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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.

 

 

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

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

You call it religion, I call it a relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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