Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
I’ll admit to you right here for the world to read that I have a serious problem with cursing. Once upon a time I was innocent with my expletives. I’d say, “Jimminy Crickets!” and “gosh darn.” And then I started working in a restaurant. By the time I’d graduated high school my responses to things that went awry or to not nice people weren’t so innocent any more. Up until recently I figured I just needed to work harder at stopping. But I was reminded that overcoming sin requires more than just “working harder.”
I read a devotional that convicted me of the root of my sin – the status of my heart. It shone a light on what was flowing from my heart — anger, pride, unforgiveness, lack of compassion, lack of self-control. Although James was spot on with his imagery of the tongue being like a fire, I realized that that fire is sparked by my heart.
My “ah ha” moment that day was how much anger I allow to swirl around in my head and in my heart when someone doesn’t act how I expect or when the world doesn’t stick to My Plan. Instead of compassion, kindness, love there’s *@%! A truly ugly use of my God-given heart and tongue. And a heart change can only take place with the help of the Holy Spirit. My gal pals know I’ve joined forces with the Holy Spirit to remind me of the fruits of the spirit whenever I leave my house (because I never seem to have a cussing problem in the quiet confines of my She Shed!). I cannot produce this fruit; I can only bear it because I am closely attached to the vine of Jesus.
Friend, the world doesn’t think cussing is any big deal these days. In the past, you’d never hear cuss words on tv or on the radio. If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes at an elementary school – yes, elementary school – you’ll find our lax attitudes toward this sin have affected our children. But we are called as Christians to be different. To be transformed. We are to guard our hearts from taking in and spewing darkness. I, for one, take the pledge. How about you?
Holy Spirit, guide my choices today in what I take into my mind and heart and help me to return to the world the fruits of your Spirit – kindness, compassion, patience and most of all love. Amen
Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve added to my blog. For the last few months I’ve been in one of “those” seasons. Loss, heartache, questioning, along with so many conversations with God and His Holy Spirit. As James reminds us,
“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And ain’t that the truth.
We have a few roads from which to choose when we go through our difficult seasons. We can beg the Lord to go back to the familiar and comfortable. We can rush our minds to the other side of the trial either imagining an outcome far worse or far better than we hope or fear. Or we can learn a bit from Jesus’ brother and “let this perseverance finish its work so we can be mature and complete.” In other words, we live in this God-given moment right now, seeking His blessings, seeking His voice, and seeking the lessons to be learned.
The day I wrote this post my devotional reminded me to not work for food that perishes but for the food which endures eternal life. (Charles Stanley, Every Day in His Presence) I was admonished to change my point of view and not focus on the problems right in front of me but rather what God’s interest is in developing me for His eternal purpose. And very importantly, asking for help in learning His lessons quickly so that His peace and strength would again be my resting place.
During these last few months I’ve also been deep dive into Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah with my BSGs. As usual, God is using all of my life to teach me about standing firm in my faith and stepping forward in trust. And as I have prayed to God to reveal to me my next blog series I kept hearing the phrase: “Lessons from Cherith.” You see, Elijah had to spend a lot of time alone, facing his own trials before he was ready for the “big show.” In that time, some of which was in the area called Cherith, he had to choose to either trust God’s eternal plan for him or not. He had to remove so many well-honed cultural and religious thoughts of “the way things are supposed to be” and instead see how God works. And he had to decide to stand out amongst the crowd.
And although my “Cherith” hasn’t lasted for as long as Elijah’s or even as long as Jesus was in the wilderness, I learned some valuable lessons while communing with the Holy Spirit. In the next few weeks I’d like to share some of these with you. To hopefully help us realign our lives to be Christian lives, lived out for all the world to see. For our friends and neighbors and co-workers to be spurred to ask why we seem different.
Friends, we can’t keep wandering through the wilderness of this earthly world living up to its standards. It’s time to take our hard earned lessons from “those seasons” and put them to work for the glory of God.
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
The day I sat on the edge of my bed whining to God about my miserable life – the lack of peace and joy – He spoke quite clearly to me. “What have you really done (to be close to me?),” He said. I got down on my knees and wept. I prayed for Him to show me the steps to take to draw nearer to Him. The next day He tasked me to go to the bookstore and get a devotional. So, I stood in front of the hundreds of books and prayed, “Show me.”
The book the Holy Spirit placed in my hands that day was called, “Power Thoughts” by Joyce Meyer. I try my best not to question God. He knew exactly where my problem lay – my mind.
“I am content and emotionally stable.”
“I purse peace with God, myself and others.”
“I live in the present and enjoy each moment.”
“I am disciplined and self-controlled.”
“I put God first in my life.”
These are just a few of the “power thoughts” I read over the course of the devotional that year. My God-centered counseling session began each morning to help me battle the overwhelmingly negative thoughts I had so solidly built. My stronghold was not fear of man, in fact my propensity was to be ready to fight each day I left my house. My stronghold was not fear of serving in His name. I did that willingly and often. My stronghold, my addiction you might say, was self-hatred and self-doubt. My husband once called me the “Queen of the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.”
I’ve frequently been told I don’t come off that way. But I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between what a truly confident woman in Christ looks like and one that blusters her way through life.
Allowing Jesus and the Holy Word to become my wise counselor isn’t easy. It’s painful sitting in “the chair” having someone show you your weaknesses. And I have many. But the beauty of our Lord’s Word contains something that no one else can provide – a deep and lasting love behind every nudge, every reveal, every chastisement.
That’s not to say human counselors don’t have a place in our lives. God uses many ways and messengers to guide us toward righteousness. A poll released in May 2004 found that an estimated 59 million people had received mental health treatment in the two years prior, and that 80 percent of them found it effective. But for the Christian we should seek guidance that has our faith in mind. What is the point of a, say, marriage counselor who does not view or support marriage from God’s point of view? When we seek out counseling for our weaknesses, past hurts, we should be reminded of God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.
This is why I love the counseling session at the well.
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” John 4:15-18
Jesus speaks to the woman about truth. Truth without condemnation. Just the naked truth. He goes on to share with her the truth about forgiveness of sins and salvation. She had lived her life in sin and shame. And kept doing the same thing over and over. That’s what shame does. It envelopes us to twist our minds into feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, self-destruction.
Throughout Jesus’ three-year walk we see Him love and heal the sick, bring people into God’s service, comfort those in fear, teach so many about the ways of God. And woven amongst the stories of His life are the counseling moments like the one at the well. Moments where He uses all His God-given knowledge and skills to bring someone to a “truth” reveal.
Isn’t that what we seek when we ask a friend for advice about a problem? Or go to a professional counselor concerning a life issue? How can I fix this? How can I fix me? Unlike a teaching situation, where a topic outside ourselves is learned, seeking a wise counselor aims to reach into ourselves to find the “why?”
So often when our own friends or family express concerns about their life we know the “why” but are afraid of the damage the truth might do to our relationship so we stay silent. That’s the challenge of being a wise counselor. The culmination of all the Jesus traits.
I believe the stories of Jesus’ counseling moments are included in the Bible not just for us to see ourselves being counseled like the woman at the well. They are included so we can also learn to help others. Others who are hurting. Others who are living in sin. Others who don’t know about the gift of forgiveness of self.
We need to take an inventory of how our individual lives, our fruit, our behavior are affecting the people we come in contact with. The world is in such a desperate situation. Get yourself off your mind and see how you can bless someone else today.
Join me this week, as we complete our series on The Jesus Mindset, in a deep dive into the methods of a wise counselor and how we might touch those around us, helping them to take a few bricks down from their strongholds.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.1 Corinthians 9:25
I’ve been a member of various gyms over the years. Each time, after that initial enthusiasm of “this time I’m going to become a flat stomached, toned armed, no jiggle mama” I fell into a boring workout routine. And then I found excuses to not go to the gym – I was tired, I worked late, I didn’t sleep well, my kids needed me for something, etc. Next thing I knew the gym was making money off a person that wasn’t even using their services.
For some of us, at one time or another, our faith life and studying and living out His Word fell into that same pattern. There were times when my on-line giving to my church showed up a heck of a lot more times than my physical body.
Running is a fitting pace for a believer. Jesus Christ deserves that we should run for him.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
How many of us got up this morning and thought, “I need to get in my God workout today so I can be ready to win that race!”? We may not see our studies of His Word like a workout but that’s what it really is. The “prize” is the ability to carry through the days of our lives as Christians who take full advantage of the fruits of His spirit.
Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
There are a few keys to successfully training for a big race or event and those same keys work for keeping our faith life active and effective.
Have a Plan
A plan is not, “I’m going to study the Bible” or “I’m going to be a good person today.” A plan IS something that is measurable and specific. For awhile I thought the Bible was something I just opened up to a random spot and expected to be told all the answers to a problem. And although God does set before us scripture we need we also need to be able to figure out the true meaning. A specific plan might be to pick one book of the Bible and find a five week study on it and do the study at a certain time each day. Another plan might be to commit to one God-directed behavioral change like smiling and saying “have a great day” to 10 people each day for the next month. Ask God to help you with your plan and He will surely answer!
Any devotee of fitness will tell you that consistency, consistency, consistency is what builds endurance. So even when you go on vacation you find a way to stick with your plan. Just last year I started packing my devotional book when I travelled. I brought my Bible study booklets on the plane to keep up with the chapters. Each time we want to make an excuse for falling off our plan we need to remind ourselves of the benefits. When I don’t want to go for a walk I remember the feeling I have when I am done – happy and satisfied that I cared for my body. When we don’t want to take the time with God we must remember how that centering time helps us throughout the rest of our day.
To run is to be diligent. We should hardly call that running in which a man starts and stops, and starts and stops again. In some Christian works we are painfully conscious that the persons undertaking them, if they ever run, run only for a very short time.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Shake it Up
When I was training for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day I walked five to seven miles a day five days a week. Occasionally, I would throw in a 14 mile walk. I set aside most of a day to accomplish that walk. And in our faith lives we need that same occasional change. It might be that we go to a different church that has different music. Maybe we move our morning devotional to the outside and watch the sunrise. Or we write out our prayers for the day on sticky notes and put them around the house.
Don’t Try to Do It All at Once
A good overall workout plan focuses on different parts of our body on different days. My daughter once was on a swim team. Some days were “land days.” On those days they ran. In the pool they practiced endurance on certain days and others it was technique. I have a lot of behavioral changes I need to make to align myself closer to Christ. And if I think about fixing them all at once it’s overwhelming. So, I ask God to help me with just one thing at a time.
There are always rest days in a workout routine. Time to let our muscles re-group. The same is true with studying the Word. You might think that’s Sunday – but that’s another day of study, isn’t it? Hearing the Word from our pastors, taking notes, and being challenged to go out into the world is part of our workout plan. For me, my rest from study is Saturday. I’ll read a devotional to get me focused for the day and that’s it. Yes, I put into practice the different lessons I’ve learned for the week. But I also just rest in the beauty of God.
So run that ye may obtain. So run that the great cloud of witnesses may applaud. So run that the King may say, “Ye did run well.”
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Our days here are short. If we chose to lollygag and be distracted by the world we miss out on all the glorious wonders of God. If we strengthen our spiritual muscles through a consistent plan we can be God’s instruments for the day. He will look upon us as fit warriors, ready for any heavy burden, ready to stand firm, ready to be his standard bearer.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
This week, on one of the Instagram accounts I follow, the site owner posed the question: What good thing happened to you this year? She added, “Let’s spread some gratitude vibes.” My answer? That my faith has gotten so much more in-depth and stronger. Amazing, given what’s all happened in 2020. I no longer have a home church. In fact, I haven’t been to church since the last weekend of February. When I questioned my church closing indefinitely, I was met with some pretty nasty responses. And when I asked to be removed from the rolls I received an email from the assistant pastor with a polite version of “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
So, it’s pretty amazing that without a body of faithful Christians to help in my growth that I am where I am today.
When I looked over this week’s post by Madison and myself, I realized that my growth was reflected in the lessons. The acceptance of God’s amazing interruptions – knowing He works all things for my good. The acknowledgement of His amazing authority over all situations – yes, even the ones that don’t seem to make any sense. The proof that He loves me by reading the Book of John. And how much my picture of Jesus has changed these last few months – from a historical figure to a spirit that lives inside me.
My devotional this week had a day titled, “What to do when trouble comes.” It’s based on 1 Timothy 6:17 which states, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It went on to say that trouble is a part of life, so we simply have to be ready for it. (Joyce Meyer, New Day, New You). A friend told me the other day she wishes she could just fast forward to 2022. My response? “Why? There might be a nuclear fallout that year. So, you might as well find joy in today.”
How do we, as Christians, get prepared? How do we build up our amazing faith muscle for that day when trouble comes, because it most certainly will? And looking at this week’s blog posts the answer is clear – steeping ourselves in God’s Holy Word.
I find myself extremely blessed to have started a small Bible study group – they’re my BSGs (Bible study girls) – back in January. I was encouraged by one of the members to re-start a study group. On an urging by the Holy Spirit, I invited two other women from my gym. They eagerly said yes. So, the four of us embarked on a journey we had no idea would be an anchor for us this year. We started out with easy faith muscles and moved up to weightier topics. These three women became my church. My amazing sisters in Christ. It wasn’t just about having women that wanted to get together. We’ve put in the work. We’ve been diligent in our faith workouts. We’ve dug deep not only into His Word but into our own sins.
I’ve led other Bible studies before. There’s always a few that blow off doing the homework and not take it seriously. Then there’s others that aren’t willing to take the opportunity to open themselves up for conviction. If we truly want to know God’s character, not ours, and God’s will, not ours, we need to use His Divine Word as our touchstone. The world longs to cheat us out of the true, amazing, love God has for us. The world plays a shell game with morality. If we want to grab on to the more than 5,000 promises God makes in the Bible then we need to treat it seriously.
Did you need to re-read that last sentence? More than 5,000 promises. How many of them do you know? How many of them have you taken to heart? Those amazing promises are sitting right there in that book.
Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
Let’s be a church together and dive deep into those promises. Let’s be a church together that accepts His interruptions with joy and peace. Let’s be a church together that places His authority over everything in our lives. Let’s be a church that needs no other proof of His love for us than our own existence. Let’s be a church together that sees Jesus for who He is – our Lord and Savior who loves us and wants for us to live apart from what the world throws at us. Today we can open up His Word and find joy right there on its pages.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5: 6-11
Looking back over mine and Madison’s posts this week I kept hearing one word whispered to me – balance. Not just balance in our own lives but balance in the universal sense. Balance as in how God works throughout our lives. I tend to cringe a little when people throw around the phrase, “Not of This World,” because taken out of the context of truly understanding our relationship with God it may sound dismissive of our everyday problems. God didn’t just put us here to wait for the bus to pick us up for the hereafter. He wants us to live out our lives in His name as we go about this thing called “life on planet earth.” And He wants us to do it knowing He is waiting for us. It’s His amazing love for us that calls us to live a balanced life, in His name. Balanced with conviction and grace, humbleness and exaltation, watchful and trusting, broken and healed, and persecuted and restored.
The verses today in 1 Peter show this amazing balance. We are to be humble so God may exalt us. We are to be watchful and yet trusting that God will care for us. We will suffer and God will restore us. And we are to do all this right here during our time in this place. Each day we are admonished by God to find this balance of living our everyday lives – parenting, cooking, cleaning, working, being citizens and neighbors – all the while with Him in mind. We seek the healing hands of doctors yet pray in Jesus’ name for healing and wisdom for the healers. We are to work hard and take care of ourselves and our families while keeping our eyes on Him – not placing idols up in front of Him.
And then there’s conviction. So often the concept of conviction is misunderstood as condemnation. For many we grasp for the joy and the good without the acknowledgement of the things making us out of balance. There’s the “good” and the “not as good.” That leads us to tricking ourselves into thinking there’s “victim-less” actions and sins. There are no “victim-less” sins in God’s world. That’s because He loves each and every one of us. He has a purpose for each of us. So, if we give in to drinking, drugs, sexual immorality, etc it means we aren’t doing the true work He has for us. And by ignoring the very words of Jesus we can ignore that each of us are sinful people.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.
When we walk around with blinders on it’s easy to see the world from a very limited perspective. It may even feel comfortable. But here’s where balance comes in. Without the conviction of sin there is no need for His amazing grace and forgiveness. Satan doesn’t want us to be convicted and receive God’s grace. He wants us to feel condemned and guilty. Conviction calls us to change direction. Conviction is needed for growth. And if we hear what God wants of us and ignore it, we allow satan to work in our lives. We know the sin. We then choose to embrace it or work it out with God. That choice decides our balance.
How many of us leave our communing with God and finding that balance until a more convenient time? We are so tired at the end of the day we struggle to finish a Bible study, to journal, to do a devotional, to even pray. My BSGs were tasked to discuss a time they felt pulled away from God. For me it was during my kids’ sports years. Weekend games and tournaments meant not attending church. And I certainly didn’t bring along any God-focused reading material. And yet, I have to say that’s a time in my life I needed God the most. I was really out of balance.
When we seek that balance God desires for us in all things we find we don’t need to binge eat, be constantly fearful, obsessive, overly emotional. We live in the center, squarely in His love. We keep our work and play on His track. We balance our fears and concerns about this world with the knowledge of what He has in store for us after our brief time here on earth.
I thank God for helping me seek a balanced life. For I know that every time I fail in this world I can look to Him for His grace.