"if nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies"

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter again?

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16



I have read the verse "You shall be holy, for I am holy" many times.  I thought it to be encouragement for walking in the way that I need to, however, it almost seems like we are being set up for failure.  How can this perfect God ask us to be holy?  How can the omnipotent One expect us not to mess up?  How can I live up to this standard?

I have been in an extremely odd season in my life.  I have been humbled beyond my expectation.  Just when I feel low, I realize the bottom drops a little more.  God has taken this girl from being one who relies on affirmation and acceptance, to one who lives by the truth.  But even that seems to go away quicker than I can imagine and before I know it, the mirror shows the one I used to see.  My prayer this year has been, empty me, and boy has He.

This passage says "Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober minded".  This is telling us to be ready.  Ready for what?  Ready for the attack.  If we have been changed in any way, we need to be prepared to be tested in that way.  If we are not tested properly, we will not be ready for the antithesis of our faith to have at us.  The bible says to stand firm against the devil (Eph 6) and not to let him make us fall.  But sometimes, we are the ones doing the jumping.  We have to remember that though we want change in our lives and may have even seen evidence of it, we are still one stupid comment, decision, or thought away from who we were before the grace of God lifted us up.

This winter seemed to go on forever.  It still feels like it's not willing to relinquish it's grip.  We will get that hint of spring either by green grass being visible or a familiar smell of new in the air.  It seems like as soon as that reminder of the coming season appears, winter returns.  My spiritual walk is no different.  God has been leading me over the past month or so to forgive and seek forgiveness.  Just yesterday I was feeling good about the places that He had taken me.  I could almost see the grass growing, shedding hope that this overdone season is coming to an end.  As quick as the smell of change filled the room, the snow began to fall.

This passage tells us that we need to be ready because winter is always around the corner.  It tells  us that though we see change in our lives, the enemy wants our change to look false.  He wants us to think that we are a pathetic excuse for being a child of God.  He tells us verses like this are unattainable, and asks us why we bother.

As I woke up this morning, I felt a heaviness that I could not pinpoint. I was feeling defeated and didn't know why.  I called out to God "Search me and know me, tell me why I feel this way".  He brought this verse to mind "You shall be holy, for I am holy".  He also brought to mind a few comments that I made yesterday that went against everything this verse says. I realized that God is in the spring and He is asking me to trudge through the snow one more time to catch up with Him again.

He is asking me to set my mind fully on grace.  Not only the grace given to me, but the grace that I am to extend, thus eliminating those thoughts and comments.  He is asking me to be obedient, to follow Him so that I do not stay in this season of ignorance and pathetic thoughts catapulting me back to who I was.  He is asking me to be holy, by seeking Him, by reading His word, and by humbling myself daily in my thoughts and actions.

I am thankful for spring.  I am thankful for a Savior that won't give up on me.  I am thankful for a God who is victorious.  I am thankful that He knows what it's like to be tormented mentally for 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).  He isn't asking us to be perfect, He is simply asking us to be aware, be ready, and call on Him.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Warm & Cozy

So when I woke up this morning, it was warm in the house.  Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, however, Tuesday night our furnace stopped working.  I am a usual freeze baby.  I sit comfortable in my seventy degree house most days wearing a hoody and covered in a blanket.  

That night was cold, but nothing like the next day when the thermostat hit fifty-three degrees.  At some point late yesterday, my husband fixed the problem.  Life went on, no big deal right?  Wrong!

When I woke up this morning, it was back to warm and cozy.  It prompted me to thank God for the warmth that I was feeling.  You see, sometimes, it takes the deserts of our lives to make us realize what we have.  It is when we are stripped of a blessing, that we realize the value.  If I would not have lost my heat, I would have forgotten to be thankful.  We go through life being blessed by one thing after another.  We are so blessed that we tend forget that what we are experiencing is a blessing.  We expect it!

When I woke up this morning in the warmth of my house, I thanked God.  I thanked Him for the heat and prayed for the ones who do not have a roof over their heads.  I thanked God for comfort and realized that without God, there is no comfort.  I thanked Him for taking care of my family, for blessing us beyond anything we deserve.  

I think this is what James meant by count it all joy (James 1:2)  When we have trials, even tiny ones such as heat, we grow from it, we learn from it, and Lord willing, we are changed because of it.  So as you go about your day I ask you, what are you thankful for?  Even more so, what struggle are you thankful for?  I could write a book here, the only problem is that if I am honest, I am still asking God to help me be thankful.  Let's pray:

"Lord, I come before you, almost embarrassed.  But God You are so much greater than any negative emotion.  You have taught my heart that the smallest things require thanksgiving.  Lord, I am sorry for my lack of thanks.  I am sorry that I take advantage of my time among other things.  I pray that You will direct my steps to serve You only in the way that You are calling me to.  God I don't want to serve everywhere just because I think You will be happy with me.  I want to serve only where You are calling me.  I want to be where you are Lord.  Thank You for loving us.  Thank you for our reminders.  It's in Jesus name that I pray...Amen"  



If you are interested in working with the homeless, my church has a homeless ministry where they go downtown once a month with a meal.  Depending on the time of year, they will bring needed items as well.  Even if you don't live close and feel that you want to sow into this ministry you can do that at www.lakeridgechurch.com

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Galatians 2 (part 1)



Welcome back, I hope you read Galatians 2 and are ready to go.  Last time we talked a lot about religion verses righteousness.  I love Paul's story, however, sometimes he can talk in a way that makes you want to read it more than once.  Keep reading and pray that God will give you discernment, He is faithful if you ask, I promise.

As Paul writes Galatians 2, something cool is uncovered.  In about 47 AD, Paul heads to Jerusalem to see the leaders of the church.  He travels with Barnabas, but they also take someone else this time, Titus, who was considered uncircumcised.  His purpose was to meet with the leaders to give them the revelation of what God has given him to share with the uncircumcised.  Ok, can we just park her for a minute?  What does the bible mean by circumcised and uncircumcised?  Basically, circumcised means the Jewish people.  Uncircumcised is considered the Gentiles, or not Jewish.  According to Ephesians 4:18 Gentiles are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance because of their hardness of heart.

Paul's ministry was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ones who didn't live the church life.  The closest thing that they could call church was saint mattress of the box spring with father pillow presiding.  The people he went to see were upstanding in the church, pillars according to verse 9, though it also tells us that their titles meant nothing to him because God shows no partiality.  Did you ever tell someone to pray for you because you thought they were closer to God than you?  Let me assure you that God has no favorites.  He is jealous for each of us to have a heart that pursues Him.

So as Paul shared this revelation, which is the gospel, with the leaders.  He also brings up an interesting point in verse 4.  Paul tells us that people snuck in to try to basically lure them into slavery.  I don't know about you but I used to think that because people went to church, that meant they were christian, they were safe.  But let me tell you that God has shown me otherwise.  He has taught me so many lessons on this topic.  There are wolves in sheep's clothing out there as Matthew 7:15 tells us.  We need to be very careful to guard our hearts and protect our minds because different ideas will come from lots of places, trying to steer us away from the truth (Proverbs 4:23).  There are many who still believe that our ticket to heaven is based on what we do to earn it or the rituals that keep us on that track.  The gospel proclaims that the ticket to heaven is solely placed on our belief, our faith.  John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much and if we believe Jesus was born to take our sin and hang it on the cross with Him, than we will not perish.

Paul writes that these pillars of the church were not teaching him, yet when they saw the grace of God on his ministry, James, Peter, and John gave Paul their approval.  They knew, at that moment, that maybe ministry goes beyond the walls of the church.  They all agreed, however, that they should work together with the poor.  Each of us have been given gifts and talents.  It would be silly to think that we are all gifted in the same gifts.  We need to trust God in whatever place He has us.  We need to take Paul's advice and not compare ourselves to anyone else.  This will not further God's plans.  I have had personal experience here.  I have spent the last year of my life trying to figure out what God would have me do.  I had plans for my future, maybe not the same ones that God has, and I wanted to get them going.  Through an extremely tough season, I have learned that God has me exactly where I am supposed to be.  Maybe it doesn't look anything like I expected, but I trust Him and will put all I have into this present season.

Ok, there is more to this chapter but I am going to stop here for now.  I pray that you will continue in Galatians so that we can walk this road together.  Let's pray!

"Lord, I lift up all of the readers today.  God I pray for wisdom to understand what we are reading.  I pray for discernment of what God is saying to each of us individually.  But most of all, God, I pray for changed lives.  I pray that in some small way, you can allow deeper growth for everyone reading.  Thank You Father for Your word.  It's in Jesus name that I ask these things-Amen"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Galatians 1


Happy New Year!  I, for one, am glad for the fresh start.  Though I would never want to remove the lessons that 2013 held, I am happy to be moving on.  Let’s begin this year with a study on the book of Galatians.  We will take it chapter by chapter, so as usual, grab a coffee and let’s hit it.  Please read Galatians 1.  

As I began to read this book, so many things resonated with me. I have always loved hearing about Paul because of his drastic change. He was one that lived a religious life before being transformed into a righteous life. 

Don't let those words fool you. They are so close, it can be difficult to decipher.  According to Merriam Webster, the word religion means an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. Righteous is described as acting in accord with divine or moral law:  free from guilt or sin.  

Can you see the difference?  It is so minute in explanation, but extreme in living. The act of being religious means that they follow rules in order to please God. Whereas a righteous life is living the way God would have us to live, knowing full well that we cannot do it without His help.  In essence, Paul went from him being able to accomplish much in his own strength to being fully reliant on God, knowing that without Him, he could accomplish nothing.

It says in verse 14 that Paul was zealous for his fathers traditions. Traditions are great in some ways.  Just finishing up the Christmas season, I have realized how many traditions have been handed down by my husband and my parents.  They are a wonderful reminder of generations past.  They are usually something that just sticks with us through the years.  Isn’t it funny, however, how angry some can get when traditions are not received and followed?  Whether people disregard them or our children walk from them, it hurts people. It's sometimes taken so personally to the point of severed families. Which is exactly why God removed rules. Life with Him is not man made. It's God inspired, it's Christ driven, it's faith filled. 

Before God got a hold of him, Paul lived his religion so loudly that all those who didn’t believe what he did, deserved to die in his eyes. He killed people, hurt people, he persecuted the church (v. 13), until The Lord spoke to him on that road to Damascus. The very breath of God can correct us on our path and turn us around in a complete other direction. 

In verse 12, Paul tells us that he was not taught this truth, that it was by God through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  How cool is that?  This way, we cannot give ourselves any credit.  I hope this helps us to realize that just because we don’t see fruit in anyone that we have invested time into, we shouldn’t get discouraged.  It is not our job to do anything but live according to God’s word.  Living our testimony out in real time while praying for those that God has placed around us.  It’s up to Him to change hearts.  Let’s pray:

“Dear heavenly Father, thank You for a new year.  We thank You for Your word.  Thank You for life.  Thank You God, for the opportunity to share Your truth by the way we live our lives.  God though we mess it up everyday, You forgive us if we have placed our faith in Your Son.  Thank You for removing the rules, because frankly, we can’t keep them.  We praise You for changed lives, like Paul.  Help us to keep the hope that You are still in the business of changed lives.  We look forward to what You have for us in 2014 and pray for strength and boldness.  We pray this all in the name of Jesus...Amen” 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Journey


Read  Luke1:26-38 "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her."



Can you imagine that visit by Gabriel? There she was, a young woman, about to get married, about to start her life. She had plans, but then, Gods "will" stepped in.

That "will" took the vision that Mary had for her life and swept it away as quick as she could say "Behold".   By reading this passage, it appears that Mary was upstanding, that she revered God. I can also see that she was afraid of what people may say, especially her fiancĂ©. But she surrendered her fear and bowed to God's sovereignty, allowing the "will" of God to prevail.

She waited silently as God convicted Joseph to stay with her.  They began their journey to Bethlehem, where the Savior of the world would be born in a manger.  Which makes me think, if Jesus, King of all Kings, was set in a feeding trough as a newborn, then why do we question our circumstances, as if we deserve more?  Anyway, the journey ended with the North Star. It ended with the beginning. It ended with the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.

We too are on a journey. We are all traveling somewhere between birth and death.  In fact, the word journey means an act of traveling from one place to another. But if you look closely at the word, dissecting it, in the middle you will find another word..."our". Mary traveled, but she did not do it alone. She did it first and foremost with God as her strength, but God gave her a companion, Joseph. He gave her visitors. He allowed people like the wise men to make this trek with her. Maybe not at the same time, but who have journeyed too.

We are here together, and when Gods will smacks us upside of our lives, sometimes, the first thing we want to do is hide, but that's not what God intends, He wants us to journey...together. This is our walk. We need to stop being afraid to hold each other accountable. We need to love beyond our comfort. We need to invest in each other. We need to allow the anxiety of Gods will to be overshadowed by the faith of what we know is true.

I pray you all have a very Merry Christmas.  Remember to thank God, fist and foremost for each blessing in your life. Especially for the gift of His Son.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's In a Name?

I was watching a reality singing show one night and there was a young man getting ready to sing. He explained how nervous he was because he had the chance as a high school kid to attend a school for gifted singers. Apparently, he needed three letters of recommendation from his teachers.  He had gotten two and the third told him that he would never amount to anything and that he needed to give up the dream.  Unfortunately, he listened to the third voice, until the day he tried out for the show.  His amazing vocals proved the teachers opinion to be a lie.  This young man had allowed this false name to be his new name. Praise God, he tried it again, but think of all the years he lost writing "Failure" on his hello my name is... name tag.

In the book of Daniel, when Jahoiakim was king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came to take over. They took all the smart, good looking, quick learners into captivity with them to train to work for the king.   Four of the men that they took were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  Each name meant something in those times and the meanings for their names were Daniel (God is my judge ), Hananiah (Yah has been gracious ), Mishael (Who is what God is? ) and Azariah (Yah has helped ).  

In verse 7 it says that they gave the men new names with new meanings: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar (meaning Bel will protect ); to Hananiah, Shadrach (meaning Inspired of Aku ); to Mishael, Meshach (meaning Belonging to Aku) ; and to Azariah, Abednego (meaning Servant of Nego).  All of which are names of false gods.

We receive names from anyone who puts a label on us and the hardest ones to shake are usually from those closest to us. What names has the world given you? Who do you see when you look in the mirror?  Clumsy, stupid, ugly, failure, alone? Perhaps you see abused or maybe forgotten?

Isaiah 43:1 says "But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine."

In verse 5-7 it says "Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east,  and from the west I will gather you.  I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name,  whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

You see precious one, God not only named you, He named you after Him! Don't accept those false names that the world has handed over to you, yep even if it came from a parents. Remember, as Romans tells us, we all fall short, so to accept that others know best is putting their thoughts and opinions before God!  And per Gods word, aside from Him, there is no other!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Surrendered Again


Eight years ago, right now, I was about 8cm dialated. I had been pregnant with twins for thirty seven weeks at this point and they decided that now was the time to enter the world.  I remember it like it was yesterday. The way they deliver twins is in the operating room. This way, if there are any issues, everything is at hand to handle them immediately. 

When we went into the hospital, I can remember having a feeling of unrest. My anxiety was high, and I was sure there would be issues. When our nurse came in, I realized that I remembered her from back in the day. It was nice to catch up, and her familiarity gave me some comfort and relief from any anxious thoughts. 

At about 1:00 a.m., our doctor decided it was time. As they wheeled me down to the operating room,  I had a conversation with God. It was not audible, and to be honest it didn't entail a whole lot of talk. It was one sentence that went like this. "God, I trust You with whatever You have planned here."  After that prayer, I looked to the operating room door. I saw my husband standing there with his scrubs on. I'm telling you, he should have been a doctor, those scrubs looked good on him :). When I looked at him, I noticed the same fear or unrest in his eyes that I had earlier. 

It was time to go. Baby A, or Carson, was out in seconds. This seemed easy. At this point, I had not had any medicine for many hours. The anesthesiologist had set me up with a spinal port that was to be hooked up just before the delivery, only he never came back.  I was ready for Carter. My doctor asked me to push, but he realized that my placenta had ruptured and told me to stop. 

The moments that ensued where like slow motion. Everything was happening fast, yet it was all so vivid and slow in my mind. I could see the concern in my doctors eyes and hear it in his voice as he talked to my nurse and when he called yet again for anesthesia.  But somehow I remained calm.  God gave me the grace to trust Him. Coming from someone who suffered with severe anxiety, this was huge. 

After many attempts to push baby B, aka Carter down, and many unanswered calls for meds, the doctor had a decision to make. It had been nine minutes that Carter was without oxygen and there was no time to waste, so the doctor began a c-section. 

The moments that followed were spent mostly with me going into shock and the anesthesiologist finally coming on the scene, helping my body do what it wanted to do anyway. So the next hours were spent unconscious. 

I sit here eight years later in the same situation. God has had me in this operating room of life. He has given me a direction, yet the more I walk in obedience, the more my body fights.  I realize that I have been counting on anesthesia, or other comforts that keep me from growing in my faith.

You see, the closer we get to where God is leading us, the more painful it can become. We just finished up a series on Jonah at church. God had a plan for him, yet he needed to be emptied of himself before God would allow him to do it. It wasn't until Jonah surrendered his own wants to God that God would move him forward to accomplish the job he was set out to do in the first place. 

I read an article that compared labor to Gods plans moving. How at the end of labor, the doctor and all around simply tell you to push. And that's what we must do, push forward when it hurts. Push forward when we are tired. Don't give up! 

He is asking me to trust Him with the future. He is asking me to trust Him with the plans for my life. And as I crave the anesthesia, or comfort in my life, I realize God may not want that. He wants me to endure the trials, getting comfort from Him alone.  So I say eight years to the minute later "God, I trust You with whatever You have planned here."