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Reflections: Easter is coming

31 Mar

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The thought that I have been rescued by a purchase has been one of the most intriguing I have ever encountered.  The thought that anyone would love enough to give their life for another is mind-blowing.   Even more mind-blowing to think I am one of those purchased through the sacrifice of another.

One of the most amazing historical quotes which I know can be found in John 15:12-15.   It goes as follows:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command. 

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. 

This quote can be expanded easily to include interesting observations and reflections both before and after the section above.  But to be real, I am afraid that if I did that, the post would be too long.  So for now, let’s just focus on the section above and the fact that the annual celebration of Easter is quickly coming.  

This is a rare year where the Jewish Passover, and both the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Christian churches are all celebrating miracles at the same time.  And in reality, all of the celebrations are for one event in history: 

From a Jewish perspective, it is the miracle of God passing-over the houses of the Hebrew people captive in Egypt, who believed God’s command and covered their doorway with the blood of a sacrificed pure lamb.   That event fore-shadowed the event and person – Jeshua Messiah – fully God, yet at the same time equally fully man. 

Foretold again in Isaiah 53, where many read to learn of the suffering Messiah.  The Christian churches are celebrating the reality that Jesus of Nazareth volunteered to give up his life to pay my and your penalty for our wrong-doings and wrong choices.  As we all know: No one is perfect.   But God, He became the once for all sacrificial lamb.

Just reflect on that for a moment or two.  Then go back and re-read that quote.  Spoiler alert:  Death is NOT the end of this story.  Three days later – as promised – and prophesied hundreds of years before –  Jesus rose again to new life.  His body was raised, Jesus conquered death.  Once taken on – earthly human flesh remained – and will forever be a reminder to all – that he came to earth.  To live a perfect life, to die to redeem me.  To redeem you.

So “redeem” – How is it defined?  Do you know?  Basically the meaning of the word is to releaseGrant freedom on payment of a price.  Deliverance by a costly method.  When used of God it does not suggest that he paid a price to anyone but rather that his divine and perfect mercy required his almighty power and justice to reach down and involve the greatest possible depth of suffering.

Thus, as we see in the Exodus example, God paid a very high price for the freedom of the Hebrews from the bondage of slavery.  And we see again, in the death of Messiah – Jesus the Christ, that we are delivered from the bondage of sin and death – death as eternal separation from God.   For most of us, the more familiar term would be that a ransom was paid to free us.  A ransom of great cost to the one who made the sacrifice.  So what do we do about that reality?  What next?  Ransomed….bought freedom with a price….Now what?

Not merely so we can live a new life.  Though that is incredible in its possibilities, but so that we can be FREE.  Free from any and all bondage to weakness and unhealthy choices.   Someday, we too will have glorified bodies and will live in a place of no shame, no tears, no shortfalls, no failures.  Someday, each one of us will answer for choices made by us as we journey through life on this earth. No blame, no games.  Just face to face with pure, Holy and rightful justice.  Forever decided by one sacrifice and one decision for each of us – by each one of us.

But until then, we are commanded and appointed to bear fruit.  Fruit that will last.  Eternally.  Forever showing the benefits and sharing the good news of Jesus to set us free.   To share and bear fruit to make disciples.  Disciples, (followers), who make other followers.  To continue and uphold all we were given – freely – as a gift.  No effort of ours.  No shopping for this gift.  It is freely given of God.  The only thing we bring is our faults.  Our shame.  Our guilt.  Our short-comings.  Our choice.

And in exchange, he paid ransom for our freedom — forever.  A straight forward transaction.  We need not check out minds at the door, but instead, perhaps for the first time — fully engage in all that is possible with a new life.

So when you think about Easter, and you wonder what is so special about this holiday …know this:  It is not the name.  It is not the time of year.  It is not the celebration of spring.  Or simply even new life.  It is the celebration of FREEDOM. Of possibilities for wholeness and integrity and health and a life reconciled with God – now, daily, and forever.  Mind-blowing.  Awesome.  Love.  Love.  Love that lays down His life so that we may live with him – forever.  That is the God who loves us each and gave himself for us.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.img_2710

With all eternity there will still not be enough ways to show God my gratitude for his gift.

Reflections on Devotions

28 Jan

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Last Sunday, I was asked to consider being a part of a panel discussion on Devotions.  Giving a little 3-4 minute presentation and being part of a Q&A session.   I prayed about it, and was not too surprised when it seemed that I was to leave my comfort zone and say yes.  It was an event at my local church.  Shouldn’t be intimidating…right?

Well, yes and no.  I wasn’t kidding when I said sharing my devotional life is outside my comfort zone.  I regularly have devotions.  Daily most often.  Some days more than once a day.  But then – BAM!   I said yes, and so this happened:   All week I have been struggling to be consistent and devoted to my devotions and Bible study time?   Now why do you suppose that is?   I can think of many possible answers.   But the one I encountered most often this past week is nicely summed up in the “Coffee with Jesus” at the top of this post.

I just wasn’t “feeling it.  Is is amazing to me that still after 50 years of spiritual journey, some times the rebel in my heart shows up again to take a stand.  Not as visible to others, but visible most certainly to God, and visible to me.  IF I am willing to show up and be honest with God and myself.

Some days this week, I “felt” like I was checking a box.  Yep, done with that reading.  But I didn’t “feel” it was doing any good.  But you know what?  God showed up.  And some of those days that I didn’t feel like my morning efforts were resulting in any meditation or reflection, or even explanation,  observation, application, and doing — Again, God showed up.  Later in the day, I would find myself recalling what I had read.  Encountering a situation where that scripture applied.  Thinking about one of the devotional questions for reflection.  It was amazing.  God still worked.  God was glorified.  In spite of me.  I shouldn’t be surprised by that, I know.  But I was.

Because it reminded of a very important truth. Devotions aren’t about me.  They are about God.  They are about being in a devoted relationship.  So, yeah, I looked up the meaning of devoted, devote, devotional.   (Geeky, I know).    Here is what I found:

DEVOTE — VERB.    Action.  Requires participation.  Also related to devoting, devoted.

1. To give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause, etc.  TO devote one’s time to reading.   (Yes, this does describe one action I take in pursuit of my Lord.)

2. To appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by solemn or formal act, consecrate.   (Yes, this does describe the set apart portion of my day, my week to consecrate my life to my Lord.  To seek His face, His will, His call upon my life.)

3. To commit to evil or destruction or doom.  ……

At this point I thought – Huh?  And then I remembered several Old Testament scriptures where the Hebrew people were told to “devote to destruction” certain plunder obtained in warfare.  The most common example being the false gods of their enemies.  Makes a bit more sense.  So I asked myself this – Are there things I encounter just walking in this world that “stick” to me – which I need to remove and devote to destruction.  Yes.  Some bad habits simply appear with seemingly no aid on my part.  How do I break those?  I devote them to destruction.  But I digress…..

Devotions.  My keys:  Continuity and Variety.   I continuously have a plan for reading.   My favorite is to use the Book of Common Prayer readings.  They always includes Psalms, a personal favorite, they include an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a portion of one of the four Gospels.   I love the balance it presents, and it helps me keep the big picture overview of God’s Word in mind.   And because it takes 3 church years (starting at Advent each year, A, B, C) it doesn’t repeat often.

I also continuously have other reading plans that I participate in or Bible studies that I follow.  Books for studying the Bible are wonderful guides.  Whether you go to a book-by=book of the Bible series, or a Topical study.  They can be very helpful and often have guided questions to aid in reflection and explaining Biblical passages.

For Variety, I use many small reading plans.  They are kind of what I call “treats” or “snack food”.   Most are little paragraph or two of someone elses reflections with often only a verse or two.  Some include a short prayer, some don’t.  Some are by famous historical Christian authors, some by contemporary Christian authors.  Some topical, some theological, some “random” readings.   These are like little shots of caffeine.  OK as far as they go, but it is not what I would call a meal.  The nourishment from these is a good place to start if you have not developed a daily habit of spending time with God.  It simply is the equivalent of baby-food, and I believe God wants us to grow up as we journey with Him.

What works for you?  What have you tried for devotional time?  What doesn’t work?  What are YOUR biggest obstacles?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments.

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Transition Part 6

19 Jan

Continue reading

Reflections on Transitions Part four

9 Jan

Hello again.  Is it too late to still save Happy New Year or Blessed New Year?   I don’t think it is.   Why?  Because I live by a simple principle.  It was taught to me long ago.  It is living grace.  The thought goes like this: “It’s never too late to start the day over“.  And unless your heart and God are involved – it is just words.

But with God involved, you know you can always confess, He will wipe the slate or day or week, or month, or year, or life clean.  And we have a way made for us to start over.   So, if you have been unable yet this year to put into action your good intentions toward your life and toward God, now is the time.

So here, I give you my next to last option to help you get re-started in 2017 if you need to do it.  I am still going to encourage you to write down the key thoughts of your intentions to transform.  This time, I’m going also to tell you (and me) to take them into your prayer closet or quiet space and pray fervently to the Lord for affirmation or changes to our plans for 2017.

This time, I’m going to suggest to us both, that we ALSO need to put them in open site to review and take action multiple times a day.  Just like that beautiful rose above must feed and drink water every day to avoid dying too soon, and to prevent it’s neck from being broken with failure to thrive – so too, we must drink daily from God’s Word in order for our good intentions to bear fruit.  So here comes OPTION 3….

OPTION THREE:  This is one of my favorites and yet, one which I find hard to employ.  Let me explain.  Are you familiar with mind-mapping?  If not, I ask you to do a little leg work, and Google it.  You will find plenty of examples, and possibly even a tutorial.   If you ARE familiar with mind-mapping, then in this option, one way you can use it is to start your mind-mapping by giving a major line or branch to each “area” or “role” in your life.

Examples include: work, play, spouse,parent of children, school-mom, church-member, personal development, education, etc.   It is good to sometimes include organizational goals, areas as branches that need growth – for example: volunteerism, helping others, etc.

This can be very helpful if this is how you live or see your life as individually different areas.  Realizing that all roles or areas of life connect to a single trunk.  Give the trunk a name.   If you are a homemaker, you may call the trunk of your mind-map CEO of …. Corp.   And be sure to include every major role included that is needed to help fulfill your responsibilities as a mother, wife, Christian, etc.      Using this technique can then lead to other questions to answer, and eventually to an action item, a time element, a “who, what, when, where, why” type of approach for each branch.   You can also simply call your branch LIFE.  I do.  I even include the roots underground that are ever so important to holding the tree in place, and providing the key nutrients of growth.   In past years for me I have included large roots such as church community, God’s Word, Acts of Kindness, Words of Love, and other love languages.  Above ground are the action items needed in response to these roots.  READ God’s Word daily.  R.E.A.D. God’s Word daily.

For me the challenge to this approach is not the mapping.  I enjoy the creativity of this aspect and often use it in combination with other options.  To me,  the challenge for using this option alone, is that I try to live with integrity — wholeness.

Not compartmentalization.  Meaning,  I see all roles and areas, and all of life,  as potentially sacred.  So by dividing by roles, or giving segregation a boost by putting labels into my life,  it has always seemed to me to be counter-intuitive for the way I chose to live my life.  Then again though, you may find it very helpful.I would simply encourage you to include a spiritual growth action in each and every area you identify in your mind-map.

TAKE WITH YOU: I want to give some other options for those of you who are regular New Year’s thinkers and give some guidance to those of you who have tried and failed in the past.  I also want to encourage some who have never tried to plan any intentional growth or movement in their own life to give it a try. If you intentionally try something new for 5 minutes a day, in about 28-45 days you will have established a new habit.

And that my friends is how growth happens.  In baby steps, tiny bits – every single day.
 Or nearly every day.  No, you may not see the growth in a single day or even a single week.  Sometimes we don’t see the growth over the course of a year.  Often hard work and endurance are needed to stay the course of intentional growth.   Often, it is others who see growth in us when we cannot see it in ourselves.  If that is true for you, allow it.  Let your friends and family tell you or ponder what has happened to you.

Above all, remember while it may seem that I’m saying growth is all about you.  The truth is – it is NOT.  It is all about God.  It is all about being a disciple.  It is all about a willing heart to learn and to obey, and become a disciple who makes disciples.  A strong mom who can help other younger moms.  A strong single women, who can help and guide other women.  A person with endurance who can withstand the storms of life, so that when others are in need, we can come along side and offer them support with God’s help.

Blessing upon you today.  May we be strengthened to carefully consider the time we are given in the times we are living.

 

Reflections on Transitions Part One

30 Dec

FIRST POSTED: The last week of 2016.   This will be a multiple posting blog series – Describing how we can chose to transition from 2016 to 2017.  Reflections on choices. Reflections on priorities.

It is the time of year many people reflect on the year winding down.  It is the time when many also look forward to a New Year.  I am no exception to that reflection process both backward (a bit) and forward (a lot).  I spend a lot of time in prayer, meditation, and mindfulness; pondering during the course of this month — IF I have not already done so in the last 60 days.  Some call it goal-setting.  Some call it “New Year’s Resolutions”.  Me?  I call it healthy intentional self assessment and growth.  Whatever you call it,  here is the first installment of Reflections in this series:

Review and Assessment is important

We can all learn important lessons from the past, if we live in the moment and then chose a regular time to review, assess, and document.  2016 was a difficult year.  I learned again, that each grief is unique as each love relationship is unique.  I learned that grief is the price you pay for loving.  Totally worth it, yet painful.  I learned how to find hope in the midst of a difficult time.  I learned what God provided as spiritual gifts and key steps to transition life from lukewarm to hot.

Goal setting is one method of transitioning from season to season, year to year, chapter to chapter in the various stages of our lives.  For me it results in:

  1. Separating what is truly important from what is a distraction or even irrelevant.
  2. Deciding what you want to achieve in your life.
  3. Assists in Motivating yourself.  Especially during transitional periods and trials.
  4. Can help build self-confidence — however, this is dependent upon the successful achievement of goals or resolutions.
  5. Goals can help anchor you in rough seas.  Much as a keel on a sailboat, knowing where you want to be when the storm ends is key to making it further along and safely to shore.

This week, many last-minute “Lucy’s”  also start making resolutions for the New Year.  Some leave it until either the last ten-minutes of the current year or the first day of the New Year.  For some, it is a whim.  For some it is the sheer pleasure of working under “pressure”, or as I call it “procrastination motivation”.

For some, it is apathy; a true lack of desire to change and grow.  The “I am what I am, accept me, or get out” people. And admittedly for some, taking time out of a very busy season to spend in reflection and prayer for the future seems just out-of-reach.  I heard on   the news that for 75%, resolutions are broken by Feb 15.  I think it is sooner, and it takes until mid-Feb for some folks to admit it.  I don’t make resolutions as such.

For a large majority of people resolutions sound something like this:  “Lose Weight”, “Start exercising”, “Be kinder”, “Give more”, “Be a better person”, etc.  I’ve both found and learned a variety of methods for setting New Year’s or New Chapter initiatives.  None of which suggest the clichés above are adequate for achieving growth and change.  These type of “goals” always fail – sometimes sooner, sometimes later.  Without a plan, it has been said one plans to fail.

Before we discuss the options, let’s look at what the dictionary definitions are for RESOLUTIONS and GOALS.

Resolution:  In this context, the most suitable definition appears to be “a resolve; a decision or determination to make a FIRM resolution to do something“.  And/or “the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.”  However, there are times I find the definition which follows the most enlightening for New Year’s resolutions:  “reduction to a simpler form; conversion”  Check our your Thesaurus for additional insights.

Goal:  “The result or achievement toward which effort is directed, aim, end.”  The dictionary includes many sports metaphors and phrases about “making or scoring a point”.  While I love watching sports, these explanations are useless for setting new-life-goals or New Year’s resolutions.  Therefore,  I find the following definition the most useful:  A New Year’s goal can be seen as “adapting ones life to achieve making a point, or working toward an objective of leaving a legacy”.

Just for fun I added the word:  Initiative: “an introductory act or step”, “Leading action to change life/lives”  This word could be seen easily in a setting of New Year’s resolutions, yet my personal favorite is this definition: “One’s personal responsible and reflective decision to act on one’s own initiative.”

For me — INITIATIVE is what I setup for each new year.  It is focused on actions and doing which over the course of the year will result in intentional growth.  The areas can be: Spirituality, Mind, Body, Professional, Educational, Relational, etc.

So….let’s do this.  Together.

 

 

 

About Me

22 Jun

Reflections on Christian Living — ABOUT ME

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Me now?  My profile gives some limited information about me. Here is some more…..

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for over 50 years.  I’m the first to say that doesn’t mean a thing, if I don’t spend time and energy daily to grow, learn and share more of Christ than I did as a small child.  There are areas of my spiritual walk where I still stumble, fall and struggle.  I suspect there always will be.  It has been my experience that some of our deepest wounds become the very places where we can realize God’s greatest healing.

Just as physical infants after birth must experience healthy growth in order to reach maturity, so too must we as Christians.  Just as human infants are incapable of going it alone throughout the developmental stages of life, so also are we as newborn Christians.  We need God’s Word and we need someone, maybe many some ones to come alongside us to teach and encourage us to grow through the developmental stages of a spiritual journey.  We need someone just 1/2-1 step ahead of us on the journey to come close and to disciple, coach and mentor us.

By the way, I define growing as a believer in God as thinking, feeling, and acting more like Christ now, than a year ago, and the year before that, and the year before that.   Unlike physical human infants, I believe we never out-grow the developmental stages of our spiritual journey until we are with God for eternity.  There are always ways to change, to grow, to share, to serve.  We live in a hurting world.  We are broken people.  I do not, nor ever will claim to have all the answers.  I don’t.  I do not attend church regularly believing I’m perfect; exactly the opposite, it is because I know I’m not that I go to be supported and to meet with God within a local community of similarly minded believers in God.

This blog?  Well, it is where I take time out of daily life, to share some of the issues and thoughts that I have pondered and reflected upon for some time, the blog is the top of the iceberg.  While I dream of posting more frequently, if it takes me away from the priorities I believe God has currently called me to do and to be, then it will continue to be intermittent.  And I hope that is OK with you.  I hope that when I do share that you find it useful for your own spiritual journey.

What to know more about me?  By far, the easiest method is to visit and cruise through my Pinterest page under the name:  Susan Mosey Honeycutt. It is not a business page and I have nothing to sell.  It is where I stash some of the things that help me.  Things for personal growth, service, organization, causes and hobbies.

There, you can explore my “pins”, boards, priorities, and interests.  You will likely  glean some information about my passions. For example, you might observe that I am passionate about Jesus Christ, God’s Word, Bible study & memorization, and helping others to grow in their faith journey.  I am passionate about helping people who are in faith challenging circumstances.  I am passionately living life.  Make every moment count.

You might observe some interests that are avocations and some that have grown into a new vocation.  The area of my spiritual journey which gives me the greatest joy and absorbs the largest majority of my time is intercessory prayer. Reading several books on prayer is a hobby.  There are even a few blogs on the topic. I don’t talk about it or read about it, nearly as much as I DO it.  I have kept a “War room” type of journal and prayer list for decades before the movie.  I love seeing the faithfulness of God’s answers.

I have no formal seminary education. I do however regularly sit at the feet of my Lord.  I attend classes and seminars on Christian topics and I find reading various theology books to be very enjoyable.  Please consider my pondering as coming from a place in my heart and mind.  Use at least a few grains of salt when you consider my postings.

In the future?   I’m thinking of starting a short series of posts sharing chapters from my past and present faith journey.  Your feedback might be just the encouragement I need. By the way I still consider myself a “newbie” on this WordPress thing, so most of my stuff is at the simplest form.  [Thank you Daddy Blitz for your guidance.]

For fun, I have attached a song below that speaks deeply to my heart today and in the past few weeks.  I have a “To my heart” playlist that is updated regularly as the journey continues.  Maybe I’ll tell you about how God uses music in my life one day.

Thanks for stopping by.  Thank you for reading.  If you want, please follow.  I would be honored to have you alongside.   I would love to have your feedback and comments. I can only hope that I did this correctly so that is possible! (Smile)

 

 

 

Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life

29 Oct

via Reflections | Thoughts on Christian life.    LIVING IT OUT – ROMANS CHAPTER 12 – Getting started

I’m in a small group Bible study and we’re going through Romans 12.   I’m enjoying the Bible study and the companionship on the journey toward living out my Christian walk in a fuller way.  I’m also being challenged by the study, it is causing me to reconsider compartmentalization as the “normal” way with Sacred on one side and Secular on the other.  This section of scripture is really calling out for us to live all of life as a sacred form of worship and service.  Pretty radical in that day, and I think, still radically challenging today.

In case you are not familiar with Romans 12, it follows 11 Chapters laying out the reasons that believing on Jesus Christ is the logical thing to do.  It presents a systematic doctrinal perspective for Faith and Grace as well as a number of other basic Christian beliefs.  He gives the: what when who where how why – in this book.  It was written to the Gentiles and Jewish people living in Rome around 58 AD.  Approximately 25 years after the death of Jesus.  He is writing to a church he never started, but he wants to encourage them and prepare them both for his visit and for growing in Jesus Christ.   It is a wonderful book of the Bible to study, but I recommend getting some guidance or a study guide from a reliable source.

Chapter 12 starts with the idea that is essentially saying “Now then after hearing/reading all I’ve just finished teaching you in Chapters 1-11, here is what to do”.   The transition from theoretical to practical application starts in verses one and two….  It goes like this in the ESV:  “I appeal to you brothers (and sisters) by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your ind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Quite a tall order.  But notice he is not commanding, but pleading.   If you want to get all the good stuff that God longs to give you – live this way.

To even begin to dwell on this and consider everything we do and think as an act of worship – of love for Jesus – reveals the need for change in many areas for almost all of us.  But Paul does not leave us hanging, in vs 2 he gives a clue as to how we can possibly do this.  RENEW our minds.  Said another way: STOP being conformed by the worldview of those who are not believers in Christ and consider what God has to say as the preeminent way to live.

So he takes us forward in the rest of the chapter to discuss our relationships.  Vs 1 – In relationship to GOD – put it ALL IN.  Don’t hold back.  Vs 2 – In relationship to ourselves – changing our thinking is mandatory.   Vs 3-8  In relationship to the Church – the body of Christ – how are we to function now in community?   Vs 9-21 In relationship to society – our sphere of influence.   The entire chapter is a practical living advice.  He continues in Chapter 13 with a broadening circle of relationships, but that is for another day.

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions. Feedback and comments are welcome.  Thank you for stopping by and visiting.  Thank you for reading.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. (I’m trying to get those feedback areas working again, but just in case it’s not, you can also comment on my PIN).

Have a great day.

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Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

29 Mar

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 5

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This is the last in the series of 2015 Lenten reflections.  This is where I admit that growing in holiness to become the person God wants me to be is a challenge.  Is it a full time job?  It can be, it is best when it is.  Is it hard?  Often.  Do I consistently make living my beliefs – 100% of every day?  Not at all.  Consistently, yes.  100%, no.   [To see how I deal with that, Go back to Part 1 of this series]  Is it worth it?  Totally.

I’m human, there are times I question and doubt, I fear and I fail my Lord.  I’m so glad my God is big enough to handle my questions, and so gentle and loving that he doesn’t immediately strike me dead for daring to question Him.  If He wasn’t like that, He wouldn’t be much of a God now would He?   God does not EVER turn away any sincerely seeking humble soul.   God is always faithful, He loves me no matter what.

I cannot hide from his love, it infinitely surrounds me. God promises He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He promises that if we seek Him, we will find Him.  That perfect love and true promises are what keeps me seeking God.  After all, we are in a love relationship.  I want to meet with God.  I want to obey God and follow His desires.  I want to fulfill the highest potential He has planned for my life.  And in turn, God always wants what is best for me.  He can take the bad stuff that just happens to anyone walking on this earth and He turns it around for my good. (When I let Him).

In reflection this season, I am also reminded that we are called “to live at peace with everyone – so far as it depends upon us”.  (Romans 12:18)  Here too we are challenged to draw upon our faith in God – for to live in peace often times means setting aside our personal comforts – our fears and our prejudices.  We need to go outside our comfort zones to grow, leave the past behind in order to avoid harming others – all the while standing firm in our core faith.  Not because we are faithful, but because GOD is faithful.  Not because we are better or think we are better than anyone else – for we are not.  We are simply forgiven sinners, striving to live in love.

That – the “live at peace” verse – God really means that.  It includes some extraordinarily difficult choices and actions.  Things such as: not compromising truth, not looking the other way at evil, not being silence in the presence of wickedness, and not being prejudice.  Instead, we are called to help the weakest among us, to help those who cannot help themselves, and to put into action plans that honor and glorify God.  We are called to be the very hands and feet of Christ on this earth – in the now, in the here, in our spheres of influence.  We are called to be a visible presence of God’s Kingdom on earth through our lives, our actions, our choices, and if absolutely necessary – our words.   Sometimes, I am greatly saddened when I think that Christians are more often know for what they are “against” than for whom they stand for.  Personally, I think it is a fabulous prayer to ask God to be more visible in my life actions than in my words.  Personally, I think if we can season our lives with more love and acceptance for people and share what God has done for us, we would be a much more attractive people of God, than we oft times are now.

I believe that God has the best ability to convict of sin and convince in love.  I believe that God – through the Holy Spirit – points all hearts to Christ.  Everyone on this earth will make a choice before they die.   (Rom 14:7-10)

When asked about my faith or current issues, will I speak answers, give my position and offer my reasoning.  I can share my testimony of what God means to me and what He has done in the past, and what He is doing in my life now.  But I am not called to judge your life.

For me, at least, I think the cliche to “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is trite.  I believe it is impossible to live out without hypocrisy.  Maybe someone else could do it, but not me.  When I love someone I love them.  I accept them where they are now, just as Christ accepted me where I was then and where I am now.  God accepts me fully – just as I am.  He requests only honesty from us, from me.  It doesn’t mean God will leave me there.  For He wants to see me grow in knowledge and grace.  Over time – that growth can include: changes in lifestyle, reading and mentoring in the Bible, the very Word of God.

Here is how it works for me:  unless a person has given me permission to help you see your blind-spots, and only when I know you very well indeed  – and vice versa – I have been given you permission to point out my blind spots – only then do I think that it is helpful to share areas where another person cannot or does not have the ability to see how you (or me) can improve.  Only then, do I think it is acceptable for others to point out areas where anyone needs improvement and growth.  Mutual accountability.  Mutual accountability means mutual love, guaranteed acceptance and forgiveness. *I do have one exception*

Living out my faith, or as James (Jesus brother said) – “working out my own salvation with fear and trembling…” can mean being in accountability relationships, in love sharing our lives with others, not to put down, criticize or critique, but to share honestly our lives and “bleeding edges” in confidentiality with one another.  It can, and hopeful also does,  include corporate as well as private worship time.  It can mean meditation and study in the Bible to learn what God expects from us and of us.

God nurtures us to “ever grow”.   Kind of like an “evergreen” in nature.  Some periods have greater growth, some have lessor growth.  Unless there is a draught or uprooting, there should be growth. We, (I’m including me too) should not be the same people today that we were a year ago.  Along that time, we would be growing, budding, blooming and becoming more like Christ.

Bible-ScripturesRoses

So how are we to show one another the love of Christ?  Jesus told His disciples flat out – rule #1 – LOVE ONE ANOTHER. How can we do that?  Live in alignment with God, and fulfill His purpose for our lives?  One method I have been a part of in the past was being within a prayer community for several years that encouraged small accountability groups of 3 to 5 people to meet every week and answer the following 3 questions:

1.  What have you done to nourish your relationship with Christ this week?  (One of the reasons I included the mp3 song above is because I use music in my private worship to nourish my relationship with God – I have not tried this before, but I believe if you click on the notes, the track will play for you to enjoy.)

2.  How have you studied to improve your knowledge of God and of His creation?  (Including your fellowman)

3.  What actions have you taken to share Christ in your spheres of influence?

Let me tell you, participating in those groups (3 over the course of 20 years), was one of the best tools I have honestly ever been introduced to as a method for encouraging personal spiritual growth.  What was said in the group meeting – stayed confidential between only the participants.   This time was growing, fun, and fantastic fellowship.  It was gaining a foothold in a tough place with friends to help you along the way if you fell.  It was great.  I hope to find new prayer partners to meet with regularly very soon.  (Pray with me if you will for this to happen soon)

We are commanded to seek out and spend time with others of same faith.  The purpose is to help our spiritual growth.  God doesn’t expect us to have all the answers and be a “Lone Ranger” Christian.  Trust me, we don’t have all the answers.  Again, if we did, I would think God is too small.  I trust him and have faith – even when I don’t understand all that is happening in my life or the lives of those I love.

Instead, we are encouraged to learn from one another and to keep each other accountable to hold onto integrity, to avoid hypocrisy.  The Bible says:  “steel sharpens steel”…Reflections on this truth, also keep me seeking God as part of a local community of believers.  It is in fellowship with like minded people that we can gain wisdom to have others help us see our own blind spots and to gain strength from each other as we seek to serve the Lord together.

This is part of the beauty of Easter.  Living a resurrection life.  Jesus appeared after His resurrection to over 500 of His disciples (The book of Acts).  Why do you think He did this?  I think He did it to encourage them to stay together, to stand firm, to keep the faith, and to help them realize His resurrection was a REAL HISTORICAL EVENT.  An event that continues to this day.  Now that, my friends, THAT, is worth celebrating.

IBelong2theMaster_1Tim2_6

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions.  Thank you for reading.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 3

27 Mar

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgiveness, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 3

Bible_FindVerse_GiveMyHeart_ItisAllGodWantedd

Decades ago, there was a movie  where one of the characters said:  “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”   True love is the exact opposite.  Over the years of our marriage, I have learned it is much more important for me to acknowledge I’ve screwed up (again) and quickly say I’m sorry, than to spend time in silence trying to come up with the “right reason”, excusing my behavior, or trying to lay the blame at someone else’s feet.  When I try – as I occasionally still do –  my husband – as a Godly man – won’t buy it.  He just asks – was what you did kind, loving, necessary, righteous (morally), gentle, caring or not?  He just lays it all out there.  Why?  Because he loves me.  Because he usually has already forgiven me – before I even ask – and because he loves me and wants to have me experience personal growth.  Now knowing he has already forgiven me, I ask you, would it be kind and loving of me to not ask for forgiveness?  Instead to just take it for granted and not communicate my remorse?

With my husband this is often – but not always true.  But with God this is purely true – 100% of the time.  God loving me always means that there is nothing I can do which will make God un-love me.  But does this give me the right to continue to live in a manner unworthy of a daughter of the Lord?  Romans tells us NO, May it never be so.  Loving God means when He says I screwed up – I agree.  Now understand, God is a gentleman.  He doesn’t stand with a big hammer, waiting to beat us over the head when we come to Him.  He will never turn us away.  Instead He stands as the Prodigal’s Father, reaching out, going out of His way to be there and wait for us to come to Him with our issues and problems.  He desires only honesty on our part.  He wraps loving arms around us, and says WELCOME HOME.

When I’ve blown it, I try to quickly turn around; leaving behind the failing pattern and seeking instead to do the positive actions that make life better.  I ask what God wants me to do.   Not just partially, not only intellectually, or with a little effort, but with my whole heart.  I pursue what I believe God tells me with my whole being, my mind, my heart, my soul.   I know that the promptings of God never contradict the written word of God.  I know they never contradict His moral code.  I know they can be confirmed with scripture, and I can consult as well, with Godly others, when necessary.

The truth is that it is not my “feelings” about God that count.  Feelings are important and need to be acknowledged.  Expressing our emotions can be key to our worship as we acknowledge who He is and who we are.   Feeling however, can lie.  They can make us believe things that are simply not true.

Some people may describe what has been happening to me this Lent as a dessert.  Referencing perhaps Jesus’ experience in the dessert. There are many examples in the Bible where people felt separated from God.  David was certainly no stranger to feeling alone and forsaken – but that feeling didn’t make it true.   (Read Psalm 46 or Psalm 70.  David pours out honest feelings to God, and God responds.)

For the entire month of February I felt  like my inner-being was in a frozen wilderness.  Nothing moving.  Nothing alive. My heart cocooned, carefully wrapped in the insecurities of doubt.  I’m out in the cold alone, I’m not “feeling” the warmth of God’s presence with me.  My soul very well knows it is me that chose to walk my own way for a short period of time.  It was me that brought the chill into the relationship through isolation.  The Bible clearly states that there is NOTHING we can do to escape God’s love.  (Romans 8:28)  It is that simple.

No one can keep any relationship warm with love at a distance.  I don’t know about you, but we all want to think that when we chose to follow God, ,that our path will be smooth and we will never struggle or have doubts, or times of passivity that lead to a cool relationship.   Efforts made to spend private time together, were displaced with other seeming priorities.  What a wasteful choice on my part.  How can anyone maintain closeness if we don’t seek out, listen to, spend time with, and want to hear from the other person.

How can I maintain closeness when I place myself away from God’s Word?  His very bread and body given for me?  After a while, like a piece of wood pulled away from a bright warm fire, my zeal cools and my heart grows cold.  As a lighthouse, I fail to burn brightly and become just a small spark, an ember barely on fire.   I ask myself, “Who moved?”   I am reminded of the truth gently by a loving God  He is still there.  He is waiting for me tell me WELCOME HOME.

During rebellious times, during trying times and circumstances, we are wise to make even greater effort to hear and study to learn from God’s word and to stay in touch with fellow believers.  Instead of isolating and trying to go it alone, and “negotiate” with God, I need to immerse myself fully in His love.  I need and want to spend time with Him, in His word, in prayer, in listening and learning.  Get more involved in being and doing.  Be accountable to keep faith alive.  Let others help me understand and deal in a more constructive way with difficult circumstances.

What counts is TRUTH.  During reflection, I realize again that the very words of God are truth.  Jesus said of himself that He is “the way, the truth, the light”.  (John 14:6)   This is a time when I must firmly plant my feelings into my faith in God.  I must confirm truth with scripture.  I need to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5) and get my mind and my heart back into alignment with what God would ask me to be and do.  We each are commanded to renew our minds and not to conform to the patterns of this world.  (Rom 12:2)  Romans 12 is an entire chapter on how to live a God honoring life.  The precursor is recognition of God’s gift to us in His death on the cross, as well as our possible choices in response to His sacrifice.

For me WELCOME HOME means knowing that God is faithful, even when I am not.  God is always with me; whether I feel it or not.  I know God wants only what is best for  me, yet sometimes I fear that circumstances will make that impossible.  God says – I do the impossible.  To be honest though, speaking or acting in my human weakness,  in a manner that is *not* like Jesus would have do, or would have me do, is  always possible —- until I am with Jesus Christ is heaven.  For now, we work out our salvation moving toward, not away, from God.  Becoming increasingly like Christ.

Is it an easy straight line at a nice 45 degree growth angle?  Not at all.  We walk, run, climb, fail, slip, stumble, enter into circumstances or encounter difficult life events that act as  deep water and slow us down.  Sometimes we pause for a bit. Hopefully, we then pray for forgiveness and healing when needed.  As we come back to God, we return to alignment and clear relationship with God.  I know I am not all I should be or want to be, but I also know by God’s love and grace, I am not what I once was.  The human instinct to act against God or to withhold portions of my life from God is lessening over time as I seek Him in closer and closer relationship.

As an introvert, I know just how hard it is to walk into a new church or any church “cold turkey”.  Not knowing anyone.  I also know that if I’m not willing to make healthy choices for my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health, then I’m not willing to take chances.  Without chances there can be no changes. Without change, there is no growth.  Above all I want to grow.  I want to become MORE like Christ, and less like the old me.

I encourage everyone this Lenten and Easter seasons to make a choice to take a chance, to make a change.  What is there to lose?  Nothing but our past.  Our wilderness.  If life is going great for you?  What have you to gain?  Love.  Eternity.  Relationship.  Deep abiding faith that is unexplainable – for FAITH is the evidence of things not yet seen.  What can we lose?  The wilderness of wandering.

Please leave a comment if you want more information or have questions.  Thank you for reading.

What Happens When a Person Choses to Believe Christ? (a partial list answer)

9 Nov
You call it religion, I call it a relationship.

You call it religion, I call it a relationship.

Ever wonder what happens when a person choses to believe Christ? When a person choses to believe and accept that Jesus died to reconcile them to God. For this post, I will be using 2 Corinthians 5 as a starting point for some of the many things that happen or begin to happen the instant one choses to believe personally in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. The only way to gain new life.

2Corinthians 5:17+18 in the ESV says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

First, the entire direction of one’s life changes. We were facing death and separation. We were setting (settling really) for what we believed to be the best purpose for our life, yet it was prioritized according to our limited human perspective. The direction of our life, did not consider what was best for us in the larger view of eternity.

Second, Once one choses Christ, we have not only a new direction in life but a new life purpose. Now, through prayer we have full access to God’s wisdom and direction. Now, we are free to seek God’s purpose for our personal lives. Now, our purposes become God-motivated and God-driven. Now, seeking God’s purpose for our lives is one reason to learn and study His Word the Bible. Now, we grow and put down roots and become disciples of Christ.

I don’t know about you, but knowing my life has a deeper meaning, an eternal purpose, gives me a hope beyond all the earthly hope I could muster up within my own limited human perspective. The NEW hope we gain as a gift of God is far beyond the scope of this earthly life. It is eternal. Our lives are now to be lived within an eternal perspective and purpose.

Third, another change is that we now have a new desire to leave behind the things in our lives that hold us down, pull us back, and tempt or cause us to revel in sinful things. We have a new desire to please God and to obey His Word. Jesus tells us in John that those who are His disciples show their love by obeying His commandments. The NEW self, is not interested in old things.

Yes, we are still human, so yes we fail. But when we do, 1 John 1:9 promises us that when we become aware that we have sinned again, we confess (agree with God), He is faithful and just to forgive us ALL our sins. Not just the ones we are aware of, not just the sins and failings of commission but also the failings of omission. And yes, even the sins of which we are unaware. One thing to remember is that as we make this spiritual journey and seek God, in our relationship of love toward God and His love toward us, we are intended to grow more and more like Christ and therefore overtime will fail and fall into sin less and less.

Personally, I have found that for me what has changed is how I fail God, and how I see it. For me, it’s been rather like cleaning house. I clean the living room first because that’s what visitors would see. Then I clean the kitchen because that is where much of family life revolves and is seen. Then I clean the bedrooms because relationships are grown there. Then I clean the bathrooms. Yep, it’s the dirty spots I don’t relish and don’t really want someone to see, but the cleaning must be often and thorough or both I and those I love can become ill. Lastly, I clean the closets. My point is this: There are the parts of our lives we don’t show to others. The thoughts we think, the inner life of quiet rebellion and sin. The places of ugliness where we can have dark thoughts of envy, jealousy, rivalry and gossip. When I picture God walking through the thoughts of my mind like rooms in a house, including my thought “closet”, I quickly realize I am far from perfect and need to confess my shortcomings. But I am grateful to God that I am not who I used to be. God has and continues to change me.

When we chose to believe in Christ and become Christ followers – disciples – sometimes we will need to change where we hangout, sometimes we will need to change friends. Sometimes we will need to change our language and learn to use of our tongue to lift up others rather than tear down. Sometimes jokes and filthy language must change.

This may sound hard and when we look at this idea through our “old non-spiritual” eyes – our “natural” way of looking at things – we are constrained. We cannot see God-empowered possibilities. Our old self finds it hard to believe it is truly possible to walk away from things that displease God, to walk away from evil. YET – in fact with the new life in us, the power of the Holy Spirit living in us, changing these things IS possible. Yes, requires discipline and love – but will not be as hard as satan wants us to think it is.

One thing I can say, from both my personal point of view and from things friends have shared with me over the years, is that God will chose an area of your life and ASK you to change. God will ask us in obedience to choose to change even if we don’t understand. Said another way, God asks us to abandon bad habits and failings in our past life and embrace the promises of God and all the potential of our NEW life in Christ. Few are courageous enough to take God at His word and fully believe the promises God offers His children.

Fourth, once saved from the penalty of death and sin (Rom 5:1+2), we begin instead to look more and more — at all of life — through NEW spiritual eyes. We find that our desires change and the desire to do the things that God wants of us will grow stronger and stronger in us and we will truly want to make changes.

Fifth, As we embrace more and more of our new life, we set down roots into our new life by joining into friendships with those who are like-minded to our NEW life. Find a place where learning in community is possible. In a larger group of believers, a place where one can worship God. Give God glory, receive from God and God’s Word. Learn from others that are further along on their spiritual journey. Find a place where you feel you can belong and become. Belong as you are now, where you are now. And hopefully in the same place, a place where you can become a fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ.

Sixth, As we dig deeper into the Bible, the Word of God, as we seek to become a disciple, God strengthens and enables us to be able to change as He asks. For more information on how to do this read the Book of John in the New Testament. Seek help from a Christian pastor or someone else that you know is a believer in Jesus Christ.

Another great place to begin is in a newer translation of the Bible, read Romans 12. Study it section by section. Find a Christian friend to study it with you. Find a local church sponsored Bible Study group or a church small group to learn and study more about God. Find resources on the internet; for example: check out “Living on the Edge” from Chip Ingram and his study on Romans 12. Start reading and studying how God wants us to live up to our faith in God. How to live up to a higher calling on our lives. Read from those strong in the faith who went before us. Read A.W. Tozer on Desiring God. Read Christian blogs, biographies, study guides, but most of all – READ THE BIBLE. It is a “Believer’s Instructions Before Leaving Earth”.

I have discovered in my own personal journey and believe, that God does not call us to be “Lone Ranger” Christians. Even as Jesus chose and sent out His disciples, He sent them out two by two. We are stronger and better enabled to follow Christ as we help one another.

Seventh, one may find that inwardly, there is a deep desire (an almost overwhelming desire) to share the joy and good news of Jesus Christ with others. That is entirely normal. Often we want our old friends to make the same decision to follow Christ that we have made. I will offer only 1 caution: while you want to share the best thing that has ever happened to you, be prepared for others to reject what you want to share. Your old friends may instead want you to give up Christ, and return to the old you. So I will offer you want was recommended to me. Never speak to your friend about Christ, until you have spoken to Christ about your friend. According to James, if we need wisdom, we are to ask God and He will help us. I take that to mean when we’re not sure how to do something that we believe God wants us to do – such as share our decision and new life with old friends — ask God and He will help us know what to do.

In closing, I just want to encourage anyone reading this to ask questions in the comments section. If you have also believed in Jesus as your Savior and can offer helpful suggestions and add items to the list of what we gain when we believe, add a comment. If you need help finding resources to help you grow, leave a comment. I probably can’t answer all questions, but hopefully, with God’s help, there will be ways we can support one another.

As always your comments and feedback are welcome.  It is my prayer that this blog is helpful to those that read it.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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