My sun porch

My sun porch

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sacrifice and obedience...I still have much work to do!

I overslept this morning and have a million things to so before going to work...I didn't get today's message is a deep one about sacrifice and obedience. The only thing I will say this morning is that even though I write these messages every day...even though I pray every day and feel closer to God than ever before, I STILL feel like something is holding me back from obeying God "with ALL my heart." There are things I can't seem to overcome no matter how hard I 43 years I supposed to be in total obedience? 

Anyway, sorry for the mini "pity party"... I just know there is SO MUCH more work for me to do to be totally obedient and sacrificing the things that are holding me back. Sometimes it seems overwhelming...doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Becoming a slave...

This week's memory verse:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." -- Colossians 3:23

I have always been a big Civil War buff, and been intrigued by the time period. I also have never understood slavery. I grew up watching "Roots," "Gone with the Wind" and "North and South" and felt so much compassion for the men, women and children who were held captive. Living in today's world where I hear about numerous murders, wars and hate crimes, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by how hateful and hurtful one human being can be to another, but I have never fully understood why a master could threaten and beat his slaves just to get them to submit to them who held them captive.

The word "slave" has always held negative feelings for me, as it does for most people. No one WANTS to be a slave and have their freedom taken away. But, today's lesson talks about how we should be slaves to Christ.

Slavery was common practice in ancient times. Some slaves were prisoners of war, and some people sold themselves or family members into slavery to pay off debts. So, slavery is mentioned in the Bible often, as it was something that the people understood at the time. 

Paul writes a lot about slaves and their masters in his letters. Read Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-4:1. 

One way we might apply these principles to our lives today is to think of slaves as employees and masters as employers. In that light, whatever we do in our jobs, we should give it our best efforts, as if we were working for the Lord, serving wholeheartedly. AND if we are are the boss, we should do the same thing and treat our employees fairly, and with kindness, not threatening them into submission. If we ALL looked at our jobs in this light, wouldn't there be more people content with their jobs and less need to "vent" about how terrible things are? Hmmmmm.....

Paul also talks about being a slave to sin. Read Romans 6:6-7 and Romans 6:12-13. What does a slave to sin do? 

A slave to sin lets sin rule or reign in their it control...offering up parts of their body to sin. A person can be a slave to food...we have to eat to sustain our bodies, but when the need and desire for comforting foods takes up a lot of your thoughts and your time...then you are a slave to are offering up the health of your body to your food master. The food master doesn't care about your just wants to be fed and NOW!

When you become a slave to Christ, or God, you allow obedience to HIM to rule your life instead of the unhealthy things that are trying to bring you down. Obedience to God leads to being a slave to righteousness which leads to being set free from your sins. Resisting your passions, not obeying them and letting them rule you will lead to allowing God to replace that NEED with peace in your heart. This won't happen over takes work, strength and time to overcome the bonds of slavery to sin or whatever is holding you back.

Going back to my interest in the Civil War history...another thing that always fascinated me was the "Underground Railroad" and how it and the brave people who helped along the way led many slaves to freedom. It is hard to break the chains of slavery on your own. You need some helpers, some encouragers, along the way. You can always turn to God for guidance as to which way to go...but look for some friends who can walk the path to freedom with you! 

Give yourself over as a servant of God and walk in obedience to His word. He will help you give yourself fully and completely over to him and you will be glad to be a slave to him. He is a master who will take care of you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An undivided heart...

This week's memory verse:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." -- Colossians 3:23

Ladies and gentlemen...may I have your undivided attention please? That means, turn off the radio, TV or IPod and place ALL your attention on these words that I have written just for you...

Our attention, efforts and our HEARTS have so many places to focus many directions to be many things to distract us. "With all your heart" sounds good, but is it possible to really do anything "with ALL your heart?"

The Bible, and therefore, God thinks it is. Look up the following verses about what we are to do "with all your heart."

Deuteronomy 6:5 - Love
Deuteronomy 26:16 - Observe
Psalm 9:1 - Praise
Proverbs 3:5 - Trust
Jeremiah 29:13 - Seek
Ephesians 6:7 - Serve
Colossians 3:23 - Work

God is telling us...using the verbs (ACTION words) above...what we are to be doing with ALL our heart. 

Psalm 86:11-12 - the writer of these words is asking God to teach him AND to give him an UNDIVIDED heart...a heart that is not torn between God and the world. He wants this so he can fear God (do what God tells him to do) AND praise him WITH ALL HIS HEART. This man knew that his attention and his heart was easily distracted and was asking God to help him do what he was having trouble doing on his own.

Exodus 20:5 says God is a jealous god who wants our complete devotion. I don't think this is for his own glory...that he NEEDS our devotion. I believe that God KNOWS that when we are fully devoted and focused on him, we are not as apt to get ourselves in trouble...we are safer and happier when our hearts totally belong to God.

Revelations 3:15-16 speaks about being "lukewarm"...lukewarm is neither hot nor cold...not totally devoted...not whole-heartedly. I think a lot of us are lukewarm about a lot of things, including our God. 

Like the son in yesterday's story who said he wouldn't go to the fields, but changed his mind and we we do what God tells us to, but grumbling all the way? Do we complain about HAVING to eat right...HAVING to exercise...HAVING to spend wisely...HAVING to forgive???

If we were giving God our undivided heart, we would realize these were things we don't HAVE to do...these are things we GET to do...we CHOOSE to do them to be more balanced and healthy for our benefit but also to give God the glory. When we do these things in the name of Jesus, we are showing the world that our heart TOTALLY belongs to God...we are allowing his light to shine through us so people will see God and want to give their hearts to him as well.

So the next time you are tempted to grumble and say "I HAVE TO..." replace that phrase with an expression of love for God. Thank him for teaching you self- discipline and for putting your divided heart back together again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No half-hearted efforts today!

This week's memory verse:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men." -- Colossians 3:23

The introduction to this week's lessons talks about Matthew 21:28-31. Jesus tells a story about a man with 2 sons. When he told the sons to go to the fields and work, the first son said, "No, I will not," but later changed his mind and went. The second son said, "Yes, sir, I will go." but he never went.

Of course, the first son is the hero of the story, even if he threw a tantrum and said he wouldn't do what he was told...he DID go! My problem is...I tend to be a people-pleaser, saying and doing things to make others happy. I need to make sure I follow through and DO the things I say I will do.

But I worry about that first son's story...yes he did what he was told, even if he grumbled and refused at first...but HOW did he do the job? Did he go to the fields still grumbling? Did he tend to the crop half-heartedly, just to say he did as his father asked?

Our memory verse AND Colossians 3:17 say we are to do EVERYTHING we do or say in the name of Jesus...which means we should do our best effort...with ALL OUR HEART...

I have many tasks in my life...things that I have to do every day...some are not so much paying bills and exercising...but since I say I am going to do them, I should give them by BEST effort.

I don't like to think of myself doing anything half-heartedly...but truth be told...I think that happens more times than I want to admit, even to myself. Is there enough of my heart, my energy in me to give EVERYTHING I do that much effort and do it for the Lord? Can I really do things out the cat box (I HATE that job!!!) with high energy and thanksgiving as I do it? If that job helps to take care of my family, then yes I can and I will.

There are MANY things in this life we don't want to do, but there are negative consequences if we don't do them...those are "thankless jobs." But if we look at those jobs in a different them in Jesus' name...with the honor and glory that goes with that...AND remember to give thanks to God at the same time...those tasks may seem easier to deal with. 

AND, we can remember that Colossians 3:24 says that when we do things with all our heart, the Lord with give us our inheritance as a reward. We are children of the Lord...the King! If we believe his promises, then we will receive our inheritance and live with him in heaven forever!

I think I will try to remember that the next time I am cleaning out the cat box and paying the monthly bills...doing those not-so-fun tasks with all my heart, giving thanks for the opportunity to do them and KNOW that one day I will be in heaven forever...I know there will be no pain or tears in heaven, but I sure hope there are cat boxes in heaven either!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hell...and other things I don't understand

This week's memory verse:
"Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6

Even though I rely on God's leading and pray for his peace every day, there are so many things that I don't understand about God and his word. Several years ago, I bought a study Bible that has a concordance...this helps me TRY to understand better. I can look up a word or phrase that is troubling to me, and look for all the times it is mentioned in the Bible. Then there are notes at the bottom of each page that attempt to explain what each verse is saying. There are still many things that confuse me or things that keep me thinking.

Hell is one of those things. There are some that believe that this life is as good as it gets...there is no heaven, no hell, just this life....when your dead, you're dead. There are several Bible scholars, including author Randy Alcorn, who believes this is true...for unbelievers. He says that for those who don't put their trust in Jesus, for those who refuse his gift of salvation, this world is as close to heaven as they are ever going to get. This world full of war, poverty, famine, disease, hardship...this is as much paradise as they will ever experience. And he goes on to say that it gets worse...they will experience hell on top of it.

In the Bible, Hell is mentioned 14 times, and Hades (the place of death) is mentioned 5 times. I looked them all up. Hell actually refers to a place near Jerusalem...a cavern where people threw trash, and where human sacrifices made by ancient pagans. Many times, fires were started in this cavern...making it a "hellish" place. Again, Jesus uses things people are familiar with to help them understand his teachings. When he mentions hell, he is talking about a place that you don't want to end up. (Matthew 5:22)

There are also verses where the dead are in hades or hell and are separated from God. Take Luke 16:23, where Jesus is talking about Lazarus and a rich man. Lazarus was a beggar outside the gate of the rich man's house. Both men died...Lazarus goes to the side of Abraham (Father of the Jews; home of the righteous) and the rich man was in torment in hell. These two places were separated by a deep and impossible to cross chasm. 

I heard a pastor explain hell as a place totally separated from God. There may or may not be flames and terrible heat, but the torment of being apart from God and everything good, beautiful, pleasant, happy, restful and peaceful was apparent....for ETERNITY!

Why am I talking about hell today...well, that was the topic of today's Bible study...and it is one of those things I struggle to understand. Since I tend to be a worrier by nature, I worry about the people I love who don't believe in Jesus...I don't want my loved ones (and other people as well) to go to hell. I struggle to understand why God would destroy his creations just because they don't believe. Talking about hell makes me uncomfortable...but you can't avoid difficult topics just because they make you uncomfortable. I try to study and understand things better.

I do know and have confidence that because I do believe, I will see Jesus face to face one day...I will have all my questions answered and live in paradise for eternity. Why do I know that? Why do I believe something I don't understand? It all goes back to faith...believing in something you can't see because of all the miracles you can see. I have seen too much proof that there is a God...I have felt the peace and calm of his presence...I have seen the beauties of his creation and the marvels of the human body...these things bring me comfort and get me through each day...these things give me hope. I would much rather go through my life with this hope than to live a hopeless life of thinking this is all there is, and be separate from God for eternity.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Peace--God's protective custody

This week's memory verse: 
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6

Peace -- we long for it, but we wonder if it really exists. I don't think the kind of peace we really want does exist. A life without conflict and trials and problems...we are NEVER promised that, but we want it. We need to come to the realization that real peace may mean something else.

In Isaiah 26:3, God does promise perfect peace to those who are steadfast and trust in him.

In John 14:27, Jesus describes peace as a gift, a gift from God, THROUGH Jesus. 

That verse goes on to say that he doesn't give as the world gives...the world describes peace as an absence of conflict. Jesus says HIS peace is confident assurance in any circumstance. A person who believes in God, trusts his word, and believes that through Christ her sins are forgiven is given a peace that is the opposite of anxiety. This peace comes when that person gives all cares and concerns to God in prayer and worries about them no more.

Philippians 4:7 describes this peace as something that we cannot understand, but it will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus. My study bible says this means that the believer is in "God's protective custody." 

All of these verses do not say this peace comes easily or that is stays with us every day, every moment. I have found this peace several times in my life...where I had peace about a tough situation I was dealing with...I could deal with it...I was ok with it...this didn't just HAPPEN...I went to God in prayer and GAVE the situation TO HIM...and THEN I had peace about it. The conflict and hard stuff didn't just go was how I FELT about it...I didn't worry about it any more...I KNEW God was taking care of it. 

I know this peace doesn't come to me all the time...I still have problems, I still worry. But, when I stop trying to figure it out by myself and pray about it...LISTEN for God's leading...pray with friends about it and listen to their guidance as well...a peace comes over me about is like the verse says...I don't UNDERSTAND how it happens, but I just get a peaceful feeling about it. It is too bad I don't do this more often, and with ALL the conflicts in my life...but I am human and for whatever reason, I tend to hang on to some issues. Do you do that too?

I want to hang on instead, to the idea that I am in God's protective custody...that he is watching out for me in EVERY situation...if I believed that more often, I would find that peaceful feeling more often. What if MORE of us felt that way more often? I know that there will always be reasons for anxiety, but maybe if more people turned to God more often, we would find more peace in the's a nice thought, isn't it?

I pray that the God of peace, who loved us so much that he sent Jesus to be our Shepard and take care of us, equips you with everything good to do his will today, and may he bring you the peace that you need today and in days to come. (taken from Hebrews 13:20-21, put in my own words)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

But what if I'm not a runner?

This week's memory verse:
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6

I began reading my Bible study lesson today and immediately thought..."Here we go again...Paul and his 'running the race' analogy!" Let me tell you...I am sure there are those who are athletic, who have run in races and marathons that TRULY understand this. But, unfortunately, the only races I have ever been in (and NEVER won!) were in gym class.

I know, the above paragraph seems pretty negative for the "glass is half full" kind of gal I am, doesn't it? Perhaps this attitude, along with the fact that running is NOT my idea of a good time, is what keeps me from reaching some of my goals. There are many things that I have worked hard for and have accomplished, so I get the idea. But, it seems that a runner's "never give up, keep pushing until you get there" mentality is hard for me in some areas of my life.

I have read that Paul uses the analogy of the race because the people he was writing to were familiar with running races, in games like the Olympics. It was something they analogy that they would get. Only, he wasn't talking about a race...he was talking about our human life and eternity.

Our journey to eternity, a life in heaven with God FOREVER should be our only focus...we should be giving it everything we've got. No sloppy living but staying alert, keeping our minds and hearts in top "Christ-like" condition. We don't want to be telling everyone about the joys of heaven and miss out on it ourselves! (1Corinthians 9:24-27 in my own words)

When we have moments, days, months or even years of trials and hardships, our faith is tested. If we hang on to that faith and hope of eternity during those tough times, we learn perseverance...we learn to lean on God and not give up or give in. And Sometimes, we do give up on our faith for a time...but God has a way of drawing us back to him. Learning to trust in a God we can't see is is a process that lasts our whole lives. It makes us mature in our faith and complete in God's eyes. (James 1:2-4)

The hardships and trials we are facing now are just temporary. Our few years here on earth are but a blink of an eye in heaven. The pain and discomfort we experience in our lives will be overcome by the renewal God has in store for us.

I once sang the song "I Can Only Imagine" at my friend's father's funeral. That song talks about how we can only imagine what heaven and eternity will be like...we don't really know and we WON'T know...until we get there. 

Skeptics may say it is a waste to live your life in hopes of a life in heaven that we aren't even sure exists. I disagree. Focusing and believing in something unseen takes faith, and faith gives us hope....hope in a better life to come. I know people who don't have faith OR hope, and honestly, they are part of what makes this life on earth less pleasant! Their hopeless life makes them miserable and they want everyone around them to be miserable too. 

Oswald Chambers once said, "perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen."

This message was meant for me today. Every now and then, I get discouraged...I feel overwhelmed and spinning out of control. Today I am reminded of what I know and believe...this discouragement I feel is only temporary. Even though I am NOT a runner...I need to stay on the track and finish the race. I think I will just WALK it out...what does it matter, as long as I cross the finish line and get my reward!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time keeps on ticking...

This week's memory verse:
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6

We keep hearing (and saying) that we are a fast food society...we want what we want and we want it NOW! If we know that to be true because we experience it everyday, but we don't LIKE the fact that society has made us that way...why do we get all impatient with others, with ourselves and with God when we don't get what we want when we want it? If we KNOW better...why do we keep perpetuating the situation?

Time seems to move so slow when we want something, but move fast when we are looking back...wanting time to move slower. It's a conundrum. (I just love that word, don't you? A riddle whose answer is a riddle.) I look at my truly seems like yesterday she was five...stepping on that big old school bus for the first time. Now she's within a year of driving and college and a life out on her own is just a couple of years away! Why don't THOSE moments go slow and the hour that I wait in the doctor's office go fast? It's all a matter of perspective...the way we think and look at things.

God doesn't think like we do. His thoughts are far above our thoughts...he's GOD. (Isaiah 55:8-9) God's time frame is not the same as ours "With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day." 2 Peter 3:8 

When we pray for something...we want it to happen NOW! When we don't see results right away, we get impatient and think God isn't there or isn't listening. But he is not slow to keep his promises to us. He knows what is best for us..his thoughts are far above ours...he wants what's best for us and will answer us when the time is right...maybe YEARS later (like a moment to him) 

2 Peter 3:9 goes on to say that God is patient with us, not wanting ANYONE to perish, but EVERYONE to come to him. Since he doesn't force us to believe in him or to love him, he gives us time...even to the very last seconds of our finally see the light and come to him. He created EVERY ONE of us...we are his children, no matter the race, color, religious background, personality, failings, sins...he wants us ALL to come to him and realize that he is our father. He is patient with us...he gives us time. He waits on us like a farmer waiting on a field to produce a crop. (James 5:7-8)

Jesus said in John 15:5 (One of my favorite verses)...Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. The branches apart from the vine can bear no fruit, but will wither and die.

God sent Jesus to earth...Jesus WAS God on earth. In saying that he is the vine...our nourishing vine...God is telling us that without him, we are just marking time...we are doomed to needing more and more and NOT getting what we need because we are disconnected from that nourishing vine. We NEED God in our life to survive! We need TIME to grow, to become a strong branch with plenty of leaves and TIME to get more nourishment to produce good healthy fruit. We need to learn to rest in the trust him and his study and learn from him so that we do become strong enough to bear fruit.

I see this in my own life. I am learning lessons every day about God's timing and being patient with God. While I want results right now, I believe he is training and teaching me...trying to get me to see how much fruit I will bear if I just trust and obey him. I have seen snippets of that fruit...but then I get impatient again and go forging ahead on my own, trying to get something to happen before God is ready for it to happen. I lose focus and a little trust in God because nothing works out the way I planned. But then...I sit back, remember that nourishing vine and rest in him what I feel he is leading me to do and I see more fruit. It's a takes TIME...God isn't finished working in me! THANK GOD!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nothing is impossible!

This week's memory verse:
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." --Philippians 1:6

Look around you...what do you see and hear? Right now I hear birds singing loudly...I see them playing in the trees, it seems they are playing tag from one tree to the next. The grass is sparkling with the sun shining on the morning dew. There are so many beautiful scenes like this all over the world this morning. Looking at nature, it is easy to believe that there is a masterful creator who brought all these living creatures to life together. If you believe in a creator of nature and of the amazing human body...than you could certainly believe that creator, God, is capable of so much more, right?

Through the Bible, God makes many promises to his human creations...many think of the Bible as just a bunch of stories...far fetched stories at that. But if there is a God who created the universe and everything in it...wouldn't that same God be powerful enough to create a way to communicate with his human creations that could exist and thrive for centuries?

Jesus said is Matthew 19:26, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE! 

I believe in the God of creation...I have faith in what I can't see because of what I CAN see. I believe in the promises of the Bible because I have faith in a God who wants to teach and guide me through this life. I believe God gave us the Bible to make promises to us that he will keep.

2 Corinthians 9:8 says that God will pour blessings on you SO THAT you are ready for anything and more than ready to do what needs to be done.

2 Peter says that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him. He called us by his own glory and goodness so we could participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world.

Luke 1:45 says that those who believe in God's promises will be blessed.

I BELIEVE in God's promises...I BELIEVE that the Bible is "God-breathed"-- that he inspired the authors of the books of the Bible to write what he wanted them to write. Do I understand everything in the Bible...NO! Do I have intellectual problems and questions about things the Bible says...YES! But since I have faith in the God I can't see by seeing his creation and the miracles he makes happen every day...I BELIEVE that the Bible holds his promises for us and I stand by that belief. 

I understand that there are many good people in the world that don't hold these same beliefs. I believe in a God who makes ALL THINGS possible...I will respect others' beliefs, knowing that God created them as well as me and perhaps he has more than one way of communicating with his people...his creations. 

God's power is SO GREAT! We humans get into trouble when we try to be God and judge others for their beliefs, or, lack thereof. From reading God's word, I know that I am to follow Jesus and do as he did. He is my example. If I am busy following Jesus, loving, helping, living a God-centered life...that doesn't leave me time to judge others. If all things are possible with God...he will take care of ALL his creations, even those who don't believe in him!

I am thankful for my faith and my beliefs! I know God will accomplish his purposes in my life, and I am a willing participant! Nothing is impossible for God!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Who I am from who I once was...God's purposes

This week's memory verse:
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." --Philippians 1:6

I am the same person I once was...only different. I spent my whole weekend trying to relive the past. High school reunions are fun because you get to see and talk to friends who you haven't seen for years. The problem comes when you try to relate to those friends in the same way you did back then...or you try to be who you are now with people who knew you then. It's like a weird time warp...the pieces don't all go together right. I had fun Saturday night...I wish I would have stayed longer...but I spent all day yesterday thinking about how weird it I quite easily slipped back into the roles I played 25 years ago, and it didn't feel quite right.

I think it is because God has been working on me all these years...trying to make me more like Christ. Our memory verse says he began a good work in me and he will carry it to completion when I meet Jesus. With all the experiences I have had in the last 25 years, there is no way I could be the same person...THANK GOD!!! He is making me more like Christ!

1 Peter 2:20-21 says that to be like Christ, we have to suffer injustice the way he did. I know that doesn't mean I have to be beaten, spat on, and hung on a cross...our lives give us our own crosses that we have to bear and most of them are unfair and hard to deal with. If we allow God to be with us during these hard times and rely on him, as Christ did...then God will take those experiences and use them to mold us into a more Christ-like person. But...we have to be willing.

Being willing means setting our hope fully on Christ, be obedient, self controlled non-conforming...we have to actively be a part of our Christ-like transition.  (1 Peter 1:13-16)

In the last couple of years, I HAVE been more actively involved...through my First Place 4 Health group, as well as other Bible study groups and church activities I have been a part of...I have been more focused on God, and in his word most days. That has helped me to be more balanced and willing. I WANT to follow loving and accepting of others...treating everyone I meet with love and be obedient to my Heavenly Father's commands and plans for me. 25 years ago I wasn't mature enough to know all that....I am now....but I am still growing and learning.

I love the person God is making me into...I love that I don't have to live in the past to feel the "glory days." I also don't want to get SO focused on the future and heaven that I don't live for today either. It truly is a balancing act! I am just glad I don't have to try to balance my life alone...I have God leading the way.

Many of my old high school friends have had their own crosses to bear, and some are still struggling to find themselves...25 years later. I am glad I had the opportunity to visit with them and share some laughs and memories. It is fun to remember...and I hope I have many more chances to meet with these friends for years to come...but I'll take living in the present to living in the past any day!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rest in God's promises and soar like eagles!

This week's memory verse:
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, 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

Yesterday I talked about battles...the spiritual battles that we fight every day with ourselves and with the devil who is waiting and willing to tempt us. I don't know about you...but I get really tired of fighting that battle every day. I get to the point where the effort of prayer and putting all that armor on every day makes me weary. There are many times I just want to stop fighting...even for just a bit...and rest...go to that "happy place" in my head and relax. Ahhhhhh....

The problem is, it is those moments when our guard is down that our enemy attacks. If we are not strong in our faith that we can lean on and rest in God...our enemy can easily lead us down the wrong path and give us HUGE setbacks in our battle...all because we wanted a little break from the fight.

When we get weary, we need to remember all the times God worked in the lives of others. God DOES NOT grow weary and he understands our weariness. When we put our hope in him...when we are honest with him and tell him we are tired and need a break...we are weary and need strength...when we cry out to him, he hears us and will give us strength to get through.

I have some friends who are right now going through some very rough medical issues. One friend has a sister who has cancer in her spine and is going through surgery after surgery...much pain, discomfort and WEEKS in a hospital. The family is tired, weary and exhausted. They have faith...the sister has a strong friend prayed with her sister before going into the first surgery several weeks ago. She quoted Isaiah 40:28-30. Our God is everlasting, and he does not grow tired and weak and understands. He gives strength to the weary, power to the weak. For those who hope in the Lord, their strength will be renewed, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

My friend keeps praying...she keeps remembering those verses. That is the only thing holding her together right now. 

Her sister's outcome looks bleak...she may not make it. Some would look at that kind of result as a broken promise from God. There would be some who in the same situation might lose their faith...because God didn't keep his promise. I say that if my friend's sister dies...she WILL be soaring...she WILL be running and she WILL be rejoicing without any sickness or pain! God doesn't say HOW his promises will be kept...he just promises to keep them!

All those stories in the old testament of God doing amazing things through ordinary and flawed people give us HOPE that he is a God of kept promises. (Read Hebrews 11:32-40) All of those people from Moses to Daniel to Samson and David and all of those in-between...they all kept going in hard and trying circumstances. They hoped in the promises God made to them, and they RESTED in knowing that one day they would have peace from their battles.

So, if you have battles...little ones or big ones...take a moment to pray...ask God to give you the strength you need to keep going and the power you need to keep fighting. And REST in the fact that God is there with can lean on him.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to be a lover AND a fighter...

This week's memory verse:
"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

I'm a lover, not a fighter. I'm one of those people that say "Can't we all just get along?" Over the years, I have learned that I don't like confrontation and many times, I have avoided it. This has caused problems in my life, at home and at work and in relationships...confrontation can't always be avoided...sometimes you just have to have those crucial conversations and "say it like it is!"

But sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, those conversations turn into battles. You do your best to keep the battle civil, and hopefully, the issues get resolved and everyone comes out unscathed.

What if the crucial conversation that turned into a battle is with yourself? We fight and fight those temptations that get us into trouble...with our relationships, with our health...but there comes a time when you look at the choices you've been making and realize that you've had enough! You want to stop giving in to those temptations and you have that crucial conversation with yourself and tell yourself to then battle that weakness in yourself every day...only to find yourself losing the battle. You are beginning to feel very weak...your battle with yourself has become a war and you've lost more battles than you have won. Is it time just to give up? Time to throw in the towel and give in to those temptations that are bringing you down? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

You realize that the reason you can't win is that you are not fighting a regular is a spiritual one.

Read Ephesians 6:10-17

We are in a spiritual battle against all the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm. Ok, before you hold on Linda...this is getting pretty far fetched!... There HAS to be a reason that temptations come to taunt us right when we THINK and RESOLVE to be strong. The devil is watching and waiting for us, ready to throw temptation at us...WANTING us to give in and NOT look to God for help. I have experienced it and seen others experience it so many times...this is war that rages in our hearts, minds and souls every day...we just aren't ware of it.

Well...we NEED to be aware of it and arm ourselves with God's word to fight this spiritual battle! If you read Ephesians 6:10-17 you will see how God does arm us for this battle.

Our defensive tools:
* Breastplate of righteousness- our character...doing the right things...the things God tells us to do...will protect us.
* The shield of faith - believing in something you can't see...KNOW that God is there and will help us...that will help extinguish the flames thrown at us...protects our heart
* The helmet of salvation - through Christ, we are matter how many battles we lose. God wins in the end!!! That knowledge protects our mind.
Our offensive tools:
* The belt of truth - God's word is true - it holds us up and supports us, holding our weapons.
* Gospel of peace - if we remember that God IS in control, we will have the lightness and speed we need to be agile against our enemies, and not be weighed down by our doubts.
* The sword of the spirit - we have a spiritual helper to help us fight this spiritual battle...The holy spirit is always with us. That gives us courage not to back down but to pull out the weapons and FIGHT!

Jesus was our example of how to fight this kind of battle. Read Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus used God's word's to fight the devil's temptations. He could have used his divine power to destroy the devil, but he used God's word instead. Perhaps he did this to teach us how to do it. The devil can't win when we use God's word to fight him. According to Hebrews 4:12, God's word is a double-edged sword that has living power...we should use it more often.

So...have that crucial conversation with yourself...get ready for the battle that is front of you...arm yourself with God's word and pray for His guidance. Jesus showed us that you can be a lover AND a fighter!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Look for the exit signs...

This week's memory verse:
"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

Since we are talking about weaknesses this of mine is being able to see the faults and failings of others quicker than I see my own. I think many of us have that same weakness. Sometimes I get very frustrated with others... 

For example, read Matthew 26:41. I have always been frustrated with the disciples in this story because Jesus asks them to do TWO and pray and what do they ALL do? Fall asleep!

I mean, come on. Jesus told them during their meal that something big was happening...he told them one of them would betray him...he was preparing them. And when they went to the garden to pray, could they not SEE how troubled he was? I would think they would try hard to do what the master asked of them on such a night.

I am just full of judgement, huh? But, if I were in the same situation...would I fall asleep too? 

Although you can tell Jesus is frustrated with them for falling asleep, he knows their weaknesses. That is why he asked them to pray that they would not fall into temptation...the spirit is willing but the body is weak.

Temptation is everywhere and we are weak against it. That is why alcohol, drugs, food, tv, sex....any kind of addiction is such an issue for us. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.

Jesus understands us...and our weaknesses. He will provide a way out for us in every tempting situation...we just have to TAKE IT.

It's not enough to not WANT to do something; we have to decide that we WILL DO SOMETHING ELSE...we have to replace a negative behavior with a positive one.

I want you to think of 3 of your greatest temptations or could be people, places or situations that get you most easily into trouble. PRAYERFULLY consider (that means don't think you can do this alone...rely on God's help) the best strategy to help you avoid these tempting things and replace them with a better choice. 

Plan...think your eyes to the exit signs that God puts in your path so you can find the way out when you are tempted.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where DOES strength come from?

This week's memory verse:
"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

We ALL need strength every day...strength to do what is right, strength to take care of ourselves, strength to just get through the day. Where does that strength come from? How do we get it?

Jesus is our High Priest...the only one who can be where God is and help us atone for our sins. Hebrews 4:14-15 says that because Jesus was tempted in every way - just as we are- and never sinned...he is sympathetic to our struggles with sin. He UNDERSTANDS what we are going through and is our example. God is wise...this is all part of his plan. He is compassionate for us and wants to deal gently with us and our ever present sin. Because Jesus came to earth in human form, he knows what it's like to be human. 

Psalm 19:11-13 describes two categories for sin:
* Hidden - sins you don't realize - you are not aware of
* Willful - you know you are doing it - open rebellion to God's commands

God promises to forgive both! We need to be continually asking God to forgive our sins...and when we ask, we will receive. Isaiah 30:15 says "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.'"

Our sins---the things we do that is against God's plans and commands for us---THAT is what zaps our strength! We can't help that...we are going to sin. God knows that, and sent Jesus to help us with that. Jesus stands ready to give immediate and sympathetic help when we are tempted....he gives us strength! Sure...if you don't have Jesus is your life, you can rely on your own strength...pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going...but you will eventually fall. You are's part of who you are. 

Philippians 4:19 says that God will meet your needs, according to his glorious riches in Jesus Christ. Jesus...our helper, our representative...he is our one true blessing from God! When we realize this, we can rely on him to give us the strength we need each day. God meets our needs THROUGH Jesus!

For those of you who don't believe...who don't believe that Christ is part of God's are welcome to keep believing that...but I am here to tell you from experience...I NEED strength every day....I mess up every day and I fail on my own every day...when I take the time to pray for forgiveness and ask Jesus to give me comes to me...I find I am able to do the things I didn't think I could do...My strength comes from Jesus! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm cracked!

This week's memory verse:
"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

I have many weaknesses...I get frustrated with them and myself...wishing I could do better, be better...but maybe that's just the point. I CAN'T be or do better on my own! This fact keeps me humble. No matter how much weight I lose, how many compliments I get for the songs that I sing, no matter how good of a librarian or teacher or storyteller I am...those weaknesses make me NOT PERFECT...THANK GOD!

God calls those who are weak, foolish, lowly, despised...he USES us to show his glory THROUGH us! I love the next them for yourself.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7

The picture I get in my mind of a clay pot...that's me. Made of good sturdy materials and pretty functional, even if it's not real fancy and beautiful. The wonderful part of that clay's CRACKED! As a matter of fact, it has several cracks all over the place...not enough to keep it from being functional, but enough to see that it has been well used. When it is sitting on a counter and the sun shines on can see light shining through the cracks.

THAT is why I should be thankful for my weaknesses...and be encouraged that I even CARE about them! I have the knowledge of God's glory inside me and when I talk about my weaknesses and don't hide them, God's light shines through them...through my cracks! At least I am aware I am cracked...I want God's light to POUR out of my cracks...knowing that one day, one fine blessed day, my cracks will be repaired and I will be made whole! I have FAITH that that will happen one day...believing in something I CAN'T see because of what I CAN see around me...light coming from the other CRACKED people around me!

Are you cracked, like me? Don't try to hide your cracks...don't let those cracks keep you from living the life God has planned for you! He knows you have weaknesses and are cracked, but he loves you so much that he will use those weaknesses to further his purposes on earth and one day, he will fix your cracks too!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reflection...small steps to a big goal

This week's memory verse:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to wall humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

In the Bible study books that we have been using, Saturdays and Sundays are usually days of "reflection and application." If I am being honest with you, I usually skip those days. For one, on weekends, I get off my "quiet time" routine and secondly...reflection and application is hard and time consuming and sometimes painful. can also be rewarding. So, I'm giving it a shot today.

This week we've been learning about acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with we are thinking about how we can put those things to work in the 4 areas of our lives-- emotional, spiritual, mental and physical.

For me, I need to act justly in all those areas by DOING what I know is RIGHT in God's eyes...treating my daughter with love and working to control my anger; making my life more about God and less about me; continuing to make my "quiet time" a priority each morning; treating my body with respect and honor by eating right and exercising. I also have to have mercy on myself--not beat myself up when i fail...and I need to back off my daughter and quit picking at her. I need to realize that I am NOT God in anyone's life...not even my own. 

Can you look at your own life and see what you need to do in those areas of your life so that you are being more obedient to God each day?

Saying those things and then actually doing them is the hard part isn't it? It seems way too hard...I have too far to go. God knows it is hard for us to live the way he wants us to. He told his people not to "despise this day of small beginnings" (Zechariah 4:10). It takes small steps to get to your big goal and you can't give up when the task looks too big.

A missionary, Hudson Taylor, once said, "A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing." I LOVE that quote! You have to start somewhere...have faith in a God that wants you to walk WITH him...he IS there for you! I know I would not have the energy or motivation to even TRY to do the things I need and want to do if I didn't have my faith that God is there and will always be there.

Don't give up! I am not going to! When you fail at whatever you are trying to do...pick yourself up and try again. There is no limit on how many times you can start over. Have faith and begin at the beginning...small steps will get you there! 

And...make time for reflection and helps you figure out how to put the lessons you learn to work for you as you take another small step on your journey to a better life, whether that be a healthier you, a better relationship with your family, a better job...where ever you are going.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Shut up and be humble enough to give up some control

 This week's memory verse:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

For the last two years, I have been writing these messages nearly every day. I am learning so much and sometimes get so filled with God's spirit, I feel I could burst with joy! I love doing what I am doing and love how it has drawn me closer to it going to my head instead of my heart? Am I getting too big for my britches? Am I REALLY learning the lessons AND putting them into action? Sometimes it is good for a little reflection on how we are doing in our walk with God.

As I put that mirror up to my face and really look at who I am...I think that most of the time, my actions and heart match the words coming out of my mouth. However, as I replay events in my mind, I see some times when am NOT acting the way I would want or that God would want. 

So, instead of wallowing in it...I want to look at those mistakes and learn from them and try to do better. As I have written in this blog before...most of those mistakes happen with my daughter. I love my daughter SO MUCH and I think I want to teach her things...she is the one person who in some ways is under my control. I think THAT is the key!!!

I think I get a distorted view of my responsibility as a parent...yes, I am to teach her how to live in the world and take care of her...but sometimes I think I take advantage of that power I have over her and try too hard.

I wrote a few weeks ago about teenagers and how they are SUPPOSED to feel the need to be different from their is how they learn to grow into their own person. But, when you are in the middle of forget.

So, if I am putting the God lessons I am learning to use in my own life, I need to rely on Him more and pray that I make wise choices with my daughter and THINK about what I say to her BEFORE I say it! That's what I tell her to do...shouldn't I be doing it too?

The bottom line for me...I need to SHUT UP, listen more, be merciful instead of holding that power over her head, and be humble enough to give up some of that control...let go and let God! It is a good thing God loves me too much to leave me the way that I am! I am thankful for the grace he gives me and for the lessons he teaches me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are you playing "MERCY?"

This week's memory verse: 
"He has showed you O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Have you ever played "mercy" with someone? My brother and I use to play's when you lock hands and try to bend the other persons hands back enough that they yell "MERCY!" Why do children play such painful games and call it fun? Are they practicing for adulthood? Hmmmm....

The dictionary defines mercy as "the feeling which motivates compassion; a disposition to be kind and forgiving, especially to those under one's own power; something for which to be thankful, a blessing." Our problem is...mercy does not always come naturally to us...we want to make those that hurt us suffer.

God asks and REQUIRES us to love mercy as much as he does. Psalm 103:8-14 says that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He demonstrates this by NOT treating us as our sins deserve...he went out of his way to take our sins away so he could love us and have a relationship with us.

God knows we are weak and that mercy and compassion does not come easy for us. While he sympathizes with us, he calls us to a higher standard ( he raises the bar higher for us!) Ephesians 5:12 tells us that we are to walk in the way of love as Christ lived - he gave himself as a living sacrifice to God AND he forgave those who persecuted, beat and killed him! Now, believe me, I know those are big shoes to fill...walking the way of Christ...but I believe God wants us to try.

Jesus taught us to be merciful, as our Father is to us...we are not to judge, not to condemn, but to FORGIVE. He also gives us motivation for doing these difficult these things will be done to us as well. Hmmm...there's that Golden Rule again. Maybe we should take it more seriously.

I have friends who have BIG things to be merciful about...a cheating husband...a friend who turned out to be a double-crosser...a mother who beat her kids...a drunk driver who killed a person...we humans mess up, and sometimes BIG TIME, on a daily basis. Since we all mess up...wouldn't you want mercy when you mess up???? Shouldn't we at least TRY to show mercy when someone messes up around us?

C. S. Lewis once wrote, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." WOW! That is not an easy thing to do, but it's something that we have to do. We can't hold a person's sins against them while at the same time asking God to forgive our sins, can we?

God knows this is hard...that is why he has mercy on you while you are still holding grudges. But, he does want you to try to show mercy to others.

So, don't bend back the hands you are holding until they scream "MERCY!" Let up...forgive and cradle those hands. Put the hurtful games of childhood away, and GIVE mercy instead of making your loved ones beg for it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

10 Action Steps...Again

This week's memory verse:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  Micah 6:8

I actually read today's Bible study lesson last month and wrote a blog posting about it. I got several comments about what I said about a different way of looking at the 10 Commandments. I am going to repost that part here today.

As a kid, I always thought of the 10 commandments as the "you shall not" list...a list of things I shouldn't do. But really look at the list that Moses brought down from God...put it in a different context...things you SHOULD do...or a list of I WILL...

1. I will honor only one God.
2. I will worship God only instead of idols I build up for myself.
3. I will only speak the name of God in worship and praise.
4. I will remember what the Sabbath is all about and honor it  with worship and rest.
5. I will honor my mother and father.
6. I will honor life own life and the lives of others
7. I will honor my marriage vows and stay true to my mate
8. I will keep only what is mine
9. I will tell the truth 
10. I will be content with what I have instead of wanting what others have.

Thinking of God's laws or commands in this way makes them easier for me to understand and do. It's like "living justly" is my mission statement for my life and these are the 10 action steps that will get me there.

When I eat too much, eat the wrong things, don't exercise and let my body get more and more out of shape, I am NOT giving glory to God. I am in a sense going against some of those action steps...making food an idol and NOT honoring my life! I am making my life more about me than about God. God wants us to make our lives about him...focused on him and living justly because he knows we will be healthier, happier and better off when we do! I wonder why that is so hard for us to accept?

God wants a close relationship with us and wants us to live in healthy's more than the diet plans, food trackers and weigh-ins. Anything you do, or fail to do, that hinders your relationship with God wages war with your soul and keeps you down. If I continue overeating, not exercising, overspend, get deeper in debt...the guilt of doing those things and the natural consequences of those things weigh me down, zap my strength and take my focus off God...the one who WANTS me free of those things!

I thank God that he has shown me what is good and what he desires from me through his commands. I want to do a better job of following those action steps so I can please God in everything I say and do...when I do, the natural consequence of my actions will be a happier and healthier me, free of guilt and the burdens of my bad choices. Living that way is not easy...but we are not alone. We have Jesus in our lives as our helper. Join me in this journey...ask Jesus to help you in your action steps. Make a commitment today to act justly- to do what is right, what is good, and what leads to a happier and healthier life.