January 31, 2011

Never. Give. Up.

Today I am physically and emotionally drained.  God has had to spend today filling me up with His promises.

  • "If anyone says,"I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

 1 John 4:20-21

 I am struggling in this area right now.  I am at war within myself as I struggle with feelings of deep dislike for several people.  It is weighing heavy on me and I do not want to be in this place for I know the burden that it brings.  

 "God give me a heart that sees those around me who have hurt me, the way in which you seem them.  Help me to remember that I am commanded to love them just as You have loved me."

 
 

  • "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30

 I am stressed.  I will admit that it has been a few weeks since I have felt any kind of stress but not today.  I am teetering on the edge of taking back the control of a situation instead of trusting God.  I feel that if I do not take control then the burden that I am feeling is going to win out and crush me.

"God help me to lay everything at Your feet.  Help me remember that allowing You the control allows there to be peace."

 
 

  • "But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Matthew 14:27-31

 Why do I doubt?  Just like Peter, I question, then I focus on Him, only to be hit by the wind, taking my eyes off Christ and I sink.  Things are calm and trust comes easy.  Then I get stuck, I hesitated and take a step back trying to figure out what step I should next.  I doubt.   "You of little faith" seems to be me at the moment. 

 "Lord I know that You have control over all of my circumstances.  There is no greater security then the security found in You.  Help me to keep my focus on You so that I may stay strong." 


 

  • "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."

Philippians 4:13

I am having one of those days where I'm thinking, it would be so much easier to just give up. You can only fight against evil on your own for so long before it beats you down. Thankfully I have the power of the One who died for my sins. The One who rose from the dead. The One who sits at His Fathers right hand. The King of all Kings is living inside of me. The Holy Spirit gives me the strength required to fight another day when I surrender fully to Him.

"Father remind me of Your power living in me. You fight for me and through me when I surrender to Your ways. You give me the strength to keep fighting."


 

 
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

January 28, 2011

Unseen


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9

5 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?"

 36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, "Don't be afraid; just believe."

 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." 40 But they laughed at him.

   After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:35-43

As humans, we are limited. Our limited condition confines us to this second in time. We can only be certain of things that are taking place in this very moment. We have no idea whether we will open our eyes again tomorrow morning. We are blind to the things of our future. We are blind to anything beyond the present. Because of this limitation, no matter how hard we may choose to walk straight, chances are we will get hurt somewhere along the way.

Scripture tells us, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

If we could only heed the advice of Christ, life might not be as difficult as we make it. God knows that we have no clue what will come into our lives tomorrow but He does. So why then do we find it so hard to trust when He asks? Why is our faith so small?

Jesus pleaded with Jairus to trust. Jairus went to Jesus because his daughter was dying and begged Him to come heal her. Jesus went but before reaching the home of Jairus, they were told that the girl was dead.
"Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, "Don't be afraid; just believe."Mark 5:36 Jesus pleaded, "Trust me". Do not be afraid but instead, just trust me!

Trust means walking in the dark. It means walking a path that we are unfamiliar with and allowing someone else to lead us in the direction that we should go. The thing is, it is not just someone, it is God. The Creator of our life is the One asking to guide us through the unknown. Yes being blind to what lies ahead is scary. I am at that place at this very moment but I would much rather be blind and lead by my Creator then left to navigate on my own. Suddenly when trusting, the future is not so scary.

" Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Hebrews 11:1

Sometimes in order to trust, we have to overcome the obstacles around us. We have to silence the noise. Jesus recognized this
"When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep."  But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was."
(39-40)  Jesus took control of the situation and paid no attention to what the people said. In fact, he "put out" the ones who did not trust. This is huge! It is a crucial point in this story for seeing the unseen,
"Ignore what people say. Block them out. Turn them off. Close your ears. And, if you have to, walk away." Max Lucado

Walking by faith means that sometimes, we have to plug our ears or cover our eyes in order to see the unseen. "Jesus compels Jairus to see the unseen. When Jesus says, "Just believe…" He is imploring, "Don't limit your possibilities to the visible. Don't listen only for the audible. Don't be controlled by the logical. Believe there is more to life than meets the eye!" Max Lucado

Living by faith does not come naturally to anyone. God knows this about His children. Possibly one of the reasons that Jesus raised this little girl from the dead was specifically for us. It definitely was not for her benefit as she would have been much better off in heaven. Instead, maybe God knew we needed to see that He knows and sees when we trust.


 

January 27, 2011

All the small things


 1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."

 "Woman,[a] why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My hour has not yet come."5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b] 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.


  
John 2:1-12

 

I have experienced a miracle. For many, my miracle may not sound too miraculous but for me, it was amazing. It was just what I needed at this particular point in my life.



Back in November, I took my three year, as I often do before Preschool, to McDonalds. We always go through the drive-thru because she loves to roll down her window and talk to the people at the windows. As we pulled up to get our food, the young girl at the window handed my drink to me. I took the cup and went to place it in the cup holder when suddenly the top fell off and drink went all down the front of the dash of my car.


I didn't think it was a big deal and told her it was ok. She handed me a bunch of napkins and I pulled into a parking place to clean up the mess. Suddenly the lights in the radio part of my dash began to flicker. The cd that was playing began to make funny noises. I then realized the drink had made its way down into the panel. Within minutes, all the lights were gone. I could no longer see the time, what radio station was playing, which cd we were listening to or control the sound. I wasn't mad but a little irritated. The radio and cds still played but we were blind to the valuable information that the panel brought to us.



It was not a huge deal but as days went on, it became frustrating not knowing the time and having to pull out the cell phone to check. I couldn't adjust the volume so the music was louder in the back than in the front, which caused issues with the kids. It was just more of a headache.



Things like this seem so small to me and not something that I would normally think that God would be concerned about but one day I decided to pray. I just simply asked, "God will you please fix my radio?" I would like to say that in that moment, that the lights miraculously appeared but they did not. Truth be told, I knew they wouldn't. Proof of my lack of faith.



Over the next few weeks, I repeatedly read devotions on prayer and faith. God was trying to show me something but I was not listening. One day it hit me that just because He doesn't give me what I want the first time I ask, that I should not stop asking. I prayed again with a simple "God please fix my radio". This went on for several days and the more I prayed the more determined I became not to give up. I put faith behind that prayer.



On New Year's Eve, I was in my car when suddenly the lights in the dash began to flash. The time, the radio station and song information blinked on for several seconds. Honestly, my mouth fell open and I sat in disbelief for a moment. My reaction; "No Way!" It was as if I could not believe it was happening. I even doubted that it would come back on and stay on. The lights blinked on and off several times. Then finally, the blinking stopped and the lights remained.



It was a miracle. To me, God fixed my car and answered what I thought was a silly prayer. What I am realizing; God does not think that what we find important to be silly.



The other day I was reading about Jesus turning water into wine. The point of the devotion was simply that God finds the things that may think seem small to Him but are important to us are in fact, important to Him.



The writing talked about how Jesus could have performed all kinds of amazing things for His first miracle. He could heal the sick or raise the dead but instead, He turned water into wine. At this point, Jesus was not "famous" yet. He was not invited to this wedding because He was known to perform miracles. None had occurred at this particular time. So why now? Why water into wine? Jesus Himself seemed to think that this miracle was a bit premature. My thinking, as I read becomes that He saw in the eyes of His mother that it was important to her. Tradition back then, did not allow room for this type of error. Running out of wine left a shameful blemish on the reputation of the hosts. Run out of wine and your neighbors could file charges. Jesus cared enough about the people that what was important to them was important to Him. He saw the concern in His mother's eyes for the host and He chose to honor her. To add to this miracle, the only people who knew it had taken place were that of His mother, His disciples and the servants. It was not performed to make Him popular or famous but because He loved.



I'm sure the disciples and the servants never forgot this event. It was a miracle, which displayed God's love and concern for our everyday problems. No matter what we may be facing, nothing is too insignificant for God. He always has time for each of us when we choose to come to Him. When we choose to pray, we too will experience Christ's miracle-working power. Even if all you need are for the lights on your dash to work again. God loves you that much!

January 24, 2011

The end is really the beginning

My 21-day journey has ended and for a moment, I found myself sad. Then reality hit, and I realized that the true journey is now beginning.

I spent 21 days seeking direction and I did not come up empty. These past three weeks have been profound to say the least and have now changed the course of my journey.

"23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?"

Luke 9:23-25

As previously mentioned, it takes 21 days to create a habit. After spending the past 21 days in the Word, it has now become habit. I can no longer begin my day until I have spent time with Him. Because of this time spent with Him each morning, I am prepared throughout the day (most of the time) when discouragement strikes. I am also more aware of when God is speaking to me.

This past Thursday, I had one of the greatest revelations of my life. It was not until Saturday morning I was able to write about it. Yesterday morning at church, our pastor preached a sermon based on what I had written. He even used scripture that I had used. Coincidence? NO WAY! I now recognize when God is trying to affirm to me that what He is showing me is real. In that same sermon, he also preached on what my quiet time had been that morning before church and again, quoted the same scripture I had read that morning. Again, coincidence? Absolutely NOT!

I am in awe of God. I am experiencing the bigness of God for what I believe is the first time in my personal life. I have learned that my purpose in this life is to bring glory to God. I have learned that in order to do this, I must draw closer to Him in order to become more like Jesus. I am to make Him famous. I have learned that in order to do this, I must deny myself daily and surrender to His way and not my own.

I have always understood surrender. It has not been a problem for me in terms of turning things over to God. I have faith that He can do anything. What I was missing though was the fact that complete surrender is active. You don't just say a prayer, ask Jesus to take the throne and you're done. Surrender occurs every day. Each day I have to wake up and surrender myself to God's authority in obedience. The equation looks like this: I must deny myself, which leads to surrender, surrender leads to obedience, and obedience leads to glorifying God.

I have learned that following Jesus is not a deed but instead, it is a death.
"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:3
It is not about keeping a "list" or following rules. That is religion. Instead, it is me dying to and surrendering to God so that He may live through me. So in order for me to "gain" life, I must lose mine. Surrender is not some big event that transpires when I pray to receive Christ but instead, it is a lifestyle choice.


"4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5


 

The choice to walk in faith is having complete trust in God. This means that it is impossible to control my own life. I was not created to run my own life and if I try to take that control, I will fail. This choice of surrender is possible. It is possible because I have the power of God living within me. Because of the Holy Spirit within me, I can accomplish all things because Christ gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Now that I finally understand the extent of surrender, it means something totally different. I am bought and paid for by the blood of Christ. God seems me as righteous because of Christ's death upon the cross. My sanctification is an ongoing process and will not be complete until I stand before God in eternity. I must wake up every day and surrender my life to Him in order to live in obedience and glorify Him. My mission is now to surrender my life daily.

"10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 3:10-14

January 22, 2011

Old Has Gone

Day 20 of 21

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

2 Corinthians 5:14-21


 

This past week has been a significant week in my three-week journey. I have learned a lot and witnessed even more. God has made Himself known and affirmed over and over that He is with me.

I grew up in the Baptist church. I grew up learning all the bible stories, memorizing verses at VBS, memorizing the 23rd Psalm and the 10 commandments, learning all the hymns and on and on. I knew a lot about the bible. As an adult, it is beneficial to know these things because in hard times, the reminder of God's love is needed to deal with trials.

A time comes though, when all of those things that you have learned over the years, come into play. You have to put them into practice. It's all you have to hold on to and it becomes your greatest source of strength. I have seen the power and influence of Satan over people but I have seen the amazing power and faithfulness of God even more.

I will admit that when times are difficult, it becomes easy to lose focus of what God is doing and focus on the lies that Satan whispers into our ear. It has not only happened to me over the past two years but pretty much too every person I know who has been involved in my situation. Gossip has run amuck, as well as slander, jealousy, betrayal and the list goes on. All of those things were brought about by Satan and used to destroy the testimony of myself as well as others involved. What I find to be the most chilling in it all, are those that fail to recognize that they too have played a part in all that has taken place. For some it comes down to ignorance but for many, it is pride.

I have spent three weeks asking God for discernment but instead found an intimacy with the Lord that is beyond description. I have come to know Him in a new way and He has and is changing my life. I am happier than I have ever been.

One of the greatest lessons learned (for me) over the past three weeks has been that of alienation to reconciliation. I have learned that we live in a fallen world where separation, rejection and alienation cannot be avoided. We were created with a desire to be in a relationship with God. Sometimes, it is hard to find that connection where our relationship is solid and not surfacy. Our relationship with God is critical to our well-being but there are times when things stand in the way of that relationship. We all at one time or another (probably daily if we're honest) have violated the Lord's commands whether it be something that we have done or thought or said.

God cannot be in the presence of sin. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death, which is eternal separation from God. (Romans 3:23) Being raised Baptist, I was taught this from an early age. Typically the diagram of the two cliffs with God on one side and man on the other with the cross serving as the bridge to both was used to illustrate this point. Now what I share next maybe one of those "duh" moments for everyone else but for me, it was been a huge revelation. There is more to the I am a sinner, I need Jesus and so I say a prayer and ask Him into my life moment. I have spent 26 years thinking/believing that I asked Jesus into my heart and all my sins before that were forgiven and now I have to live without messing up. Now I don't believe in conditional salvation. I believe once saved always saved so I'm not sure what my thinking was before but I know that I was placing A LOT of pressure on myself to get it "right" all the time by trying to do the "right" thing. I have lived in a constant state of stress.

Finally, the stress is gone and I am free from my list of "right" things. God solved this problem for me (actually for all of us). He sent His precious Son to pay the ultimate penalty for my sins (and yours). Jesus lived the perfect life, carried all of my (and your) sins (past, present and future) to the cross and died a gruesome death for me (and you). I am no longer condemned for my sin because Christ took my place. For me, the chains are finally gone.

I heard once that every time we try to forgive ourselves for something that we are taking away from what Christ did for us on the cross. It is not something I intentionally do but I know that I have allowed Satan to remind me of my failures in the past. From there I can't let go and dwell on my mistakes/sins. Every time I do that, I now realize that I am taking away from what Christ did for me.

When I accepted Him into my life, I became a new creation. God sees me through Jesus. I am covered by His blood and made clean. Not just for that one moment when I prayed the prayer but forever. Now knowing this does not mean that we are given a "get out of jail free" pass where we can continually live in sin. Well I guess we could but we then miss out on the abundant life. Instead, it means we are able to have a personal relationship with God, the King of the Universe, our Heavenly Father. He knew I would and that I have messed up but still allowed His Son to die for me (and you). This is where I get overwhelmed and it brings me to tears every time I think about it. He knew when He allowed His Son to take my place on the cross, all the sin that I would commit in my life. He loved me THAT much that His Son was crucified because He wanted a relationship with ME (and you)!!!!

I believe that God allows all things to happen for a reason. I believe that He can take the bad and use it for His glory. I believe that is what He is doing in my life at this very moment.

January 18, 2011

Foolishness of Men

Day 16 of 21

The deadline is approaching. I am not as overwhelmed by doubt. Because I was dealing with doubt, it led me to look into my own doubt this morning. Was my doubt a sin? Is doubt on its own a sin?

My conclusion: After studying and looking through scripture, my belief is that doubt can lead to sin when it comes from disbelief. Doubt is a matter of the mind while unbelief is a matter of the will. When I doubt I am saying, "I don't get it. Help me to understand and work through this with me."
When I choose not to believe I am saying, "I get it but I don't like it so I am refusing to accept it."

It has been said that sometimes doubt is not the opposite of faith but instead an element of faith. It can mean that we are trying to process and understand something. If not careful, it can become sinful because it can turn into unbelief.

Unbelief is the result of doubt when doubt is unchecked. Doubt is like a slippery path and unbelief can be that dark jungle that we find ourselves tumbling into unless our momentum is stopped. Those moments of doubt in our lives will occur. When those moments come about, faith should step. We should hold tight to the hand of God, as He will keep us from falling causing our doubt to dissipate.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."

James 1:5-8

When we doubt, it is because we are standing with one foot on the world's truth and the other foot on God's truth. This is what makes us double minded and doubtful. The foolishness of the world may masquerade as wisdom but truly, it is a state of spiritual blindness. It makes people unable to comprehend the truth of God. "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit." 1 Corinthians 2:14

What causes us to struggle with doubt? Different factors take place that lead us to question our faith and doubt. There are those unmet expectations or suffering that can cause us to question our faith. When we experience hypocrisy in the church or intellectual challenges to our faith, we can doubt. Great moments of doubt can happen when we come to a major crossroads in our life or because of great sin in our life. How we respond to our doubt determines the outcome. If we choose to ignore and excuse or sin and isolate, our disbelief will grow. If we choose to pray and confide in others as well as seek out truth and endure obedience, our faith will grow and our doubt will diminish. It is only when we put our trust in God that our faith grows stronger putting those doubts to rest.

Our faith is what unites us to God. God uses our doubts to bring about maturity in our faith. Sometimes our stubborn hearts are forced to yield to God's will through trials because of our doubt. The writer of Hebrews lists out the names of those in the "Faith Hall of Fame".
Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah and the list goes on. Each was different. Not one was perfect but the common factor between them all was their faith. They were not necessarily kind, loving or pure. Some were drunkards, while others gave their wives to other men. Still others brutally killed communities and a certain hero fell into adultery and plotted the murder of the husband. Despite each of their flaws, God was pleased with one thing; they had faith. It is impossible to please God without faith.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

When doubt enters into our lives, we must examine our hearts, test all things and seek wisdom. It is only then that our faith will mature and our doubt will diminish.

"Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil."

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22


 

January 17, 2011

Compromise

Day 15 of 21

The dictionary defines the word compromise as this, to make a dishonorable or shameful concession. When I think of the word compromise I think of this; an attempt to justify what we are doing that is wrong by surrendering our values, integrity and ultimately the Truth in pursuit of power or things that we want.

"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie."
I found this quote and it really made me stop and think. One without the other is a compromise. When I think of compromise, truth immediately comes to mind but not necessarily love.

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with my children around the dinner table. They began talking about demons and angels. We talked about those moments when you want to do or say something that you know is wrong but you feel a battle taking place inside. Because my youngest son loves Tom and Jerry, he immediately spoke up and said "like the devil cat and angel cat that sit on Tom's shoulder?". Exactly! He got it. The more we talked, the more they began to realize truth. The Holy Spirit leads them to do right while their sinful nature leads them to do wrong. Now for my kids, as they thought this through, the choice made came down to the possible consequences. One of them said that they think about how their decision will affect me. Will I be upset or disappointed with them? What punishment will they face? Here is where love steps in.

My Children love me and want to please and make me proud. The truth is then that in order to make me proud and happy, they must follow my rules and respect me. They follow my rules and respect me because they love me. See how that works? Quite a simple equation until you look at it through the eyes of an adult.

Life is hard. God never promised it would be easy. I often find myself in situations where I have to choose whether I will compromise what I believe or stick to my guns. Sometimes I just do not have the energy to fight anymore and I surrender. I surrender to the temptation of compromise.

Then enters sin. Suddenly the lines become blurry and the area is gray. We are all willing to compromise at one time or another and to compromise the truth is to slowly destroy ourselves. When we compromise the truth, we compromise the purity of our soul. When we compromise the truth, we give Satan the power.

So how do we solve this dilemma? It all begins with love.

God's greatest command says we are to love God with all that is within us.

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

 37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a]  38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[d]"

Matthew 22:36-38

From love follows truth and obedience;

15 "If you love me, keep my commands." John 14:15

It is SO simple. There is nothing left to discern. No reading between the lines. It is totally black and white. Love God. Obey God. There is no room for compromise.

There is so much to take in as I am beginning to see my faith in a very different way. Then I found this list on the internet.

Signs of a No Compromise Christian

They do not conform to the things of this world

Their number 1 goal is to be like Jesus

They love the LORD with all their heart, soul, mind and strength

They are actively separating themselves from all ungodliness

They do not watch sinful TV programs or movies

They do not read worldly magazines or books

They find no pleasure in listening to worldly music

They do not look up to worldly celebrities

They do not partner up with unbelievers

They are humble and have child-like faith

They seek to please the Lord, not man

They would rather suffer and die, than compromise their faith

They are actively fleeing from sin

They are generous, whether they are poor or wealthy

They share the gospel message with others

They have a desire for the truth of God's Word

They obey God and keep His Commandments

They are doers of the Word, not hearers only

They fear the LORD God and turn away from evil

They speak with encouraging, edifying and wise words

They do not gossip, or slander others

They pray with fervent prayers every day

They study the Word of God every day

They endure sufferings, hardships and trials for their faith in Jesus

They are ready and eagerly awaiting the soon return of their Lord Jesus

They hate the things of this world and know their real home is with Jesus

Everything they do is for the glory of God, NOT themselves

They are ready to give their lives for Christ Jesus


 

Really?? So is this really the only way to be a "true" no-compromise Christian? How in the world can I live up to this list? How can anyone live up to this list? How in the world can I bring people to Christ with this type of mentality, these set of rules? Life is not always black and white. It is not that simple. With this kind of list, I guess none of us will be making it to heaven! ~Frustrated Sigh~

~Deep breath. Focus. Remember!~ I am forgiven! I am free! I have been washed and made clean by the blood of Christ. His blood covers me! He wants ME not my works. He wants my love and obedience from a relationship with Him NOT a checklist!

I know that I need something to serve as boundaries or guidelines for myself. There are times in the middle of a trial that I need a reality check. I need something to test where I am headed. I need something to guide me in the direction of Truth instead of compromise. I want God to be pleased with my choices.

I know that I will never get it all right but I am learning that God loves me and He knows my heart. He knows how hard I try but that I do often fail. Just as my children could never do anything to lose my love, I too will ALWAYS have His perfect and unconditional love. So the truth of this lesson is simple. When we love God above all else, we follow His ways in order to please Him because we love Him. Because of truth and love, there is no room for compromise. Who do we choose to love?


 


 

January 14, 2011

Whisper, Fire or Thunder?


Day 12 of 21

"Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

 8 A third time the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."

   Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place."

Samuel 3:7-9

How do I recognize God's voice over the noise around me? How do I know it is Him if there is not crashing thunder or a burning bush? How can I be certain that what I am hearing from Him is really Him?

I have been asking these questions of myself over the past twelve days. I don't want to miss where He is leading me.

One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament can be found in 1 Kings;

"The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."

   Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

   Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

1 Kings 19:11-13

This passage serves as a reminder that God does not need to use great theatrics in order to speak. Sometimes I need to be still and quiet before Him so that I may hear His voice. (Psalm 46:16)


I may not always be able to discern God's voice above the noise but there are things I can do in order to assure I hear Him.

  • "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33
I have to be willing to let go of those things that take first place in my heart, making God second. This means that I have to let go of my people pleasing nature and focus on living to glorify God.

  • "I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11
In order to know the plans that He has for me, I have to know what His word says. I have to be grounded in His truth and walking in it.

  • "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
I must be committed to His ways and not my own.

  • "But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (see also Philippians 4:13)
I have to learn to lean on God's strength and not my own during times of trials. I must allow Him control instead of trying to carry the burden alone.

True faith is more than a rational conclusion or following family traditions. True faith is experienced and not affirmed. It is that "Aha!" moment when I finally discover that true joy, hope and power can only be found in a relationship with Christ.

That kind of faith is what drives me. That kind of faith is what compels me to do His will.
  

January 13, 2011

Little White Church

Day 11 of 21 Over half way there

I grew up in an old traditional Baptist church. I do not say old because of their ways but instead because of its history. Wounded soldiers were treated during the civil war in this church. It was a place where soldiers could hide. It is a church with many stories to tell.

I love that old church and it is the one place that I love singing old hymns. I do not think I could go back to that church, stand in those beautiful wooden pews with the red cushions, and not hold a hymnal in my hand for worship. It just wouldn't be right. It is where I learned the words to every hymn by memory and have carried those songs with me to this day. I cannot sit here and name every song we sang but if one begins to play, it amazes me the way that the words come. On occasion, when I am dealing with things, God will put one of those songs on my heart. For the past five days, I have woken up every morning with Standing on the Promises in my head. I think He might be trying to tell me something J

  • Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
    Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
    Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
    Standing on the promises of God.
    • Refrain:
      Standing, standing,
      Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
      Standing, standing,
      I'm standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
    When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
    By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises I now can see
    Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
    Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
    Bound to Him eternally by love's strong cord,
    Overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
    List'ning every moment to the Spirit's call,
    Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
    Standing on the promises of God.
  • ~Russell K Carter 1886~


     

    "Make Thy paths known to me, O Lord; teach me Thy ways. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me; Thou art God my Savior."

    Psalm 25:4, 5, NEB

    "When we cannot see our way
    Let us trust and still obey;
    He who bids us forward go
    Cannot fail the way to show.
    Though the sea be deep and wide,
    Though a passage seem denied,
    Fearless let us still proceed,
    Since the Lord vouchsafes to lead."

    Anonymous

    "If there is any man who fears the Lord, he shall be shown the path that he should choose."

    Psalm 25:12, NEB


January 11, 2011

The Four Walls


I never watch Oprah. I do not like Oprah. Yes, she has done much good for humanity sake but nothing in terms of kingdom things. I do believe God can use her for His good and I believe that He has at times. That being said, I watched Oprah yesterday. I don't even know why other than I was feeling horrible, trying to rest and had the TV on. She was the only thing on outside of Jerry Springer so she won out.


 

Oprah had a guest on who said something that caught my attention. The particular guest was talking about her anger and dealing with a nasty lawsuit. She talked about her anger and how she realized that as long as she pursued legal action against this person she kept herself within the four walls of an angry box and only was hurting herself. How true. Those who seek vengeance out on another cannot move on and find joy and happiness. It is not possible. Taking vengeance against someone is caused by anger and a need to destroy or hurt another person. Joy cannot be found in those kinds of things.


 

There is a reason why God tells us to live in peace with one another. "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11

It is not because He wants to make all the rules and push us around. God is a loving God. God wants to see His children happy and full of joy but this cannot occur if we are acting in a way that goes against what He commands us to do. Jesus gave the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39.


 

How can we be obedient to this command if we are full of anger and vengeance?

Anger turns to sin when…


 

  • It is selfishly motivated


"19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do."

James 1:19-25

  • When God's glory is lost

"31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God"

1 Corinthians 10:31-32

  • When anger lingers too long

26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27

What then happens is that instead of using the energy generated by anger to attack the problem we end up attacking the person.

 Scripture is clean in saying that we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up. We are not to use destructive words to hurt another child of God. Unfortunately, venomous speech is a common trait of the sinful man

  • Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over, resulting in a situation where hurt is multiplied

"11 Fools give full vent to their rage, 
   but the wise bring calm in the end."

Proverbs 29:11

This kind of anger leaves devastation in its wake, often with consequences beyond repair.

  • Anger also becomes sin when the angry one holds a grudge and keeps it all locked up inside. This is where resentment and bitterness take hold of our heart and all joy is lost.

26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27


 

God gives us a game plan for dealing with our anger when we feel someone has wronged us.

  • Be honest and share what is on our minds. We cannot assume that people know they have wronged us or even know what is happening in our heads.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:15


 

  • We must not allow those things inside of us to fester until we reach a place of losing all control.


     

26 "In your anger do not sin" Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.


Ephesians 4:26-27


  • Attack the problem. An issue cannot be resolved if we choose to attack one another.

"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."

Ephesians 4:29

  • Act, not react

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32

Because of our sinful nature, our first response is often a sinful one. It is a me first response instead of resolving the issue and turns into the blame game. We must work to solve our own part of the problem. We cannot control how others will act or respond, but we can make the changes that need to be made on our part.

I think God makes it pretty clear in terms of His feelings toward anger. It becomes our choice on how we will respond. We will choose bitterness or joy? Seems pretty simple to me. Any thoughts?

January 10, 2011

I’m too busy!!


Day 8 of 21

I have been sick for the past week and this weekend I took some time to sleep and rest but not without having to deal with issues. Satan is always trying to find ways to get in there and makes us doubt. I find that there are times when I am stronger against him than others but often times, fail and feel defeated. From day one to day five of this time of seeking, I have felt true contentment. My eyes have remained focused on truth and there has been peace in my heart from trusting God's hand and not my own. Each day started with prayer and time in the word, which brought me comfort and confidence. Saturday morning, because I was in a hurry, I missed that time with God and was tested.

Here is one of the biggest things I have managed to learn in the past week. Satan is always looking for a moment of weakness. That doesn't necessarily mean a moment when we're down in the dumps and feeling weak but instead when we are at our most confident. That is when he strikes and oftentimes, strikes hard. Saturday morning my faith and confidence was shaken. Nothing traumatic actually happened. It was just the normal someone questioning what God was showing me. The problem arrived because I was unprepared. I was too confident. I had spent five days praying and in the word and felt strong. Though He was calling me to spend time with Him Saturday morning, I said "maybe later because I'm in a hurry". Just the opportunity Satan was looking for and he pounced.

What came later that day was nothing short of pathetic. I spent the day in tears and feeling totally defeated. I began questioning everything God had confirmed to me over the week. I began to question His truth in my life. I began to question His sovereignty over my situation. I doubted again. Why do I allow this to happen? Here is one thing that I know and that is if I had just taken the time Saturday morning to pray and read I would not have been hit as hard. Though it was a crappy kind of day, God still spoke to me, even when I had my head under the covers and tears were streaming down my face. That is what a Father does. When He knows we're hurting and scared, He is there loving us and wanting the best for us while reminding us of His truth.

Because of this three-week time of reflection, as you can imagine, I have encountered protest from some, mocking from others and those who just flat out don't get it. As I lay in bed Saturday, God kept putting stories in my head, reminding me of all He had done for those who followed Him. He reminded me of Moses, Joshua, Noah and Abraham specifically. Out of those four, two were significant to me. Two of those stories left me thinking about what those two men experienced from those around them as they were dealing with what God was showing them.

The world will not always understand why we do what we do. Sometimes the choices we have to make in order to be obedient to God go against everything the world would say making us look foolish.

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."

Romans 8:5-8

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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 12:1-2

Yesterday in church, I was reminded yet again that my purpose, the reason I was created was soley for the purpose of glorifying God. He created me to bring Him alone honor and glory. My people pleasing nature struggles with that purpose as I seek to make everyone happy but I am learning that I am truly content when I am serving my purpose of glorifying Him alone.

When I woke up this morning, I had an encouraging email filled with some beautiful verses that reminded me of where I need to turn when I am dealing with my weak places….

"26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.

 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

Romans 8:26-30

"31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Romans 8:31

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:37-29


 

Amazing what God's word can do for the soul. His grace is truly sufficient and when we come to Him, He restores our faith and makes us strong. Please continue to pray. I have two weeks left and all I have asked for is that those who read this blog to pray with me and for me. No decision has been made. It is just a time of allowing God to move and show His plan for me. I beg that you do the same. Pray. Don't think! Just pray J

January 7, 2011

Why 21 days?

Day 5 of 21: Why did I choose 21 days? There are three reasons. The first being that God it put on my heart to pray about this situation for 21 days. The second reason would be that research has proven that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. The third reason comes from a story in Daniel. 

 
 

2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man[b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, "I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe."

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 "Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed," he said. "Peace! Be strong now; be strong."

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength."

Daniel 10:2-19

Typically, all of my writing comes from the New Testament because, truth be told, it is the easiest for me to understand. Lately though everything God has been showing me has been found in the Old Testament. I have found this to be quite exciting. He is opening my eyes to new things and revealing Himself in such powerful ways. The story in Daniel is one I have heard many times. This time as I read it, I felt it was relevant to my situation as I am waiting for direction in my own life. For three weeks, Daniel prays and fasts as he is seeking to understand a revelation from God. 

Prayer and quiet time is how we communicate with God and I know that I cannot clearly hear what He has for me if I am not intentionally spending time with Him. In order to have that "breakthrough" moment with God, I have to be meeting with Him daily. Twenty-one days spent with Him, will not only bring me closer to an answer but also will draw me closer to Him and bring about an intimacy that I have never known. Only positive things can come from this time spent with Him and whether I win or lose the battle, I will ultimately win the war because I will have chosen to honor and obey Him. 


 

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

January 6, 2011

Christ in me


 

Day 4 of 21  


 

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I have spent the majority of today reflecting on what I have learned over just the past three days. For the first time in almost two years, I am not afraid. I received an email last night that would have brought me to tears because of hurt and fear but things are changing. I am no longer weak and it is not because of anything I have done but instead of what Christ is doing through me. There truly is no fear in love when your trust and hope are in Christ and Christ alone.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

1 John 4:18