Tag Archives: accountability

Reflections on Transition Part 5

10 Jan

Ok.  Here it is.  The last option.  It is my favorite.  Of course that is because it is my own personal approach to transitions and setting up a plan for intentional growth.  Though each of the other options can and do work – I know, I’ve used them too – This method is my favorite.

OPTION FOUR:  It’s been developed over several decades of my life.  Yet, it is still a work in process.  For me, having used this pattern for several years, I will admit there is a fair amount of cross over from one step to another.   But to help you understand it, I’m going to go step by step in the posts about this method for transitioning and encouraging a plan for intentional spiritual growth.  My suspicion is that it always will be a work-in-process.

NOTE: Until now, I’ve never attempted to explain this method to anyone.  Straight skinny:  I take a primarily spiritual approach — TOP DOWNWhy?  Because when my vertical relationship with Almighty God is aligned, then my horizontal activities reflect it.  Living by Faith requires both efforts vertically toward growth and horizontally toward growth. When my spiritual life aligns with God’s plans for my life, then the other areas of my life and the growth goals in those areas seem easier to plan and a bit easier to achieve.  No, not always, but most of the time.

The efforts of my heart, mind, soul and strength all align with what I believe is in obedience to God and His Word.  Efforts and God go hand in hand.  Not to earn God’s love, for we can never ever do that.  It is free.  The gift of new life, made possible by Jesus’ death, inspires my efforts.  And it is not that God needs i my help, for He does not.  But it because He gives me the privilege to show Him my love by following closely after Him and focusing my life to be His disciple.

Growth efforts and God in my intentions (resolutions or goals) is to show my love for all He has done in my life.  My over-arching life goal is to be a Christian BEING, DOING, not a Christian sitting or coasting.
  When that day comes, I do not want to be luke-warm.  So everyday, every moment counts.  Every second, I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and on fire for my Lord.

Am I 100% successful, every moment of every day?  No and No.  But to quote Lysa Terkheurst: the phrase is “imperfect progress”.   I love how she speaks of this, and the phrase resonates in my heart.   Progress is never perfect on this earth.  Making progress is never totally done. Imperfectly, taking our perfectionist tendencies away, that allows us to make progress.  Inch by inch.

We move forward, try to overcome weaknesses, then we slide back, yet hopefully persevere.  We get one area – we think – under control; then God shows us another area He wants to refine, reveal or enliven. Often returning to the same areas over and over in the course of a lifetime.  Until at last, we humbly admit, we are powerless over the predispositions – but that GOD can bring healing to each and every area of our lives.

To make valuable productive progress at all in life, it is my personal belief and experience, that one must continue to grow as a person in six key areas: forgiving, loving, giving,  self-control,  learning, and sharing what we have learned.  To make progress in any one of these areas, seems to require intentional focus and intentional efforts.  Most especially, growth in these areas requires obedience to God.  It is only through God’s intervention bringing His Spirit to bear in our lives we are able to consistently steadily move to increased forgiving, loving, giving, self-control, learning, and sharing what we have learned with our fellow humans on the journey.

Moving forward does not “just” happen.  Growth rarely just happens.  Even if we seek to bloom where we are planted, food, water, and sunshine are required.  We can only grow with God’s help.  With the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and allowing God to speak to us thru the Word, work with us as we are obedient to do all that He asks of us, and being flexible to move and act in God’s timing and strength, not our own.  This does not in any way remove our responsibilities.  In fact, it acknowledges and reinforces that without Him, we can do nothing.  Nothing of eternal value.  Sliding backward, or stalling out, on the other hand — well, that is the “normal” less-than-ideal human estate ever since the Cosmic Coup.

SO….. Have I begun efforts to tie down and document intentional resolved goal-setting and growth plans for 2017?   Yes.  The process for 2017 is well underway.  It is partially documented in squeaky notes, post-its, scribbles on napkins, prayer notes, margin Bible notes, and in the soft tissues of my heart and soul.   Am I done yet?  Not quite.  Yet, that is no excuse to not start moving in obedience to what has already been revealed for action and intentions for 2017.

THE BIG STEPS of OPTION FOUR:

  • First, start with Asking God to take His highlighter to show me a verse or verses for this year (2017) that will hold meaning and challenges for me all year-long.  My intention is always to percolate this verse or verses deep into my heart and life.  One way I do that is to set a goal to memorize the verse or section of scripture provided for the year.  Sometimes other verses pop into focus as the year progresses.
  • I post the verse(s) on my bathroom mirror.   I need the reminder – always.  My challenge is to not just read it, or even to “see” it, but to recall it all year-long in each day and within various circumstances as they present themselves. Since God knows all things, and knows me better than anyone on earth and ALWAYS wants what is best for me, what better place to go?  The only true God who sees both the end and the beginning simultaneously – is where I seek objective truth.  Said another way, God’s view of me is far more important than my own view of me.

STEP ONE RESULTS — 2017 — noticing a pattern in conjunction with WARRIOR.

  • 1 John 4: 9 and 10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that HE loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  Leading areas of application is Loving and Forgiving
  •  2 Timothy 1:7   “…for God gave us a Spirit not of fear, but of Power and Love and Self-Control.”  (Read starting at verse 1 and see this in context).  Area: Love and Giving
  • Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous, do onot be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you”  Learning – trust in particular.  *again, yes*
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8, 10   “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue and to virtue,  knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with community affection and affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ……Therefore, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fail.”  Area of application:  Learning, Loving, Sharing, and dare I add self-control?

STEP TWO:

  • I pray for a word.  One single word that challenges growth.  A word which for 2017 all my sub-goals can wrap around.  A word which is representative, not just of who I am now, but who I want to be and who more importantly, GOD wants me to be in a year’s time. A word that will encourage and guide all my actions day-by-day.
  • A word that I may not even believe about myself now, but know that if God sent it, it will come true. This word is usually a verb, but not always.  For example, one year it was BELOVED.  That year this word walked through life with me in all it’s many events and flavors.  By the end of that year, it was clear to me that being Beloved by God is a special place to be.   Last year (2016) it was FORWARD.  What a challenge.
  • The word is also most often linked directly to one of God’s attributes.  If it is, in small measure in my life now, it will blossom and grow as the New Year unfolds.  I expect 2017 to be no exception in this area.
  • God always has, and I believe always will – this side of heaven – expand the meaning of the word He provides to add focus and stability to intentional growth.  Invariably, He also provides some growth directly from Him, for which I had no plans.  (Our God is good.)

STEP TWO RESULTS — 2017 —

  • The word is WARRIOR  
  • Attribute of God:  ???  Seeking this answer in prayer.
  • So far, I know that means at least prayer warrior. 
  • I am pondering if it also means warrior princess?
  • Is it to include warrior bride?
  • Does it mean defensive warrior, offensive warrior, warrior of holiness and justice?
  • YET – I can and have taken intentional action year-to-date to fulfill what I know now of how to apply that word toward growth.  More focus, more time, more resting, more listening, more intimacy in prayer with my Lord.

STEP THREE:

  • I pray about what activities and ministries which are on my calendar now.  Where am I committing my time, energy, talents, skills, and gifts?  Or maybe I’m not?  Was I in a fallow period last year?
  • I ask God to let me know (usually through his Word), but also thru affirmations from other Christian friends, or even other bloggers and books, and Spiritual Directors/Pastors, to help guide me.
  • I count on God to know if I want/need to continue these activities and commitments or if it is time to step down as a start a new chapter.  This requires sober-self-assessment.  This requires input from loved ones who are affected by my commitments.

STEP THREE RESULTS: 

  • I know I am to continue teaching our Ladies Daytime Small Group Bible Study
  • I know I am to continue with Care Calling ministry. 
  • I have been blessed to be a greeter at my church and shall continue.
  • I am trying to setup a weekly reunion group.
  • Partially complete – Prayers continue.  I believe there may still be an add and a subtract for sometime in 2017.  We’ll see how this unfolds as the year continues…….

Part of me likes to see things all laid out.  Part of me now realizes that rarely happens.  How do I balance the various roles in my life with the ministries I believe God has called me to do?  Can I reasonably participate in these and not neglect my other responsibilities?

Yep…this is my challenge.  When to move from prayer to action?  Now.   Wait for complete answer, or as in step one and two start with what has been provided and go day-by-day and step-by-step?

Next steps coming.   Drill into these concepts and not only articulate the skeleton, but flesh it out into step by step tangible items.  For now, we’ll pause here.

TAKE AWAY:  As the 2017 transition toward new intentions, resolutions, goals continues I ask God every year to increase my FAITH.  Lord,  help me BELIEVE where-ever You lead is the best place to be.  (Remember, “BELIEVE” is my favorite word)  I pray for God to deepen relationships with Jesus Christ.  I cry out for help to  fulfill my vows and hold a committed heart to relationships. The struggle is real. The challenge is real. The opportunity to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of our Lord: real, unlimited and priceless.

Until the next post…dwell on below.   Listen, meditate.  Take what may be useful to you.  For now, remember:   “Whatever is  true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.”  Phillippians 4:8

PS — This last music video is one of my favorite prayer and meditation accompaniments.  Just let God fill your heart and wash over you.  Soak in His presence, and let God speak to you.

 

 

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 of Faith – What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

12 May

Sometimes, I don’t know what to do.

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Reason one,  there is so many tasks to be done that I can’t decide what to start first.  Which is a great excuse to procrastinate, but does not help the situation at all. If this is the case, I usually spend 10 minutes making a list, and literally flip a coin to decide where to start.  Usually it is just a penny from the Christmas fund, dropped randomly on the page – with my eyes closed.  Once I’m started, the tough part is done.

I do not make the list in any particular order, just write tasks as things pop into my mind.  I don’t prioritize the list because for me that is just another way to avoid taking any action at all.  And then, I realize, that not deciding is also draining my energy,  so if even the list making is overwhelming, I fall back upon an old disciplinary favorite.

About 2 years ago when inertia and depression were both the words of the day, I used a cheap white board with 30 squares.  We had used it in prior years as the caregiver day-chart when we had multiple bodies floating into and out of our home over a series of weeks and months.  Now, it lay unused.  One day, for whatever reason, I was poked into picking it up, erasing it, and listing 1 chore a day.  Just one.  And then I committed to get up every day, get dressed every day, load the dishwasher everyday, and do THE ONE chore.   Sometimes it took all 15 spoons just to do the first task – get up and get dressed.  But this board has continued to serve me well during times when chronic illness challenges me with the feeling of being over-whelmed and wanting to shut down.

The other reason why sometimes it is hard for me to do is that there is no motivation.  I know there are things to be done, but they aren’t “fun”, or “rewarding”, or “creative”.  They just need to be done.  These are the times when I wonder:  “Am I lazy?”  “Am I undisciplined”?  My older siblings are likely to say both as that is the curse of being the baby of the family.  But there is more to it.  Sometimes, in my heart of hearts, it is pure-selfishness.  I don’t want to do anything for anyone, I want to only do something fun for me.  Immature.  Effective in doing nothing or doing the “good – but not “best” things.

While some may think reason #2 is part and parcel of #1 and vice versa, I don’t.  For me, reason #1 involves health management and physical/mental being issues.  Reason #2 is a failure of character, the heart and/or involves spiritual issues.  At least for me.  So to deal with #2 – lack of motivation, I turn to the promises of scripture, the remembrances of all that God has done for me.  I sing a song or two and I count my blessings.  Then I ask God to help me do something for someone else, for a minimum of 20 minutes.  Amazingly, God answers that prayer.  Always.  And after the reflections of God’s blessings in my life, and the activity for others, motivation is restored, balance returns and selfishness fades.  Amazing how that works.

How about you?  Do you ever have days where it is difficult to just get going?

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgivenss, Relationship, Love – Part 2

26 Mar

1Timothy2_3-4

Reflections on Christian Living – Lent 2015 Thoughts on Sin, Forgivenss, Relationship, Love and Growth – Part 2

Sin – not a popular word these days.  I know I would much rather acknowledge only the attributes of God being loving, kind, gentle.  I think others are similar.  It is easier on our ego and self-esteem to make God a God who is not righteous, not holy.  An easier God is just a slightly higher version of us – holy, without sin Himself, but not judgmental or righteous enough to hold people accountable and require a payment for the penalty of sin.   Somehow in our human reasoning to have a God that requires payment for sin, is to make Him petty.  That is NOT WHO GOD IS.  God is OTHR.  He is beyond anything.   In the books of Isaiah as well as Job, God Himself points out the vast differences between man and God.  He asks “Where you there when I hung the stars?”   God says “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, nor your ways my ways.”

Instead of a petty God, as some would have Him to be – quite the opposite is true.  A God that does not require a penalty for sin is not holy, is not righteous.  In fact, to make Him so, is to put ourselves above God.  Here is one reason why:  even as humans, our justice system and our sense of justice, both require people to fulfill a sentence for wrongdoing, for harming others, or even for attempting self-harm.  Suicide is illegal in most states, so even harming ourselves, according to man’s law, requires retribution.  Requires actions to save.  EMT’s called to the sight of an attempted suicide must make an effort to save the person and return them to a functioning human state.  Even humans recognize the delusion that man is in control of our own soul.  We are only in control of our choices.  And we do not often choose wisely; even when we do, it is like a reach of inches, when God demands a standard of holiness that is the length of thousands of feet.  We can never reach far enough – without God’s intervention on our behalf.  God determined that our short fallings, our sin, deserve death.  It is holy and right that He has done so.

YET IN His goodness, kindness, mercy and grace – instead of insisting we pay the penalty — before the beginning of time – GOD in His majesty and love – also determined a way for His son, Jesus, to take our penalty, to  pay the ransom price for us.   Read I Timothy 2, verses 4-6.  Or if you desire, read the entire chapter.

God does not just want us to confess our sin to Him, He doesn’t want the “box checked” and for us to then walk away and live as we choose.   God has reached out since day one to have relationship, reconciliation, and fellowship with mankind.  God seeks us, He desires us to seek Him.  He promises in Jeremiah 29: 11-14 that when we seek Him with a sincere heart, we will find Him.

In many Psalms, but especially in Psalm 51, David rightly acknowledges that at the root of all failings,  all sin is truly sin  against a Holy God.   Do we harm each other?  Most definitely.  Do we harm ourselves?  Yes.  We have only to see the example put forth in first and second Samuel to see lots of evidence.  And it continues throughout time including today.  Watch the news to see how many times people’s choices are not beneficial to themselves or others.  The reality is that sin breaks our fellowship, puts a space in our relationship with a Holy God.  He cannot meet with us when we harbor sin in our hearts.  Sin also breaks our relationships with each other.

Through Nathan the prophet, God offered David forgiveness if he would repent.  God is always reaching out to us to offer reconciliation.  It is we who are to respond.  Psalm 51 says “Against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight”.  NOTE:  It is hugely important to read hrough the entire Psalm and to read the the context t background of what happened in David’s life leading up to this confession.  ((2 Samuel, chapters 11 & 12).   David was a lier, cheater, adulterer, murderer, and possible rapist.  Yet, when he confessed his sin, as we learned yesterday – God forgave him his sin.  (I John 1:9)   Was there an earthly consequence?  Yes, the child died.  Clearly many others were hurt.  Was there reconciliation to a Holy God after admitting wrong doing? Most definitely – Yes.

For me,  loving is forgiveness.   Being loving – toward both others and myself –  means owning and admitting my failures.   Not to live there, but to say I did it or thought it or said it, to tell God and the person(s) that I’m sorry and I want to move on in forgiveness and reconciliation.   A few weeks ago, I read something that really resonated with me.   I do not know who said it first, or to whom to attribute the quote.

Here is what it said:  “I would rather be an honest sinner, than a holy hypocrite.”   It makes a valid point – though the saying is clearly an oxymoron – for there is certainly no such person as a holy hypocrite.   To be a hypocrite is to pose. To be out of alignment between our private self, our heart, and our public self.  Most importantly, to be a hypocrite is to be out of alignment with God.  To say one thing and do another.  To say one thing and think another.  The list goes on……

We can sometimes fool people, but never God.  God looks on our heart.  He knows our every thought and motives.  Some people say that they do not attend church because it is filled with hypocrites.   Again, in reality, it is the opposite.  Church is filled with people who openly admit we are sinners, people who acknowledge we blow it.  Often. For you see, every week I attend church, every time I open my Bible to read and learn and listen to God, I am living and declaring the fact I am NOT a hypocrite.  I am acknowledging I cannot live a holy life apart from God.  I cannot live without confession.  I cannot live without asking forgiveness in all my relationships.  I cannot live without knowing that a loving God paid the ultimate price to reconcile and have a relationship with me. (Cross reference John 3:16)

I need that unending, unconditional Love.  I need that perspective.  I need that HOPE.  Knowing God is always there with me and on my side is my daily dose of reality.  Reality check – as in real eternity – not our temporary world now.   Most of the folks I know that want a close relationship with God feel the same way.  We need God.  Not the other way around.

If you want more information or have questions, leave a comment.   I look forward to your comments.  Thank you for reading.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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