A Living testimony

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I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law… 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. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other. ~Gal 5:16-18, 22-26 (CEB)

One of the most intimidating things to me as a child was witnessing about God. Growing up in church we were taught this was important work for God. Wondering where and how to bring God up in my conversations and how to convince others of the need of God’s presence in their life was overwhelming.

As an adult I still find myself overwhelmed with the thought of giving my “testimony”, sharing how God has worked in my life to others. Henri Nouwen in his book The Wounded Healer says, “The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).  These fruits speak for themselves.  It is therefore always better to raise the question ‘How can I grow in the Spirit?’  then the question  ‘How can I make others believe in the Spirit?’” By allowing the fruits of the Spirit to work through my life and shine out to others, I can serve God as a living example.

Verse 24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires.” When I am ruled by my “self” it is hard for the fruit of the Spirit to shine through to others. I find myself becoming arrogant, jealous and angry. When I live by the Spirit it is easier to show love to others; joy despite present circumstances; peace that passes all understanding; kindness even when I am not shown it in return, goodness even when it’s not the easiest path; trustfulness in all circumstances; gentleness instead of forcing my ideas; and self-control even when I am afraid.

When “self” is at the center of my daily life I cannot be a good testament to the love and good works of God. Only when I die to “self” and am lead by the Holy Spirit can I begin to live the example that shows that God is alive and at work in me. By living differently than the world lives, I invite others to wonder and sometimes ask what is different in my life. Thus doors are opened for conversation without my forcing my way in.

Lord, I thank You for Your Spirit that lives in me. May I ever be listening to its promptings and allowing the gifts of the Spirit to work in me and shine though me as a beacon to others that leads to You. Amen.

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Wisdom

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What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about Gods wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. .. But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except Gods Spirit. We haven’t received the world’s spirit but Gods Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people. ~1Cor 2:6-13 (CEB)

It is so easy in my finite view of life to second guess God but my viewpoint is limited. I have to remind myself that there is a bigger picture that I am a small part of. A picture that God in His wisdom has prepared in advance before time began.

Wikipedia describes wisdom as a “deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments, and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason, and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action.”

It is only when I read the Bible in its entirety that I begin to see the ‘optimum judgment”, “wise outlook”, and “insight” God had in His dealings with human beings. Only in looking at the big picture can I see  God’s wisdom for us. With a finite view, it can be easy to be lead astray from the truth. We get a glimpse into His wisdom through His word which was also with Him in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:1-5 CEB)

God`s wisdom is interwoven throughout time. Studying His word helps me to tap into this sum of learning, helping me to discern what is true, right and lasting. The Bible helps me to see beyond my own emotions to reason, knowledge and to a course of action. It doesn’t matter if my own viewpoint is limited. Through the Word, I have an eternal viewpoint that crosses all the ages into eternity. Every time I read His word I touch a piece of His wisdom.

I thank You God, that I can look to Your scriptures and find wisdom for my life. May I always remember to hide Your words deep in my heart and may I allows remember to allow them to guide all my steps through this day. Amen.

Crossroads

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Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God is the one who will be fighting for you. ~Deut. 3:22 (CEB)

Do not be afraid. This is a phrase that is used throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. It seems these words are said during times of great change or before a call of service. To Abraham when he was called to leave all he had ever known. To Moses who was called to lead his people out of Egypt; to Joshua who was called to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land.  Gideon.., Samuel.., Joseph…

Mary was called at a young age. The first words that were spoke to her were “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30) Before Mary hears anything else, God first wants Mary to hear that she is safe and that she has found approval from God. Her identity is a gift ~ “favored child of God”. These words are meant to strengthen and empower. To others Mary may seem an unlikely candidate for helping God save the world. She is young, poor, has no social standing and she is female.  Nothing about Mary declares that she can be who she is called to be apart from God.

Mary is treasured as the mother of Jesus. At one point she was just flesh and blood, just like me, no stronger or more intelligent. What elevates her was her simple offering of herself to God, knowing that she was inadequate for what God called her to do, but with a willing heart to go where He wanted her to go. She knew she was limited in what she could do apart from God. It is her willing heart that has set her apart.

I have a gift from God, His love for me. My identity is that I am a Beloved child of God. I am called to hear His voice among my crowded and distracted life. What is my call? My call is to hear and to be willing to go where He leads me. “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16) Nothing is more urgent in my life than the yearning to know and do God’s will. Every day I need to ask God, “Where are you leading me today?”

Every day is a crossroads Lord. Will I do your will, or will I follow my own desires? Lead me in the way I am to go.  I know that I am limited by what I can do on my own but with the Holy Spirit directing me I can know and do Your will. I thank You for Your love. Amen.

An awakening

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When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” ~Acts 2:37-39 (CEB)

Maybe it is hearing tv evangelists or street corner preachers that plant the idea in our heads that coming to Christ is a lightning bolt moment. While coming to Christ may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience it is really an ongoing journey within us. Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. I can look back over my life and see earthshaking moments that seemed to shift my life more in line with Christ. But such moments are just part of the process, not the end as I give myself over to the transforming power of God.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that change is not instantaneous. While conversion requires our decision and action, it takes time to change us into the image of Christ. I have also learned that it took time to develop my bad habits so it will also take time to undo the habits I have formed. Without the work of undoing the bad habits they will come back or new bad habits will take their place. (Matt 12:43-45)

Macrina Wiederkehr in her book, A Tree Full of Angels, gives us an insight into Paul’s conversion experience, “When Saul was knocked down by that flash of lightening, that was not conversion. That was just God getting his attention. The conversion came as he groped his way in blindness to Ananias, able to see with interior eyes because he had no external eyes to depend on. His conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his new name, Paul. He was still in the process of conversion when he was on his way to Rome in chains.”

I get a glimpse of Paul’s ongoing conversion when I read in Romans 7:15-21, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, its sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”

Conversion is an awakening of the spirit. Suddenly the world begins to make sense despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Our vision is opened up enough to be able to absorb the contradictions and the collision of opposites. We go from being blind or short sighted to seeing with God’s eyes. The love of God dawns upon us and with it comes the most amazing promise and a new hope. What we cannot redeem, God can, and what we cannot erase God will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your grace that saves me. I thank You for awakening my spirit and the transformation You allow in my life. I claim the strength You promise as I try to do Your will, one day at a time. Amen.

To act when called

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Teach me your way, LORD, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name. I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever, because your faithful love toward me is awesome and because you’ve rescued my life from the lowest part of hell. ~Psalm 86:11-13 (CEB)

What is God’s wish for us? His wish is for us to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called. The Holy Spirit plants seeds, little nudges- feelings that this or that should be done or not done; we get hunches and leadings, signs and signals, and sometimes direct messages. When I make myself available by always giving and unqualified yes when God invites obedience, witness and service, I permit signs and wonders to occur with and through my life.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable that when God put an idea into our mind we could comprehend that idea and immediately act upon it with unquestioning determination? The more I walk in truth the more I give my heart to God undivided.  The more I revere His name the more I am able to discern His will and the actions He desires me to make. The less I hesitate or second guess His prodding’s the more assured I can be stepping out to do His will. The more I say “Yes Lord” the more joyful I am in my work. “Yes, you will go out with celebration, and you will be brought back in peace. Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you; all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isa 55:12)

God calls me to a spiritual life.  A life living in which I bear witness joined with the Holy Spirit that I belong to God as a beloved child (Rom 8:16). Part of discerning God’s will for my life involves every aspect of my life. Paul says, “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). When I discern God’s will and act upon it I give glory to God and give full visibility to His signs and wonders.

Living a spiritual life is living a life in which my spirit and the Spirit of God bear a joint witness that I belong to God as God’s beloved child, (see Romans 8:16).   This witness involves every aspect of my life.  Paul says:  “Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God”(1 Corinthians 10:31).  And we are the glory of God when we give full visibility of what it means to live in communion with God’s Spirit. “God delivers and rescues, He works wonders in heaven and on Earth. (Dan 6:27).
Heavenly Father, allow the Spirit to manifest itself through me as I learn to discern and do Your will. I thank You for rescuing me and the wonders You have done in my life. May I ever bear witness to Your love in all I do this day. Amen.

Called to be me

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He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. ~Eph 4:11 (CEB)

A few years back, I was picking my daughter up from her last mission trip. As we gathered her things to go I told her that every time I pick her up from a mission trip someone tells me “Your daughter is a good digger”. She looked at me with all seriousness and said, “Well, when there is a lot you don’t know how to do, you find what you can do and do it well.” In one heartbeat I went from laughing with my daughter to being proud of her. We could all do well to remember this in life. “Find what we can do and do it well.”

It is humbling when I look around at all the great things people seem to be doing. Always before me, I can see what I don’t do well. But instead of focusing on what others are doing and what I seem unable to do, I need to remember that God doesn’t call me to what others do well. He calls me to what I can do well through Him who will give me the ability to do His will (Phil 3:14). God calls me to be me. If it is digging holes while others build decks, He will give me the strength to dig those holes. If it is to quietly sit with someone whose heart is broken while others lead thousands to Christ, God will give me the strength needed to hold that dear hand.

Paul addressed the Corinthians about this in the first letter to them, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:4-11 (NRSV)

What God calls me to do is for the common good. He doesn’t call me to a work to make me feel good about myself. Ephesians 4:12 says our ministry is for the building up of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:25-26 reminds me that my work is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and that I am not to become conceited, competitive or envious of what someone else may be called to do. So even though I may think someone else’s work is more glamorous than what I have been called to do, I am to keep my eyes on Him and walk only this road His has given me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength You give so that I can be all that I am meant to be. Help me to remember that all work is for the common good and not about me. Amen.

Love beyond all limits

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Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that~ smelled sweet to God. ~Eph 5:1-2 (CEB)

Even if you have not grown up in a church I feel confident that you have heard that God loves us. Maybe you have heard of God’s love through the simple children’s song, “Jesus loves me”. In church, the concept of God’s love is taught but not necessarily known. It takes life experiences to begin to understand what God’s love means in our heart. But this journey towards understanding just how big, how wide how deep how great God’s love really is (Eph 3:18-19), begins with misunderstanding just what love means

For many reasons we find ourselves misunderstanding God’s love. That it is absolute and unlimited for each one of us. The reasons that it is difficult for us to receive, trust or see His love are as numerous as there are people in the world. The relationships we have with others impact us and affect our views on what love means. How we interact in relationships can be reflected in how we interact and relate to God. Somewhere along the way, we may be taught that love is based on performance, control comes with conditions… When we take our first step on our journey of who we really are in Christ, we can begin to understand the concept of God’s perfect love for us just as we are right now.

It wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter, standing over her crib watching her sleep that I began to get a taste of what God’s love is for us. I also began to understand just how human I really was and that I could never love her enough. Matthew 7:11 says ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” If  I with all my faults, love my children and want so much for them can I not begin to take to heart the love God has for me? After being a mom for 20 years, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this kind of love.

Our journey towards grasping the concept of God’s love begins with this verse in Romans 8:38-39, ” But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created”. God’s love for us knows NO limits.

Sometimes understanding is beyond our reach when life has caused deep wounds, Henri Nouwen in his book, The Wounded Healer, has this to say, ” How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love -fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the cruelest torture are able to choose love. By choosing love they become witnesses not only to enormous human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world.”

I walk a narrow path of hope in the midst of a world that has only hatred and fear to share. I look not to the world to define what love means. I look to the Source that is love. Sometimes the people in my life are here to show me what love is not. Sometimes I am blessed with insights of what love truly can be.

Heavenly Father I thank you this day for Your love that has no limits. I thank You for those people You have placed in my life to love and to love me. May I be an example of love to all I meet this day. Amen.

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