Sunday, August 20, 2017

Two C-Words

I love words. I like the sound of them and the feel of them in my mouth. My mother taught speed-reading classes, but I didn't enjoy speed-reading - I wanted to savor each word as it came, not rush through them. I think it is also an aspect of why I chose speech-language pathology as my profession, and why articulation (speech sounds) is my favorite area. One of my favorite classes was Phonetics. I even got to be a teaching assistant for this class during graduate school. It was such fun for me to sound out each and every sound in the words. (Okay, I know there aren't many of you who would agree with me on this.)

Another thing I love is learning the meaning of words and word origins. (Medical terminology was fun, too!) Sometimes there are words we use every day and don't know the correct meaning or context of them. Take gesundheit for example (as we sometimes say when someone sneezes). I used to think it just meant "God bless you" but that's not quite accurate. It is German in origin and means literally "health-hood" or to have good health. It used to be a more common belief that the soul left the body when one sneezed, opening up the possibility of ill health to enter, hence the wishing of one's good health or the blessing of God to be bestowed upon the person.

I have gained some new perspective on a couple words and wanted to share them with you.

Compassion
What is compassion to you? I would generally say it is being kind-hearted, or that you have a desire to do something nice for someone else. A Bible verse that I've used often (especially in training our children) has been Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Many uses of compassion and compassionate in the Bible refer to God's character towards us. Oh, may we be more like Him! During a recent Bible study as well as a more recent sermon, I have come to have some new thoughts about this word.

Did you know that the Greek word for compassion translates "being moved in the bowels?" "Turning of the bowels" was another way I heard it defined. For those who may not know, your bowels are your intestines - or your gut. There is a belief by some that I think is less common now (maybe just because people don't talk or think about it) that the soul of a person, their spirit, resides in the gut region. When the Holy Spirit lives in someone, it is in this area, too. Think about the saying that we "have a gut feeling" about something.

Compassion refers to the inward feeling of concern, for when we have sympathy or empathy for someone else. I have had this kind of gut feeling for so many people - even people I don't know personally, including Facebook acquaintances of some of my friends/acquaintances, celebrities (one past one being Mary J. Blige - I don't know why; I just know God laid her on my heart for a few days), and people in other countries and cultures, such as those affected by severe droughts and floods that lead to starvation in Africa. If we are followers of Christ, then our hearts should hurt for what and whom God's heart hurts. We should feel this inward, visceral emotion for others. It should not be just a verbal response of "I'm sorry your dealing with that" and we move on with our own selfish thoughts, desires, and ambitions. We should feel it in our gut.

Now, compassion is not meant to just remain an inward feeling. Just as the contents of the bowels are not meant to remain in the bowels, neither is compassion meant to remain inside us. It is something that should be acted upon. Some say kindness is the outpouring of compassion, or "compassion in action." One way to think about it that my pastor, Jared Allen, shared was "love with its work clothes on." So, what do you do with the compassion you feel? Do you stuff it down because it is uncomfortable? It would take time, energy, and possibly money to help this other person or persons, wouldn't it? So, sometimes it gets stuffed. But what could be done instead?

We all have different skills and resources available to us, but we should pray about it and find a way to use them. (Please pray first - don't step out on your own without prayer!) Sometimes prayer is the gift that you can offer - but make sure it is sincere. If you say you are going to pray for someone, find ways to ensure that you will. Pray for them immediately, set an alarm, put a note where you'll see it, or find some other way to make sure you follow through. Let your words be true. Maybe you can show support in another manner. If led by the Lord to supply another need, then I hope your love will put its work clothes on!

One side note would be that not everyone who has a sad story and on whom you feel compassion needs or wants help. There are times when we need to stand back and let God do His own work within them. There are times when we decide that they need to deal with the consequences of their own actions without help from others, but this needs to not be our own human decision. We need to allow God to decide that, not us. But prayer can always be offered. Again, your prayer before jumping into action is very important! You need to ask God how He wants you to be involved before you decide to act (or not act) on your own decision, because it could be more detrimental than beneficial.


Circumcision

Circumcision can sometimes be an uncomfortable word to talk about. It is a word that invokes thoughts of pain and discomfort, as well as encroaching into the private life of another. It is not one that many people talk about openly. As such, if you are unfamiliar with this word or would like to know more about its meaning and history, I'd rather let you do your own research, if you are so inclined.

A good starting place for us now would be to point you to the first circumcision mentioned in the Bible, which is in Genesis 17. Abram was told that every male should be circumcised as a sign of the everlasting covenant between God and them. I have to admit that I always wondered how it would be a sign to others of their covenant relationship, because it would have been covered or hidden, right?

As is pointed out elsewhere in the Bible (Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:12-15) what is most important is a circumcision of the heart, not of the body. (It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway - this applies to women as well as to men.) It refers to living a new life in Christ Jesus and getting rid of the old ways (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Let's draw some lines of similarity between a physical circumcision and a spiritual circumcision. First, something is cut off. Spiritually, we must cut ourselves off from a life lived without Jesus as our savior, guide, and, well, in lack of a better word at the moment - boss. We must cut off all the sins that encumber our lives and are displeasing to God. Second, circumcision requires time to heal. You can't expect changes to be pain-free, easy, and quick. Yes, some might be that way, but more likely than not, they will be hard and they will hurt at some level. Third, there is symbolism of the change. Spiritually, baptism is a symbol of someone's decision to live the rest of their life with and for Jesus. As my pastor said, "Baptism is not necessary for salvation but it is necessary for obedience." It is an act of obedience that every believer is called to do as a symbol to others. As my pastor also pointed out, it's like wearing a wedding ring does not make you married. Baptism should also be a symbolic reminder to ourselves, just as a physical circumcision would have been a personal symbolic reminder of God's covenant with the Jews. Each Jewish male carried around his own personal reminder of God's covenant. (2 Peter 1:12-15).


Conclusion
I hope that this word study has provided some new thoughts for your own life and walk with Jesus as it did for me. I pray that you'll be compassionate and put your compassion in action. Let it wear its work clothes. I pray that you'll have a moment of introspection and consider the circumcision of your heart. Have you had a full circumcision and have you followed through with baptism? How can you remind yourself daily of your life with and in Christ instead of living for yourself or the world? May you be aware of God's blessings upon your life today.



References: (just a brief listing - please forgive that this is not a complete bibliography)
The Holy Bible (NIV); The Gospel Project, Vol. 8 (Summer 2017), Session 8; merriam-webster.com; sermons by Jared Allen (7/23/17 and 8/13/17).

Monday, July 3, 2017

Some Church Ponderings

For a number of years now, I've had a sadness for society, for the way social trends and politics have been going here in the U.S. Honestly, I'm sad about it in other countries as well - Sweden, U.K., and I saw a headline that saddened me about Germany just this week. It's a sadness that makes my heart sick for people who don't have right relationships with God.

In the last month, I have read things - published online articles as well as social network posts from acquaintances - that has turned my heart sickness toward those inside the Church. This big "C" church refers to the whole Christian community and not to one specific congregation or denomination, and my sadness crosses all those lines as well.

So, what prompted this post? I read an article about LGBT people becoming pastors of churches in a denomination that I wouldn't have expected, and about a deacon who was a "they" instead of a "he" or "she." I was reminded by an acquaintance of a very public pastor in another denomination who proudly displays her crudeness and sins in front of her congregation - with no apparent remorse over sin or effort to turn from sin. Also, I read a comment someone posted that the Church makes a big deal about homosexuality but not other sins, for example porn, when all sins are equally bad. I know not everyone in the Church (or outside it) who reads this post will agree with my stances. I'd rather not name names or put the articles on here, but if you are interested, I can share those with you.

So, as this post is about some of my church ponderings, I'm just going to put them here with no necessary flow of order - just as they have come.

- Porn is more of a hidden sin. People aren't flaunting it and trying to push it on other people. I haven't heard of people trying to convince others that it is okay and that everyone should accept it. Well, not directly anyhow. It has become more and more accepted through all forms of media - magazines, billboards, t.v., movies, books, etc. At the current time, though, people aren't going around openly telling others that they are into porn and demanding acceptance of it. There aren't parades, protests, and political action committees for porn. It doesn't make it right, but it can explain some of the reason you hear less about the Church fighting it.

- If we (at the church my family attends, and I believe many others) knew a person struggled with porn, or another sin (homosexuality, adultery, anger issues, etc.), it would not keep them from coming to our church. It wouldn't even keep them from becoming a member. If known, though, it would mean they couldn't be a leader. They couldn't be a Sunday school teacher, ministry team lead, or pastor/minister. Why? Because we believe that teachers and leaders are held to a higher standard of expectations - by the Bible! The section that immediately comes to mind is 1 Timothy 3. James 3:1 says "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." Matthew 18:3 says "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." This is stated also in Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2. Luke 17:1 says, "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.'" If a person has a known sin in their lives that could cause others to sin or give a wrong view about God (His character, His expectations, etc.), then they should not be in charge of leading others.

- The Church is a place of sinners, seeking to be pleasing children serving our heavenly Father (and more importantly seeking to bring others into the family of God, but that's not the current topic here). We all have some sins. The difference is in whether we flaunt them and say "So what?" or repent and say "I'm sorry. I'll try to do better." Then, we put the words into action - and really try to do better! At least that's the way it should be... I'm afraid a large body in the Church is starting to say "So what?" and thumbing their noses at God.

- For those who say that the Church is ignoring sins such as porn, there are some programs that exist. Some educate people about it and its effects, as well as some who help people overcome it. There are also programs that exist for overcoming other sins, such as anger issues. Yes, every sin is egregious. If we have a known sin and cannot beat it on our own, then we should seek help from trusted others. Again, I don't believe you hear as much about these sins since they aren't being forced for acceptance as social norms.

- I have been led to a different way of thinking about modern-day "Pharisees." I usually think of "Pharisees" as just being overly legalistic about things. A new way I started thinking about them is that they make up their own rules and try to force others to follow them. During His earthly life, Jesus addressed the Pharisees acting in this way. In today's time, I'd say this would include those seeking to redefine "church," being a Christian, and right from wrong. 

- There is not a unity in the Church on beliefs. It has always been Satan's goal to divide and conquer, and he is making progress. This should not be, Church family! Deuteronomy 7:25 says, " Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction." We need to be careful what we are allowing into our Church "house."

- I saw someone wrote about the duality of Christianity - that it's black and white, not accepting of all the gray areas. I agree, but I don't see it as a bad thing, as this author did. There's right and wrong, absolute truth and untruth. There is light and dark, heaven and hell, saved and unsaved. I think it's helpful to have some things like this clearly spelled out so I don't have to guess or doubt about such things! This author said it is "not this way on earth." It's not the way we humans see and do things. He's right! We messed it up! God's not wrong just because we have consequences for our own sins!

- The author in the above point also said, "...love that is the very essence and nature of God..." So many people forget about His justice! Yes, he is a loving God, but He metes out discipline just as a loving father would, to help his children grow as they should. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."

- Not all who call themselves Christians are. Not all churches have the favor of God upon them. There are false teachers in the Church and the Christian community. If someone claims to be a Christian, then they should be making efforts to turn from sin and live a Christian life. 1 Corinthians 11:13-15 says "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."

Here are some other verses I've found while praying and thinking about all these church ponderings. I hope you'll consider taking the time to seek God and read them on your own.

Unity in the Church
1 Cor. 1:10, Romans 16:17-18, Gal. 5:15

Turning from Sin When You're a Christian
Romans 12:1-2, 12:9, Gal. 5:13, Col. 2:20-23, Col. 3:5-6, Eph. 5:1-7, 2 Tim 2:19, 2:22, Titus 1:16, 1 Peter 1:13-16, 1 Peter 2:16, 1 Peter 4:2, 1 John 1:6, James 1:26, 1 Thess. 5:21-22

False Teachers/Not All Who Claim to be Christians Are
Gal. 1:6-8, Col. 2:8, 1 Tim. 4:1-4, 2 Peter 2 (whole chapter), 2 Peter 3:15-16, Matt. 25:31-46, 2 Peter 3:15-16


1 Timothy 4:16 - Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

2 Corinthians 13:5 - Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Glad for the Hard

Almost daily right now, I'm reminding myself that I'm "glad for the hard." Does that sound strange - to be glad that things are difficult?

I would describe myself as being very intentional with teaching my kids to live morally and godly. I frequently pray for them to grow to "know, love, and follow hard after Jesus." I have high hopes about how they will act. I want them to show kindness, generosity, honesty, and forgiveness, among other characteristics. I don't want them to be jealous, selfish, rude, mean, dishonest, or unforgiving (also among other characteristics).

So, when "Glad for the Hard" came to me a couple months ago, I was feeling disappointed with some of my kids' mindsets and actions. But then I realized that, although I'm training them, they are still growing and have not yet accepted Jesus as their Savior. The Holy Spirit hasn't grabbed hold of them quite yet. We all have our sins, but my children have not yet developed a godly sorrow for their sins.

Before my maternal grandfather passed away, I would ask him interview-type questions when I visited him in the hospital or rehab. settings. I wanted to get more information about him and his life so that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would remember him and his generation better. One time, I asked him about when he was baptized. It wasn't until he was a young man, soon after his first child was born. He told me that he didn't approve of young children being baptized because they didn't comprehend from what they were being saved. That thought has stuck with me. I do believe some young children do really live for God from an early age, but I definitely see his point.

In Luke 7:36-50, Luke recalls a time when a sinful woman washed Jesus' feet with her tears and anointed them with costly perfume. When Simon the Pharisee grumbled, Jesus told him a parable about two men being forgiven their debts. He asked which man would love more and "Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled,'" (Luke 7:43). Later, in verse 47, Jesus said, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

I have seen this to be true in people I have known as well. Two men in particular come to mind - Trey and Ryan. They made some very unwise choices especially in their teenage years and 20s, but after they found Jesus, they followed Him with a passion that goes beyond many who have been in church and became followers/believers as young children. My chidlren and I read about men like George Muller and Adoniram Judson. After very rough starts in their lives and bad choices that they made, what they did for God in their later years is truly amazing! These "later" Christians are truly inspirational to me!

The thought came to me and I don't believe the mountains would be nearly as beautiful, magnificent, or awe-inspiring without the valleys. In fact, I'm not sure there'd even be mountains without the valleys. But later someday..."Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 40:4-5). Other verses I found for this idea include Isaiah 41:15-16, 42:15-16, 45:2-3, 49:11, and 54:10.

Those who go through hard times, who have to learn the hard lessons and sometimes in the hard ways, often have deeper faith. That deeper faith is one that prompts greater action, too, and is not kept in secret in their living rooms at home. I love the idea that, because my kids struggle now, they will hopefully have a more strongly rooted faith in Jesus and will live more confidently for Him. They'll probably need it in the coming ages!

We all go through hard times. Whether it be issues within ourselves (or thoughts, character, etc.), or in the greater realm of our families, friends, jobs, or society, we all have some "hard." No matter if it is health, job, relationships, loss of relationships, addictions, etc., we can all look for the good in which we can be glad.

While my children still struggle with mindsets and characteristics that are ungodly, I remind myself to be "glad for the hard." I pray that they will love Jesus all the more someday, when they realize from what He can set them free. I pray that He will create such a notable life change in them that they will never doubt His reality and love. I pray that I never forget this in my own life when I recognize my own sins, either.

May we continue to train up our children to know, love, and follow hard after Jesus. 
Proverbs 22:6; 3 John 4

May none of us lose heart and give up when life gets difficult.
James 1:2-4, 12; Galatians 6:9

May we know that God uses every struggle.
2 Cor. 1:3-4, 9-10; Romans 8:28

May we all recognize our need for a Savior.
1 John 1:8-10, John 3:16-17

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stubborn Child!

So, when you first read the title of this post, to which child did you think I was referring? Well, no matter which child you picked, you'd be wrong. The stubborn child is none other than me. Yes, me.

Two nights ago, something got said and, although it held some truth - a truth I've known and wanted to work on for a while, too - it still hurt. I felt misunderstood and unappreciated. That night, I tried to get control of my thoughts and turn to God with them. I prayed and asked Him to help me find a solution, but at the time, my mind seemed to be working overtime on the hurt side, feeling more and more hurt and unappreciated.

I decided to take an "I'll show them" kind of approach - which never works! It always ends up making it harder on myself than anyone else, and often they don't even notice! I was determined to do whatever I could to show my significance, to be appreciated, to not fit the mold into which I felt pressed. So, you know what happened?

It was an extremely rough day yesterday. My mind was all mixed up with sour thoughts and feelings. It affected the way I spoke to people. It affected the way I cared for myself (avoiding meals, work too hard without a break, take unnecessary and unsafe risks, etc.). My children noticed and responded differently to me, even though I think I managed to keep things nice enough and they still had a really good day. (They had baby praying mantises hatch that they got to watch, got school done quickly, and played in water outside).

So, back to me being the stubborn child. I've been in that place before, when my mind is attacked with lies, and the longer I allow them to be there, the larger and more destructive they become. I know how to combat them, but I rebelled. I refused. I stewed in my anger, hurt, and frustration. My prayers were affected. My praise was affected. My hearing my Father was affected. I actively refused to go when He called. Stubborn child!

Last night, when my mind had finally calmed and settled, I was able to look back and think about it more. Again, I could pinpoint and tell you times when God had actively sought me throughout the day, to instill His truth in my mind and redeem my thoughts, and I had turned away. It reminded me of a time two weeks ago when I saw a boy get angry. When a mother figure/teacher moved toward him to talk to him about it and draw him back into a right relationship with others, he said, "Leave me alone!" and did his best to move away. At times, he stomped his foot and balled his fist. His voice was tight and forceful. He actively refused the help. Last night it hit me that I was the stubborn child, resisting the help of my heavenly Father.

I've been in a Bible study about the armor of God, described in Ephesians 6. This week, we were studying the helmet of salvation, and how it is there to protect our minds. Not only can our salvation thwart attacks on our mind, but it can also work to redeem the negative thoughts and habits, making them new and in alignment with God. I knew that helmet was there for me to pick up and put on (which, by the way, is important about the helmet - you have to actively pick it up and put it on!), but I wouldn't.

I am in a better place now. I began to soften and accept God's help. I confessed my wrongdoings to the Lord last night. I apologized for turning away from Him and refusing Him. I asked for forgiveness. I know who I am in Christ. I am hopeful that I will be quicker to grab onto truth next time and refuse to allow the lies to take ahold like they did this time. Satan got a temporary foothold yesterday, but he has been kicked out and, with the Spirit's help, I will win the next battle!

I started writing down some verses to post to help me with the battle. Here are the ones I've found so far. As I wrote them for myself, I added my name or "I" as appropriate, to make it more personal for me.

[I] demolish arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.     2 Corinthians 10:5

[I will] not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but [will] be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind. Then [I] will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.     Romans 12:2

Finally, [Christa], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - thing about such things.     Philippians 4:8

[Christa], be made new in the attitude of your mind; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore [I] must put off falsehood and speak truthfully..."In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.     Ephesians 4:23-27

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."     Lamentations 3:19-24

The LORD is good to [me when my] hope is in him, to [me when I seek] him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.     Lamentations 3:25-26     (Oh, how I need to quiet my mind so I can hear him and receive my sanctifying salvation and blessing!)


If you know other helpful verses, please share! I'd love to have those as part of my battle plan.

 When Satan attacks your mind with lies, fight back immediately! Don't allow him to get a foothold in your life. Hold to truth and reject the lies. Don't be a stubborn child; run to the Father.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

God Answers

I had an experience today that I want to share with you. I know there are those who don't believe that God can talk to you, or maybe just that you haven't heard Him yourself. I want you to know that God can talk to you through many different ways, and you can hear Him - if you are listening.

I'm remembering something that our pastor said last Sunday. He said, "As Christians, we're called to live out a private practice [our faith] publicly in front of the world." I believe God has laid it on my heart this afternoon to share this with you - a glimpse into my private faith given publicly here for others in the world.

So, a little background...our three-year-old nephew, Knox, got really sick last week. They found that he had a brain tumor. The doctors were able to successfully operate on him and remove the tumor, but he is still facing some difficulties as he recovers. All this and he is far away from family right now. They haven't been able to return since everything happened and cannot safely travel for a while now.

This afternoon, we learned that he had some seizures and a stroke the night before last.

That news hit hard.

A verse that I read yesterday came to me at that moment, though: The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b).

Later this evening, as I was driving somewhere, alone, God and I had a talk. I cried and told Him how I felt about the situation, how I hurt for Knox, Kristen, Chad, Carol and Joy (grandmothers) and so many others. I prayed for healing, for no lasting neurological damage or other complications, for Kristen and Chad to turn to God and not away from Him and more. I told Him I trusted Him and knew that He would work through this situation, even if we didn't understand what He was doing. I prayed for Him to receive the glory no matter the outcome. I prayed for Him to tell me something.

Before I go on, I should tell you briefly that God sometimes uses the songs on the radio to speak to me. As I was praying (well, first, He made sure that a carpool opportunity wouldn't work out so that I would be completely open to hearing from Him), a song by Third Day came on the radio called I Need a Miracle. Here's the chorus:

Well no matter who you are
And no matter what you've done
There will come a time
When you can't make it on your own
And in your hour of desperation
Know you're not the only one
Prayin' "Lord above, I need a miracle."

It sounded somewhat like my prayer. Of course I believe He has and is working miracles already in this, and I know there are more to come. I trust in Him for that. I also thought of Chad and Kristen, of how they must be feeling like this and praying for that miracle, too. I could hear this being something Kristen would be praying.

The next song on the radio was Just Be Held by Casting Crowns. I think God was saying it somewhat to me, but then again, I felt as if it was something Kristen and Chad need to hear God saying to them, too. The lyrics of the whole song are so fitting that I'm just going to include a link to them, but the simple message is "stop holding on and just be held." They are trying so hard to be strong through all this, but it is okay to be broken and realize that this is beyond them. I am so thankful, as I know they are as well, for all the prayer warriors that have come together to pray for Knox and their family. Here are the lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/castingcrowns/justbeheld.html.

As I heard these songs, I was in tears, from the pain in my heart for my family and from praise to the One who answered my cries, reassuring me that He does hear me, He is listening, and He's got this one under control.


God does love you and wants you to come to Him. He sent His son Jesus to make it possible for you - for all who believe that Jesus came to pay the death sentence for your sins that keep you separate from God. He wants to hear from you and He wants to speak to you. Will you open your heart to Him? Be willing to be broken before Him. Admit that you cannot do this life on your own and you no longer want to. Ask Him to send the Holy Spirit to be your guide, your peace, your joy. Listen for His quiet whisperings to your soul. You'll know it's Him.

I want to give a praise shout for First Baptist Church of Marble Falls (TX), who had a special prayer during the services for Knox and his family this morning, and are sending the children's pastor and Knox's granny by plane to go see him tomorrow, and then back home. What an amazing gift!

Thank you to everyone praying for Knox.


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. - James 5:16

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. - Matthew 18:20


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Am I Missing Out? Are You?

Do you ever get the feeling that you are missing out on something? I know I do!

For example, my body doesn't handle the food I put in it the way it used to. There are stories that my family will tell (and some friends, too, I suppose) of how I ate a baker's dozen doughnuts by myself one morning when I was a teenager, or how I kept eating cobbler after cobbler at the Salt Lick bbq restaurant around the time I got married in my mid-20s, and other such stories. But I can't eat like that anymore. Not if I want to take care of myself and have energy, concentration, and motivation.

So, I try to cut back on sweets - candies, cookies, cakes, ice cream, and the like. I cut back on carbohydrates - bread, tortillas, cookies, cakes... I cut back on comfort foods that are delicious but rich and heavy, and on large portion sizes. I haven't been a soda drinker for 16 1/2 years.

To go off-course slightly for a moment, have you thought about some of the foods eaten in Biblical times? When the Israelites were in the desert, God fed them with meat and bread (quail and manna). John the Baptist ate locusts and honey. When Jesus fed multitudes of people, he fed them fish and bread. Now, I'm all about eating fruits and vegetables, but do you see any of those listed above? Well, we can't forget about Adam and Eve in the garden, because I feel fairly confident that they ate fruits and vegetables. Okay, time to get back on track again.

I have to admit that I don't keep up with eating better for me all the time. I love sweets and have to really pull together a lot of will-power to avoid them, and eating is such a joy...sometimes I feel like I am missing out. I feel deprived, like other people are getting something that I am not getting.

I started thinking about another area in which some people feel like they are missing out on things. If someone is considering living as a Christian, they might feel like they will be missing out on all the "fun" that non-believers are having - the parties, and just getting to say and do whatever they want without worrying about what other people and God might think about it. So, I thought about what I'm missing out on by my choice to live as a follower of Christ.

1. Wild Parties - I miss out on getting drunk or drugged and some of the effects of these - hangovers, acting foolishly, making foolish mistakes, harmful addictions.

2. Getting to say whatever I want - I miss out on yelling/shouting when mad, using foul language, gossiping, and talking unkindly or negatively.

3. Getting to watch, listen to, or read whatever media I want - I miss out on filling my mind and heart with crude, violent, or horror images and thoughts. I miss out on internalized messages that can be harmful to others and myself.

4. Getting to make choices based only on what I want - I miss out on decisions that are hurtful to others and myself in the short-term and long-term.

Wow, I don't think I'm sad about what I'm missing! In fact, I gain so much more by avoiding these things. I can maintain my dignity and reputation by living purely and authentically in all situations. I can build up people and relationships with kind, considerate, beneficial, controlled speech. I can protect my mind from the lies of Satan and enemies of God, and maintain focus on God's plan and purposes. I can hear His voice and see where He is working more clearly. I can see and hear how God works in my life and others when I consider every action and decision carefully, allowing God to lead me.

So, just a few more notes and verses to share with you:

1. If you never had it, you won't miss it. That's not to say that if you know about it and see other people with it/doing it that you won't wistfully want it, but you won't miss it. I think about the people who work on cacao farms and have never tasted chocolate. Oh boy, they are missing out on an addiction, aren't they? I think of friends with children who have food allergies. They don't know what they are missing - and that's okay. They are happy with what they have. I think of poor people in other countries, who have never known anything other than scraps of food for their one meal of the day, one room in a small tent for their entire family, no air conditioner or heater, no nice cushy beds, no kitchens full of pots and pans, no leftovers in the fridge (no fridge), etc. Imagine their shock if they saw our abundance. (By the way, does that make your heart hurt like mine? How spoiled we are!)
2. Withdrawal is not easy. If you see that you need to make changes, it's not easy. Any former addict will tell you that - whether it be drugs, alcohol, caffiene, sugar, or any one of the many other forms of addiction. Withdrawal from harmful substances and situations, however, is well worth it! Don't give up just because something is hard. Hard doesn't make it wrong.
3. Once it is removed, you might find you have a distaste for it. I have recently heard from a couple individuals how they used to love sodas, but once they stopped drinking them for a while, if they decided to have one again, they couldn't stand it. They either didn't like the taste anymore, or they would physically become ill. I've heard similar things from friends who are now gluten-free. The cost of having something with a little gluten is not worth the consequences that come with it, so they no longer want those things.
4. Replace it with something better. I have heard that when you remove something, you need to be intentional about replacing it with an acceptable alternative. Otherwise, you face the possibility of falling into another bad pattern, another accidental addiction that might be even harder to break. So, when you remove wild and crazy parties, replace it with meaningful gatherings of friends and family, sharing healthy experiences and great stories. Replace gossip and harmful talk with uplifting and beneficial speech. Use positive words instead of negative words. Go ahead and plan some out. It'll help you be more successful. When you get rid of harmful media, replace it with something more in line with what you want filling your head and heart. Before you make a decision, build in some time to pray, seek guidance if needed, and sincerely consider your choices and the effects it could have on others and yourself.
5. Get accountability. Find a trusted person who can support you, who will give you gentle yet firm nudges in the right direction. It is always easier when you are not trying to do it on your own.
6. Pray. Call on the strength and power of One who has infinitely more than you alone, or any group of humans combined. Ask Him to fill you with wisdom and strength, to give you the motivation to persevere, to walk with you all the way.


Verses:
2 Cor. 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come! 
Eph. 4:29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
Phil. 4:8 - Finally, brothers, 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. 
Luke 14:28, 31 - Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?...Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 
Luke 6:45 - The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heard, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
1 Cor. 15:33 - Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
Ecc. 4:9-12 - Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Phil. 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
1 Thess. 5:16-18 - Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thess. 5:21-22 - Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
Romans 6:21 - What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
Romans 8:37 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 12:2 - Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:9 - Love must be sincere. hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Romans 12:21 - Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Cor 10:13 - No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 
1 Cor. 10:23-24, 31 - "Everything is permissible" - but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible" - but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others...So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Cor. 11:31 - But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
James 4:4 - You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Deut. 7:26 - Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Answered Prayer!

The Lord is so good!

I am praying about a certain situation and wanted to trust God to reveal something to me through Bible or song today. I have to admit my doubts that He would use the specific part of the Bible that I'm currently in.

In full disclosure, I haven't even gotten to that part of my Bible yet this morning (although I probably will by the end of this post), but He has chosen to draw me near and answer me through the Bible reading with my children's devotion this morning and a friend's post on Facebook.

He has not told me the solution to the issue I'm praying about, but the messages I clearly heard this morning are:

* Love must be sincere. 
* Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
* Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
* Honor one another above yourselves.
* Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
* Be joyful in hope
* Be patient in affliction
* Be faithful in prayer
* Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
* Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
* Live in harmony with one another.
* Do not be proud...Do not be conceited.
* Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
* Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
* If it is possible, as far as it depends on me, live at peace with everyone.
* Do not take revenge...but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
*  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

* You are my servant. I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
* So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
* I will strengthen you and help you;
* I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
* All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced
* those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.
* I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:9-13


And finally, as I hoped to do, I opened my Bible up to Luke 12, where I had last stopped reading. I never should have doubted God! Here is what He had for me today:

* Be on your guard against...hypocrisy.
* There is nothing concealed taht will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
* What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
* do not be afraid
* Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
* do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

So, again, I did not receive a clear solution or answer to the issue in my prayers, but He has called me to trust Him and not be afraid. He has told me some about the situation - that all will be made clear - and how I should conduct myself.

Oh God, that I may keep all this in mind and please you with my actions today! Thank you so much for your faithfulness, even when I was in doubt! I should have known better. I do know better! To you be all the glory in this issue. May You shine through it.

Thank you for answered prayers.

Update:
Wouldn't you know, after I first posted this, God provided another verse through another friend's post? Here it is:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder...how great Thou art!

Update:
And even more updates today! The song It is Well with My Soul came into my head this morning and I sang the chorus out loud as the kids and I were going somewhere in the truck. My son has been singing the chorus randomly throughout the rest of the day. Then, the friend who posted Philippians 1:9-10 earlier also posted another verse and tagged me on it. The verse is Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 

So, just now, Son was singing the chorus of It is Well with My Soul. I started singing along with him. Then, I found it in a hymnal and played it on the piano. Does anyone want to guess what was on the page right next to it? It was none other than Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace based on the verse of Isaiah 26:3!

 I tell you, God can speak to us through many outlets. We just have to be ready and listening.