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.

 

The tree of knowledge

The snake was the most intelligent of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say that you shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the garden’s trees but not the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘Don’t eat from it, and don’t touch it, or you will die.’” The snake said to the woman, “You won’t die! God knows that on the day you eat from it, you will see clearly and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. ~Genesis 3:1-6(CEB)

There are two trees in the garden. The Tree of Life represents a life dependent on God. The Tree of Knowledge represents a life dependent on self. Eve’s initial mistake is entering into conversation with the liar. The following mistake was reasoning with the truth.

Two lies snuck in the garden that day. One is the lie that we have to do something to be something. Remember the act of eating the fruit? The second lie that slips by us is that this performance will make us more like God. In Genesis 3:5 Satan tells the woman that by eating the fruit she will become more like God, more righteous. In her conversation with the lie she forgot the truth. In Genesis 1:27, God had already made her “in His image.”

So what does this mean? Somewhere along the way we forget that love is a gift, we begin to believe that it must be earned. God gave us the Tree of Life so that we might truly walk with him. Walking this road in life with him brings freedom. But if we choose the Tree of Knowledge aka the “tree of independence”, we are bound to ever try to earn love and acceptance. We are trapped in the lie of performance.

The fact is God already loves us. He loved us first before we ever did anything to earn that love, it already existed. Adam and Eve forgot the love they were given, in fact they wanted more. They wanted to be independent and ever since humans have been born separated from God (Rom 5:17). God has been calling to us since the garden trying to remind us that His love is here free for the taking. We don’t have to earn that love. God doesn’t want us to remain in darkness, our self-reliance. He is calling us back to Truth. He is calling us back to the Tree of Life.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to bring us back to the Tree of Life. Help me to fight this streak of independence that lives in me. Help me to live in the intimacy you gave us in the garden. Amen.

God given instincts

The commandment is a lamp and instruction a light; corrective teaching is the path of life. ~Proverbs 6:23

One day my dog was barking for all she was worth. I knew that bark. It was the type of bark that told me she had found some creature. When my son checked the situation out he found that it was a red eared glider, a turtle whose shell was at least 18 inches long, bigger than what we were used to seeing migrate out of the small lake in our subdivision.

Early spring is the time of year turtles are restless from their winter “hibernation”. This restlessness puts turtles in places they don’t belong. Sometimes it is just in the wrong back yard or in a neighborhood street. Sometimes their restlessness finds them on a busy highway which for many that try to cross means death. That restlessness drives them to be places that are not safe for turtles.

I can get restless like those turtles. Despite barking dogs, unknown territory and even dangerous circumstances I can feel driven to go places that I know I should not go. Against the instincts God has placed deep within me I can push past the natural boundaries He would have in place for me.

The good news is God’s word says, “I will instruct you and teach you about the direction you should go. I’ll advise you and keep My eye on you” (Psalms 32:8) If I allow God’s word to penetrate deep within this hard shell of mine, I only have to listen to the guidance He has placed within me and I can find my way home, away from the busy highways which are sure death for me, back to the beautiful pond He has provided for me. I just need to listen to my God given instincts.

May I ever be listening for Your guidance that you have placed within me. May I nurture this knowledge everyday so that I can avoid the dangers of living. Amen.

The power of words

“With lots of words comes wrongdoing, but the wise restrain their lips.” ~Proverbs 10:19 (CEB)

Words are powerful. Because our words carry so much power, it is important that we learn to say only what is essential. Benjamin Franklin said, “He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows or sees.” Oh that I could learn this lesson… when to keep my mouth shut! Once the words are out there you can’t take it back. You can apologize for things that you have said, but you can never retrieve them.

Something my mother always told us growing up was, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is good advice! We should restrain our lips from negative speech, gossip, sarcasm, insincere flattery, coarse jesting, or being funny in a rude way. Instead we should use our mouth to encourage others, looking for and finding the good qualities in people, choosing to speak well of those around us.

This positive speaking of others also helps to adjust our attitude towards those we come in contact with frequently. What our mouth speaks our heart soon believes. If I can speak positively about someone I deal with daily, my attitude towards that person can improve even if they are not my favorite person to deal with!

Guard my words O Lord, may they reflect your love to the world around me. Help me to remember that sometimes silence is wiser than anything I might choose to say. Amen.

Many ways to Pray

I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. ~Ephesians 1:18-19 (CEB)

Despite growing up in church I always felt that I was not good at praying. I have learned that there are many ways to pray since reading the book “50 ways to Pray”, by Teresa A. Blythe. I have always held close the scripture from Romans 8:26 that says when we don’t know what to pray the Holy Spirit will pray for us but this book about prayer helped me to see the different ways there are to pray. It helped me to see that I already prayed with song, when I painted, when I smelled flowers or listened to birds sing. Prayers could be felt as I rocked my children to sleep. Reading the Bible and thinking on God’s truth and how they apply to me was praying. Any conversation I have with God is prayer. Silence and waiting on Him is prayer. Maybe silence is the most important part. We often feel uncomfortable with silence and tend to fill it but part of praying is listening for God to speak to us.

Even after reading “50 ways to Pray”, I still felt that my word prayers needed some work. How surprised I was to discover that the Bible is full of prayers. This prayer that Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians is beautiful. “I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believes, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers.”  I love the words he uses and I can take his words and model my prayers after them. The Psalms are also a wonderful place to find inspiration for prayer. The Psalms have some of the barest emotions you will find. A few years ago I started marking the scriptures in Psalms so that when I needed hope, or a way to express joy or sadness I can easily scan through until I find verses I feel apply to my situation. I can even find verses in Psalms that express anger towards God or toward my life’s situations. The Psalms are some of my favorite scriptures.

Once again I stand amazed in Your presence, O Lord. You tell me that you will meet all my needs, even the need for words in the prayers I lift up to you. You will not leave me stranded even in the prayers that I speak. Thank you.

Living life without regrets

Godly sadness produces a changed heart and life that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but sorrow under the influence of the world produces death. ~ 2Co 7:10 (CEB)

It is hard to live without regrets. There are things that follow me around. Things I wished I hadn’t done. Things I wished I had. Things I should not have said. Things I should have had the courage to say. One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that regrets are not from God. Regrets are from Satan whose aim for us is death. He doesn’t want us to live in victory so he reminds us of our mistakes. He likes to play that old familiar tune called guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are traps which produce death.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians there is a verse that could easily be overlooked. But this one verse says so much! Godly sadness produces a change of heart and life that leads to salvation leaving no regrets. What is Godly sadness? Godly sadness is when we realize that we are not living in the way that God wants us to live. Our eyes have not been on Him and His will for us. When we repent of our sins it means that our eyes have been opened and we are choosing to line our lives up with God’s will.

The good news is that Satan only knows one tune. Once we realize this truth we can beat him at his game. Christ came into the world so that we can know God’s truths. Christ came so that we could know how to live a life without regrets.

I thank you Heavenly Father for sending your son into the world so that I might have life. Help me to remember that you want me to live a life of joy and that when I have lined my life up with Your will for me that I can live that life free of regrets. Amen.

Getting lost

Jesus answered, “Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. ~John 14:23 (CEB)

This time of year it seems that I just run, run, run. My schedule is changing moving from the school year into the summer months. Classes are ending, year-end programs and award ceremonies are crowding into the schedule. Sometimes I look at my calendar and wonder just how I can be three places at once. Truth is I can’t but I still will stand there hoping for a miracle so I won’t have to choose between all of the seemingly equally important commitments that I have gotten myself into. On paper my schedule always works, until May or December.

On a regular basis I am easily distracted. I get so caught up in my cares and errands and worries. I forget what matters most. So easily I can get lost, wander off. It is even worse during those hectic times. All of a sudden I realize that God is not with me. Did He leave me? No, He didn’t go anywhere. I am the one who wandered off. Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to get lost than it is sometimes to find your way back. If I am paying attention I may only stray just a little and within a couple of turns I can find my way back to the road I am supposed to be on. Sometimes though I am so busy with life, talking with my children, running them places, doing laundry or working that I don’t notice that I haven’t only missed one road but several turns. By the time I look up I am hopelessly lost once again. Being lost physically or spiritually is a very scary feeling.

Often when I have found myself lost again, I take a deep breath and realize I am really okay. I know what to do. Put time with God back in my day. John 14:23 tells me if I love God I will keep His word. When I keep God’s word in my heart He will find me. He will make his home with me. Once I stop panicking, I realize God will never leave me I just need to be still for a moment, take a deep breath and look up.

Heavenly Father, save me from myself. Rein me in when I wander off. Help me to keep my eyes on you and not my circumstances. Amen.

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