Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Priest-Job

My morning reading took me to Numbers 4. In that passage, God assigned tasks to each of the groups of Levites. The Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites all had specific tasks for attending to the holy items of the tabernacle when the camp set out. (I think of them as the K people, G people, and M people.)

Every item was to be treated as precious and handled in a very specific manner. Each group had an area for which they, personally, were responsible. 

No one else was allowed to do their work, which meant that, if they didn't do their work, it wouldn't get done.

As I read those words this morning, I wondered how well that would work in today's society. I can just imagine a pastor saying, "Everyone whose last name begins with the letter T will clean toilets and everyone with the letter K will clean the kitchen." 

Yeah, right. That's so not happening. There would be an uproar. The K people might think their gifting qualified them for a different job. The T people might think their assignment was beneath them. 

There would be one group, though, who would always come to the rescue. The S people, the ones who have the Servant Hearts, would say, "No problem. We'll do whatever needs to be done."

I have a friend who was headed to her church one night last week. "Why are you doing that job?" I asked her.

"If I don't do it, who will?" 

There was a need. No one volunteered. She did it. Just like always.

We need more S people. 

According to Peter, we are all supposed to be S people, called to be priests, charged with doing the work of the Kingdom. 

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9 esv

All of us in the body of Christ are called to be priests, which means there is a job for us to do that must be done. What is that job? The job of the priest, even now, is to care for and protect, to handle well, the holy things of God.

We don't have tabernacles and arks and holy lamps now, but we do have something even more precious. The Word of God. 

It's our job as disciple-priests to know what Scripture says and live it out in a way that glorifies God. 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 nasb

Study. Learn. Live it out. It's the way of the disciple. It's the way of the priest. If we don't do it, it won't be done, so let's do our part. Every day. 
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#thepriestjob #Biblestudy #JesusChrist #servantheart #linesfromleanna #LeannaHollis

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Little Taste of Heaven: Body of Christ

God gave me a little taste of heaven yesterday, and I'm still savoring it. 

I spoke at the Calvary Baptist Church Senior Friends meeting. The room was filled with people I dearly love. It was a sweet, sweet time. There were lots of smiles and hugs and a few tears, too.

I attended that church for more than two decades, and I love the people there as much now as I ever did. Lately, though, I've been attending a church closer to home. 

I've said this many times before, but I repeat it because of the truth in it. Even though my location has changed, one thing has remained the same. 

We are still family, because we are the body of Christ.

 I've spoken in so many churches and worked in ministry alongside people from so many other churches, that every church feels like home to me. I believe that's the way it's supposed to be for the body of Christ, and the concept goes back to the time of Moses.

The chronological Bible reading today was from Leviticus 27 and Numbers 1. It talks about the different tribes, their numbers, and their locations in the camp. The tribe of Judah camped on one corner and the tribe of Ephraim camped on the opposite corner, but they were both part of the nation of Israel, both equally vital parts of the people of God.

When the tribe of Judah fought in a battle and received a victory from God, the people of Ephraim fought alongside them and shared in the victory, as did all the other tribes.

I believe that's how the body of Christ should function. Serving together. Sharing together. Rejoicing in victory together. No matter which tent we call home.

There's nothing wrong with having separate tents based on location or personal preference, as long as we understand there is One Lord, One Savior, One King. 

What matters is not the name on our sign, the size of our building, or the format of our services. 

The only thing that matters is our Savior.

I was a little nervous about speaking yesterday. I worried that people might be upset with me because I have a different "tent" now. Instead, I was treated as a much loved daughter who had come back home. I can't begin to tell you how deeply that touched my heart. They felt the same way I did. 

We're still family, and we always will be.

While we're on the subject, there was another topic we talked about yesterday that's an important truth. Over the course of two decades, the people at Calvary and I invested in each other's lives. My faith walk is deeper and stronger because of the people who shared their lives and faith with me, both at Calvary and at the other churches across this nation. 

We've participated in ministry together and we share in the victory, as do the people who have prayed me through. We share in the fruit.

It may be my name on the blog post, but when God uses these words to touch hearts, it's the body of Christ that shares the fruit.

We are interconnected in a way that we will not see clearly until we reach heaven. Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of it, and it took my breath away. 

People who rejoiced in my first few sentences of writing twenty years ago, people who encouraged me every step of the way, are a part of my words on the page today. I pray I can be faithful to honor their investment in me.

God used them to make a writer and now He's giving them fruit for their labors every time someone clicks on my blog posts.

We are more connected than we will ever understand this side of heaven. One day, though, we'll see how our prayers, our encouragement, our support for one another yielded a greater harvest than any of us could accomplish on our own. 

So let us love freely, give with abandon, encourage with all the hope in our hearts. It matters matter more than we know. 

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all men and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 nasb

The Friday Night With Friends blog post for this week has arrived. Don't miss it.  It's so good. You'll enjoy it! Friday. 6 pm.
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
@alittletasteofheaven #bodyofChrist #chronologicalBible #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Thursday, February 25, 2016

You Are Greatly Loved

Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy woke up yesterday with an upset stomach. (She's improving nicely now, so no worries.) I went downstairs for coffee and (fortunately) made it back to my bedroom just before she started gagging. 

In a feat of sprinting that will likely never be repeated, I managed to put the coffee on the bedside table, grab Mamie, and get her to the bathroom in time for her to expel the contents of her roiling stomach into the toilet. Twice. 

Her little face told me all I needed to know. She felt terrible and didn't understand it. For the next hour or so, the happiest, bouncingest dog I've ever known snuggled into my lap and slept while I worked. 

It's what she always does when she feels bad or is tired and sleepy. Snuggles with her mama. She does it because she knows she's loved, and being loved is a good, good feeling.

An interesting thing happened at church last night, and it reminded me of how much I'm loved. My pastor was preaching from Daniel 10 and talking about the angel saying to Daniel, "O, man of high esteem." The angel's words meant Daniel was precious to God. 

"Imagine God saying that to you. 'Leanna, you are greatly loved,'" the pastor said. He called a few other people's names and said the same thing to them, too, but all I heard were those beautiful words.

"Leanna, you are greatly loved."

It took my breath away and the force of it astounded me. I know this truth. I've known it all my life, it seems, but coming face to face with such a profound truth again rocked me. 

We sing a song at church that says, "You're a good, good Father. It's who you are... and I'm loved by you." And I am. And we are. 

You, personally and individually, are loved by our good, good Father. 

It was His great love for us, the most contrary of creatures, that caused God to send His Son to redeem us. His great love causes God to provide for us, comfort us, include us in this amazing adventure of following Him.

We are greatly loved by God.  

You are greatly loved by God.

Put your name in this sentence. I, ______, am greatly loved by God. Now repeat that over and over again and revel in that amazing truth, because His great love changes everything. 

Snuggle in to the One who loves you most, the One who loves us most, and remember how very much we are loved, because being loved by God is a good, good feeling. 

And you are greatly loved.

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:15 nasb
The Friday Night With Friends blog post for this week has arrived. Don't miss it.  It's so good. You'll enjoy it! Friday. 6 pm.
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
youaregreatlyloved #loveofGod #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Friday Night with Friends: Food and Faith by Brandy Bruce

Brandy Bruce
Food and Faith

More than eleven years ago I was a young new editor working for a Christian publishing house. Having only been married a year or so before, I was still settling into my role as a wife and homemaker. Thankfully, my husband wasn’t very picky when it came to meals, and with both of us working full-time, we often shared the task of cooking. As much as I enjoyed cooking, and food for that matter, the fact was that I was not a great cook and had much to learn.
Christmas was coming and I wanted to give my boss a gift. Loving food as I do, I thought a gift of banana bread would be perfect. I made two loaves, one for the director of book publishing and one for my husband and me. I wrapped up the banana bread in cute, red cellophane and gave it to my boss before he left for his holiday vacation. That same night, I sliced a piece of bread for my husband, Jeff.
My heart sank.
Because while the loaf looked perfect on the outside, when I cut into it, I found a doughy—almost liquid—center! How embarrassing! I’d cooked the loaves side by side, so I had no doubt that the loaf I’d given my boss was just as un-cooked as the one I’d kept. Jeff tried to comfort me as I cried over the situation. It’s the thought that counts, he’d reminded me (which was not very comforting at that moment).
More than eleven years have passed, and to this day, I’ve never given out banana bread without pricking it with toothpicks to make sure the bread is cooked all the way through.
Still, Jeff was right. While my boss may have chuckled when he realized that his new editor was not a great baker, I know he appreciated the effort.
I’ve given birth to three babies, and every time, friends and family have brought food—casseroles of all kinds, zucchini bread, cupcakes, even breakfast!  
A friend of ours passed away recently; all I could think to do was make a pot roast with vegetables and take it over to the grieving husband.
I had foot surgery several months ago, and the women of my supper club bombarded my family with amazing meals.
There’s just something about sharing food with each other. It’s how we show how much we care. When someone is weak or going through a difficult time, showing up with food meets an immediate need. I love the passages in Scripture that mention food—Jesus cooking fish for the disciples, turning water into wine, breaking bread at the Last Supper (just to name a few). One of my favorite Bible verses is John 6:35: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
I love that Jesus calls himself the “bread of life.” When I think of bread, I think of something warm, nourishing, soft, delicious . . . satisfying. Isn’t that so like Jesus?
When an opportunity arises, I’m very happy to provide a meal for a friend in need. But Jesus tells us that whoever comes to him will never go hungry again. It’s a different kind of contentment. Faith can fulfill us in a way that nothing else can.
My love of food and cooking has grown over the years (though I’m still not an expert by any means!). There’s nothing I enjoy more than setting plates around my table and feeding my family or hosting a dinner party for a group of friends. Food is a blessing. But Jesus . . . well, He’s the bread of life and He meets the deepest need in all of us.

Brandy Bruce is a wife, mother, writer, and book editor. And she’s someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the novels Table for Two, Second Chance CafĂ©, and Recipe for Love. Brandy makes her home in Colorado with her husband and their three children. You can connect with her online at
#brandybruce #fridaynight withfriends #linesfromleanna

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Turning Point: a Grateful Heart

Several weeks ago, the first green shoots of my jonquils peeked out of the ground and whispered that spring was on its way. When the buds began to open, spring (in my mind) had arrived. 

Those first green shoots serve as a kind of "turning point" for me, a sign that winter is on the way out, and spring is sure to follow. 

We have those turning points in life, too. Some years ago, I was going through a particularly hard time. I've written about this before, but the truth is so universal that it bears repeating. I truly did not think I would make it. Financially. Spiritually. In any way. My hope was gone.

A wise friend told me something I've never forgotten. "There will come a moment when everything will turn, and you'll be on your way out of this hard time. You might not recognize it at the time, but, looking back, you'll know." 

She was right. I waited for the "turning point" and nearly despaired in the waiting. One day, I was desperate more than any other day. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to turn. I had done what God had said, and I could see no way it was going to work out for me or my family. I was crying, hopeless, and broken. 

That particular day, I was seriously short on funds and had decided to stay in town and wait, rather than drive home and back, while my son was in school. I was trying to save every penny I could. With seven hours to go, I pulled into a parking lot to read my Bible and wait.

The passage was Psalm 50. Perhaps you know that passage. It has the "cattle on a thousand hills" verse. I suggested that the Lord sell some cattle to help me, when I had the strongest sense in my heart that I should "turn the page." It seemed a foolish word from God, mostly because I wanted to stay on the cattle page and argue for a divine cattle sale.

When the "turn the page" impression grew stronger, I finally did just that. What I found shocked me.

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High;
And call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.
Psalm 50:14-15 nasb

It wasn't the "pay your vow" part that gave me trouble. It was the "offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving" part.

A sacrifice of thanksgiving is thanks given when it's hard. When it costs us something. When we don't feel grateful. When we'd rather whine and complain.

That's where I was. I was out of gratitude.

I had an index card in my Bible. I grabbed a pen and listed things for which I could give thanks. I filled the front of the card, then I filled the back. I found a scrap of paper and filled it, too. 

At the end of my thanksgiving, something had changed. I had reached my turning point.

I didn't know it was a turning point, but my heart was lighter than it had been in weeks. My hope was restored.

I reached another turning point not long ago. The recent back injury nearly did me in. I freely admit that I'm a big baby about discomfort, but it was terrible to me. I dragged my leg and struggled for every step. 

A pastor friend saw my struggle and asked a question I didn't want to hear. "Have you thanked God for this back problem?"

Well, no. I hadn't.

I knew better, but once again, I had failed to thank God for what He'd allowed in my life because I didn't feel grateful. 

I'd learned from my previous turning point, though. I began to thank God for allowing my injury, for what He'd taught me through it, for what I hadn't learned yet but soon would, for the strength He would give me to carry on in the midst of my struggle. I thanked Him for the gracious help of friends, for the benefit of tylenol. On and on. 

I thanked Him that my trouble would one day end, because of the hope of heaven, even if my back never improved on this earth. I didn't "feel" that way, but I believed it was a Biblical principle. I was willing to be grateful for it. "If this is my thorn in the flesh, Lord, I thank you for it." 

It was a turning point for me. My fear about the injury evaporated with thanksgiving. My willingness to persevere was strengthened. 

Yes, my back was already improving, but recovery quickened. Hope returned. 

I believe the principle of Sacrificial Thanksgiving is one from which we can all benefit, because it comes with a promise. 

If we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, pay our vows to God, and call on Him, He will rescue us and use that rescue to honor Him.

Are you going through a hard time? Does it feel as if all hope is gone? As if you don't know which way to turn? Are you in need of a rescue that honors God? 

Perhaps what you need is a time of Sacrificial Thanksgiving. Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the things for which you can thank God in your trial. Don't whine. Don't complain about the trial. Thank Him.

After you have thanked Him, then call upon Him for help. 

When you've called on Him, rest in peace, because we serve a God who keeps His promises. Every single time.
The Friday Night With Friends blog post for this week has arrived in my inbox. Don't miss it.  It's so good. You'll enjoy it! Friday. 6 pm.
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#Theturningpoint #gratefulheart #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

My friend's dad died over the weekend after a difficult battle with cancer. The visitation and funeral were yesterday.

When I walked into the funeral home, people were everywhere. Groups of three or four people stood around talking and smiling. There was peace on the faces before me, not sorrow. 

At first, I thought I was in the wrong place. This was a funeral? It seemed too upbeat. I ventured a little further inside, saw my friend across the room, and realized what was different about this particular funeral. 

Peace and joy had filled the room. 

Every family member to whom I spoke said the same thing. "He's so much better off now." 

He hadn't lived a perfect life, but he had met Jesus and that meeting changed his life. And his eternity.

What I saw before me was the victory of Jesus, and a verse came to mind.

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
1 Corinthians 15:55 nasb

I read this passage in 1 Corinthians again today, and found it to be so encouraging that I'm reproducing it here. It's a reminder that the life we have in Christ is more than this broken, hurting world can give. 

We have an eternity with Jesus that is worth everything we suffer, everything we lose, everything we give up for Him. 

He is worth it.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery; 
we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet;

for the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

For this perishable must put on the imperishable,
and this mortal must put on immortality.

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable,
and this mortal will have put on immortality,
then will come about the saying that is written, 
"Death is swallowed up in victory."

Therefore, my beloved brethren, 
be steadfast,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15: 51-54, 58 nasb

When my time comes, and it will, I pray that those who remain behind will know, without a doubt, that my death is swallowed up in victory. Because it will be.

There is nothing more important in this world, and the next, than this one thing: Loving Jesus. In the end, He's all that matters, and He is worth it.

One day, that trumpet will sound for each of us, and we will respond. Let's be ready. 

Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 
#deathisswallowedupinvictory #linesfromleanna #leannahollis #eternity

Monday, February 22, 2016

Priorities and the Goat Demons: Who has first priority in your life?

My chronological Bible study is in Leviticus right now. All the "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" are a little overwhelming. This morning, though, I was startled by a verse I've previously overlooked. 

"And they shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations."
                                                                                        Leviticus 17:7 nasb

"If they worshipped a goat, they must never have had any goats," I thought at first, but then I remembered. Yes. They were shepherds. They did have goats and sheep. 

My son showed goats in 4-H. He liked goats. I did not. The ones with horns were mean to the ones without horns. They climbed on everything, were stinky and messy, and were not consistently cooperative. Except with Ryan. His goats adored him and did whatever he wanted. 

Ryan enjoyed working with goats, but I can't imagine considering a goat a god. Sacrifice to a goat? It seems ludicrous to me, but a demonic statue, complete with goat head, was unveiled in the satanic temple in Detroit July 2015. 

People still worship goat-idols today, but they are not the only false gods we worship. 

Anything to which we give highest allegiance can be a false god. Money. Power. Work. Family. 

It's a matter of priority. To what do we give highest priority? That place of preeminence should be reserved for Almighty God alone, but is it?

If we're like most believers, God ranks in our top five, but family, friends, work, and money all rank high, too. A high ranking on our priority list is a good thing for family but not for God. He wants the highest ranking and is adamant about it.

He's not being petulant or mean-spirited. He's being our good, wise Father. 

When He has greatest priority in our lives, we do things in a way that pleases Him. We choose His paths, His righteousness. We are faithful, kind, loving, patient, gentle, honest. 

Those attributes do not mark the lives of those who worship the goat idols.

Spend a few minutes thinking about your priorities. 

What are the most important things in your life? Which of those ranks higher than all the others? Is it as it should be? What changes are in order? 

"You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3 nasb
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List (updated this morning)

#priority #Priorityandthegoatdemons #whohasfirstpriorityinyourlife #linesfromleanna 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Starting a Prayer List

When I drove up I-22 toward Memphis for my monthly writers' meeting, I saw these broken trees and wondered, for a moment, what had happened. 

It struck me like a shaft to the heart when I remembered. Tornado. Holly Springs. Ashland. December 23, 2015. Two people died. Several were injured. Massive property damage. Many were left homeless. 

I prayed for them in December and early January. My heart broke for those who were affected by the storms. 

I wept for them. 

But. Other pressing issues distracted me, and I quit praying for them. 

The people who suffered those tragic events just before Christmas are no less in need of prayer. In a way, they need more prayer now.

My recent back injury (though nothing in comparison to the tornado victims' problems) has taught me that. (I'm much better, thank you, and ready to talk about what I've learned.)

At the beginning, I was so shocked about the injury that I didn't ask for prayer. When my pain and incapacitation worsened, I (like any victim of a disaster) realized it was bigger than my ability to press through. I begged people to pray for me, and they did. Friends texted every day to ask how I was doing. 

Recovery was slow. 

After several weeks, people would see me limping and comment, "I thought you'd be well by now." I wasn't well. I was exhausted and nearly insane from trying to struggle through. 

I needed prayer more than ever.

If it had been me, I'd have assumed the need was over, too. I'd have stopped praying. 

In fact, I did that very thing. The people involved in the Christmas tornado drifted right out of my mind, as did the people of Paris and many of the others for whom I've prayed. 

As I drove back from Memphis, I pondered how to remedy the problem. 

I need a list. Maybe we all need a list to help us remember. So, I'm starting one.

On my blog page (web version) I've added a gadget on the right hand sidebar labeled "The Prayer List". It's at the top because it's more important than gaining more email subscribers or linking to the online store. Starting today, it links to our prayer list. 

I'm including you because I know you'll pray. (Here's the direct link: Prayer List)

It will take a bit to build it, but I'm beginning this morning with the tornado victims and the Paris terrorist attacks. More prayer reminders will be added over the next few days. (It's a time-consuming process.) I'm including links to pertinent blog posts and a tiny bit of information to serve as prayer nudges. 

I'll be adding the prayer list link to the bottom of my blog posts. You can check there for updates and prayer concerns. 

We can make a difference when we pray, but we have to remember the need to pray for it. I hope this little list will help us change the world and touch those who are hurting. 

We can, if we will.

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you..." 1 Samuel 12:23 nasb

#startingaprayerlist #prayer #LeannaHollis #linesfromleanna