What Determines Who You Are?

As usual, I am finding there is so much I want to do and yet so little time to do it all! For example, I am scanning the new Entrusted Bible Study and reading both a Christian Non-fiction book on Daniel, another on prayer (with a friend) and a fiction book on prayer based on several non-fiction characters (with my husband). Yes, I am a little crazy that way!

Now for the cool part! They all converge on the topic of identity. That’s right! Who we are, our identity!  So who are we really? Do our actions dictate our identity? Our heritage? Does the world we live in dictate our identity?
Paul found his true identity in his conversion on the road to Damascus when he met Jesus! His life dramatically changed from one who persecuted followers of Christ to one who reached out, taught and mentored people into followers of Christ! With boldness, he proclaimed, “Follow me as I follow Christ!”

Daniel and his young friends were taken captive into the custody of foreigners. These devout young men did not let their captures change their identity. Staying firm to their God-given identity was a priority in their new environment even when it threatened their very lives, they remained faithful.

One quote from Living Among Lions today was “Our actions spring from our identity, not our profession; from who we are, not what we do. If it is true that our actions are directed by who we are, our identity or how we see ourselves; then what do our actions reveal about us?

Are our actions consistent with who we think we are

or are they in contradiction?

 

Are our actions more aligned with what we do or feel

than with who we truly are?

 

 If so, is it possible that we may a bit confused still about our identity or

even under the influence of an identity thief?

 

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:7-18 (NASB)

 

These are just a few of the characteristics of our identity in Christ. God’s Word is full of much more, but let’s just look at these powerful few:

Forgiven –     “I am writing you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven      because of Jesus name. ” 1 John 2:10

Cleansed –    “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with on another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1John 1:7 (ESV)

Redeemed –  “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NASB)

Called –         “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”  2 Timothy 1:9 (HCSB)

Chosen/appointed -“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of theFather in My Name He may give to you.” John 15:16

Complete –   “and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule an authority.” Colossians 2:10 (NASB)

Children of God – “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3 (HCSB)

A Royal Priesthood – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Peaceful –       “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)

Victorious –   “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  1 Corinthians 15:57 (HCSB)

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 (MSG)

Wow! Just based on these verses alone, what will our life be like if we find our identity in these promises? How would life change? If we begin to look at God’s description of our life based only on who He says we are and daily gaze upon that reflection; what would our lives look like in a week? A month? Or in a year? Would we see the likeness of Christ forming in our lives?

      How would life change if we were focused on who we are and whose we are instead of what we do? Can you imagine meeting someone for the first time and rather than asking them what do you do; asking who are you? What are you passionate about? It just might make for some highly unusual first impressions!

Heavenly Father, please teach us to look to You for our identity. Help us find our true value and worth not in the things of this world or in what others have to say, whether good or bad; but to find it in who You say we are. Give us wisdom and understanding as we walk through life to see beyond others opinions and superficial comparisons to walk in the fullness of who You created us to be. Grace and peace to you, In the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ!

Praise and Punctuation

I ran across this post from 2010 9pre-blog days) today on Facebook Memories. It was a needed reminder that not only is Fit Crucial as the Lord was reminding me of in yesterday’s post; we also need to remember regularly to lift up gratitude and praise to Him and have proper punctuation to not just our words, but also our lives!

Lord may You give us the grace to be the person You created us to be. May you keep us mindful to not only be grateful but to be filled with praise. May our “speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt so that you may know how you should answer each person.” Colossians 4:6  May our lives be properly punctuated in all the right places!

A Facebook Memory – Praise and Punctuation- from August 18, 2010

Psalm 148 is a declaration of Praise to God. The sun, the moon, the clouds, lightening, stormy winds, trees, animals and people (just to name a few of those listed) Praise Him. One may ask, how do these things praise Him, especially clouds, trees, winds??

Praise is so much more than a song, a prayer or mere words. Could it be that the highest form of praise is to be all God created us to be and do what He created us to do, no more and no less??
Example –  The tree grows where it is planted and bears its fruit. A cow does what a cow was formed to do. It doesn’t try to act like a horse or a sheep. Shouldn’t we take whatever gift and bent that God has given us and be satisfied to use it to His glory and for His praise? He uniquely formed each one of us (Psalm 139; Ephesians 2:10),
we each have different talents, gifts, and abilities. What better way to show Him praise than to use those gifts according to how He made us and in doing so, be who He made us to be. As much as we may want to, we can not have it all nor can we do it all.

Do you ever find yourself so busy that you find yourself going around in circles, accomplishing very little and your mind so distracted it is hard even to think of what you need to do next? I have, and I just don’t believe that is how life was intended to be.

I heard an interesting message yesterday. Its topic was to punctuate your life. The suggestion was made that we need to have built-in pauses (commas), occasional stops (periods) so a new sentence can begin, and also with a few exclamation points thrown into our life. I believe this concept is worth a moment to pause and consider.

Lord, help me know when it’s time to pause when it’s time to end a sentence and begin a new one, and to be open to the exclamations that are sent my way. Help me to live a punctuated life, to accept who You created me to be, and be satisfied walking that out in my life without out trying to be someone else. Help me to accept the assignments that You have for me and do them with enthusiasm and to be wise, know my limits, and not try to do more than I should.

 

The Correct Fit is Crucial

This morning I have been thinking about the importance of how a thing fits. Whether it is an item of clothing, shoes, a career, a relationship, a hobby or perhaps volunteer work; if it fits well, it is much more enjoyable! Don’t believe me? Try walking around in shoes that are either two sizes too big or too small, pants so tight they challenge your circulation or so large that… Well, for some that is fashionable so I won’t go there. The truth is for most of us wearing the wrong fit ranges from uncomfortable to unbearable.

We are all different in our body types, our personalities, our talents, and giftings are different as well. We are from different ethos. Our varied experiences upon which we tend to base our view of life are unique to our life. Even those raised in the same household can find that they are very different in some areas. Even so, we live in a world that many find themselves in the trap of comparison and competition. In this world, many of us try to fit into what some consider ‘normal’ rather than celebrating who we were created to be in the first place.

I have to ask, is this healthy? Each will have to answer this question for themselves. Is it healthy for a person to grow and stretch? Absolutely! But is is healthy to force yourself to fit immediately into a mold that is meant for someone else? For example, an introvert may never be the first to speak out publicly or become the life of the party. However, it is very likely they will grow more comfortable being around larger groups and speaking out as they grow and mature through the circumstances of their life.

Take David and Goliath for an example, many of us are very familiar with this story from our childhood. David, a shepherd boy, faces off with a scary, huge giant who was terrorizing the Israelites. David takes a slingshot and five smooth stones. He aims and hurls the first stone killing the great beast of a man. Then David becomes king. What I was not told and had to learn as an adult was that David had been chosen and anointed as the next king of Israel while still tending sheep. He was tasked with caring for a flock and protecting that flock. While in the wilderness, he had protected his charges from the threat of wild animals.

Then he became an armor bearer for King Saul, the king he was to replace. When Saul became tormented, David is called upon to play his harp which would sooth the king.
Fast forward to the gathering of the Philistine army for battle. They gathered on the land belonging to Judah, encamped in the area between Soccoh and Azekah. Saul and the men of Israel gathered nearby to protect their property. Goliath led the Philistines and taunted the men of Israel both by his size and with his mouth. Saul and his men were alarmed and afraid. That’s when David arrives bringing food to his three older brothers who are with Saul. David then inquires of the men, “what will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 Then David takes up the challenge but immediately is told he is a youth and unprepared. David reminds them that he had protected the flocks in the wilderness and had killed both a lion and a bear while the sheep were in his charge. “The Lord delivered me from the paw or the lion and the paw of the bear; He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (verse 37).

Next, they proceeded by dressing David in the king’s armor. David tried to walk in the ill-fitting armor and promptly said he could not wear what he’d not tested. He removed the armor and took up his slingshot. Only when properly fitted with the tools that fit him, was David able to accomplish what the army of Israel had not been able to accomplish.
We all have a destiny and a purpose according to scriptures like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ephesians 2:10 and others. What we have to remember is that growing into that destiny is a process and rarely happens fast and certainly not overnight. Instead, the circumstances, trials, and people God places in our lives help us grow and stretch. Our boundaries are increased as are our experiences. We are strengthened and renewed to prepare us to face the next new challenge as we choose to cooperate with Him. When we don’t, we can become stuck and risk growing weary or stagnant in that place.

Lord, teach us to be wise and not try to wear another’s ill- fitting armor or try to be someone we are not. Please, teach us about ourselves and help us walk in the personality, talents, and giftings that you have given us. Help us to have the courage and grace to be who You created us to be! Teach us who You say that we are. Please help us to have the wisdom to walk in the rhythm of Your grace in our lives and the value that You place on us, rather than comparing ourselves with others and determining our worth based on how we measure up to someone else. With Your help, we can be all that You created us to be, walking in step and sync with the plan You had for us before the foundation of the world. We can be transformed from glory to glory until we are a reflection of Your glory.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Just a Small Thing

So is it just a little thing? I have heard it said many times that it isn’t the huge things in life that wear away at us, but it is the small stuff that just keeps on coming. I’ve also noticed that is isn’t always the large thing that brings us joy. This morning as I spent a few moments in prayer, study, and reflection, I found myself drawn to look out the window in front of my desk. There playing around a feeder, I witnessed a hummingbird feeding. I wasn’t a grown bird but a tiny young hummingbird.

Distracted and delighted, I sat for some time watching as others began to join in on the feeding and began to swirl playfully all around the feeder. I began to ponder how delicate and beautiful these creatures are. What a marvel of creation they are! What a display of the glory of God is flitting just a few feet in front of me just beyond my desk and window!

Are you aware that you also are a precious display of His glory and splendor? It is true, you are! We all are. It is one of those things we tend to take for granted. We have been made in the image of the Creator of the universe. Just the workings of our physical body and its ability to heal itself is a miracle. It is a simple wonder that often alludes us like so many small things in life.

What we often forget is that small things can become great when placed into the hands of God. Here’s an example: Long before the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem, Micah foretells the event. Let’s look at chapter five, verse two: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (ESV) Notice how Bethlehem was unnotable, to small to be considered to be part of Judah though it was.

Here is another example, the mustard seed is very tiny. If your not careful when holding it is will slip out of your hand without you realizing it! Matthew 13:31-32 tells us this about it: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (ESV) We are also reminded, “For truly, I (Jesus) say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (ESV)

In James Scripture records: “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.” (ESV) It also tells us that God uses the foolish things of the earth to confound the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV) I believe it can also be said that He uses the small or weak things to confound the strong. David and Goliath is a good example of this.

So what’s my point? God has made all things beautiful in their time. He has a plan and a destiny for each one of us, and they are all different. He has created us uniquely. He has place hopes and dreams insides us; they are seeds of our destiny. Before our first breath, God knew us, all about us. He formed us in the womb and knew all about our lives before we breathed one breath. (Psalm 139) Then life happens, and circumstances get in the way. They have a way of stealing our dreams, delaying plans and even making us forget those hope and dreams. It is still there! It is not too late! Does it seem small and far away? There is tremendous beauty and power in small things! If fact, when submitted into the hands of our loving Heavenly Father and Creator; little becomes exceedingly, above and beyond, beyond anything we can ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20 (Amplified)

God is not an “ethereal Santa” or a “genie in a bottle” but He is a loving and generous Father. He is for us and our greatest good. When we trust Him with our little, it can become much. He is trustworthy; we can trust Him with our hopes, dreams, hurts and fears. He is the redeemer, restorer, provider, and protector. Will we trust Him? His timing?

So let’s go for it! Revive those dreams, renew those hopes and race toward them fearlessly under God’s guidance and direction. I love this quote from Beth Moore, “Never take a no from the Devil!; God will never say no to you that He is not trying to redirect you to where your yes is!!”

Blessings and Peace to you my friend!

Quiet Moments can Change Your Perspective

It’s been a busy few months! I haven’t done much writing and honestly I have rushed through my morning quiet times, prayed on the run and kept a pace that if I am honest; I am just not comfortable with how it’s been going. Lots of changes, transitions and at least one or two small meltdowns and today I found myself sitting quietly in the early morning pouring my heart out to the Lord. I began prayer time as I normally do. Acknowledging who God is and sharing my gratitude, praying for family and others. Then I was reminded of Saturday. Saturday was a good day, informative, helpful even. It also presented me with a challenge for which I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Long story, short: I spent some time bouncing it off my sweet and patient husband, questioning my reluctance about the challenge and vocalizing some sentiments about my life that I have scarce allowed myself to consider and have never shared out loud. Needless to say, it was emotional but was also healing. Honestly, they were the type of things I would only share with the Lord during my prayer time. As I spent time with Him this morning, I realized I had never entirely shared those things with God; so I did. It was very cathartic and healing. Then, as I opened my Bible and wondered where I should read this morning, Psalm 113 came to my mind. I think someone had mentioned it yesterday, so that is where I began. What a beautiful reminder of who He is and how much He loves us!

Psalm 113: 1-9 (Message)
“Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God! Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk, keep lifting all your praises to God!
God is higher than anything and anyone,
outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!”

God is gracious and loving, and He is enough! He can handle our concerns, our frustrations, and even our meltdowns; small or large. In fact, I truly get the idea that when we do share them with Him, it is almost as if He says, “I know, thank you for being honest and sharing them with Me. I knew you were struggling and longed for you to tell Me; to share your heart and your concerns with Me. Now, we can begin to work it out.” God made each of us to be unique, one of a kind. We all share commonalities, but we are each uniquely created and uniquely gifted with the capacity to grow and change when yielded to Him. As we grow and change in Christ, He will take us from glory to glory.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

 

 

Then my eyes crossed the page to Psalm 116. As I read this encouraging Psalm, my heart was full! He hears our voice and our supplications. He inclines His ear to his children! Yes, even when we feel the cords of our circumstances, challenges, or even death choking us; when in sorrow and distress, He knows. He cares! We can always cry out to our Heavenly Father! He hears us; He answers!

David describes God this way: “I love the Lord because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul! Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted””
(Psalm 116:1-10 ESV)

In Him, may you find grace, encouragement, and peace as you go through your day!

How to Gain Your Sight?

 

Can I just say that I love Wednesday nights! I look forward each week to meeting with this group of individuals who love God and love to get into His Word and study together and challenge each other. “As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” Proverbs 27:17 (NASB) We begin with a pre-assigned topic, portion of the Word or portion of a book about God’s Word. Several days in advance, thanks to some very dedicated individuals, we are emailed some great thought provoking questions about the assigned topic. On Wednesdays, we all come together in one large group for a few minutes for an overview. Then we break out into smaller groups based on personality tendencies where we have exciting and challenging discussions about the proposed questions. Finally, we come back together as a large group and share the insights that stood out inside the small group discussions.

Did I mention the degree of depth of the questions presented for our consideration? It is so interesting to interact with a small group over the proposed questions and even more so to hear the variety and depth of each person’s response! one of our questions last night was about the story found in 2 Kings 6: 15-20. The king of Aram (Syria) was plotting war against Israel, the prophet Elisha warned Israel, which made the Syrian king angry. Realizing that someone was helping Israel, this king became enraged and determined to have retribution. How did this man Elisha reveal to his enemy the things he’d spoken in private in his bedroom? Determined, the king of Aram sent out a mighty army with horses and chariots against Elisha.

“The servant of the man of God got up early and went out, and behold, there was an army with horses and chariots encircling the city. Elisha’s servant said to him, “Oh no, my master! What are we to do?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, please, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servants eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. When the Arameans came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Please strike this people (nation) with blindness.” And God struck them with blindness, in accordance with Elisha’s request. Then Elisha said to the Arameans, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me and I will lead you to the man whom you are seeking.” And he led them to Samaria. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men, so that they may see.” And the Lord opened their eyes and they saw. Behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. When the king of Israel (Jehoram) saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” Elisha answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and bow? Serve them bread and water, so that they may eat and drink, and go back to their master [King Ben-hadad].” So the king prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Aram did not come into the land of Israel again.” (2 Kings 6:15-23 AMP)

Our question was: We often are guilty of having the “Gehazi Syndrome”. Why is this sometimes intentional? How do you gain your sight? As I considered Gehazi’s observation about their situation and Elisha’s response, I first noticed Gehazi’s exclamation. “Oh no, master!” He was apparently taken aback by the encampment of the enemy on every side. Appearances clearly show that they are both outnumbered and under-equipped for the potential events that seemed destined to unfold. This is not an uncommon reaction when our circumstances overwhelm us as many in our group attested to last night. So how do we gain our sight in such situations? How do we make sure we do not panic and become overwhelmed when our circumstances seem ready to crash over us and drown us in their wake. As the room quieted and we pondered our responses, this rose up in my heart and spirit:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthian 5:7 NKJV)

When we are focused solely on our circumstances, we are walking by sight, and it is easy to be overwhelmed and defeated. Faith is also absent when we are focused on our circumstances alone and for those of us who are believers, this is not okay. Appearances do not have the final say. However, since we are not entirely using this scripture in it actual context, the resurrection of the body; we need other scripture also to agree with the principle to take a stand.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith, we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.” (Hebrews 11:1-3 HSCB)

“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 HSCB)

Elisha’s response to his servant’s observation was a foreshadowing of these very scriptures that were later taught in the New Testament. Elisha, being a prophet, a man of prayer, and one with whom God shared mysteries to come; he did not walk by sight and was not deterred by what he saw. He prayed first for Gehazi to be able to see that God had provided help of which he was not aware, and secondly to blind their enemies so they could be led away and taken captive. Lastly, Elisha did not harm them but prayed once again and did as the Lord told him. God told Elisha to feed them and let them return to their master. It is a clear and excellent example of walking by faith. Elisha wasn’t a stranger to the many times God had acted in impossible situations on behalf of His people. He had been handed down generations of stories of God’s character, provision, and protection. We can also experience this kind of faith. Each time we exercise our faith based on what God has done for us in the past, our faith grows stronger. Each time we open His Word and read the examples found there we find the strength to exercise our faith a bit more. Hebrews 11, known as the hall of faith gives some excellent snippets of the faith of the patriarchs in the Old Testaments.

One of the greatest gifts we can ever give ourselves is exercising our faith rather that letting our fear overcome us. One of the most memorable gifts we can give our children, grandchildren and friends is to share our experiences of God’s faithfulness when they struggle; helping to bring comfort build their faith.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 HSCB)

Lord, please give us the grace to share our stories!

Why Do I Love God’s Word?

Today as I looked at “You Have A Memory” on Facebook, a post from two years ago popped up on my screen. I had totally forgotten about the experience or that I had written about it. I have to say that it still holds true and even more so today. I hope it will be an encouragement to someone as I sense the Heavenly Father prompting me to share it once again!

June 2, 2014
Kevin said I should post this; it’s long but here goes…

What an interesting question that was posed today in the current Bible study I am doing! Why do you love God’s Word? It was followed by this proposal…consider a friend or acquaintance asked you this question because they did not understand your love for the Bible and you were too taken off guard to respond at the time. Now, you sit down to write a note or letter to explain. How would you explain? So here goes let’s give it a try…

Dear Friend,

I was taken aback a bit by your question today and needed a little time to process your inquiry because many emotions rose up within me at that moment. Too many to put into words immediately. God’s Word is life and health to me! Without it, I would not be the person I am… I probably would not be alive and certainly would not even resemble the person you know. His Word has been the source of strength to carry on in the darkest of days, when sorrow, grief, and loss were so very overwhelming that easily I could have crawled into a dark hole, given up and disappeared. It has brought comfort and peace in the most frightening of times; it has been my source of encouragement when all seemed lost, when I felt utterly alone; it has been a well of hope springing up in the driest of deserts; a balm to heal my heart when it has been wounded or too heartsick to even move. His Word has been freedom to a soul held captive by her circumstances, and it has flooded joy into a heart teaching me that joy is available even in the times where happiness is elusive and circumstances are challenging. When I have been wise, it has offered me the keys to navigate through every passage on this journey of life. When I have been foolish, He has drawn me back to it to shine light lovingly on the areas that could have been better navigated and teach me better ways for the future. Yes, it is life; strength; comfort; peace; encouragement; healing; freedom; joy; direction; and instruction. God’s Word also displays my Father’s character, shows the greatness of His love, and tells me who I am In Christ. In Him, we are called a friend; son or daughter; beloved; accepted; redeemed; justified; set apart; precious; blameless; chosen; and kings and priests…just to name a few. It contains everything needed to live a victorious life and to avoid the pitfalls life tends to throw our way. It is a precious gift and a much-needed tool for my life. Dear friend, I hope this at least in part answers your question and thank you! for challenging me with this question. It is beneficial to be challenged; to be able to put words to such profound emotions and beliefs and to bring to remembrance why we hold something or someone so dear and precious. It keeps it fresh to us and
prevents us from taking it for granted!
Grace and peace to you my friend!

Is Our World a Reflection of Who We Are?

 

The more I read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the other Old Testament prophets; the more I have to wonder if the modern day church is just repeating the same patterns and faux pas of the Hebrew people.  Many question how Jesus ended up being rejected by His people when they were scholars of the Torah. With prophecies of the Messiah’s coming all throughout their scriptures, many puzzle today asking HOW did they miss the time of His appearing?  However, we must be very careful in our judgemental questions…

Why? I would submit to you that those of us in the church today would do well to examine ourselves before questioning or pointing fingers at those who have gone before us. We would also do well to examine ourselves before blaming the world we live in, the government or anyone else for the current state of affairs in our communities or our country. It would also behoove us to examine how controversial laws have come to be passed rather than complaining.  How is it that we now have to be concerned about explaining to our small children or grandchildren why a child or an adult person of the opposite sex is allowed in their bathrooms?  1 Peter 4 may give us a hint…

  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19 HCSB

Is it possible that portions of the church over the last 30-50 years have spent more time judging those outside it walls rather than focusing on rightly judging ourselves by scripture?  Could it be some of us have been trying to hold the unbelievers accountable to God’s standard and preaching their doom rather that focusing on the great commandment to love God whole-heartedly and then loving our neighbors as our self-perpetuating His love to our neighbors no matter their beliefs in order that some may be won by seeing His love through us?  Then again, have we been living up the very things we say we believe??

First Peter 4:17 clearly states that Judgement will begin in the house of the Lord; the household of God.  If you’ll permit me another question, has there ever been a time in history where the church blended so well into the culture?  The rates of divorce, broken families, abortions, affairs are almost as high in the church as they are outside the church, and yet many of us walk around like we have it all together and have the answers. This should not be so.  If I were an outsider, the first thing I’d ask is, “if you have all the answers (and we do in God’s Word), why are you struggling, unhappy, discontent, complaining, or fill in the blank with what fits? Better yet, why are you judging me and criticizing me; I thought God is love and teaches His followers to love. Are we studying to show ourself approved, 2 Timothy 2:25; correctly teaching the truth? Are we speaking the truth in love? Ephesians 4:15  Would God say about us what He said to His people in Isaiah 56?

“His watchmen are blind,
All of them know nothing.
All of them are mute dogs unable to bark,
Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;
And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied.
And they are shepherds who have no understanding;
They have all turned to their own way,
Each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.
“Come,” they say, “let us get wine, and let us drink heavily of strong drink;
And tomorrow will be like today, only more so.
” Isaiah 56:10-12 NASB

Are we each going our way; doing what seems right in our own eyes/minds?  (Judges 17:6;  Proverbs 21:2; Judges 21:25)  Are we going down the same old path and circling the same ineffective cycles that are found all throughout the Old Testament. Could the words the prophets of old spoke be totally relevant to us today?  As I have spent much time in their writings over the last year, I believe their words are completely applicable today. Something is not working, at least not working well. Wisdom dictates that if that is the case, we need to change what we are doing.  Will we follow the Word of God and first examine ourselves?

““Cry loudly, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet,
And declare to My people their transgression
And to the house of Jacob their sins. “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
“Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?                                                                                          

“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
“And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:1-12 NASB

Will we step out in faith, take the time, and have the courage to examine ourselves regularly?  Are those of us who call ourselves believers or followers of Jesus Christ following His example? How do we know? People either loved Jesus or hated Him. Typically people loved Him, but the religious/pious hated Him and saw Him as a threat. It will be no different for us, are we up to the task??

May His Grace and Peace reign moment by moment in your life!

Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding

“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:5-7 (NASB)

While praying this morning, thinking back over all that happened this last week, I found myself weighing the events. I find that my heart is very grateful; yes, even for those difficult and painful moments! That is when Proverbs 4 came to mind…

We live in a culture in America where education is valued highly, and most parents strongly encourage early learning and higher education. We also live in an era where information is easily accessible; at the touch of our fingertips, we can educate ourselves on almost any topic we desire. It was inconceivable just twenty-five years ago the speed at which our world would change and that we would be able to use the internet to research any topic that we desired; becoming well trained on that subject.

The question is, whether we are speaking of education or in our knowledge of Scripture, are we making the most of the knowledge that we have acquired? Are we in our quest for knowledge also seeking wisdom? Wisdom is needed to apply knowledge, especially if we desire to be most effective in its application. Even so, notice the verse doesn’t stop there. We are also encouraged to get understanding. Here I would ask: Understanding of what?
1. Understand what you have learned
2. Understand the application of what you have learned
3. Applying what you have learned in a wise and appropriate way
4. Ability to explain or teach it to others in a way that makes sense to
them

Consider this, sometimes when conversations flow something will be said that will stir up a disagreement or perhaps something has been said that is misunderstood, and offense is triggered. Sometimes offense is triggered because harsh attitudes or bluntness. Other times it is unknowingly triggered. Perhaps we did not convey our thoughts or hearts wisely. Then again, we could have been using wisdom in our conversation but failed to include understanding; explaining ourselves well. They may be distracted or struggling because of a personal issue or pain in their lives. Lastly, if we spoke with wisdom when conveying our thoughts, and we sought to bring understanding to the person to whom we were speaking; did we speak to them with an understanding of who they are?; their personality type?; and the things with which they may be dealing? Did we consider them? Did we just throw something at them or did we engage with them first?

Wisdom is invaluable in life. Whether you are working with your child, your teen, your spouse, coworker or boss; wisdom is a key asset that we are wise to pray to receive. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Prayer for understanding, often neglected, is also essential. Wisdom is defined as the application of experience, knowledge, and sound judgment. That is pretty powerful in itself! Now imagine adding understanding as an element. Understanding as a noun implies comprehension, insight and if you will, the archaic meaning good judgment. What we sometimes miss in the fray is that understanding is also an adjective meaning sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; to be tolerant, forgiving.

What a gift it would be if we chose to apply our experience and knowledge with sound judgment and full comprehension; all the while being sympathetically aware of the feelings of those we are interacting with from a heart of tolerance and forgiveness. Sure, it isn’t easy to set aside strong opinions and attitudes. It takes strength to push of feelings to the side for a while but what would happen if we asked gentle questions of others rather than having harsh confrontations, prompting them to truly think about the issues at hand? I believe in most situations; it would initiate constructive conversations and provide a safe place for people to work out issues that may have previously seemed beyond resolution. It would certainly go a long way in bridging gaps in communication and avoid some of the frustrations of communication between differing personality types.

Lord, please teach us in all our getting, whether it is friends, knowledge, things, land or wealth; teach us foremost to seek wisdom and understanding (both the noun and the adjective)! Please show us the value of the adjective understanding (being sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.) If that means we have to take the temperature in our environment and observe (think before we speak), please help us develop this in our lives. May we walk in love, hope, mercy, grace; be seasoned with grace and take the beauty of Your grace with us wherever we go! In the name of Yeshua, Name above all names. Amen

Trusting God

Today, actually yesterday now, has been a gloriously challenging day! Why? My husband and I had to say goodbye to our furry friend of almost fifteen years from 444 miles away. Now as the day has closed and I prepare to close my eyes, I find my mind running at warp speed as my body begs for rest.
I find myself tracing God’s hand through our experience and realizing now more than ever that when I can not understand the reason things happen the way they do that God is still in control, and He always works things out for our good and His glory. I also find myself wondering why this lesson is one that it seems to keep coming back around.
Just a brief backstory, Cinnamon (our Pomeranian) came to live with us as a wee puppy in September 2001. She was quite precocious and lovable at the same time! Eighteen months later, a quieter more sedate Abby joined our family and Cinnamon adopted her as her baby. This past fall we had to limit Cinnamon’s use of our deck and stairs due to failing eyesight. Being a creature of habit, she, however, decided to sneak away and go up the stairs. She misstepped which resulted in a very long fall for such a small dog. We were surprised and pleased when she recovered as well as she did.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. We were invited to participate in a powerful leadership conference along with a group from our church. As we began to make plans to attend, Cinnamon’s health deteriorated. The vet exam determined she had an infection, but her heart was strong, and she had a lot of life in her. Again, she seemed to rally. We knew she would need more personal care than a kennel would be able to give if we were to go out of town for the conference; so we prayed “Lord if you want us to go, help make provision for Cinnamon’s special care needs.” If He opened a door, we’d go; if not we would go another time.  He opened a door, and we knew she and Abby would receive wonderful care.
Yesterday (Thursday) the conference began and back home, Cinnamon began a battle for every breath. Our sweet friend called about an hour before it began telling us Cinnamon had taken a turn for the worse during the night. She compassionately took care of Cinnamon for us for the next three hours. Sadly, we have to say goodbye to our long-time companion.  We find peace from knowing our friends were lovingly caring for her. Even so, I wonder about the timing and wish we had been there for Cinnamon; not that it would have changed the outcome. In fact, God in His wisdom may very well have orchestrated the timing. Perhaps it was to help ease the blow of the loss a beloved pet or to teach us to be gracious and accept the help of others to carry our burdens. Is it possible it is just life, and it was not part of His plan? I suppose that is possible as well.
Whatever the case, I am reminded that God is faithful, and He is good even when circumstances would challenge that in our human understanding! He redeems our lives and our circumstances when we allow Him to. There will be no more questioning or blame here. If or when regret at not being there tries to creep in, I will rest in Him and not in my understanding. I resolve to trust Him and His timing beyond my understanding and in knowing this, I will find peace as my heart grieves. I will choose to remember that He is faithful and He is my peace and my joy even in the midst of troubling or hard circumstances.  His grace is always sufficient!!

May you also find in Him grace, peace, and joy! Blessings to you this day!