The Gift of Words

In January of 2016 I heard a pastor encourage his congregation to ask God for a specific word for them for the year. A focal point that aligns with His plans for them, or perhaps just a loving reminder. I had never done this, but thought it sounded like a good idea. Later that week, as I prayed and asked God for a word, he led me to Psalm 121. It’s a beautiful passage of only 8 verses, and as I finished reading it, there was a central theme and it jumped off the pages at me. One word, and I knew it was God’s word to me for the year…SECURE.

What a great word, don’t you think? I mean, to know that God was reassuring me, that no matter what I encountered throughout the year, I could stand firm with the promise of His presence as he watched over me, went before me, beside me, and behind me, and He would never let me down. Faithful, yes, my God is faithful, and I am secure.

Insecurity has always been a struggle for me. He knows that. Wasn’t that so loving of Him to give me the reassurance I needed? Looking back at 2016, there were no great tragedies or life-shaking moments. There were times of fear, change, and uncertainty…but I had my word from the Word. What a gift His Word is!

Well, January 2017 rolled around, and I was excited to ask God for my new word for the year. I had been given a devotional book on joy, and I had a sneaky suspicion that might be it, but I also knew that was coming from my own thoughts. As I sat reflecting on 2016 I recognized that I desired to go deeper with the Lord. In the busyness of life, I was not having as much one-on-one time with Him, and I hungered for more of Him. My husband and I study the bible together daily, which is a wonderful blessing we share together and is foundational in our marriage, but I was missing having a regular time with God that was just Him and me. As I was praying about 2017 and asking Him to give me a word for the year, this word popped into my head.

Commune. I knew it didn’t come from my thoughts, because it is not one of those words I use in my everyday vocabulary. I knew in general what the word meant, but I was curious about the actual definition…I wanted to dig further, gotta love Google!

Commune: to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy, etc.; interchange thoughts or feelings. Its synonyms are “bond, click, relate.”

How awesome is that! The God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who holds all things together and by whom and for whom all things are created, wants to commune with me….and He wants to commune with you too.

This is not a one-sided relationship. This is a back and forth conversation. It is deep, and real, and intimate. Something special His children get to share together with Him.  We can tell Him our thoughts and feelings, and through His Word and revelation, we can intimately know Him.

We live in a lonely world. A hurting world. A broken world. What if the lonely, the hurting, the broken, could understand the concept of God’s deep, abiding love for them? He is real, and He does relate to us in a personal, intimate way that fills the empty places in our hearts. He is the ONLY one who can.

Now, half way through 2017, I have re-discovered the intimacy of my one-on-one time with God. For me, it most often happens during walks. You see I have a problem…I think too much, and talk to myself too much. In other words, it’s a struggle for me to mentally shut up long enough to listen for God’s whisper. When I’m on a walk, I admit that I do a mental brain dump for about three quarters of the distance. I get it all out, and then I pray my truth prayer….”Lord, reveal to me the truth about my life, or anything else you want to show me, help me to accept it, and show me what to do with it.” He always reminds me to breathe…deep slow breaths. Then, to look around and listen. Look at the flowers, the mountains, the birds. Hear them singing like they don’t have a care in the world. Breathe in the smells of the desert air, and calm my mind….and then He usually surprises me as He shares His thoughts that He wants me to know.  I love knowing what’s on God’s heart. I love that He desires to share it with me. I love that He fills me with peace, and joy during these excursions, and I love the word He gave me for 2017.

The words He gives aren’t just for a year, they’re forever. He has many words to give to His children, because He desires relationship with us. When’s the last time you communed with your Father? It’s a gift you don’t want to miss out on! I encourage you to find your quiet place, and ask Him what’s on His heart, and then…listen. If you do, you will find your days filled with more peace and joy. And there it is…joy…the word I thought I would be getting snuck its way in there after all…because it’s a natural by-product when we commune with our Lord.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV) “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

 

Fire-Starter

I’m a lighter fluid kind of flame-starter girl. Let’s get this party rolling and get cooking! Now my husband, on the other hand, possess’ the fine skill of “fire-starting.” I’ve watched him build many fires as he places the crumpled up paper at the bottom of the teepee he has built with some small kindling mixed in with it. He will set a piece of paper on fire and then slowly start to blow…or “fan into flame” the campfire. If the wood is a little damp it can take even greater patience and “fanning” to create the flame.

Yes, this process can require perseverance, because sometimes, just as quick as that flame lit up, it burns up its immediate source of fuel and “poof,” it’s out. You must be diligent, standing near, keeping watch of the fire until you have a roaring, crackling bonfire.

In 2 Timothy 1:6-7 Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame” the gift of God which was in him. He goes on to remind and encourage that the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, and was under a lot of scrutiny for his youth and association with Paul, who was in prison in Rome. I’m sure that Timothy appreciated these encouraging words and they probably came at a very timely moment when he really needed to hear them.

We need to hear them too. How easy it is to give up on our dreams, or to think they’re not a priority and stick them on the back-burner where all dreams eventually die.

Now, there are different kinds of dreams. I’m not talking about the “bigger house, more luxurious car, vacation of a lifetime” dreams, but the dreams that God places in our hearts that align with His purposes for us in how He uniquely designed each one of us. He fashioned each human being with a creative mind, a sense of humor, the ability to give love and be loved, and the need to produce and contribute to make a difference. He has given us different dreams to fulfill His purposes, and walking in the faith of these dreams will take each of us down different paths based on the talents and gifts He has given us.

If we break down verse seven, it says God does not make us timid…or fearful, or lacking courage. Okay, so if God doesn’t make us timid, who does? Our enemy, Satan. If he can make us timid, his job of keeping us from fulfilling God’s highest and best plan for our lives just got real easy. He doesn’t have to defeat us, because if he can instill timidity in us, we will defeat ourselves.

The verse then goes on to tell us what God did give us. Power, love, and self-discipline. These are all super-natural gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit as Christians.

The gift of power that God gives us is the super-natural ability to overcome anything the devil throws at us. God’s power, which He fills us with, has already crushed and defeated any power that sets itself up against God. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Understanding this truth is the first key in overcoming timidity or fear.

The gift of love that God gives us is the super-natural ability to see people the way God sees them. To love them enough to care about their souls; to see beyond their pain and the behaviors stemming from that by understanding their source of pain. It is the super-natural ability to be able to forgive, to pray for our offenders, to love the unlovable. This kind of love is secure in its position as “child of the King” and doesn’t quiver under threats or intimidation. This is courageous love!

The gift of self-discipline is the super-natural ability to live by faith, obeying and fulfilling our calling, even when we don’t see results yet. Even when we don’t have all the answers and we don’t know the exact path. We can be diligent to follow through on what God has revealed to us thus far, and trust Him that He’ll show us the next step in His perfect timing. We do our part, and God does His part…and trust me, our part is miniscule compared to His part!

So, do you know what these three gifts need? They need the gift of perseverance, fanned into flame, so that we can stop the enemy in his tracks. Join me in committing the gifts God has given us, and drawing on His abundance of everything we could possible need, to shine for Him in a dark world that needs the light of Jesus so badly.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Stress Less

People…so many people! People in cars, people walking on the streets, people in restaurants, people on the beach. Pushy sales people, over-priced food, ridiculously expensive art work. Smelly seals, smelly sidewalk sewers, smelly car fumes….yes, it was a very nice day.

Walking hand in hand with my sweetheart, watching the sunset from the boardwalk, looking at visually stunning works of photography and learning about the shots and photographers, sipping coffee on a patio with balmy seventy-some degree breezes, enjoying the scent of the salt water that hung in the atmosphere….relaxing in the pleasure of knowing I’m on vacation.

Truth. Both interpretations of the day are accurate. Perspective. Where will my focus be…on the negative or positive? Isn’t this an everyday scenario? Pain and pleasure intermixed, hassle and reward intertwined, annoyance and satisfaction interwoven into what we call “our day.”

So how do we get through a typical day in a manner that’s pleasing to the Lord, when every day is not overflowing with roses and chocolate?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Paul gives three final instructions to the church in Thessolonica. He says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I believe we can find some good practical application in this verse for handling whatever life throws at us, so let’s break it down.

1. Rejoice always… be filled with an inner joy that keeps your soul buoyed above your circumstances. The waves may come crashing down upon you, but joy is your floatation device. As you start to feel yourself go under the water, joy will propel you back up into the atmosphere where you can breathe again. It sustains you. Re…joice. In other words, do it over and over again, continually. Claim a lifestyle of soul joyfulness. And why should we be joyful? Regardless of our circumstances, as Christians we have an unmovable, unshakable, unbeatable Overcomer who has already won our battles and promised us a future too wonderful to even comprehend. NOTHING….from life to death….can take Him away from us.
2. Pray continually. We have the privilege of conversing with the Almighty God of the universe, whenever, wherever, however we desire. We can talk to Him out loud or in our minds, eyes open or eyes shut, alone or in a group, when we’re happy and when we’re sad, when everything’s going right, when everything’s going wrong, when we feel close to Him, and when we feel far away, when we’re angry, tired, overwhelmed, frightened, stressed, excited, happy or silly. You get the picture…there’s no bad time to pray…it’s ALL good, it’s ALL beneficial, and He is pleased when we are “real” with Him. Obviously this verse doesn’t mean pray 24/7, but I think we should remember Him as a first resort rather than a last. Pray first, react second. Pray first, decide second. Pray first…you get the point.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances. We’ve heard about the silver lining behind every cloud, the glass half full, and there are no flowers without the rain. This verse doesn’t say give thanks FOR all circumstances, but give thanks IN all circumstances. Whatever your circumstances are today, don’t let your perspective be shaped by the obvious truth or reality. Go deeper, go beyond, and search for the silver lining, the half full glass and the flowers among the raindrops. God wants us to experience joy in the security of knowing our future, authentic relationship with Him every day, and to fix our eyes on all we have to be grateful for; then attributing that gratitude to the One who is worthy of it, as He is the originator of every good and perfect gift…”this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Our Good Father

What does a good father look like? I was blessed to have an earthly father whom I think
“good” is too modest of a word for him. He was a great father! He was loving, caring, gentle, not too serious (to the point of embarrassing in my teenage years with his gross sense of humor,) sensible, calm, and he loved Jesus! I know that not everyone has a fond memory, or even healthy relationship with their earthly father. My dad’s life on this earth was too short when measured by my own desires, but a perfect 54 years in what God’s plan was for him.

Regardless of our fatherly relationships on this earth, we can all experience a good Father, and truly, “good” is an understatement of what awaits us in this perfect and beautiful relationship.

Jesus prayed to God, His Father, right before He was crucified. Part of His prayer was for us. Jesus prayed for all future believers. That’s right, you and I were prayed for by Jesus before we were even born. He told Mary Magdalene in John 20:17 after His resurrection, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” He claims that God is our Father as well.

Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17 goes like this, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.

On this Fathers Day, thank God not only for your earthly father, but also that you have another Father, one who loves you perfectly and eternally, with a future inheritance that far exceeds anything you could ever hope for or imagine. Meditate on these lyrics by Chris Tomlin:

Good Good Father

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only you provide
Cause you know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause you are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still [x3]
Into love, love, love

[x3:]
You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
(You are perfect in all of your ways)
It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am

 

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel VisionI tasted failure at a very young age. As my mom recalls the memory, I was 4 years old and she had taken me to get registered for kindergarten, which in our neck of the woods was called, “Kindergarten Round-Up.” I wonder if it ever crossed her mind that her daughter might not pass kindergarten round-up? I don’t know, but that was the harsh reality of the day…”failed.” You may be curious about what I was so inept at compared to the kindergarten expectation and requirement list. Well, it turns out that passing an eye exam was not going to be something that I would excel at no matter how much I studied.

 

This began my journey of differing doctor opinions about putting children in glasses versus not putting children in glasses. The doctor at the time said it was a waste of time, because I would never wear them. Later we learned had he put me in glasses at that young age, it would have corrected my vision. However, I really can’t blame my doctor, because he had me pegged right…”strong-willed child.” I wouldn’t have worn them. In fact, I was quite particular about what I would and would not wear. The entire family gets quite a kick out of the old photos that show my style and personality…. let’s just say I was not headed for a career in fashion! Around 5th or 6th grade we gave the glasses a try, but I was not a fan and it was pretty short-lived. Then came a critical motivator! That 16th birthday and the long awaited drivers license…yet another test I would fail if my vision were not corrected. Thankfully, I was now deemed “responsible enough” to wear contact lenses, a much better solution for my blurry eyes, in my opinion. So, year after year, I’ve been on the contact lens train, with glasses on stand-by for emergencies such as, not enough sleep or…not enough sleep.

 

Then, something remarkable happened not long after my 40th birthday. I had heard of this phenomenon, but until I experienced it myself I didn’t quite grasp the continual change of vision that was going to be my new normal. One of my visual predicaments is that I have the pleasure of being near-sighted in one eye, and far-sighted in the other. Does that make me indecisive? For those of you over 40, you will attest to the change of  near-sightedness improving, and far-sightedness getting worse. So now my challenge is…with my contacts in, I can see distance great, but everything is blurry close up, so I have to wear reading glasses. Or, if I don’t wear any contact lenses, I can see perfectly close up, but distance is blurry and I have to change to my “stand-by” glasses.” Whew….that’s a lot of switching back and forth you know?

 

So, that brings me to a very recent morning. My husband and I get up quite early and after being properly caffeinated and spending time together with the Lord, we head out the door to the gym. I have begun not wearing my contacts to the gym because, a) it’s early…that whole tired eyes thing, and b) the video I watch on my phone while exercising is blurry if I put them in, and I really don’t think wearing reading glasses at the gym is a good idea! It kind of says…I’m really not here to work out. So, back to the recent morning, it was a toss up of who was going to drive because my husband has equally bad eyesight. However, since I had grabbed my glasses so I could see distance, I drove. The problem was, they weren’t working! I kept putting them on and taking them back off, because it seemed I could see better with them off than on…even with distance. I was astounded…it was like an early morning science experiment as I attempted to read the upcoming street signs with and without my glasses, and I couldn’t tell much difference. I looked at my husband and proclaimed how my eyes must have progressed to a level that I would no longer need my contact lenses! It was like a miracle, a healing…I was so excited…freedom at last!

 

We got back home and as I proceeded to get ready for the day and I went to put my
contacts in there was a problem. My contact case was empty! What??? I stepped up to the mirror and took a good look at my eyeballs. Yup….there were the little circles! I had slept with my contacts in all night, and therefore, the only proper conclusion, is that instead of being “miraculously healed” I had to admit I was “miraculously spacey.” Sigh. Unfortunately, that was not the last incident like that for the day.

 

Extremely famished….(I like to call it “angry hungry,” which means you want to watch your step around me until I get some nourishment.) I quickly threw open the fridge and grabbed some turkey and cheese. I rolled it up and took it to my desk in my office to munch on while I got some work accomplished. Suddenly, the turkey seemed a little chewy…perhaps slightly tough. What in the world? I looked down to see the thin paper that separates the cheese slices with teeth marks in it as I was attempting to eat a turkey, cheese, parchment paper roll up…yum!

 

Then, of course, the day ended with discovering that a certain undergarment had been worn inside out all day long, which I wish I could say was a first time occurrence, but unfortunately…I don’t know, I must get dressed in the dark a lot.

 

So, where is all of this taking us? I once summarized my “awareness” issues as, “My vision needs a bigger tunnel!” Isn’t that really true of all of us at times? We go through life with such tunnel vision….and our tunnel’s can be pretty tiny. Maybe we only see what we want to see, or perhaps our tunnels are so filled with ourselves that we can’t see what’s going on around us. Our brains are so bombarded with information all day long that it can be our instant default to just try to block everything out, which again leaves us standing in a pretty small, narrow tunnel.

 

What did Jesus have to say about our tunnel vision? In John Chapter 1, an account is given of the first disciples who followed Jesus. John the Baptist had just proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, and two of his disciples (probably Andrew and John) started to follow Jesus. He turned around and asked them, “What do you want?” They answered, “Teacher, where are you staying?” Notice, He doesn’t give them a cut and dry answer, He gives them an invitation. “Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” Hmmm…see…vision. Let’s keep going.
“So they went and SAW where He was staying and they spent that day with him.”

 

Andrew went and found his brother, Simon Peter, and told him they had found the Messiah, and he brought him to Jesus. The next day Jesus sought out Philip and told him, “Follow Me.” Philip went and found his buddy Nathanial, and told him about their discovery, however, Nathanial didn’t just pick up and go. He had an opinion about Jesus’ background. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Still, Phillip urged him, “Come and SEE.”

 

When Jesus saw Nathanial approaching, He said, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanial was puzzled, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I SAW you while you were still under the fig tree BEFORE Philip called you.” Whoa! How’s that for vision? Nathanial was equally astounded, and declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.”

 

Jesus then said, “You believe because I told you I SAW you under the fig tree. You will SEE greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will SEE the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” My bible explains this verse as not a literal “seeing” but spiritual vision or insight into Jesus’ true nature and purpose for coming…to be the ladder, the Way for man to be reconciled to God.

 

I know without a doubt that I should work on my tunnel vision. I need to slow down, focus a little more, and be a little more aware of my surroundings. But my deepest desire is to see what Jesus wants me to see. My vision needs a bigger tunnel and one way to make my tunnel bigger is to try to SEE like Jesus. What did He pay attention to? What did He see in people and circumstances? He saw their pain, their need, their hearts and minds. As mere humans we don’t have all of those skills, but as Jesus’ followers we do have the super-natural power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. As we pray and ask Him to reveal to us what He wants us to see in people and circumstances, He will show us. The Bible says “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.” This is my prayer, that God will burn a huge hole into my tunnel with the laser-beam brightness of His truth and vision, that I may see what He wants me to, so that I may respond the way that He wants me to. How’s your vision today?

 

 

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Beat A Bad Day

There are days when the alarm clock sounds at 5 am and I awake refreshed and ready to start my day…after my first cup of bold coffee, of course!

Then there are days that a bottomless carafe might not be enough to get my brain and body in gear. Those days are SO frustrating, because I really do want to have a good day, but I can feel a bad one beating its fists on the doorway of my day, trying to break through and take over. I have a feeling you may be able to relate to this predicament.

Recently I had just such a day. It was a challenge from the moment my feet hit the floor. I pushed through my morning routine hoping that it would remind my groggy brain to get with the program. When that didn’t work, I knew I was going to need some divine intervention if things were going to turn around.

My communication with God went something like this: “Lord, this is the only November 4, 2015 I am ever going to have. I don’t want it to be a loss…a bad day. I know I can’t get a do-over. Please help me! Speak your truth to my heart, help me to accept it and show me what to do with it.” God immediately impressed upon my heart in the most gentle and kind tone, “All you have to do today is receive and experience my love, and then share it with others.” Hmmm…now that sounds like a day I can do…I think that would make a good day!

I believe this lines right up with what Jesus said in Mathew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It’s so easy for us think of God as some sort of slave driver because we are so good at burying ourselves under mountains of stressful or overwhelming thoughts. If we will focus on this one truth, to receive, experience, and then give away God’s love, we will find that everything else will properly fall into place.

So that morning I decided to act upon what He told me, because hearing without doing is of no use at all. I asked myself, “What does receiving and experiencing God’s love look like?” That led me to the next question, “What has God done to show me His love…even just today?” Then I started naming the blessing He has poured into me and the world around me that show me His very personal love for me. Something started to happen inside my heart. It began to lighten, as I felt a surge of gratitude well up from deep within my soul. As I thought about going through the day seeking to recognize and experience God’s amazing love for me, and then looking for opportunities to share it, I began to feel excited about the day. Joy began to trickle through my veins, kickstarting my potentially bad day into the beginnings of a very good day.

As I now reflect back on that day, I can say with a smile on my face that it was not a loss! God lightened my load, refocused my mind, and changed my attitude. Our emotions trigger our actions, and our thoughts trigger our emotions. If you’re struggling to overcome “bad day” emotions, remember what your Savior says, “All you have to do is receive and experience My love, and then share it with others.” Don’t overthink it. Don’t make it harder than it is. Take the gift He offers you. Receive it. Embrace it. Cherish it. Step into it. Walk in it. Roll around in it. Stand on it, and then Share it!

“Thank you Lord for your gentle, loving care and concern for your children, and for answering our prayers when we cry out to you.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

 

Staying Free

Why is it so hard to do what we know we should do?staying free

Well that’s a loaded question now, isn’t it? There are many reasons we get derailed from our goals, best intentions, dreams and desires, as well as our necessary responsibilities.

We could actually make excuses all day long, but that doesn’t produce positive change.

For the past 6 weeks I’ve taken a new approach with life. I’m still working it out, but I know I’m on the right path. How do I know? Because I can’t believe the positive changes I’m seeing in such a short amount of time!

It started with being honest with myself; taking accountability for my own life. Galations 6:4-5 states, Each one should test their own actions. For each one should carry their own load.” Sometimes we need to stop the merry-go-round of life and ask ourselves, “What’s working, what’s not, and why?” That “why” is the tough part. We have to look to our own choices, habits and routines and decide what we need to change to turn things around.

Yes, that’s the wonderful thing about freedom…we get to choose. In Galations 5:1, Paul exhorts us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm them, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” A slave doesn’t get to make choices, someone else is doing that for them. A free person gets to decide in all things…if they choose well, they remain free. If they do not choose well, then they are giving control back to the slave driver.

So how do we stand firm so we do not become entrapped in slavery again? Let me ask you a question. Do we do what we should because we know we should? I don’t think so. We can sustain that for about 30 minutes, and then we throw in the towel. Need to…should…ought to…these are not motivators and we will never sustain any progress in our life if these are our reasons.

We have to go back to our core values and desires. Do we want to have better relationships with our family members? Do we want to be more successful in our workplaces? Do we want to improve our health so we can enjoy quality of life? Do we want to know Jesus more, so we can love Him more, and live out the calling and purpose that He has prepared for each and every one of us?

Our foundation must first align with what Christ taught. In Galations 5:6 we read, “For in Christ Jesus….the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” That’s a pretty strong statement! How do we do that? Paul tells us in Galations 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” He then follows that up with Galations 5:13, “Do not use your freedom (choice) to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”’

So going back to our core values and desires…our why, it is out of our love for Christ and others, by serving them, that we ignite the passion within us to make the choices, routines and habits that fulfill those desires.

But we can’t stop there, because we haven’t gotten to the “how.” Here’s where we get to really be amazed and overwhelmed, because the “how” for the Christian is filled with super-natural power!

First, we need to understand our natural response is to the negative. Our brains were not designed to make us happy. Our brains primary function is survival…every other organ in our body is dependent on this truth. If survival is the brains number one priority, then you can be sure it is always on the lookout for anything that could harm it. Therefore, left to its natural tendencies, our minds will be consumed with worry and fear as our brain takes in all of the negative content it is constantly bombarded with.

We start by counter-acting this with protecting our minds. This is both a pro-active and defensive move. We can decide to not watch certain things, go certain places, or be around certain people who fill our minds with negativity….that is pro-active. But sometimes we are just bombarded, both at the conscious and subconscious level with buckets full of the world’s garbage! We read in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

If we want to win this war that’s waged on our minds…and if the thoughts in our minds turn to emotions….and those emotions turn to actions, or worse yet, paralyzation….then we had better know where to draw our power from.

Galations 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” We must rely on the work of the Holy Spirit in us, to overcome our natural desires.

Here’s a little comparison of our natural desires versus what happens when the Spirit is leading us.

Natural                                                       Super-Natural

Destructive                                                   Productive

Easy to ignite                                                Difficult to ignite

Difficult to stifle                                             Easy to stifle

Self-Centered                                                Self-Giving

Oppressive & Possessive                              Liberating & Nurturing

Deadly                                                          Abundant Life

The Natural list is easy. It doesn’t require any self-discipline. It’s not that we want these outcomes, but if we drift through life responding to each situation with “what comes natural,” we will find ourselves on this very unfulfilling and ultimately deadly road.

Galations 6:7 says, “A man reaps what he sows.” We also read in Galations 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Our choices (decisions), produce behaviors (actions) that become habits (repeated actions) which when compounded (time) produce results (goals).

There’s the formula, now let’s add the super-natural to it. Galations 5:22-25 states, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

We are no longer slaves, but God’s precious children. He has made us His heirs. We can choose to live in freedom. Take a moment to evaluate those things in your life that just don’t seem to be working right, or the areas that you know you constantly struggle with. Pray and ask your heavenly Father to help you to accept your personal responsibility in each area, and to work in your heart through the filling of His Spirit to produce the choices, behaviors, and habits He desires for you, so that you can step into the amazing future He has for you…starting today.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plants to give you hope and a future.”

 

Scripture and excerpts taken from the NIV Life Application Study Bible and The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

Because Of Love

Because of LoveGod’s love is the answer to every “why.” The “why” may be layer after layer deep, but peel away all of those layers and there it is…because He loves us.

When I was a child, I recall riding home from church in the backseat of our blue station wagon while my parents would ask me and my sister what we learned in Sunday School. The standard answer was, “We learned about Jesus.” We thought we were so smart. We knew our bases were covered that way…I mean, you just can’t be wrong with an answer like that!

Well, recently I asked God what was on His heart, and the word that dropped into my heart was, “love.” Seriously? That’s so general…so obvious…I kind of felt like it was a little bit of a cop out, sort of like my “Jesus” answer when I was a kid.

I decided I’d better give this some more thought to see if there was a deeper take away that He wanted me to understand. (You know there is!) The truth is, love is not just what’s on God’s heart, it’s what’s in His heart…so much so, that it’s who He is.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Why is this verse true? Because He loves us.

The Bible also says in Hebrews 12:6, “The Lord disciplines the one he loves.” Why does He discipline us? Because He loves us. He loves us too much to let us destroy ourselves without trying to get our attention so He can show us a better way. Why is there a better way? Because of love.

Why is there sin and evil in the world? Because God gave man free will. Why did He give us free will? Because of love.

Why are there devastating natural disasters? According to the Bible, because the earth is crying out, groaning for the Lord’s return. It is literally wasting away. Why are these things happening? Because Jesus said they must occur before He returns to set up His kingdom. Why is He coming to set up His kingdom? Because the earth will be destroyed. Why will the earth be destroyed? Because He has promised to rid the world of sin and make all things new; to overcome Satan and banish him from the earth so he can’t harm us anymore. Why does He want to rid the world of sin? Because He wants us to spend eternity with Him. Why does He want us to spend eternity with Him? Because of love.

You see, the final answer is always, “because of love.” Some of the why’s we don’t have answers for, but if we understand the formula, if we understand God’s character, if we understand His promises, we can have the assurance that no matter what is happening around us, at the core, if we peel and peel, we will see the glow of God’s unchanging love blazing bright for us.

 

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What’s On Your Heart God?

What Is On Your Heart GodRecently I have been learning about praying for others, also known as intercessory prayer.  It was impressed upon my heart that prayer is not just about me telling God my needs and requests, although that is a part of prayer; but the question was posed, “Do you ever ask God what is on His heart?”

Over the years I’ve prayed for God’s will, I’ve prayed for His revelation…but I don’t think I’ve ever specifically asked Him that question. Well, last night I did, and I have to admit that at first it scared me a bit until He helped me decipher what I saw.

After speaking aloud the names of God, declaring His almighty power and majesty, I asked Him what was on His heart. The images that came to my mind were of people covered in ash with a dull smoky color all around. I began to fear that there was going to be a fire somewhere and perhaps people I loved were going to be effected. I asked God to continue to show me what was on His heart. The images didn’t change, but I suddenly realized what the images meant. They were portraying 9/11/2001.

That is what was on God’s heart. He cares about the people who were affected on 9/11. He wants them to be healed. He wants them to experience His love, and He wanted me to pray for them. As I did that, I asked Him what else He cared about, and He said, “Lost people.”

He revealed to me just a tiny glimpse of how much He loves His children whom He created in His image. Tears started to well up in my eyes and spill down my cheeks as I experienced a flicker of emotion over what is on God’s heart….what He cares about….and what He wants us to care about.

I must say I’m still overwhelmed from the experience. I feel God truly gave me some insight into His heart. What a privilege. He desires a genuine personal relationship with us far beyond what we can understand. Yet, we often go about our busy lives without ever giving much thought to the truth that He wants to share His heart with us.

I challenge you to come before Him and ask Him what’s on His heart…then be still, close your eyes, and listen. You may be surprised, you may be moved, you may be overwhelmed….better yet, you will be changed, and you will have experienced the pure love of God.

Remember 9/11. Remember the hurting and the lost. Be an intercessor and God will use your prayers to bless, honor, and care for others. Thank you my friends.

“In God We Trust”

Perfect Promises

jesus_loveI have been pouring over Romans 8 the last few days, and there is so much good stuff in there I don’t even know where to start! I love how the Word of God is alive, and a passage we’ve read 100 times before can jump off the page at us on the 101st time.

So, I jumped in with verse 31 which says, “What than shall we say in response to these things?” I guess we’d better back up and see what “these things” are that Paul is referring to. Beginning in verse 18, Paul says that our “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” What are your present sufferings? What is the worst suffering you have ever endured in your life? Now put that up against glory, and not an equal amount of glory, no, Paul says an incomparable amount of glory that will one day be revealed in us.” That’s promise number one.

He acknowledges that it’s not just Christians that eagerly await the return of their Savior, but that even the creation is frustrated and groans at the decay it endures as sin stole its intended purpose away for a time. We are all eagerly waiting…hoping in that which we can’t see. Eternal life with Christ.

That’s right, hope cannot exist standing next to a gift we’ve already received. Why would we hope in something we already have? No, hope is reserved for the promise of what is to come.  Sometimes the waiting seems unbearable, especially when we are deep in the cavern of suffering. But God knows that, and He’s done something about it.

Verse 26 says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. There are times we don’t even have the strength to form words to pray, other than perhaps, “Jesus, help me.” Do you know that the Holy Spirit prays with and for you? One thing that jumped out at me as I read this passage was that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with wordless groans.” I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what that must sound like. Try it. Think of your worst pain or suffering and draw a picture in your mind of the Spirit relaying that to God your Father in wordless groans, to convey your hearts cry. I found that overwhelming!

The verses go on to say, “he who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” I find great comfort in that. The spirit is praying for us in accordance with God’s will. We shouldn’t fear praying, thinking we have to say everything “just so.” We have an interpreter, who is bringing our heart before God, conveying to Him our deepest needs, all in accordance with God’s will. God hears the prayer of a sincere heart, and He will answer.

So here comes promise number two. In verse 28 we read, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This is a wonderful promise and definitely one to hold onto in times of discouragement. It is important though, that we have a proper perspective of the little phrase, “for the good.” I certainly think I know what’s for my good. I can tell you in my humanity, “for my good” means great health, no financial stress, happy and fulfilling relationships, and on and on. God of course has the ultimate advantage. He can see into my life five minutes from now, five years from now, and into eternity. “For my good” may not always feel like it’s for my good, but it’s so important during those times to hold onto the hope that Paul spoke of. The hope of what we have been promised but cannot yet see, and pray for the Spirit to fulfill God’s plan for our lives.

So, that’s the precursor to “what shall we say in response to these things?” Here we go…this is the where the promises just get piled on, and we are given specifics on what God has done for us.

Paul fires out several questions.

  1. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
  2. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”
  3. “Who then is the one who condemns?

Here are his responses to those questions.

  1. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
  2. “It is God who justifies.”
  3. “No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

What is causing you fear in your life today? Who do you feel is judging you? Do you feel alone, or distanced from love? You can’t lose with God in your corner. He is giving us all things, removing our sin, and has given us the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ to intercede for us, and this is the result…it is impossible for us to be separated from His perfect love for us.

Take a look at all of the circumstances in this life that are absolutely powerless at removing God’s unshakeable love from our lives.

  • Trouble
  • Hardship
  • Persecution
  • Famine
  • Nakedness (exposure)
  • Danger
  • Sword (weapons)
  • Death
  • Life
  • Angels
  • Demons
  • Present circumstances
  • Future circumstances
  • Powers (realm of evil)
  • Height
  • Depth
  • Anything else in ALL creation

I’m pretty sure that list covers every situation we could encounter. Do you know what we are? We are more than conquerors! We are secure! We are eternally loved with a love that is so unlike any human love we struggle to comprehend it! We have been guaranteed that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Jesus Christ is perfect love and perfect love casts out all fear. Believe what God says about you, and live today and every day as the Spirit-filled Conqueror you were created to be!