Tag Archives: confession

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.

 

 

Reflecting on Christian Living

28 Jun

Beginnings.

I asked God to forgive my sins and I told Jesus I was glad he died for me when I was 6 years old.  I trusted in Jesus for my eternity with the total commitment of a young child.  A lot happened prior that event to prepare my heart.  A lot has happened since then.

Susan school pic #1

If you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, when did you make that decision? What lead you up to that point?   Are glad or sad that you made that decision?   Do you still believe in Jesus?

Please leave your comments – I want to know about you.

Reflections on Christian Living – Been a while

7 Apr

Reflection on Christian Living – Been a while.

I’ve been living in a waiting room for many weeks.    Are there ever circumstances in your life you would like to change?  Things you know God can change.  Concerns you hope He will change; yet it appears on the surface as if nothing is happening.  Ever been there?

Some call it a desert experience.  I don’t call it that because for me, it is more like a closet, or waiting room or hallway experience.  In the hallway you see doors, but none has opened yet.  In the waiting room, you expect to be “called into” or “called back to” the professional person’s private space or examination room, but the wait is hours beyond your assigned appointment.  So you sit.  Or maybe it is the ER or urgent clinic and you didn’t even expect to be there, so you sit.  In the closet, you are simply cut-off from socialization and “normal” routine life.

Desk & Chair

The waiting chair

That is what this last 6 months have been like for me.  I find waiting can be a productive time.  A time to: grow closer to my God; get intimate with Jesus.  A time of increased prayer.  A time of increased Bible study and learning  where and how to apply truths that pop out at me during these times.  Truths it seems that I am unable or unwilling to notice when I’m bustling with life activities, duties, responsibilities, tasks.

Tough times?  You betcha.  Challenging days?  Oh yeah.  Frustrating?  Yes – at times;  I wanted it to end – sooner.    There has been a lot of illness for me and for my loved ones during these last months. There have been many pajama days in these weeks. Walking day-to-day with joy and hope is sometimes a stretch; I have to be honest.  Some solitude, isolation, and some new friendships built slowly, privately, and hopefully steadily.

My take away:  Slowing down, whether voluntarily or involuntarily due to circumstance outside our control is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.  It helps us to filter out.  It helps purge the unnecessary from life in order to focus on the important.  It removes unnecessary “urgent” tasks from our life.

Response:  Thank you Lord for this waiting time.   I would not have asked for it, but I am grateful that you allowed all these circumstances into my life to prepare me for something wonderful.  Something only You can teach me; something I need now or will need in the future.  Thank you, in Jesus’ Holy name, Amen.      God you are awesome.

 

 

Reflections on Christian Living – Special Practices – Gratitude

11 Nov

Reflections on Christian Living – Gratitude – Special Practices

There are several special practices or seasonal disciplines which I undertake to spur on and encourage Christian growth, to become more Christ-like and to change-up my walk a bit in order to keep me from becoming complacent in a daily journey with Jesus.

One of these practices is currently underway. I know some friends who either call it a 30 day gratitude challenge.  Some start on November 1st.  Some start 30 days before Thanksgiving.

Art_Photo_November

I don’t have a name for what I do, but most of my seasonal practices are actually 40 days long.  I try not to miss a day, but I am not legalistic about it, as is not about that.  These practices are an act of worship.  They are done not instead of my daily practices, but alongside them.

For 40 days before Thanksgiving I begin a gratitude journal.  Often,  I publish a summary on Facebook of what I am most grateful for on any given day during this season of reflection.  We are so blessed in so many ways and simply take most things for granted.  (I’m as guilty of this as the next person).

I would encourage anyone to do this.  I recently read that you can re-program your mind toward positivity by simply thinking of 3 things a day you are grateful for, and do that practice for 21 days.  I’m a slower learner, I need the shock therapy to my heart –  40 days gives me that gift.

What I have learned over the several years of doing this seasonal practice 40 days before Thanksgiving is that my entire daily attitude shifts over the course of those days.  Yes, I am usually grateful year around, but I’m the first to admit, there are simply times I fall far short in that category, and slip into what my mom would call “pity parties”.  I say that not as an excuse, but a confession.  I need more gratitude in my life.  I need more AWARENESS in my life.  I need to praise God more often for wonderful blessings – most particularly for His mercy and grace.  Since November has some challenging anniversary dates – and at least one blessed anniversary date in it, this practice helps me to gain perspective.

In the early days, I am not alert to specific items for which I am grateful.  Those first few days are often the “discipline” part.  I do it because I know it is the right thing for me to do.  I watch, i observe life – not just my life – but life in general.  I observe the life of others, of loved ones, of those going through hard times, and those who appear to have all their blessings like ducks in a row.

As the 40 days continue, I find myself increasingly aware of the blessings in my life – even when some of those blessings are trials.  I find myself so aware some days, that there is a list of multiple items in my journal which could be listed as today’s gratitude.  If I post on FB, I pick just one to share with others.   And I happily enjoy the blessings gained of my friends posting what they are grateful to have or experience in their life.

As I near the end of the 40 days and come to Thanksgiving as the day after the seasonal practice ends, I find that the day is wonderful.  Not in the sense of the traditional holiday, big meal, and all the “stuff” or a house overflowing with extended family or friends.  Those things are rare for us.  It is a wonderful day because I realize how different my attitude and heart have become as I look back over this year’s 40 day gratitude journal.

If you have never done this, or haven’t started yet this year, it is not too late.  Start to practice the presence of gratitude and as my mother used to sing “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

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.

Success_failure_poster.87112711_std

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

BibleVerse_2Timoty2_11_13

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, 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.

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.

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Prayer 3 – A.C.T.S.

13 Apr
How do we learn to pray?  Get close to our Source

How do we learn to pray? Get close to our Source

Have you ever wondered where to start if you are unfamiliar with prayer? One way is to use a standard prayer-book, or a compendium of historical prayers. Another method is to use scripture and pray a Bible verse or two. Some people like praying with a pattern to help them stay on track. I’ve used a few of these forms in the past, and sometimes still do. One is called A.C.T.S. The acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It contains all the topical elements of the Prayer Jesus taught his disciples. (BTW, I have no idea who first came up with this idea.) Adoration is the noun version of the verb Adore. I think for the purposes of prayer, though the acronym was taught to me as Adoration, I think of it as the verb form.  Actively speaking my love and worship to God my divine creator. For me it is showing God my reverence. It is knowing my position as the Beloved humbly in front of the Great I AM God.  I am in a heavenly throne room, and want to recognize God and His position.  His “otherness”. Confession is next. To me it is a logical transition.  This is the part that makes all of us uncomfortable. It means that we acknowledge and own our wrong doings, our sins, and then confess them each to God — agree with him that we have sinned — and turn away from those actions and thoughts. For me this is part of “wiping my slate clean” with God by telling Him all my mistakes and mess-ups. BONUS:   We have the joy of knowing scripture 1 John 1:9 promises us that when we confess the sins we know of, and ask God humbly to reveal any of which we are unaware, then ALL our sins are covered – even the ones we don’t know about – and therefore cannot confess.   God is so gracious to us and so incrediably merciful. He gives us what we do NOT deserve and does NOT give us what we do deserve.  Grace and Mercy is where confession becomes powerful to call us back into God’s love.  He never leaves us, but in reality, each one honestly looking at ourselves – we know we leave Him.  He is ever faithful and loving, we are not. Next is Thanksgiving. Have an attitude of gratitude. Think of and really tell God about people and things you are happy are in your life.  Thank God for anything that give you joy or peace:  People you love, People you need to love, Enemies who teach us love, Blessings of home, job, family, nature’s wonders, beauty. Appreciate the blessings God has given you and thank Him for these. This section can be very long if you practice gratitude on a daily basis. This is an ideal place to thank God for all that He IS to you personally, as well as for all He has done for and with and to you.  It can be short if you are new to the concept of gratitude and thanksgiving for the daily blessings of all that God provides.  That’s ok.  Just do what you can. After adoring worship and confession, and thanksgiving,  it is the ideal time to tell God what concerns you and to make your supplications for intervention on your behalf or on behalf of others. Tell God the situation, be specific, and ask God for what you need.   God already knows our heart, so you may as well put all your cards on the table.  He knows your prayers before words form on your tongue, and yet, scripture commands us to pray.  To humbly kneel before the throne of our God and King and make our requests. Scripture also tells us to pray in alignment with the Spirit, and it cautions us that sometimes we do not have because we ask with impure motives. (Refer to Lent Reflection2014)  So before you give God your list of “wants”, as if He is just a Santa in the Sky, consider with due reverence what your motives are for making the requests. Is it a need, a want, an intercession on behalf of another, or yourself (which by the way – is perfectly fine). THINK – Is it true, is it honest, is it needful, is it helpful, is it kind?  There is no space for pretense in such an intimate relationship as we have with God in prayer.  Prayers are answered. Most people may close by asking “in the name of Jesus Christ” or something of that sort.  Do you know why?   Not as a habit I hope, but sincerely obeying the commands found in the gospels that Jesus tells his disciples to petition God in His (Jesus’) name. Again an act of humility before a mighty God in acknowledging the ONLY reason we can come to Him with our requests is because Jesus’ death and resurrection made a bridge whereby we can do so. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on A.C.T.S. Have you ever tried this method? Are you willing to give it a try out even for a few days?  Let me know. If you have other methods, please feel free to share.  I would be encouraged by your feedback, and if you like this reflection, be sure to share it with others.  

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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