Saturday, January 30, 2016

You Are Already

I awoke this morning, as many mornings, with thoughts of the day and week before funneling through my conscious mind. After several of them cleared, I turned my inner heart to God and said to Him, “I want to be acceptable in your sight."

photo credit: fuzzbucket/deviantart


And He quickly replied, inaudibly, but I ever so clearly heard, “You are already." You are acceptable and approved. Jesus is all of this for you. Jesus did all of it for you. In Jesus, and you are in Jesus, you already are.

Oh, how we wander away from the simple facts of faith.

We get concerned that we are not included by humans. We are not asked. We are not invited. We are not offered ______________. You and I can both fill in that blank of everything we ponder that we think we want or need, but that has not yet been.

And then we forget the fact that it is:

God, not people, determines our acceptance and approval.


God meets all of our needs.

God opens doors and closes them.

God ordains the details of our life.

When we get our eyes and heart off of Him, we look to people to do this.

We (can I boldly say this, as I hesitate in fear).... do care about what people think about us, but we should not. People are so hard to please and are fickle; you are in one day and out the next. They often don’t understand us. Few will rarely ever KNOW US.

We want people to accept us, to approve us, to want us and include us.

HOWEVER,

This is WHY it is so important for us to get our eyes on GOD: Our heart tuned into God’s voice.

WHAT GOD THINKS ABOUT US IS ALL THAT MATTERS!!!





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Never Stop Growing

Life rattles me from time to time. This is common to people who are trying to grow. Doesn’t life rattle you?



"Less of me and more of God" is the mantra I want to embody, but oh, how self-centered and self-seeking I can be.

photo credit: sublimeone/deviantart

Just yesterday I saw someone that I had not seen in years. I greeted her cheerfully and was encouragingly responding to what she was sharing about her life. Then bam! out of nowhere I got clubbed over the head by her comments toward me. She shared her observations and reflections of one of my children as she knew him/her when he/she was younger and was telling me what problems she clearly observed in this child in particular but how she didn’t share it because she figured I was in denial and would not listen anyway. It was a learning disability. She said from her experience parents didn’t want to know.

I was dumbfounded. What? How? Why?

Then she added, "Well, you are a teacher, aren’t you? I figured you obviously KNEW because of your experience with children and simply was either choosing not to do something or you were in denial."

I went to my car and wept. I called a dear friend and we prayed for the comments to not attach to me and for the person who made them.

But God in His ever teaching way had me remember a few times that I have opened my mouth and probably clobbered others over the head with my words. I knew I was guilty too of hurting others.

As far as the situation with my child, he/she is doing the best in his/her life right now and I am so proud of the step he/she is making. We have prayed a lot for this chid and God is working in many ways answering prayers.

I recognize that I could have been permanently devastated, resentful and unforgiving... but that would only hurt me and because of my own words I often need to ask forgiveness of others. I simply need to release it to God and let it help me to grow.

Today I have on my schedule a meeting with someone who has been in my life for over 15 years on a professional basis but who has recently spoken to one of my children and hurt them deeply. I set this appointment up last week and, as God would have it, he gave me a powerful lesson on the ability of words to speak life or death. In my meeting today, I am praying for God to guide me to speak words of life, and to be gentle and compassionate as I explain our perspective of the previous hurtful conversation.

God has always wanted to get my attention and to help me get my words under the control of His Holy Spirit. I am grateful that he is a patient, long-suffering teacher.

So, here i am Lord. I am crawling back onto your potter’s wheel and asking you to mold me, continually, to be your vessel.

Thankfully today that my devotion is “Find Your Purpose”!

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lose Your Ego and Your Christian Ego

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” has been my life verse for many years.



It meant more --it was more real-- during the years that I was going through trauma counseling and had to cling to God moment by moment in order to survive and at least have some semblance of sanity to function in the world.

But it is so easier to “fake” it -- that is, to pretend a walk with Christ -- when you are not needing to desperately cling to Him in order to wake, walk, sleep and talk.

To live is Christ... is that so?

If someone followed me around all day long and recorded not only my outward actions and words but my inward thoughts would this recording say “to live is Christ" about me? No, because not even I would admit it at my present state. But then, I am pretty hard on myself, especially lately.

Oh, how do I get back to the rawness of “to live is Christ and to die is gain” kind of life?

It takes truly practicing the presence of God.


Photo Credit: seorangprempaun/deviantart

Can I do that? Can I even try?

For five minutes...ten...twenty... when I am not praying, or trying to pray...when I am driving a car, washing dishes, making a bed, reading a book?

Can I die to myself and put God first in my thoughts? Can I let Him have control?



RADICAL Thought

Why am I holding onto myself and "my life" for anyway?

It is frankly a mess.

It can only get better if I put HIM in his rightful place of total ownership of me.

All I can do is repent of not doing this, and ask God to enable me to.

Here I am God, fill me, be my presence, and let me be fully in yours and when I wander, because you know I am prone to wander, draw me back.

This is why I love the song “Come Thou Fount” -- This is sung by Sarah NoĆ«lle and it is a cover of Robert Robinson and John Wyeth's hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (1757)

For some reason many who record this old hymn take out this, my favorite part: 

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.





The Day 12 verse for Lose Your Ego, in our church’s devotional is “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” Proverbs 11:2.

So as Christians we need to be as careful about losing our ego, as well as our Christian Ego. So many Christians walk about with a “holy” facade and should have a “life is good” logo tattooed on their forehead. Is that mean? (My dd told me I was not sensitive enough and self-aware enough.)

In a quest to not be a “holy” fake I let it all lay bare. I lean more to “it is what it is” “I am what I am” personality. And that scares the heck out of many people, especially church people, because they have taken decades of practice to know how and when to speak and act. (Who has time for that?)

So I can pray for God alone to temper me, not be be like others and to fit in, but to be like JESUS.

There should be no pride in becoming like Jesus and being acceptable to Him, because this is not a high road to take. Becoming like Jesus is learning to die to self, and if you are really doing that, no bragging or boasting or acting in ways that make people look at you will happen. I am far from that ideal: Jesus.

We need to PRACTICE the PRESENCE of GOD!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lose Your Former Days and Need for Other’s Praise

photo credit: perhydrol/Deviantart
Ok, these two “lose” topics do not fit together, but “days” and “praise” rhyme so I thought what the “hey” maybe God will bring unity to them in the end.

I confess. I have been doing that a lot lately: confessing, that is. But, I confess that the devotional topics over these 40 days are quite heavy and really hard to deal with in a single day, so combining them does not help, but I don’t want to skip one. (Who am I a slave to? Who set that goal?)

Today I will start with the Bible verses, since yesterday I ended with them and concluded that it might have helped me to focus more on God if I started with them.

Don’t say, “Why were the former day better than these?” since it is not wise of you to ask this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

I will need to examine this above verse in context. I am left with so many questions, aren’t you? And the next Bible verse is:

The fear of man is a snare, but the one who trust in the Lord is protected” (Proverbs 29:25).

I love this Proverb. I just read a devotional from a pastor from a Nashville Church and his main focus was what we do does not matter as much as WHY we do it. He asked are we doing things to “be loved” or to “be loving”?

The Bible says that in 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” And is this not the main point? We love because we are loved by GOD and since we are so loved and so undeserving of HIS love that we should want to love others. If we are needing to be loved, we need to run to God, not others. I don’t know how many times I have to tell people (and myself) to stop worrying about what people think and ONLY care about what GOD thinks!!!! I want to get this on a big neon sign and put in up in people’s houses and churches.

Stop worrying about what people think and ONLY care about what GOD thinks!” 

We should be continually renewing our mind with God’s thoughts; one essential way to do this is to read the Bible and to listen to God. He needs to be our number one source of what flows into us: our gatekeeper, our feeder, and our go-to person for everything and every need.

We all have a past.

We all have former days.

We have all blown opportunities and made mistakes.

We have all done things we should not have done.

We have all craved approval of others and love of others.

One thing is common to us all: WE ARE ALL HUMAN.

But,
"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15.

And 

"For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” Hebrews 2:17. 

Jesus was human in every way we are, but he was without sin. Jesus kept his thoughts on God, not on what man thought about him. 

See:

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19

Jesus did nothing of Himself. 

He did what He saw the God the Father doing. 

Jesus was continually in touch with Father God and spoke and did what He wanted Him to say and do. 

This is total surrender, total reliance.

And this IS the way we should be living. 

Jesus is our model. We are to conform ourselves to Jesus. We are in God's process of being transformed into the image of Christ. This is God’s work in our life, to continually make us more like Christ Jesus. The more we surrender to God and allow Him to do this work, the more we grow.

Part of the process of sanctifying us is helping us to work through our past not to simply ignore it like it did not ever happen. God wants us to learn from it and to gain blessings from it being transformed in our life. So losing your former days doesn’t mean you drop them off at some recycling center or dump. We give them up to God and allow Him to walk us through the ones He wants to teach us about. It is all about trusting our past, our present and our future in the hands of God and obeying Him. 

But this takes a personal relationship with Him. It can’t be done in a group session or a step-by-step book. If you are serious about God and growing and being a Christian, you have to have a daily talking, walking relationship with God. You have to be tuned into Him. You have to get the chatter out of your head and the distractions out of your life so that you can really have a relationship with Him, and not just pretend like you do.

Jesus is our standard, no one else. Jesus is who we are to aim to please, no one else. If we could get this settled in our hearts and minds and never struggle with it again, we--Christians--would be on the fast track of sanctification. 

I am talking to myself and to anyone who cares to read this: 

If God is pleased with me, I am good!
















Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lose Your Hurts and Your Offenses


I feel stuck. If you look at the past week of my blog writings you will see that I seem to be going in a downward spiral. I guess that is not really that I am stuck but moving downward. On the positive side I am moving. I am making my point clear? I am running in circles. And heading down.

I am Stuck - My Junk



And the whole point could be that I am focuses on me.

I thought this 40 days was supposed to have me focus on God. I keep wanting to say, “Ugh!” but that does not sound like something an educated writer would say. But “UGH” expresses what I can currently verbalize.

Another positive note is the more I move down, I can only improve as the days eventually go on.

So I dread looking at the next two topics in our church’s 40 day devotional: hurt and offenses.

Some things have happen in the past few days that is causing me to be “off.”  The top shelf in our bedroom closest came crashing down. The Closetmaid braces pulled out of the walls and most of them simply snapped. The plastic was old, brittle and could not withstand the weight. So the clothes and boxes of stuff on the top shelf fell to the ground. As soon as I heard the sound I went in my room and began saving first my husband’s dress shirts and suits. I made piles of nicely stacked clothes all over our king size bed. And today, several days later these piles are still on our bed and the closet is still torn apart. “UGH!”

Positively, I do have a bunch of clothes and stuff. (I am trying to make the best of this, badly, but trying.)

One of the boxes I took from the very corner of the top shelf was heavy so I wondered what could possibly be in it. Opening the lid I discovered it filled with everything that had to do with abuse... child abuse...my child abuse, and copies I had made from library books on parenting and abuse, and copies of letters I had written my parents (I am not sure if I mailed them or not) and a huge manuscript that I had written in the 1980s about my childhood and so many other things that had been buried in the top shelf corner of the closest for a decade or more. “UGH!!”

As people do that have PTSD and other mental conditions related to shattering trauma I have been off kilter.

There I said it.
I am struggling.
My mind is rattled and so are my thoughts.

I am running in this direction and that but I am running, running, running... anything to keep me from focusing. I am agitated, easily made irritable and mentally beating up on myself. I have slept so much, eleven hours last night and that was after five hours during the day. Yes, I have been so NEGATIVE the past few days. Negative, irritable, avoiding, disassociating ... wanting to do anything but focus.

Breathe

“Breath” by mechtaniya Deviantart

Wow! In typing that I was able to take a HUGE deep cleansing breath.

I don’t have a great godly or theological point I am writing about. I am just being real, raw, me... and this is helping so much to get me unstuck.

God pours out his grace and love on me. 
He cuddles me,
And loves me, 
regardless of the condition of my psyche at the precise moment. 

And how much I wish as a church, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we could be like Christ in this way.

I wish people would just wrap their arms around me, pour grace all over me and love me through times like this. I do have friends and my own husband and children that do this, but I wish this was something we as a church were continually ready to do. We all have our histories, our quirks, our issues that stir up the yuck inside that God is still perfecting. We all need grace and love that is supremely bigger than our mess.

Bible

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).

Should I have started with these verses? It might have helped me to focus on God and not me. Sometimes we have to dig out of our stuff, tossing it here and there, work through it so that the light of God’s Word can pierce into our negativity. 

I need to let these verses help me turn my attention to God’s ability to help me when I hurt. One of the biggest mountains that anyone has to overcome is forgiving a person who has hurt him or her. And forgiveness is not something that is a one time act but a way of living. It is the balm, the salve, the medication we need to heal deep wounds. 

Hurts are real, therefore we NEED a God that is REAL and ABLE to heal us. And Jehovah God is! He is who has says he is. He is Jehovah-Rapha, the LORD that Heals! But healing is not magical, it is most always a process that we walk in day by day. 

I wish I could go deeper today but that is all I have.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lose Your Guilt

There are several keys to understanding guilt.


  1. The first one is that guilt is a normal human reaction when we do something wrong, especially when we get caught. Another is that it is common among men, we all have felt it. 
  2. For Christians, guilt is not to be a lifestyle but an emotional we feel and then process through when we admit we have done wrong to God and man, and repent.
  3. Jesus is the standard of right and wrong. Also Jesus is the reason we as Christians do not have to live in a lifestyle of guilt.
  4. For Christians we do not have to suffer through a waiting period, in a sense a purgatory of shame, before we accept God’s forgiveness and let him take our guilt away. 
Once I learned this Bible verse I cherished it and quickly memorized it:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
If you haven’t learned it yet. Memorize it. You will need it many times in life to keep from suffering false guilt and believe me the world and Satan wants you to stay miserable suffocated by false guilt, or to take upon a mantle of shame.

Experience

I don’t have to go to far in time to come up with many experiences of sin. Realize there are some sins that are general to all, for example we should all not steal or commit adultery.

But there are also many sins that are simply vows or promises between us personally and God. For example when we are going through a fast and we break it knowingly and intentionally, we sin.

Two nights ago I saw a specialty piece of chocolate left over from Christmas, it was a chocolate truffle. I was on day 6 of no meats and sweets in a fast, but I still placed that chocolate in my mouth and tried to savor the taste. 

Of course I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did all the other times I have eaten a quality piece of chocolate because I knew I was sneaking it. I felt the guilt the minute I bit it. I thought of throwing the rest of it in the trash but, no, I finished it. 

While I didn’t want anyone in my family to know I had just consumed it, that didn’t matter, because both God and I knew. 

Nailed! I had succumb to temptation and messed up my fast.

My Choice


It is at this point that I had two choices. 
  1. I could confess it to God and then give up fasting and just go back to eating meats and sweets.
  2. I could confess it to God and accept His forgiveness and go back to fasting.
Regardless of my choice I would have taken, it did no good for me to beat myself up, because even if I gave up the fasting and went back to eating the meats and sweets I was still going to have to go to God and ask Him to forgive me. If I would have ignored this step, I would have had unconfessed sin between God and myself. And I have learned very long ago, that there is no need to delay in confessing and repenting. The key to repentance is that we TURN away from the sin, that we sin no more and do what we should be doing according to God. 

What good would it be for me to hate on myself? Would that make me more sorry and a better person? 

So over the years I have learned to go quickly, to run to the cross, to confess the sin and to repent.

 It is at that moment that my relationship with God is restored. As far as God is concerned my sin is remembered no more because it is covered in the blood of Jesus. Yes, Jesus even died on the cross for this sin. And I can cling to: 
“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and

“For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12) and

“I have swept away your offenses as a cloud, your sins like a morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22). 
These are just a few of the times God so graciously and beautiful tells us when he forgives our sins, we are no longer guilty! Praise God!

A Testimony


Realize that people who are not Christians and become aware of your sin will

  • not understand how you can so quickly recover, 
  • wonder how you can walk without condemnation as soon as you confess, 
  • doubt how you can make a determination before God to change and sin no more in that specific area. 
They will think you are flippant, not sorrowful enough, maybe even getting away with sin too easy; They will want you to suffer under guilt and condemnation like they do. But know that this can be a great testimony to them of God’s sufficient grace and love. This is one of the areas we have been set free. Jesus died on the cross and conquered death and rose again to set us free from the penalty, power and condemnation of sin. He says, “Go and sin no more” not “Go and suffer guilt” (John 8:11).

So obey Jesus. Accept His forgiveness. Take upon your life His grace. And go and sin no more. Allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to sin no more. Place your dependence on Him, not yourself.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lose Your Complacency

Six days in a row. I am not sure I will make it 40 but I have not given up yet. Maybe I will soon combine two days to give myself a day of rest.



Who am I doing this for anyway?


Life check?


Is God requiring it of me? no


Is it something I want to do? partially


Is it something I am afraid to stop? partially


What gives?



I have not written on my blog basically since my mother died in Oct of 2015. So I started writing on it again five days ago to expand on the devotional verse given by my church to help us focus on God during a 40 day prayer time. And now I feel compelled --like if I miss one day I will have an incompletion in a college course. But since this is not so, what compels me?

I am writing again and making it public. I have been writing but I have kept it private. I almost came to the point that it does not matter if I write...because frankly, no one really cares. It does not effect anyone or anything expect for my mind and time and family.


I have come to believe that people really don’t even read blog posts anymore. 


Who has time? 

There is such a slush of writing; it does not matter. 
So why do I keep pecking at the keys? 
Why do I get up and go do something in my house and they come right back to this seat and keyboard? 
Have I found my replacement to what I am giving up otherwise? 
Have I found an idol, a small god? 
Does my voice rattling in my head wedge out God’s voice?

Complacency Defined


And today I am suppose to “Lose my complacency” however I find I am cynical and complacent but wait...(what does it mean, anyway)

complacency:  a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements.
synonyms: smugness, self-satisfaction, self-congratulation.
Good thing I looked it this definition. I really thought 
complacency meant apathy, who didn’t 
give a care. Well, it does to a degree mean this but it is 
coupled with a lack of awareness that something bad or 
dangerous is going to happen. A person who is happy with 
himself and unaware or not worrying about pending trouble.

A person who continually eats junk food is complacent about

his health. Now it makes more sense. A person who is lazy 
is complacent about her housework. 

I guess I never connect being complacent with being satisfied 

or smug.











Consider



Am I complacent? Or you?

What does God’s Word say? 

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you either one or the other! So,
because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

I like this quote that unfortunately had not reference source: 
""Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. `Good enough' becomes today's watchword and tomorrow's standard."

Zephaniah 1:12 says: 

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps
    and punish those who are complacent,
    who are like wine left on its dregs,
who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing,
    either good or bad.’

I KNOW that the LORD will act. He always does and He will fulfill his promise both of blessings and of curses. 

And if this is so, then when am I so lackadaisical?

Oh, God, examine my heart and weed out the root of complacency. Help me to pinpoint the root and to need just nip at the fresh weedy shoots that are obvious. Expose the core of my desperate need.


Lose Your Self-Reliance

My husband’s life verses are:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:3-5)
These verses were in his grandmother’s home so upon visits to her house-- and there were many in the summer when he was young and she lived in town-- that he pondered these words.

In later years they became dear to him not only because of their familiarity and the blessed association he had of wonderful times visiting his grandmother and likewise spending a great deal of time with his cousin, but because his relationship with God deepened, and the fullness of the words spoken in the Bible became something he could hold onto in all seasons to bring him to the right direction of how he should respond and walk in a manner pleasing of God.


Oh, how we need a fresh wind of faith and action in the church of Christians--in general--of deep reliance upon God alone! It is quite an easy thing in America to claim to be a Christian and quite a remarkably different thing to actually be a Christian. And I am sure many wonder what could be the difference.

Isn’t it enough to simply claim to want and know Christ?!?!? (Keep pondering this and read on.)

It is far easier to NOT be a Christian than to be one regardless of what we claim to be. Everyone knows a person’s actions really tell what they believe. We humans do what we believe--our actions are our testimony of faith.

In life we have too many crutches, conveniences and, frankly, distractions. We make ourselves busy about things that amount to nothing, and yet it is these very things that will build us into the person we will be and are. We are what what do, as much as we are what we eat. What we allow to be fed into us will become us.

So we must chose carefully

each day

what we will do

and how we will occupy

the moments of the day

that build into the minutes and hours. 

For some days--I know--half the day is gone before I have even considered what I am doing. This is self-reliance!

And we are building a bad habit in our 21st century life. We are awaking and while still lying on our backs in bed we have reached for our phone and begun filling our mind with the feed of the day. Yes, even before we have had time to greet the LORD of the day. This is self-reliance!

I confess, being over fifty that it is much harder to chop off the distractions and to not be tempted to reach out for our means of distraction than it was ten or twenty years ago.

In Context

Chapter 3 in Proverbs gives us the benefits of wisdom. It is addressed to “My son” and he is instructed “do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commandments;” (Proverbs 3:1).

After this instruction a blessing is promised for those who keep God’s commandments: 
For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you.” (Proverbs 3:2)
We are also told in verse 7: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil” and then given another promise of blessing in verse 8: “It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

 God warns that we should “let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4).

Three times in Chapter 3 God admonishes us to be reliant on Him and His instruction. The first was in Proverbs 3:1 which is quoted above. The other two are:

  • My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, jus as a father the son in he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12) and
  • My son, let them not depart from your eyes--keep sound wisdom and dissertation; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck” (Proverbs 3:21-22).

And He continues with another very reassuring promise for those who rely on Him. It is a conditional phrase, and if-then proposition. If you do these things then God will do this:
Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught (Proverbs 3:23-26).


Application


So, now that we know what we should do and how God will bless us if we live a life that is not self-reliant to the point that we are not God-reliant first, what is your response? 

How will you and I adjust our life?

And this is why my church sets aside forty days beginning in the middle of January to help us to refocus on God and His ways and His desires for our life. I have 35 days to go and already I have quite enough adjustments that need to be made to my life, but will they be temporary or permanent. 

How much do I want to change? 

How much do I want God to be my life?

When it gets down to the stark reality of how my relationship is going with God the only person responsible for its condition is me. 

How steadfast am I? 

How surrendered am I? 

How strong am I to cut out the things in life that distract me from God, His precious voice, and His enabling to live every moment as nearly as possible for Him?

Am I seeking to be and live in HIS presence? To be sensitive to HIM and Him alone?

As a mother and wife, what I do daily for my family and others is a living sacrifice unto HIM. But more important than what I do, is who I am, which to a deep degree is reflected by my devotion to HIM, and surrender of my wants and wills to His.

For this I need to hear His voice, and feed the Holy Spirit in me so that His voice is louder than my own and the world. Am I living based on conviction of God and what He tells me or confidence (or approval) of others? Am I walking with the herd (the majority), the approval of people around me or am I living based on my deep conviction God has given me?

I need to live by this mantra:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:3-5).





Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lose Your Idols

My church’s devotional text today is Isaiah 44:9-
All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 
This is the same verse in the New King James -
Those who make a graven image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know that they may be ashamed.

In Context

Chapter 44 in Isaiah begins with God speaking to His servant Israel, His chosen people in a very loving, reassuring tone. Listen to some of His words:
"Fear not, ... I will pour water on him who is thirsty...I will pour My Spirit on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring” (from Is 44: 2-5). 
Then God “LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts” reminds them who he is:
“I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God” (Is 44:7).
and He continues:
“You are My witness. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Is 44:8)
It is clear: there is only ONE God. Jesus is God.

Anyone else is an idol, a false god, 
just as anything else is.

Now, that we know the context, we are ready for the verse of the day chosen to remind us to let go of our idols in our life. We like Israel, we God’s Chosen people, His church are His witness to the world.

We are His representatives, 
His ambassadors; 
We may be the only Bible a person ever sees. 

What kind of Bible are you?
Therefore we must take this seriously. What we say, what we do, what we wear... all this will be viewed by non-believers and even immature, new believers. We are a living testimony.



What is our life saying about God? We need a God-view, a Biblical perspective to take a strong look at our heart and outward life to see if there is anything unpleasing and idolatrous to God. Is there anything or anyone that usurps God’s rightful place in our life? Is there anything that gives the wrong picture or image that could cause someone to stumble or even be repelled from God?


Reflection


Being a free-spirit, I don’t like this. Honestly it is very hard to be a free spirit. So many people think it must be nice but it takes a careful walk with God, and it causes me to endure many times of being molded, shaped and refined by God. In my free-spiritedness take on life, I expose my weaknesses frequently. Yet, it is the personality God created me to have, and for it I am grateful.

I know Jesus died to set me free. I am free to live for God. I am not to be encumbered by man’s rules but to be only restrained by my love and respect for God. It takes a lot of study in God’s Word to separate man’s tradition and worldly ideals of godliness from actual Biblical guidelines given to me for my good by God Himself. I only want to be pleasing to God and to enjoy Him endlessly. But, I am His witness; I want people to desire to know Him and to be loved by Him.

Going Deeper


So let us look back at the original verse:

"Those who make a graven image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know that they may be ashamed” (Is 44:9).
God is contrasting His chosen people, His own witnesses with those who make for themselves graven images and who have false gods. He says these false gods are useless. Yet those who have them consider their idols to be precious. But, idols have no profit. People who chose idols over God are both their own witness as are their idols. And these people are blinded. They do not see or know that they are bowing to idols and do not know that they should even be ashamed.

What a horrible state we were all once in!

Is it not true?

We were all at one time blinded to our idols and many of us still are. If we are far away from God and aren’t studying His word we don’t even know what the idols are and that we should be ashamed of them.

Oh, how we all need to cling to God and go deeper, continually seeking for His to reveal idols in our heart and life so that we may be rid of them.

And how I pray in my own life that when God reveals an idol that I would not resist Him or want to cling to it, but that I would drop it like a red, hot coal taken from a simmering fire. Still, I know myself. And too often I will simply want to pour a little cold water on it so that I can keep it for later, maybe when no one is looking or when I am not drawing near to God and I can peek at it or even hold it again.

Let me bring it to the cross and recon it crucified with Christ. Let me see the precious blood of Jesus pour all over it, so that I dare not desire it. And let me remain in the presence of God until once again I hear Jesus say, “It is finished.” Jesus died once for all sins.

It is our duty to recognize idols in our own heart and to repent so that we may be clean and pure before Him. This is the joy of having a prayer life and of drawing nearer to God through fasting. May we all continue on this way.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lose Your Insecurity

We all struggle with insecurity. We never feel like we measure up, that we are good enough. But what are we trying to measure up to and who are we trying to be good enough for? We live in a world where we are continually judged and criticized, not always in a negative way but simply as part of life. People all around us are looking at the way we look, act, and speak and making decisions about us. They are thinking about if they like us, if they would like to know us, if they would want to work with us or include us. We want to be accepted, invited, wanted and ultimately loved.

But whose opinion matters? People are so fickle and frankly it is so hard to please people. You can be “in” with them one day and “out” the next. So many people treat others as trash that can be discarded whenever they feel like it. Instead of cherishing the velveteen rabbit that has been with them throughout the ups and downs in life, they one day look at the raggedy stuffed thing and want to toss it away for something new or different. Relationships can be so painful, but in life they are so necessary. We were created to be in relationship, so how can we ever lose insecurity?

It all depends on who we value as the one to tell us our worth. Are you love able? Are you accepted? Are you precious just the way you are today?

Solomon speaks to his beloved,
“You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)

Background


Christians learn that the book the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) is a love story between a man (Solomon, King of Israel) and his love, Shulamith (daughter of Peace), but also an allegory of Christ’s love for his church. Solomon asked God to grant him wisdom and God did this.

While we have Holy Spirit inspired writings (God-breathed words) from Solomon we also know from accounts in the Bible that Solomon as a King and man did not always please God, especially in his later years of life; Solomon is not the ideal we should be following. However, Jesus is! And these beautiful words written by Solomon are words of adoration spoken from one who loves his bride. God loves His people, His chosen, His beloved.

Biblically, we know that as children of God, we are his bride. We are to enjoy the fullness of love in knowing God, through our relationship initiated by Jesus and enabled by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Continually, the Bible speaks of this mystery -- Christ in us and we in Christ. However, it is a fact by faith that we must embrace, confess and meditate upon, allowing God through the Holy Spirit to not only help us to understand it but to experience it: God dwells in us and loves us.

Frankly, if we really believed that the very person who created the universe--every plant, animal, star and human--loved us so much that he called us “absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection” we would not believe the lies of insecurity that beat us down and make us doubt ourselves.

This is an ever-growing problem within the hearts of people. I am sometimes surprised to hear people who seem to be so confident, so accomplished, so successful utter sincere words of insecurity. People question everything about how they look, what they say, do and don’t say and do. We live in continual doubt. And isn’t doubting the very way the sneaky, serpent Satan drew Eve to sin in the very first place? He asked her, “Did God really say that?” leaving a lingering question within her mind and heart, turning her away from God.

When we turn our focus from God onto others and listen to the half-truths or insinuations of others, we can be so easily fooled and led astray.

Insecurities rob us of peace.


King Solomon spoke these words of complete love to Shulamith to illustrate how love brings peace to us. How if we believe with all of our mind and heart that God truly loves us and sees us complete in Christ, completely righteous as Jesus was righteous, with no imperfection, we could be set free from the bondage of insecurity.

Application


We need to continually renew our mind remembering that God approves of us, loves us, is in the process of completing us and when he looks upon us he sees the completed work of Christ, not our sins, failures, and shortcomings. The Bible teaches us that “He who began a good work is faithful to complete us.” (Phil 1:6) So while we are not yet, perfect/complete, God can sees us completed/perfected because he is the one who is going to be faithful to complete us.

Therefore, when we are tempted to doubt ourselves or when someone else criticizes us, we need to only look to God and sees what his response is. He says, “You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection.” If God is pleased then should we not also be pleased?

Of course this does not mean you and I currently have no areas in our life to learn to become obedient to God and christlike, just the opposite. It means that we are continually in God’s process of completion and the we are trusting HIM to be faithful to complete us to be totally Christlike. Are we finished? no. Are we in the process and being finished by God? yes

And it is in this fact that we can, no, we must rest, having peace and being secure in what God thinks about us!

We must rest in being fully confident that God is pleased with us and the progress we are making.

Of course, we can only feel this way if we are indeed having our own personal time with God throughout the day, living in His presence, and being obedient to Him. I can tell you all day this is what God says and thinks about you but until you hear it firsthand from Him you will not have the same peaceful security. You need to be able to hear God’s voice inside when other’s question you and reject you. You need to know firmly that you are precious to God and pleasing Him, and that is everything!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lose Your Labels

My church devotional today is “Lose Your Labels” using Galatians 3:28 -
“There are no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 
This verse does not say poor or rich, but it does say slave or free. And Jesus speaks in the gospels about not treating people differently regardless of their condition in life.

Photo by Chelsea-martin on DeviantArt

An Experience 


I unconsciously labeled someone last night.

I was eating out with my daughter and a dear friend. As we were leaving and putting up our dishes, I noticed a socially awkward man refilling his drink in a plastic, soft drink container. At first I thought he was toting along oxygen and had a nurse aid with him, but upon further examination I realized the young lady in the nurse attire was not attending to him and indeed what he was rolling around with him was a slender, upright, black, material-covered cart with his belongings. He was cheerful and talkative to the people gathering between the trash and the drink dispensers.

When I passed by he said something about liking the way my perfume smelled. Startled I mumbled a comment about not wearing perfume as I returned to my seat to wait for my accompanying guest to return from the restrooms.

I kept looking at the man move oddly about, chatting cordially, and for the most part being treated quite respectfully by others. My heart tugged.

I wanted to reach out but didn’t quite know what to say or do. The weather was bitter cold outside. But quickly my company had returned and I made my way out to the car.

I made a comment to them about thinking the man I saw was homeless and I kept looking into the restaurant window from a distance as we got into the car. But as we all began chattering, he was quickly out of sight and out of mind.

Upon awakening this morning I was, in a way, haunted by my lack of response. Where did this man sleep last night? What was his story? Of course, I don’t have a clue because I didn’t take time to ask. I hurried off to a prayer meeting at church. Ugh! What would Jesus have done?


And I open my devotion this morning and read that I am to lose labels.

Did I label that man last night? Yes, I did. I thought he was a little off; maybe mentally unstable. I thought he might have been homeless but I did not know for sure. I thought if I approached him to talk he would have talked all night and I would not have been able to break away. I would have been late for my meeting. I was not the good samaritan. I was the religious person hurrying on to get to prayer. How hypocritical!

Even worse, I am not sure how I would have helped this man if he didn’t have a place to stay. I know people at our church help the homeless. I know of local organizations that I support that make sure the homeless are sheltered on very cold nights. But I did not get involved last night, and I don’t have the numbers to help a person I meet in need.

I can only truly repent if I have a plan as to what I will do the next time to not repeat my inaction,  because repentance means I will turn from my sinful ways and change. It is easy to say, “I am sorry God,” but quite a different thing to be sorrowful to the point of making the steps to be different so that you will sin no more in the same way. This will take stepping out into inconvenience and awkwardness. This will also take becoming informed so I can knowledgeably assist a person in need.

In Context

Our verse, Galatians 3:28, is surrounded by teaching on living by faith and being justified by faith and not by works. Immediately prior to this verse, Paul teaches that the Old Testament law was given to us to drive us to faith knowing that we could not possibly keep the law without the Holy Spirit, and that the law is a tutor.

Galatians 3:25 says “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” 

And this is the great equalizer - Christ Jesus! For you are all (as many of you as were baptized into Christ)--you are all, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus
“There are no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)
Jesus Christ brings unity. When a person regardless of their identity, background, and status comes to faith in Christ Jesus and becomes a son of God, this person is God’s child. We are all God’s children! We are all heirs in Christ Jesus. We are brothers and sisters. We are sons of God.

Jesus came to redeem us, "those who were under the law", so that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal 4:5) And because “you are sons, God has sent for the the Spirt of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba Father!” (Gal 4:6) We "are no longer a slave (in bondage to sin and under the law) but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ Jesus.” (Gal 4:7)

This makes me want to shout, "Amen! Alleluia!”

Application

Look around yourself. When you go to school, to work, to church, or to a restaurant, do you feel different? Do you see people who are different from you? How do you rate yourself among those you are with? What does God say about you? What does God say about others? Do you label people or yourself? Does God?

Know yourself. Know your identity and then extend this to others. 

If you have faith that Jesus lived a sinless life and died for your sins, that he paid your penalty and set you free from the bondage of sin, you believe that Jesus is your savior. You then must confess that Jesus rose, is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is your Lord/Master. Then, you are saved and become a son of God, are sealed with the Holy Spirit and are permanently an heir of God through Christ Jesus!

If you believe this for yourself, then accept this and believe it for anyone else who confesses as you do. Know that each who does this regardless of their past sins, heritage, social status, citizenship and life experiences are likewise siblings of God, your brothers and sisters, equal heirs of God. 

And knowing this, love one another and serve one another. Be gracious, kind and forgiving to all. 

Going back to the gentleman that I saw at the restaurant last night, I should have had a God-centered heart for him. Now I must pray to God and keep reading the Bible learning to see what that means for me in word and actions. I must be ready to walk by faith. 



Monday, January 11, 2016

Lose Your Baggage

Today’s verse that I have looked at in my church devotions is Hebrews 12:1:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,"

We are encouraged to search ourselves to find what in our life is hindering and entangling us and therefore is “baggage" in our life that we need to let go.

 I love to read verses in context to get the full meaning of a verse. The books of the Bible were not originally written with chapters and verses, so I decided to look at Chapter 11, especially since our verse begins with “therefore” indicating that it is pertaining to what came before it.

In Context


Hebrews 11 is known as the chapter of the Bible that defines faith by giving a definition (“faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”) and providing many examples of people from the Old Testament who showed godly character of faith. Toward the end of Chapter 11 we learn that many believers had to endure being persecuted for their faith. They were
stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheep skins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented ... They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:37-38)
Then it end with saying,
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (Hebrews 11: 39-40)
So we see that even after being persecuted on earth for their faith, they did not get to realize God’s promises to them in this temporal life on earth, but went on to eternal life which was certainly much better. This life is the kind of life that God also offers to us.

How many people would be saved today in our culture if Hebrews 11 was read before the invitation was given at church? How many would sign up for a relationship with Jesus fully knowing that it included being willing to be persecuted and to never know God’s promises in a physical way but to only possess Him and His goodness spiritually?

We all need to examine ourself and allow God to examine our own heart in light of these verses.

Let us re-read the last portion of Hebrews 11 and let it flow into the beginning of Hebrews 12.  Here it is:
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (Hebrews 11: 39-40)
 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1)

Understanding 


Doesn’t this way of reading the Bible really expand the meaning of a verse and make its meaning so much clearer? It does for me.

We absolutely can see that the “great cloud of witnesses” is both those who have died as heroes of faith, those spoken about in Chapter 11 which basically includes believers in God who acted on his behalf while living on earth, and people who remained faithful to God regardless of the persecution. We are blessed to be considered worthy of this group! The same group that the world did not consider worthy. Let that be a strong reminder to you that you will not be thought of too highly by the world, and this makes you belong to a great group of people that includes Jesus!

Being sold out to God, and prepared to endure whatever may come our way because of our faith, it is just obvious that we are going to be the kind of people who will throw off everything that hinders our walk with God and entangles in sin because we want to be able to RUN with perseverance in what God has called for us to do. He already has the race marked out for us; we simply need to be ready to run it with perseverance. We can’t let anything get in our way, or anyone. When God calls, we need to be ready to arise, go, and get busy with His work.

But we have more! The sentence that begins in Hebrews 12:1 does not end there; it continues into verse 2. Verse 1 ends with a comma so we need to keep on reading to get the completed thought God is speaking to us.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great could of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1)
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
We not only have the past saints that were faithful but we can be encouraged by Jesus who himself showed us the perfect example of faithfulness to God. Jesus strived against sin, resisting it to bloodshed. Matter of fact two verses later Hebrews 12:4 reminds us of just this, “You have not resisted to bloodshed striving against sin” like Jesus did. 1 Corinthians says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be temped beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 


Applying


God provides for us in two ways: he gives us a way of escape when we are tempted by sin and he is ready to forgive us as soon as we commit a sin so that we should confess and sin no more. By living in a life of being continually alert to temptation and ready to repent, we will remain steadfast in our walk of faith. We will not live in a lifestyle of sin, in iniquity, but instead we will be throwing off everything that hinders our walk and that could possibly cause us to sin.

Are you ready? Do you want to run after God? Then throughout this day, ask God to show you what tempts you to sin. Follow the sin all the way to where it begins. Remember that a sin is seeded first in our desire from the lust of our flesh, our eyes and the pride of life. Sin begins within, in our thoughts.

Prayerfully ask God to show you these thoughts that need to be transformed into truth based on God’s Word. Lies entangle and trap us, but the truth sets us free. Let that extra baggage go, and experience the joy that Jesus knew.


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