Trying to be

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. ~Gal. 5:22-25 (CEB)

 

Faith does not always come easy. Sometimes it comes after a long road of holding on to the “I can do it myself”, after a last- ditch effort at “self” control. Often faith doesn’t come until we have tried everything else. Am I trying to be who Jesus wants me to be or do I trust Jesus to be who he is in and through me?

Only Jesus can be Jesus. And he wants me to have faith to let him be himself through me. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” A few years ago there was a catch phrase, WWJD, “what would Jesus do?” Without relying on the Spirit to work through me this quickly becomes about my performance. But if through my faith, his spirit lives in me then I will see fruit of the spirit begin to show through me. We will know we are living by the Spirit when we see “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.” (Gal 5:22-23)

Receiving faith does not happen automatically in the life of a believer. To live by faith I have to get rid of the “try hard life” and experience the truth of what it means to let his spirit flow through me. I need to let the peace of Christ rule my heart. By opening my hands to let Jesus work through me I am able to watch with hopeful expectation letting peace do peace-like work.

Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. I try so hard yet it seems that I am always falling short of what I think should happen. Help me to let go and let You work through me. Through me let Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control shine. Amen.

 

Wounds

God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. ~Psalms 147:3 (CEB)

 

“Do you forgive me?” My 10 year old looks at me pleadingly. *sigh* Once again I failed. No, sweet child, it is me that you should forgive.

I ran out of patience and tolerance. He had done nothing wrong but be himself.  I am so glad that I have a Savior that is more than me. When I forget to turn to Him for the source of my strength I find myself missing the mark.

In our relationships with each other we find ourselves doing that we wish we would not and saying that which we should not. Part of learning and growing is working through our differences and learning tolerance. Part of living is learning to forgive each other. I am always floored by the wise words of Henri J. M. Nouwen. This excerpt from his book Bread for the Journey is so insightful,

“‘Time heals,’ people often say.  This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened.  That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality.  But when the expression “time heals” means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it.  ‘Time heals’ implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Living in this reality that is mine is not always easy. Sometimes I take things out on the ones I am not angry with. May I always be “big enough” to admit when I am wrong and take responsibility for my part. May I always be willing to actively work through the pain in search of understanding. May I always be willing to trust in the possibility of forgiveness even when it is for me.

Grant me this day Heavenly Father, a strength that takes me outside myself to see and understand the truth in my reality. Only You can equip me with that strength and will make my way perfect (Psalm 18:32). Amen.

Letting truth take hold

The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. ~Col 3:14-17 (CEB)

 

Once we know what the truth is, we have to let it take hold. I know that I am a child of God (truth) now I need to act like I am a child of God. If I am a child of God then I need to let him rule. Under his rule he offers us peace

There was a time that I thought peace to be those quiet snatches of time, sitting on my porch swing when the temperature is just cool enough to want to wrap my hands around my mug of coffee while the sweet smell of jasmine drift around me. If you didn’t notice there are a lot of conditions to my picture of peace. All it takes to destroy the moment is for my son to open the back door and ask me if I am okay sitting outside by myself.

God’s peace is not determined by the moment alone, the porch swing, the right temperature or on the smell of jasmine close by. The peace that God offers still exists despite the conditions we might find ourselves in. The truth is that peace is always here for us. We have to let it take a hold

Colossians says to let peace rule in my heart. When I play the game of “what-if” I miss out on the freedom of letting peace rule. When I play the game of “if-only” I allow a battle to ensue between two parties. Emily P. Freeman in her book Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life says it this way,

“There is indeed a controversy between two parties: my flesh and my spirit, the lies and the truth, the fake and the real, the mask and the Savior. Peace stands between them, looks me straight in the eye, and asks permission to do what peace does best: give rest. God offers his peace to act as my umpire, to release me from having to be the authority and keep it together. But I have to let peace be peaceful inside of me. It is not an easy thing to do, to quiet the voices of the accusing party and to allow peace to have the authority. If I will let it, the peace of Christ will stand between me and the lies of my enemy, the lies that accuse and attack and shame.”

I want that peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7), to find myself in peace despite my circumstances. How do I allow peace to work in my life? Through Christian fellowship and support; through scripture and songs; through gratitude for what God has already done in my life. All these things remind me of who I am and whose I am. I am a child of God.

In God, whose word I praise. I trust in God; I won’t be afraid. What can mere flesh do to me? ~Psalm 56:4

Make your ways known to me, LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth—teach it to me— because you are the God who saves me. I put my hope in you all day long. Amen. (Psalms 25:4-5 CEB)

A shield

All God’s words are tried and true; a shield for those who take refuge in him. ~Proverbs 30:5

 

In reading what I scheduled to be posted for the day after my father in laws funeral, I have thought more about walking through life acting like we have it all together even when we don’t.

In my post for this day I had talked about knowing a truth with your head but not feeling it in your heart yet. God knows we need places to hide. Not the masks of “I have it all together” but a shield of “I know I don’t have it all together but I know the One who does”. It seems the psalms are riddled with poetic lines that sing of safe place of rest, shields from the troubles that surround at all sides.

But you, Lord, are my shield! You are my glory! You are the one who restores me. ~Psalm 3:3

God is my shield; he saves those whose heart is right. ~Psalm 7:10

The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock— I take refuge in him!— he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety. ~Psalm 18:2

God! His way is perfect; the Lord’s word is tried and true. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. ~Psalm 18:30

You’ve given me the shield of your salvation; your strong hand has supported me; your help has made me great. ~Psalm 18:35

The Lord is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The Lord gives—doesn’t withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. ~Psalm 84:11

God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. ~Psalm 91:4

God is my loyal one, my fortress, my place of safety, my rescuer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, and the one who subdues people before me. ~Psalm 144:2

This Shield protects us while we figure out how to move on in our journey. It protects us as we try to move on in our lives. Life happens, someone dies, tragedy strikes, illness occurs, a court decision doesn’t go the way we think it should, a spouse falls back into addiction, a child has been arrested. God wants to provide us with a safe place while we struggle with questions of why and how to continue on. God gives us a resting place in him while we struggle with learning the Truths and until we are able to embrace them

How do you continue forward when your heart is breaking? I have asked this a lot… Maybe it is in the little things: a smile at my son when I feel like crying, a walk with my husband though I want to be alone, a laugh with my daughter when there is so much to do, a cup of coffee with a friend despite a busy schedule, reading my Bible even though I am mad at God… Maybe it is in the daily tasks: of doing laundry when I’d rather stay in bed, fixing my hair when I’d rather put it in a ponytail, cooking a meal when I’d rather not eat, dusting when I’d rather just read… It amazes me how much better I feel after doing these simple acts of life.

God shields my heart wile I go through the act of living until it feels right again, one smile at a time, one task at a time, a gift of normalcy not meant to be a burden but a way for us to carry on. We are supposed to ever move on. It is the nature of living.

Heavenly Father, shield my heart this day as I take this day one step at a time. I thank you for Your love and peace that passes my present understand. Be with me in all I do and say this day, may it ever be a reflection of Your love to those I meet. Amen.

Choices

I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully. ~Col 1:26-30 (CEB)

Life is full of choices. One choice that I must make as I learn more and more about what Christ’s sacrifice for me really means is whether I am going to live out of self, that mask of false identity, or am I going to live from my spirit, my true identity, my freedom. It comes down to whether I want to choose to let fear dominate or to let peace reign.

When fear and anxiety come walking in my backdoor I know I have been relying on my “self” again. Living in peace is a daily choice that I must actively seek each and every day, sometimes moment by moment.

Before we learned about the life we can have through Christ we had no choice but to live behind the masks of our making. At one time this life was a mystery but Paul in Colossians 1: 26-27 says, “a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory.” Christ is the hope and glory that live in me.

Being a Christian is not choosing to live obedient to the law, this is just bondage to the “try-hard-life”. We are called to learn of this mystery of obedience to the truth. There is laboring but when Jesus calls us to take up his yoke he tells us his labor is not hard or forced. This labor promises to be new and light and joyous (Matt 11:30). We received him by faith now we need to also walk in faith.

There is a becoming that happens as we walk with Jesus but it isn’t under a system of achieving. That puts my achievement back on my “self” and away from what God can do through me. It is not by my energy that I strive to do the work of God but through His energy, which works in my powerfully (Col 1:30).

Heavenly Father, help me not to fall into the trap of the “try-hard-life”. Help me to always rely on Your strength and energy. May that work powerfully in me so that I may joyfully do Your will. Amen.

Long time coming

Jesus crossed the lake again, and on the other side a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came forward. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded with him, “My daughter is about to die. Please, come and place your hands on her so that she can be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. A swarm of people were following Jesus, crowding in on him.  A woman was there who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot under the care of many doctors, and had spent everything she had without getting any better. In fact, she had gotten worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothes. She was thinking, If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed. Her bleeding stopped immediately, and she sensed in her body that her illness had been healed. At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “Don’t you see the crowd pressing against you? Yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus looked around carefully to see who had done it. The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward. Knowing what had happened to her, she fell down in front of Jesus and told him the whole truth. He responded, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” ~Mark 5:21-34 (CEB)

 

There are times where we find ourselves completely powerless. In the beginning we received sympathy and support but when things get drug out we find people starting to drift away and even begin to avoid us. We search many places looking for healing only to find no help. When we find ourselves alone after all we have done to try to heal ourselves we, like the woman who didn’t want to bring attention to her wounds, try to sneak in our healing. We want this to be just between us and God.

Jesus didn’t want the woman to remain behind her mask. If he allowed her healing to have remained secret she could not have been restored to the community. She would have remained taboo to her friends and family. Jesus wanted her community to see that she was healed and restored to wholeness. He wanted her to step out from behind her mask of sickness. He wanted her to be restored to Life.

There are times we feel that Jesus has passed us by when prayers have been sent up for healing. Maybe things don’t unfold as quickly as we wanted or through the means we had envisioned. But we need to have the faith and hope of this woman. We need to be open to the possibilities.

Heavenly Father, when answers don’t come as quickly or in the way I would like for them to come, please give me the strength to continue walking with faith and hope. May I have your strength to hold on until your healing comes. Amen.

Lean not on my own understanding

Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.” He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.  Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.” She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” “John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied. Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb. ~Mark 6:14-29 (CEB)

 

In real life, the story doesn’t always end with “They lived happily ever after”. John gave his life for God. He never backed down from what needed to be said. He gave his all for God. He gave his life. The story doesn’t always end like it did for Daniel in the lion’s den or as it did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had great faith and stood up for what they believed and it all turned out right for them in the end.

I also can’t help but think of Paul. He tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians that there is something that he continually struggles with. He has prayed for it to be removed, but God didn’t. (2Co 12:7-10) Sometimes God asks us to live through or with a circumstance. Sometimes the answer is not deliverance this side of heaven.

Most of the time when we pray, we pray for God to do something to us or for us, But God wants to do something in us and through us. I have to remember that God sees time differently than me. I have to trust that He is working all things together for my good or those around me (Jer. 29:11) even when it doesn’t feel like he is, even when I don’t receive an answer to prayer in the way that I want it to be answered.

My part of the picture is giving my cooperation for God to work through me. God gives His self to us for His purpose only as we give ourselves to God. God does not ask me to give up who I am but for the death of self-centeredness. God asks that despite my circumstances that I allow myself to be used for His service. When I give my all in service to Him my story does have a happy ending. It might be different than the worlds’ view of the happily ever after version but when I do His will, my story in the end is happy one with Him forever in heaven.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3, 5-6

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. –Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Body, soul and spirit

Therefore we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore, because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. ~Rom. 6:4-11 (CEB)

As a believer I have all I need for a  life in Chris. If I don’t know it I can’t experience the reality of it.

One of the Biblical truths I grew up with is how when we are baptized we died with Christ, are buried with Christ and have risen with Christ. But I am sitting right here, alive. What died?

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.” According to this verse we are a three part whole. Thinking of myself in this way makes it a little clearer.

The invisible is easy to overlook until it’s not there anymore. When we look at the shell of a loved one that has passed on we are quite aware that we are more than just a body.

My body is the visible shell that the world sees. My soul, my mind, is the invisible part of me that thinks and feels. It interprets information that is received and it can only whether it is a lie or truth. We readily acknowledge these two parts of our being. But the third, my spirit is what links me to God.

If I take a moment and think back to the Garden of Eden I remember that Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge they would die. I distinctly remember them walking away from their encounter with God after their sin. (Gen 3) Weren’t they supposed to die? Their body and soul left the garden, but the damage was to their spirit, that invisible place that connected them to God is what died. Therefore every human was born into death, with a dead spirit.

The only way I can bring life to my spirit is to admit that it is dead and receive the One who is Life. God’s Holy Spirit makes life available leaving me with a choice. The choice I am faced with is that I can either receive truth from my circumstances by responding to what my soul, my mind tells me or I can listen to the truth that through Christ’s sacrifice I have now been united with God’s Spirit.  The Spirit feeds me Truth and leads me in the way I need to go.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. ~Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEB)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your guiding Spirit that speaks truth to my heart. Help me to listen to the Truth and not respond to my current circumstances as if that is truth. Help me to keep all my ways straight. Amen

Saved from self

He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. ~Col.1.13.(CEB)

Darkness is the only choice when we don’t believe. When God rescues us he takes us out of darkness into the light. The initial passage from darkness to light is our coming aware of and the need for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to rescue the lost, the hurt, the broken and the lonely. We get that part but this understanding of need for forgiveness isn’t the only step.

It takes more than just trying to live righteously. I can’t do this by my own strength. It is not just understanding the forgiveness side of the cross and then working to earn life. This will put me back into bondage. This is not the freedom of living in the light.

I need to be saved from my self. God didn’t save me from darkness to send me off to make new masks. Masks of try-to-do-better, try-to-be-more. This just lands me back into darkness because I cannot be better or more on my own. I need to be saved from my self.

Three years ago this is where God found me. In a terrible self made mess of self-effort, self-reliance, self-righteousness which left me in a pit of self-doubt. Well if self is my addiction, that pit was my rock bottom. At this point I was very aware that I was not getting anywhere by my own effort to live right.

I missed the point. Jesus didn’t come just to save me form my sins…  he came to give me Life. True living that could only be found from the source of all life. There is only one place to find my identity. I no longer have to move from hiding behind one mask to another. My coping skills do not define who I am.

There are two sides to the cross. Death of my sins AND new life.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins. I thank you that you also saved me from my-self. I thank you for not leaving me in the pit of self-doubt trying to earn my life by my own effort. Amen.

Mercy and grace

During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?” ~Gen 3:8-11 (CEB)

 

 

What happens when we feel guilt and shame? What are we to do when we find that we can no longer hide behind Self-reliance? We need forgiveness and new life. God gives us both. When we realize that we cannot stay behind our masks our world feels turned upside down. We no longer know which way is up.

When we come out from behind our masks we don’t find what we deserve, we find mercy. In the garden God killed an innocent animal, this first sacrifice pointed to the future sacrifice of Christ. In his great love and compassion God provided an escape from the wrath they deserved. This is mercy.

Mercy as beautiful as it is is not enough. It is only protection. God took the skin of the animal and fashioned a new identity for them (Gen 3:21), one on his terms. This was undeserved, this is grace.

So, mercy protects and grace provides. It is hard to accept life that we have not worked for or earned, but the only way we can live is by feasting on the Tree of Life. A few thousand years after the first Adam, one comes to show us how to live by the Tree of Life. Jesus shows us what life could look like when we depend solely on God to provide.

Adam and Eve received mercy in the garden when God sacrificed that animal. He gives us the same mercy through the sacrifice through Jesus’ blood on the cross. Jesus received the punishment that was meant for us. But where does grace come into the picture? God knew we would need a hiding place, but he doesn’t let us stay hidden by our terms.

Yes, Jesus died for our sins. Truth is that we also die with him when we are baptized. If we died with him, then when he was buried, we were buried, when he arose, we rose (Rom 6:4-8).

The good news is that we do not have to manufacture our own hiding places. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)Through his death Jesus is now our safe place. This is grace.

In the self-reliant life my behavior determines my acceptability. But when we realize that we are loved by God unconditionally we find that it is also safe to love others as God guides us. When I realize I already measure up in Christ (2 Cor 3:5-6) I don’t have to measure myself against others. When I realize my needs are met through Christ (Phil 4:19) then I don’t look to others for my needs. When I realize that I am righteous through Christ (2 Cor 5:21) I don’t have to rely on self-righteousness.

Through Christ it is now safe to love God and it is safe to love others (Matt 22:37-40).

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Your son into the world to provide mercy and grace. Thank You for helping me choosing life. Help me to love others as You would have me love. Amen.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries