost to follow Jesus?
It costs a lot.
It costs everything.
You see, Jesus isn’t looking for half-hearted followers. He’s not
interested in being the next big fad. He doesn’t recruit with a polished
benefits package. That’s not the way He works. He’d rather have 12
sold-out disciples than an entire world that’s only talk.
So why would anyone want to follow Jesus?
Because of love.
No one loves like He does.
And forgiveness.
No one else has offered to pay for our sins.
And eternal life.
The only way to God (and to live forever in heaven) is through
Jesus (see John 10:10).

And peace. And purpose. And meaning. And joy. And real life!

They Don’t Compare

If you stack Jesus against all the other gods, none of them even
compare with Him! Think about it: In all other religions, you have to
work really hard to reach your god. You have to pray so many times a
day, or sacrifice so much, or travel thus far, or. …

All other religions show man reaching up to their god. ONLY
Christianity shows God reaching down to man! Wow. Read that
again, because it’s mega-powerful. ONLY Christianity shows God
reaching down to man!

Christianity is the only religion that offers free salvation. You
don’t have to earn it. You can’t pay for it. You’ll never be good
enough to deserve it. So God reaches down to YOU by sending His
only Son wrapped in human flesh to die an ugly death on the Cross
for YOUR sins.
That’s love!
And He invited you to participate.

Make This YOUR Easter

Many of you reading this have already accepted Christ as your
Savior. You’ve already asked Him to forgive your sins. (If you haven’t
done this, you can do it right now. You can tell Him you’re sorry for
disobeying Him, ask Him to forgive you and place your faith in Him.)
But many of you reading this right now really want to go deeper in
your relationship with Christ. We call this sanctification.
If you desire to give Christ your all, you can pray this prayer.
No, it’s not a bunch of magic words. You really have to mean it. And
God will know if it’s genuine.
Dear Jesus:
Thank You for forgiving my sins. I’m so grateful that You
died for me. I love being a Christian. But I want to go
deeper. I want to give You everything! So right now, I’m
choosing to die. I’m dying to my will, my dreams, my way,
“me first,” my future. I want You to be LORD of every area
in my life. I’m moving to the back seat; You’re now in the
driver’s seat. You’re in complete control. Please release
the power of Your Holy Spirit within me and enable me to
live a holy life pleasing to You. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

New Plan

If you prayed that prayer and meant it, this Easter will become
something brand-new to you. More than a second-rate holiday, it will
be your love response to a God who’s crazy about you. He doesn’t
need a few celebs; He needs YOU.
You are His marketing plan.
YOU . . . simply loving one person at a time to Him.
You . . . dying to yourself and coming into new life through Him.
You . . . celebrating His resurrection from death.
You . . . living forever with Him.
This is Easter.

In Bondage

The Israelites—God’s chosen people—were in bondage a long time.

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430
years” (Exodus 12:40 NIV).

The Israelites were slaves of Pharaoh, and he treated them harshly.
He had them beaten and forced them to make bricks in the hot sun.
They were tired, thirsty, oppressed and living without hope.

Four hundred thirty years is a loooong time to be in bondage.
None of us have been in bondage 430 years.
But to be in bondage for even one day is too long.

Anything that keeps us from becoming all God wants us to be is
considered bondage.

Some of the things that keep us in bondage are . . .
Gossip.
Negativity.
Criticism.
Alcohol.
Low self-esteem.

Fear.
Drugs.
Procrastination.
Stubbornness.
Anger.

The list can go on and on.

Why not ask God to reveal anything in your life that could have you in
bondage?

He set the Israelites free . . . and He is willing to set you free as well!

Thoughts?

Please pray for me this weekend as I speak in Anderson, MO.

His Beautiful Creation

Throughout Scripture we’re often reminded of how God displays
Himself through nature. We’re told that the trees of the fields will
someday clap their hands in praise to Him. We read that every living
thing will rejoice in our heavenly Father.

One of the most exciting places I’ve seen God revealed in glorious
nature is in Alaska. It can be breathtaking!

I’ve been there four times and I’ll be speaking there again this fall.
But I want to go back in 2019.
And I want to take YOU with me.

Yes.
You read that correctly.
I want us to go to Alaska together.

So Susie Shellenberger Ministries has put together a “friends and
family” cruise to Alaska for June 1-8, 2019.

I know the benefit of getting away and letting God refresh me.
I need this.
You may need it as well.

So I’ll be speaking in our own private services on this exciting cruise.
And Kathy Slamp—another Christian speaker—will also be
ministering in our services.

Besides that, we’ll also have some amazing praise and worship, a lot
of fun, and an incredible time of ministry together.

But you’ll also get to enjoy the shows that the ship provides, because
we’ll have our own sessions at a different time than the ship’s
entertainment.

And the offshore excursions when we dock at a variety of ports are
amazing. You can choose from a variety of options.

If you’d like to email me for more information, I’ll send you the full
brochure with all the details. Will you please pray about joining me?
This will be an amazing time of ministry, an exhilarating adventure,
and the spiritual restoration we all need.

Shoot me an email at: susieshell@comcast.net

This weekend I’m speaking in West Columbia, SC, and would
appreciate your prayers.

More Words!

We speak anywhere from 120 to 150 words per minute.
I tend to speak fast.
I’m afraid if I slow down, I’ll get bored and check out. Ha!

I’m more engaged when listening to a speaker who pushes the pace.
It motivates me to pay closer attention.

The “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) from the English Standard
Version of the Bible is a little more than 280 words. I timed myself
and can read it out loud in 57 seconds. So what does this mean?
Absolutely nothing. Ha! I just find it interesting.

We’re consumed with words—verbally and written. Oftentimes, we
can almost “read words” from people’s eyes and mannerisms even
though they haven’t spoken audibly.

Because words can be so powerful, let’s determine to examine how
we choose to use them. Think about it: You can actually help
someone have a better day simply by the words you offer them.

On the other hand, you can ruin someone’s day by using demeaning
words. So it’s our choice, isn’t it? Will we choose to build up or tear
down?

“Gentle words cause life and health”
(Proberbs 15:4 The Living Bible).

From reading the Bible, we can tell that Jesus was extremely careful
with His words. He didn’t use them flippantly.

Before using your words, consider these three things:
1. Is what you’re about to say true?
2. Will what you say cast a shadow on someone or create
doubt in the listener’s mind?
3. Is what you’re saying necessary?

I really admire a friend of mine who just doesn’t say negative things
about people. It’s always a joy to be around her.

In a culture where we’re often around people who talk A LOT,
it’s refreshing to be with this friend who uses her words carefully and
uses them to affirm and encourage.

Let’s memorize this Scripture together:

“Evil words destroy; godly skill rebuilds”
(Proverbs 11:9 The Living Bible).

Thoughts?

I’m speaking in Aurora, CO this weekend.
Will you pray that God will use my words to glorify Him?

Words!

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., contains 28 million
books. That’s a lot of words!

The largest bookstore in the world is the Barnes and Noble in New
York City. It has 12 miles of shelves. Again . . . lots of words!

The most prolific writer in the world is Brazilian author Ryoki Inoue.
He published 1,058 novels between 1986 and 1996. Guess
what—that’s a new novel every 84 hours. It’s safe to say he knew a
lot of words!

Words can be
important
wasted
boring
challenging
true
useless
demeaning
deceitful
affirming.

I’m easily frustrated when someone uses too many words.
Maybe you know someone like this.

He or she gives you all the details—when all you really want and
need is the bullet point.

Someone going on and on and on . . . like I’m doing now . . .
Ugh!

God thinks words are important.
In fact, He says that someday we’ll have to give an account for every
careless word we speak. (Check out Matthew 12:35-37).

This makes me think seriously about the words I use.
I often speak without thinking it through first.
But there’s hope . . . because the apostle Peter was like that,
and God built called him the rock.

It took a while for Peter’s lifestyle of sand to become solid rock,
but God never gave up on him . . . or his words.

In fact, God even inspired Peter with enough words to give us two
books in the New Testament (First and Second Peter).

Let’s seriously consider our words this week.
Instead of using them sarcastically . . .
or even unnecessarily using too many words . . .
lets make it our goal to
1. use our words to encourage
2. refrain from using useless words

Word!

Thoughts?

I’m speaking in Pueblo, Colo., this weekend and would love it if you’d
pray that God will give me HIS words.

The Danger of Self-Defense

We love to defend ourselves—verbally, physically, emotionally—and
sometimes that’s OK. But many of us have become so accustomed to
defending ourselves, we have begun to defend our sins. This
damages our heart.

Christ yearns for His children to have tender hearts.
Teachable and trainable hearts.
Moldable hearts.
He even wants to transform our hearts.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within
me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

If we’re constantly defending ourselves, it’s impossible to be open to
God’s transformation.

But you don’t know my situation! God may be leading me to stand up
for myself. I’ve been wronged.

True. I don’t know your situation. But God does.

And He will direct you when to be silent and when to defend yourself.

There were times Christ remained silent before His death.

And there other times He spoke out boldly. When we’re in tune with
the Holy Spirit, He will let us know when to speak out (and will even

give us the words to say!) and when to be silent . . . or when to say,
“I was wrong. This is my fault. Will your forgive me?”

As long as we remain teachable—and in tune with God’s Holy
Spirit—we’ll know when to defend ourselves and when to be silent.

Sin, however, is never to be defended. If you’ve become comfortable
with continuing to sin—and defending your actions to God and to
others, you’re damaging your heart.

So . . . bottom line? Make this your daily prayer:

“Examine me, O God, and know my mind;
test me, and discover my thoughts.
Find out if there is any evil in me
and guide me in the everlasting way”
Psalm 139 (23-24 Good News Translation).

Thoughts?

I’ll be speaking in Oregon this weekend.
Please pray for God’s fresh anointing.

Separation from God

Sometimes God’s children walk through the desert.
The Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years.
Sometimes it’s simply difficult to feel His presence.

Jesus Himself said that we’d experience tribulation.
(See John 16:33)

But there’s a difference is simply walking through a cloudy day
and in experiencing genuine separation from God Himself.

There’s only one thing that can separate us from God:

SIN.

It’s a given.
It’s automatic.
It’s a fact.

Sin will always separate us from God.

Check this out:

“Listen now! The Lord isn’t too weak to save you.
And he isn’t getting deaf! He can hear you when you call!
But the trouble is that your sins have cut you off from God.
“. . . You lie and grumble and oppose the good.
You cheat and shortchange everyone. . . .
“   It is because of all this evil that you aren’t finding God’s
blessings. No wonder you are in darkness when you expected
light. No wonder you are walking in the gloom”
(Isaiah 59:1-9 The Living Bible).

(I didn’t list the entire passage here.)

When you feel distanced from God, pray Psalm 139:23-24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes
you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (TLB).

After praying the above passage, listen and watch for God to reveal
something to you. When He does, confess that and commit it to Him.

If He doesn’t reveal anything specific to you, ask Him to fill you with
His peace and to deepen your faith to continue trusting Him in the
midst of walking though a temporary desert.

Thoughts?

For those of you who are memorizing Scripture with me this year,
let’s tackle 2 Timothy 1:12 this week. Here it is from the NIV:

“Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have
believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have
entrusted to him for that day.”

Obvious

I was watching a Hallmark movie last week.
A lady was driving alone.
She screamed, “I can’t see!”
She was driving at night.
In a snowstorm.
Wearing sunglasses.

Uh . . .

It would be an understatement to point out the obvious, wouldn’t it?
Yet how often do we tend to think . . .
God seems so far.
Why aren’t I growing spiritually?
I need more victory in my life.

May I state the obvious?
If we’re not spending consistent time reading God’s Word . . .
if we’re not talking with Him—
and making time to listen . . .
if we’re not seeking Him with determination . . .
we’re just like the woman behind the wheel of a car
in a snowstorm
at night
wearing sunglasses
and complaining that we can’t see.

If you desire to grow closer to Christ this year,
make the important decision to read His Word.
If you’ll read three chapters of the Bible every day—
and read five chapters every Sunday—
you’ll finish the Bible in one year.

I like to do this each year.
Will you join me?
Yes, it will be tough at times
(when reading through the temple measurements
and a few other statistics) . . .
but determine to keep reading.

And let me know the DIFFERENCE
it has made in your life at the end of this year.
Guaranteed: It will make a difference.
A big one.

And for those of you who have committed
to memorizing Scripture with me this year,
let’s begin with 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.
I’m going to memorize it from The Living Bible.
Let me know if you’re joining me,
and tell me which translation or paraphrase you’re using.

Thoughts?

I’m speaking at Westside Nazarene Church in Olathe, KS
this weekend. This is my first speaking event in 2018.
Please pray for God’s fresh anointing.