Self-relience

20180611_132819

The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it– even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash– along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant– dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ– God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. ~Phil 3:3-11 (Message)

Self-reliance is living in selfishness, flesh. What does the Bible say to us about living in the flesh?

“People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit.” ~Rom 8:5 (CEB)
“The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” ~John 6:63 (CEB)
“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.” ~Gal 5:17 (CEB)

The spirit and the flesh are in opposition. This struggle robs us of our true identity found only in Christ. Jesus doesn’t care about our good reputation; he cares about building our good character. Anything we do to get life and identity outside of Christ is idol worship, even service to Christ. Self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self- effort, and self-reliance rob us of a life of freedom and victory.

Our definition of sin, the bad stuff people do, the heartbreaks people cause, the poor decisions people make… somehow our desire to be our own little god is left off the list. Instead of looking to God to provide what is needed, do we roll up our sleeves and take on responsibilities that were never meant for us?

How many times do I see a problem, put my limitations on it and decide what I think the solution should be? Do I miss out on a miracle because I am depending on myself? I want to live like I have a God that knows what He is doing.

It isn’t about my doing God’s work; it’s about my trusting God to do the work in me. God doesn’t want my service, he doesn’t want my independence. He wants me.

I need to live more than just believing in God, I need to live from God. I need to step out from behind my mask of self-reliance and walk in faith.

Lord, Help me in my struggle to be self-reliant. I know that when I walk in faith and live like you are in control I can see you working in my life. May I live in freedom and victory. Amen.

Masks of our choosing

 

20180625_164134Then they both saw clearly and knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made garments for themselves. ~Genesis 3:7 (CEB)

When we make the choice to believe Satan’s lie, we believe that we must perform for our acceptance. We realize that we do not measure up. We are aware of our nakedness, our vulnerability, our imperfection.

What do we do when we realize that we do not measure up? We scramble for something to hide our shame. We put on masks of our own making, sewn together with fear. What are some masks that we might wear in our realization that we are imperfect? Here is a small list:

My service in the church will make me acceptable.
I gain respect by acting responsibly.
Following the rules makes me good enough.
Acting righteously makes me righteous.
Getting up early to pray every morning will make me a good Christian.
Cooking healthy meals makes me a good mom.
Keeping my house clean makes me a good wife.
Working hard makes me a good employee.
Insert here your own insecurities…

Does God leave us in our insecurities? While we are hiding God comes looking for us. He beckons to us, calling us to come out to him. “Where are you”, he calls. He already knows our hiding spot (Gen 3:8-9). He calls to us because we have to come out of hiding in order to be found. We have to come out from behind our masks in order to be healed, in order to be made whole.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for calling to me and not leaving me behind my masks of insecurities. I want to be made whole. Help me to be healed. Amen.

Lean not on my own understanding

 

20180707_133316.jpgHerod 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 instead a  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 a 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

20180706_115717.jpg

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

Out of control

20180629_120001

I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep my eye on you. ~Psalm 32:8 (CEB)

Life can be overwhelming. Ultimately the only thing I can control is my own life and what will happen to me. And even that is limited. The easiest thing would be to live in a guarded, safe, controlled way, to stop taking risks and to be ruled by my fears of “what might happen”. Turning inward is one way to respond to life’s uncertainties. The other is to acknowledge my lack of control and to reach up for God’s help.  Knowing that I cannot control my circumstances is important.

If life was stable, I’d never need God. Since it isn’t stable I reach out to God often. It can be difficult to be thankful for the unknowns in life. It is scary to think I have very limited control but these situations cause me to run to God. A spirit of fear can immobilize me and enforce my want of a more guarded and safe life where variables are more controlled. God does not want me to live this way. He wants me to be adventurous.

One Easter a few years ago, since we have no family in town my husband, son and I set out after church just to see what we could see. We had no real plan except to spend the day together. We got in the car and headed out over the Foothills Parkway. We stopped at every overlook and got out to see each view of the mountains. We stopped at a stream and threw rocks into the water. Then when we made it to the other side of the parkway we decided to turn left onto hwy 129 and head toward North Carolina. Still, no real plan, just not ready to head home we followed Hwy 129 through all its switches back and forth, over and around the mountains. We enjoyed the views and the beautiful day. After we crossed over the state line we were close to Fontana village and since my husband had worked there one summer while in college he thought it would be fun to look around. While we walked around we stumbled across an Easter egg hunt and my son was invited to join in.

We enjoyed exploring Fontana village. Again we found that we were not ready to call it a day. Since we would be passing Fontana dam our way back home, we thought we would check it out too. Before getting to the dam we stumbled upon Fontana Lake and took a few minutes to explore the boat dock there before continuing on to the dam. Slowly we meandered our way to the dam where we found that the views were glorious. We wandered around, walked over the dam and around the little visitor’s center.

It was a wonderful day. We had nowhere to rush off to, the weather was beautiful and we were not expecting certain things out of our day out. We just took it all as it came. I told my son who exclaimed what a great time he had had that we could never have planned that day. A day like that day just happens. A day like that cannot be controlled and still have the same enjoyment. It was the spirit of exploring that made that day special.

An adventurer never knows what treasures will be stumbled upon and those precious moments can never be planned. Although an adventure seems risky the rewards are always worthwhile. With God at my side, the risks of living are never too great and I often prize those things God has done when I live my life. With my eyes on God, I can have the confidence to step out on faith to see in the world what there is to see, one little treasure at a time.

Heavenly Father, grant to me this day an adventurous heart to bravely go out into the world a little out of control for You. Help me to store all the treasures I find deep in my heart to be pulled out and shared with others along the way. May I never be so self-controlled that I miss out on the joy You have in store for me. Watch closely over me and guide me in the way that I should go. I thank you for Your love. Amen.

Opposition

20180629_100240

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15-12 (NRSV)

When I make the choice to be a follower of Christ, I will face opposition. The opposition may arise within me; it may arise among fellow Christians, or it may arise in the world around me. It may be subtle, blatant, mild, or severe. The question is not will it come but how to respond when I am faced with opposition.

The opposition from within myself comes from my commitment to a lifelong journey with the Holy Spirit as my navigator. Distress can arise from finding myself heading in a direction that I am not sure about. I find that I am not called to go to the places that I feel comfortable traveling. Sometimes I feel like the connection is lost while I am to wait or remain silent. Doing the right thing does not lend itself to easy directions. When the connection is clear I can find that the path I am to follow is not one I would have chosen.

When I turn to my Bible I find good news! I am not alone in my struggles. Reading about Gideon in the Bible shows me that it is possible to face the unknown, impossible odds, staggering opposition without fear and without defeat. Abraham was called to leave all that he knew for the promise of a better life. I can turn to the Bible for inspiration for my struggles but I can not expect to be instantly where Mary was in her witness. Neither can I think that there is something wrong with me because I struggle with internal or external opposition. It is in opposition that Jesus seeks to form me and grow me into the person he wants me to be. It is the process of moving from infant milk to adult food (Heb 5:13).

How am I to face opposition when it comes? Squarely, humbly, openly, and with all the faith I can muster. “…For Surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope (Jer. 29:10-11)

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the example of Christ and for the Holy Spirit that lives in me guiding me where I am to go. I know You hold my future and Your plans are for my good. Stay close as I go through these growing pains and bolster my heart to always do your will. Amen.

Free to love

20180611_134329

Your faithful love is priceless, God! Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings. ~Psalms 36:7

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (Matthew 1:22-23). Jesus came into the world to be with us and to guide us with his example for living. During his time on earth, Jesus was in no way influenced by human blame or praise but was completely dependent on God’s will. Jesus was able to have deep compassion because his life was guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. In reading my Bible, Jesus is with me guiding me through the examples shown to me in the Bible. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love others.

When it is no longer about “me”, about my trying to get human respect, I am free to love. Allowing myself to be guided by God’s will frees me to love as He wants me to love. When I find my security through Jesus, the love, peace, joy and hope that He pours into me overflows to others (Romans 13:13). We are to be rooted in Jesus. With our roots firmly planted in his truth and established in faith, we won’t be enslaved by foolish deception (Colossians 2:7). Loving God with all my heart and all my strength and loving my neighbor is the most important thing that I can offer to Him (Mark 12:33).

Heavenly Father, I struggle daily with “self”. I want to love those around me with the love Christ has shown me. May I honor you this day through showing Christ’s love to others. Amen.

Previous Older Entries