Traits of A Godly Person: The Choice to Abide

Before I actually get into the various Godly traits we are going to look at, I felt I needed to spend one more post leading up to the characteristics. What I have noticed, in my years of living a Christian life, is a definite disconnect between the flesh and the spirit. Obviously, this is expected. When we read, again, the passage from Galatians 5, we know that the flesh and the spirit are at odds with each other. We are commanded to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. Yet, it is our flesh that must do the actual action of walking. How, then, do we get our flesh and our spirit to come into line with the Spirit of God?

Image by  Iván Tamás  from  Pixabay

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

As I explained last week, once you accept the person and work of Jesus Christ as your Savior, His spirit comes to dwell in you. Let’s take a look at a few scriptures.

but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
— Acts 1:8 (NASB)
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
— Acts 2:4 (NASB)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
— Acts 2:38 (NASB)
All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
— Acts 10:45 (NASB)

I am not going to get into a lengthy discourse on baptism in the Spirit versus filling of the Spirit and other such conundrums. My personal opinion is, we receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. Whether we can access more of Him versus less of Him, or whether you believe in angelic tongues versus foreign tongues is not the point of this series. The point I want to make is simple, we who have been washed in the blood of Jesus have access to His authority, power and understanding, by the Holy Spirit.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
— John 16:13 (NASB)
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
— Romans 8:16 (NASB)
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)

The difficulty I feel we have is maintaining a dynamic, open and moment by moment awareness of that fact. The Holy Spirt isn’t going anywhere, meaning once you have accepted Jesus, the Spirit is with you all the time, but I do think we move. We wander away from that closeness we are able to have with Jesus because we allow other things to become static in our open line to Him.

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Andrew Murray was a minister in South Africa. Being of Dutch and German descent his parents send he and his brother to school in Scotland and the Netherlands, where they studied theology. Murray was a prolific writer and is best know as as a significant forerunner to the Pentecostal movement. He was a believer in healing and the continuation of the apostolic gifts. (Information taken from Wikipedia).

I am not a Pentecostal. I do however, believe that we can have a deeper, fuller, richer relationship with our God, not merely through intellect and rote memorization, but with the inclusion of our emotions and intuition. Do I believe I can hear God speak to me in His spirit? Yes. Do I think he cares what color skirt I put on today? No. I bring this up because, I have heard well intended Christians say, “God told me to do this or that….God told me to tell you….God wants you to go here, or marry that person…” I believe we can be lead by God to make choices regarding who we marry, whether we should buy a house, praying over a person who is ill and so on, but I also believe God gave us a free will. We can decide what to eat for breakfast, what movie to go see (even if it is a bad one) and who we are going to hang out with on Friday night. However, the right to choose, does not mean we will always choose right, and it is in this area of faulty decision making that we can sharpen or dull our ability to walk in the Spirit and hear God’s voice.

Image by  Jason Gillman  from  Pixabay

Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay

One of the books that Murray wrote is called Abide in Christ. This book is an amazing progression into the deeper layers of God. I do not believe reading this is for everyone, but it is for everyone who really wants to grow, not only wide in their walk with Christ, but deep. Let me share a few quotes.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, “Come to me and abide with me,” but, “Abide in me.” The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete. He opened his arms, to press you to His bosom; He opened His heart, to welcome you there; He opened up all His Divine fulness of life and love, and offered to take you up into its fellowship, to make you wholly one with Himself. There was a depth of meaning you cannot yet realize in His words : “Abide In Me.”
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray

With versus in. The word with gives you the idea of coming along side or being next to. The word in is simply that inside or within. We can describe the idea of being with someone else by discussing a person’s proximity, but it is harder to explain the word in without using the word itself. In has a sense of being contained, surrounded, and protected. In also gives us the idea of a continuous connection that never goes away. Water that is in a glass, always has a connection with the glass. As long as that water remains in that glass it will be connected to it.

Image by  rawpixel  from  Pixabay

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

When we abide in Christ, we are in HIm. We are contained, surrounded and protected. We are always connected to Him as long as we abide. It is in this ability to abide in Christ that we will be able to begin to grow in our walk as Christians. As we abide, we will come to display the traits of a Godly person.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing
— John 15:4-5 (NASB)
Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
— John 14:23 (NASB)

I especially love that last verse, because of Jesus’ absolute familiarity with us. He’s willing to make His dwelling with us and that is exactly what He does. He is with us and we are in Him. With this in mind, we will begin looking at the traits of a Godly person next week.

Have a great week everyone!



Mulling it Over - Part 9

Once again I am looking at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Over the last number of weeks I have been walking slowly through this passage, desiring that you and I ruminate on the verses each week, much like a cow chewing on his cud. We want to read, reread and reread again. Not only read, but really think about the words that God inspired His chosen ones to write in the Holy Scriptures.

Image by  blende22  from  Pixabay

Image by blende22 from Pixabay

The context of this passage written by Peter was to encourage believers that were scattered throughout the areas of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. His readers were mainly Jews who had become believers. Seeing as it was a large area Peter was writing to, it makes sense that he was trying to cover the main points of what a walk with Christ would look like. Let’s look at the whole passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

As we have learned in our study, the eight qualities that Peter lists are ours to have because of Jesus’ great and magnificent promises. They are to be increasing in our lives, meaning we need to be putting in the effort to focus on these qualities and determine, how we can allow God to bring them to fullness in us.

Today we are going to finish the passage, by looking at the last two verses.

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB)

Therefore, brethren…

Once again, we are reminded that these letters were written to believers. In the Christian community we look at our fellow believers as our brothers and sisters.

…be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…

I believe in eternal security, meaning once you make the decision to accept Christ as your Savior, you are always saved, however, there are decisions made when emotions are high, that aren’t necessarily real. I grew up in a Bible believing church and was taught that asking Jesus to be my Savior was a decision I had to make. While my Sunday School teachers did an excellent job to teach me how to make this decision and what and who exactly I was believing in, it wasn’t until I was twelve that I fully committed my life to Christ. That decision was real. I knew exactly who I was talking to, when I prayed that prayer, on my own, in my bedroom at home.

Image by  reenablack  from  Pixabay  

Image by reenablack from Pixabay 

When Peter says to be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you, He isn’t saying you might have lost your salvation along the way. He’s saying, make sure that decision was real when you made it. I also think that he is encouraging us to go back and ruminate on what, exactly Jesus did and why He did it. With Easter just around the corner, what better time to be certain about His calling and choosing. Did you make a decision to follow Jesus? What it real? Has it changed your life? That brings us to the next phrase.

…for as long as you practice these things you, will never stumble…

Do you believe this? There is a connection here between the two phases. Practice is essential for not stumbling. The passage doesn’t say, “…for as long as you read about these things…” Nor does it say, “…for as long as you occasionally do these things…” The word is practice. You all remember the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Of late, there is a new movement towards a different mentality of “Practice makes permanent,” which actually might make more sense. We want what we practice to become a permanent part of who we are. If I am practicing brotherly kindness, I want to practice it and practice it, until it becomes a natural response for me.

So what exactly does it mean when it says, we will never stumble?

If we were truly practicing all of the qualities listed in this passage, and it was a practice that made permanent, I think Peter would be right, we would never stumble. Unfortunately, how many of us are practicing these qualities until they are firmly embedded on our minds and hearts. Sure we might be really good at brotherly kindness, but when it comes to self-control, we trip up. Yes, we might make a regular practice of moral excellence, but when we have to be diligent we fall short. I do believe we can become better and better at every single one of these qualities, and we may even get to the point where we no longer stumble, but again, it is only Jesus and his Spirit that gives us this stumble proof ability.

For in this way, the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

If we don’t really pay attention, one could say that this verse is a proponent of good works theology. This is theology that says, we gain entrance into heaven by our good works. But the Bible is clear on this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
— Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)

i believe this verse is speaking as a matter of degrees. The Bible says,

...that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

If we believe in Jesus we will be saved. We will get into Heaven and dwell with the Almighty forever. What this verse seems to be suggesting is that it can be even better than that. It says that entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied to us. Abundance implies wealth and resources. Maybe for those who have been practicing these qualities and striving to be diligent and remember God’s precious and magnificent promises, they will receive a ticker tape parade. I really don’t know, but I find it interesting that the point was made that the entrance into the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied.

Image by  Dimitris Vetsikas  from  Pixabay  

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

I hope you have enjoyed this look at 2 Peter 1:1-11. Next week, I hope to do an Easter post. After that I might return to the eight qualities listed in this passage and start looking at those in depth. Until then, have a great week everyone.




Mulling it Over - Part 5

Good day, everyone. Another week has come and gone and here we are looking at 2 Peter 1 again. Have you been enjoying this series? Have any of you done some deeper digging to look more into these amazing verses of scripture? Last week we mulled over verse 5, so on to verse 6.

...and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
— 2 Peter 1:6 (NASB)
<a href="https://pixabay.com/photos/books-bookstore-book-reading-1204029/">Image</a> by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/LubosHouska-198496/">LubosHouska</a> on Pixabay

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…and in your knowledge…

We often associate knowledge with learning. It used to be the case, knowledge came from reading books and listening to teachers. In our technologically oriented society, books are taking a back seat to online versions of obtaining knowledge, from YouTube videos to pod casts. I know on several occasions, my hubby has looked on YouTube to find a video on fixing a certain problem with an appliance or the car. These advances are not necessarily bad, but personally, I still like the feel of a book in my hand and the smell of a place filled with books, like a library or bookstore.

As I mentioned in last week’s post (here), the knowledge that Peter is referring to in this passage is the knowledge of God. While we can obtain that knowledge through a copy of the Bible in our hand, a pod cast, a sermon on YouTube or a digital app on our phones, true knowledge of God is found in a personal relationship with Him. Let me spend a few moments on this, as it will reinforce the rest of the passage.

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Having a relationship with someone requires knowledge. When my husband and I first started dating, all those many moons ago, we initially tried to get to know each other, by asking questions and spending time together. As our relationship moved from friendship to actual dating, our knowledge of each other grew and broadened. After we got married, this knowledge increased as life became full of circumstances neither of us had encountered before, like having children, finding jobs and owning a home. The same is true in our relationship with God. We don’t come to a saving knowledge of Christ and then just stop learning more of God. We are to be continually delving deeper into the hidden layers of this Almighty being. He is a mystery we will never know the full depth of.

…self-control…

Oh dear, there is that word. A few weeks ago we looked at diligence. Now we need to become more familiar with self-control and what it has to do with knowledge. Why would self-control be essential for knowledge? The answer is really rather simple, integrity. Let’s do a little word study.

Self - control - restraint exercised over ones own impulses, emotions or desires. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Integrity - the quality or state of being complete or undivided; firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

In order for us to have knowledge of God, we must exercise restraint over our sinful desires. These impulses and the feeding of them, will not bring us closer in our relationship with God, but will put more space between us.

Going back to the marriage analogy. When you and your spouse married it was for better or worse, but those vows you took included the idea of being faithful to one another. They also revolved around the idea of love and honor, cherishing and encouraging. When we allow other things, whether people, work, hobbies or problems, to become more important than our spouses, we are no longer exercising self-control in our marriages. If we decide that other things/people are more important than the one we made a vow to, we will no longer know our spouses. Our knowledge of them becomes clouded and skewed. We forget that they used to have a favorite flower, movie, author, band or meal. Suddenly, we are living with a stranger in our house.

This same process of moving away, happens in our relationship with God. If we allow other people, relationships, job, worries, hobbies, habits or other to become more important than seeking out and spending time with Jesus, then our knowledge of Him will grow dim. The process is much like an old photograph that fades with time. What was once sharp and clear, becomes faded and washed out.

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As we saw in the definition of integrity above, we need to remain complete and undivided in our knowledge of God. We need to be incorruptible and the only way to do that is to stick with the One who is closer than a brother. We must use self-control to keep our desires, thoughts and actions in line. With self-control our knowledge of God will remain clear and pure.

…and in your self-control, perseverance…

This one is pretty obvious, but let’s take a look at the definition of perseverance.

Perseverance - continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. (Websters Online Dictionary)

What is more necessary to self-control than perseverance? Most of the things we come up against where we need to exhibit self-control are difficult. Being able to persevere when things are difficult is part of the Christian life.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
— James 4:12 (NASB)
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Let’s take this a step further and apply it to the real world. What are some areas that you struggle to have self-control? For me it is eating things that are not good for me, getting regular exercise, having a regular time to spend with God, praying and others. I have found that when I do not exercise self-control, I feel miserable and I also feel distant from God. It doesn’t matter how big or small, anything that regularly takes us further from God interferes with our knowledge of Him. We need to persevere in our self-control, to maintain our knowledge of Him.

…and in your perseverance, godliness…

I wondered why the word godliness was put in, this late in the game. I’d like to do something different for this word. Instead of just giving you the definition, I’d also like to give you a list of antonyms. Often, it is easier to understand something, when we can see what it is not.

Godliness - divine, pious or devout. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

Godliness - Antonyms: faithless, ungodly, unholy, godless, irreligious, anti-religious, impious. (Webster’s Online Dictionary)

If we are not godly we do not have faith, and we are not holy. Isn’t the end result of our walk with Christ that we become holy as He is holy? If we have no faith, we are not going to be able to persevere. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the ability to keep going, especially when life gets harder than hard. While we all know that we are not perfect and cannot hope to be until we are home on heaven’s shores, we can have an attitude and a mindset of godliness. Let me clarify, this is not what some teach, that one day we will be gods. This is the truth that we want to be like God.

for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
— I Timothy 4:8 (NASB)

I would love to have your feedback on this verse. If you have the time, leave a comment or two. Until next week, take care and keep close to Him.




Mulling it Over - Part 3

Here we are again, ready to mull a few ideas over. I like the word, ruminate. If you have been following me for a while you know I have used this word before, when discussing the idea of Bible study. God tells us through the Psalmist that we are to meditate on His word day and night.

Pixabay

Pixabay

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success
— Joshua 1:8 (NASB)

Webster’s online dictionary gives several definitions for the word meditate. These two describe what it means to ruminate on God’s word.

1 - to engage in contemplation or reflection

2 - to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness

Meditation is basically giving deep thought to God’s word and allowing His Holy Spirit to give us His understanding of it. To ruminate, literally means - to chew repeatedly for an extended period. Whether you want to call it meditating or ruminating, getting into God’s word should be more that a passing fancy. It should be something we dive into with the intent of moving into the deeper layers.

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Let’s look at our verse for this week:

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
— 2 Peter 1:4 (NASB)

…For by these…

This refers back to the end of verse 3, “…Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” It is His glory and excellence to which the these refers. God is reliable. His glory and excellence cannot be undermined by any trouble or power on this earth. Remember in last week’s post we saw that His glory and excellence was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. It is His glory and excellence that lead us to the next part of the verse.

Image by klimkin on Pixabay

Image by klimkin on Pixabay

…He has granted to us…

Once again we see God granting to us. This all mighty being wants to give us things. As we looked at verse 3 (see that post here) of the 2 Peter 1 passage we saw that God granted to us. He not only granted to us by His divine power, but now He grants to us by His glory and excellence.

Let’s just take a moment to think this over. Here is an all powerful being. His words brought this planet and all it contains into existence. His breath gave life to dust in the form of humanity. This humanity chose to rebel against Him. Yet…

…He loves us. He holds all that power and glory and excellence and yet, He desires to give to us.

Just what did He give to us?

…His precious and magnificent promises…

Look at the descriptors. Precious and magnificent. Let’s go back to Websters.

Precious - of great value or high price; highly esteemed or cherished.

Image by amyelizabethquinn on Pixabay

Image by amyelizabethquinn on Pixabay

Magnificent - marked by stately grandeur or lavishness; impressive to the mind or spirit; great in deed; exceptionally fine.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay

Image by 12019 on Pixabay

These words describe the promises of God. These aren’t cheesy, second rate promises. What God says, He will do. Who He says He is, He is. Who He says you are, you are.

All of us have been the recipients of broken promises. We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a parent, partner, friend or lover, making a promise and not proving good on that promise. We even break promises to ourselves. That is because we make our promises starting from a position of brokenness. God makes His promises starting from a position of divine power, glory and excellence. He can’t go wrong. He doesn’t forget, and He most certainly will not fall out of love with you. God always keeps His precious and magnificent promises.

Here are a few of those promises:

He will fight for you - Isaiah 14:14

He will give you strength - Isaiah 40:31 and Philippians 4:13

He will hold our hand - Isaiah 41:13

He will be with us - Isaiah 43:2 and Matthew 28:20

He will give us wisdom - James 1:5

He will forgive us - 1 John 1:9 and 2 Chronicles 7:14

He will give us eternal life - John 3:16

He will meet our needs - Philippians 4:19

He works things for our good - Romans 8:28

The list goes on. These are just a few of His precious and magnificent promises.

….so that by them, you may become partakers of the divine nature…

Whoa! Did that just say that I could receive some of that divine nature? Is that the same divine nature that granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness? In other words that divine nature becomes a part of me when I partake. I partake by taking the precious and magnificent promises.

This flow of thought and action just blows my mind. He gives, we take. He gives, we partake. He gives, and we become. So what exactly does it mean to become a partaker of the divine nature? Let’s take a look at the word partake:

Image by Pezibear on Pixabay

Image by Pezibear on Pixabay

1 - to take part in or experience something along with others

2 - to have a portion (as of food or drink)

3 - to possess or share a certain nature or attribute

I think all three of these definitions make sense when it comes to partaking of the divine nature. We take part in it. We have a portion of it. We share it with the Almighty. Doesn’t that make you feel rather special? Everything that He does for us, that He gives to us, is to enable us to be a part of Him, to share in His very nature.

This leads to the question, how do the precious and magnificent promises enable us to partake in His divine nature? This is my theory. When we become a Christ follower, by belief, we are then able to claim those precious and magnificent promises. When I claim a promise that God has made, I take it back to Him and I say,

“You have said this in Your word. This is a promise that You have made. I am claiming that promise as my own, believing that You will do it, because You have said it.”

Now, let me clarify, this is not a Santa Clause wish list. We need to understand that all of what God does is to make us partakers of His divine nature. He is not out to grant our every desire. He is not going to make life free of difficulty, but He is going to honor the promises He has made when we claim them, and as He does that He grants us a portion of His divine nature.

If you are uncertain what I mean when I talk about the divine nature, think about the characteristics of God; His holiness, righteousness, love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and so on. As we live life, claiming His promises and walking in His spirit, those characteristics will become a part of us in a more deeply rooted way.

Let’s look at the last piece of this verse.

…having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Image by Kasman on Pixabay

Image by Kasman on Pixabay

Partaking of His divine nature enables us to escape the corruption that is in the world. Why do you think Peter was inspired to add the phase, by lust? Aren’t there other things in the world that cause corruption? If the idea of lust is an intense longing for something or someone, that pretty much covers most of what causes the corruption in our world. Think about things like stealing, murder, adultery, jealousy, anger, gluttony, pride, the list goes on. Doesn’t everything begin with the idea, “I want?” Didn’t the first rebellion against God start with the thought, “I want?” When we partake of the divine nature, our “I wants” turn into “He wants.” We become more interested in what God wants and what we can do to love and serve Him and others. How different would the world be if we all journeyed through life with the divine nature flowing through us, rather than the weight of “I want” holding us down.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Be sure to check back next week for Part 4 as we look at verse 5.

I love hearing your thoughts, so if you have the time let me know what you are thinking. Have you every claimed one of God’s precious and magnificent promises? How did God come through for you? Do you feel like you are partaking of His divine nature on a regular basis? What does that look like for you. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great day.




























Mulling It Over - Part 1

I wanted to get back to my Mulling It Over series, where I look at a portion of scripture, taking it apart in order to more deeply understand and think about God’s word. When we dig deeper into God’s word we learn new things. It doesn’t matter how many times we have read through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is capable of teaching us something new over and over. Searching through the scripture is often like going on a treasure hunt. My goal with this series is to discover some of the wonderful nuggets that God wants to teach us.

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Pixabay

Beginning this month, I want to take a look at the book of 2 Peter in the New Testament, specifically verses 1 - 11. Both 1st and 2nd Peter were written by Peter, one of the original 12 apostles. If you know anything about Peter, you know that he could be rather bull headed, overly enthusiastic and thick, but Peter was the one to which Jesus posed statements such as,

And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
— Matthew 16:17 & 18 (NASB)

Scofield’s reference notes from 1917, makes clear Jesus was not intending to build the church on Peter, but on Himself. Jesus’ statement to Peter was a confirmation of the faith he had; a faith that is necessary for all believers to have. The fact that Peter was privy to this information reveals the depth of trust and love Jesus had for this man.

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Pixabay

As a shepherd of the flock, Peter had the responsibility to teach and instruct the members of the early church. In his first letter he encourages the church through the difficulties of persecution, which Christians were facing at the time from Nero. Many followers of Christ were being used as torches, if you get my meaning. Peter speaks of hope and the grace of God.

In his second letter, Peter addresses the presence of false teachers and wrong doers within the church and suggests the need for growth in the faith and watchfulness for Christ’s return.

This week, I just want to introduce the passage and then look at the introductory verses.

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Take it apart:

Verse 1 -

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

The author identifies himself by giving his name and then by giving his credentials. He is both a bond-servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. These two descriptions say much about the man Peter.

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Pixabay

I have looked at this idea of being a bond-servant on an earlier occasion, but lets review. Another word for bond-servant is slave. Typically, a bond-servant is one who works for someone else without wages. Basically a bond-servant is owned by their master. Why would a person want to identify themselves with this moniker? The Apostle Paul also used the term bond-servant to refer to himself. The common denominator for these two is the person of Jesus Christ. They had committed their lives to Him in such a way that they identified themselves as being His slaves. They were sold out to the person of Jesus and knew their lives were no longer their own.

Peter also identifies himself as an apostle. One way to define the word apostle is to list other words that have the same idea. Words like, advocate, backer, proponent, promoter, supporter and herald, all are synonymous with apostle. Peter was one of the original 12 men who followed Jesus and lived with him during his three years of earthly ministry. This fact gives Peter a huge amount of credibility to speak about Jesus’ message to the early church and to us today.

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Pixabay

…to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…

This letter is written specifically to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Many people today who are not proponent’s of the Bible claim that it is no longer relevant in our world today. They claim it is outdated, yet Peter, over 2000 years ago wrote his letter to those who were of the same faith as him. In other words, his letter is as real and living to us today as it was to the early church, for the very reason that we share a common faith in Jesus Christ.

…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This confirms that same faith came about by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Our faith in Him is secure because of what He did and who He was. Jesus is God and his life on this earth, was not to preach a social gospel. The gospel that Christ preached was not salvation from the hardships of life, but salvation from ramifications of sin. It is His death on a cross and his rising from the dead that enables us to place our faith in Him.

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Pixabay

Verse 2 -

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord

Who doesn’t long for grace and peace. We desire others give us grace when we are having a hard time. We desire peace from all the fears and anxieties that plague us on a daily basis. The author states that these will be multiplied to the readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. Knowledge of God and Jesus are essential to knowing peace and grace. This is not a head knowledge that nods absently when asked the question, “Do you know Jesus?” This knowledge is a personal, burning knowledge that can only be obtained when we call Him Lord.

The idea of Lordship takes us back to the term bond-servant. Have you chosen Jesus as your Lord? Are you sold out to Him? Do you call Him master?

Next week we will delve into verse 3. If you have any thoughts on this passage or these first two verse, I love to have your feedback. Just leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend.












Realistically Setting Goals

This is the final installment in my series on New Year, New Mind. I’ve been discussing how our thoughts can easily derail our efforts to form habits that will make us healthier people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Last week I looked at a few ways to stop our train wreck mentalities and this week, I wanted to close with a look at realistically setting goals.

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Pixabay

Baby Steps

The best way to start when setting goals is by starting with small steps. Rather than starting large and working your way back, start small and work your way up.

For example, if you want to get organized, but don’t know where to start, decide what your first priority is. If you need to work on meal planning, start by having a plan for at least three meals a week. Rather than being overwhelmed with a whole week, just plan a few and write them down. If you and your spouse both work and can afford the service, there are a number of food services now available that deliver all the ingredients and directions for meal prep to your door for as many meals a week as you want. My daughter and her husband use Blue Apron and have three meals a week delivered. All they have to do is open the box, take out the ingredients and follow the directions. There are lots of options available.

Perhaps you want to improve your health by exercising, and eating better. Instead of going cold turkey off all your favorite treats, start with a few small changes. Drinking more water, adding a veggie at lunch or a fruit at breakfast, eating one less meal out a week, or measuring out the potato chips so you only get one serving are all good baby steps to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a gym membership there are plenty of videos on youtube.com . You can find pretty much anything to suit your lifestyle from short 20 minute walking videos to longer cardio to yoga and stretching.

Starting small allows you to see success quickly and will keep you from getting discouraged that you aren’t seeing results right away. Each step you take towards achieving a goal, is a step in the right direction, even if it is only a baby step.

Get Organized

This could be a problem, if one of your goals is to get organized. Ha, ha. I personally struggle with organization, not because I am incapable of being organized, but because I allow life to overwhelm me. Busyness, and fatigue have put a dent in my organizational capabilities. However, I know that being more organized will help with the busyness and chaos of life. Over the course of time I have come to see the following habits help life run more smoothly.

Meal plan. Planning out a weeks worth of meals help when you are grocery shopping, and when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I used to do this more frequently when my girls were young and keep trying to get back to it. It saves money, time and your sanity when life gets busy. Meal planning is also helpful, when you are trying to lose weight.

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Pixabay

Get up earlier. I know this is very hard for some people. I am a morning person and have the most energy before lunch. My hubby on the other hand could well be diagnosed with morning sickness. He abhors morning. Getting up earlier, gives you more time to get exercise, read your Bible, meditate and just get ready for the day ahead. This is especially important when you work and you have to get lunches made and help others get their days started as well. Start small, taking a baby step in that direction by getting up 15 minutes earlier. Gradually you might be able to work up to a half hour or more.

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Pixabay

Invest in a good planner. I am a geek, so I love being able to get a new planner every year. If you get one with lots of spaces, you can use it for many purposes. You can put your meal planning in there, your appointments, work schedule and so on. A planner is a great way to keep you organized, the trick is to actually write things down in it. Ha, ha. I speak from experience!

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Pixabay

Getting organized in the normal routines of life and finishing little projects you’ve started is an important first step toward realizing larger goals. If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?
— Joyce Meyer

Have a Plan

I have found the thing that helps me most in achieving my goals is to have some sort of a plan. It doesn’t have to be written in stone and signed in blood, because, let’s face it, real life often interferes with our plans. A plan that has some amount of flex to it is probably the best way to approach goal setting that will succeed.

For instance, when I want to lose weight, I come up with a plan. I decide on a way to keep track of my calories, because i have found calorie counting the best thing for me. It holds me accountable and lets me see my progress. I download a fitness app on my phone. I use a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I also try to do more meal planning. As I said earlier, meal planning makes it easier to keep to a daily calorie goal.

Having a plan for any area of goal setting will help you succeed. Whether you make a daily plan, like keeping a list of things to do, or a weekly plan such as exercising three times or a monthly plan like getting rid of 10 items I no longer use, planning will produce results much more readily than no plan at all.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you develop a plan:

What do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this by?

How am I going to accomplish this?

What sort of resources do I need to invest in to accomplish this goal?

How will I handle failure?

That question leads me to my last point.

Handle Failure Positively

Failing at anything is hard. We live in a society that condemns failure and honors success. Obviously, success is the goal. We want to be successful at whatever goals we have, but the truth is that failure is inevitable. If your goal is to lose weight, you will fall off the wagon. You’ll have a bad day and give in to those cravings for ice cream. When your goal is to declutter because you have been binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you will end up at the mall scouring the sale racks at your favorite store, because things are marked down to less than five dollars. Maybe your goal is to be more patient with your family. Be assured they will push all your buttons before the day is over. This is real life.

One of my faithful subscribers said it best:

...instead of letting a day, or even a couple weeks, of a blown resolution or new effort derail us or cause us to give up completely, why not get up and get started again. Keep moving forward.
— Karen - SGM subscriber

We all need to hear things like this and this leads me to several thoughts about failure.

Failure thrives on Fear

Fear is perhaps one of the biggest factors in keeping us from getting back up and starting over when we have failed.

“I can’t do it. If I try, I’ll only fail again.”

Sound familiar? Stop being afraid. Failure is not your master! Many who have gone before us recognized this fact.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Chruchill
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas A. Edison
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

I could go on with amazing quotes from amazing people who went toe to toe with failure. Reading these encouraged my heart and I hope they do for you to. Failure is but a stepping stone to achieving the goals we have set. Start believing that.

Failure abhors Friendship

Have you ever noticed when we fail, we want to be alone in our misery and throw ourselves a little pity party? Surrounding ourselves with good friends can turn failure into fuel. As I stated early, I have several subscribers that often comment on my posts, sharing their enthusiasm for fashion or their struggles as they walk the road of life and faith. This means so much to me and gives me fuel to keep going, to keep trying, even when I fail.

You don’t have to have a boat load of friends to be fueled by your failure. One good friend, or your spouse can be the one to reach down when you have fallen to help you back up. If your support system is limited go to Jesus. I have certain scriptures I return to again and again, like old friends, when I need encouragement or help getting back up.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 8:1 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
— Job 23:10 (NASB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

I hope this series on changing our thoughts has been helpful to you. The things I have written about in this series are just my opinions. I am not a licensed counselor, just a woman who has dealt with the failure mind set in my own life. I write as much to myself as to you, so I hope this was helpful.

Have a wonderful weekend and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Stopping the Train Wreck

Over the course of the last few weeks I have been looking at how are thoughts can easily sabotage our efforts to form new habits, and be better people. Many of us, when we enter a new year want to reboot. We want to try again to tackle those extra pounds that we have cumulatively put on each holiday season. We want to go at those piles that pervasively appear in each and every room of our house. We want to be better people; more giving, kind and loving. Many of us begin a new regimen of exercise and dieting, clutter control and clearing out, and even invest in pod casts, books and other things to help us think and act differently. Why then, is it so hard to stick to it? Why after a few days, a few weeks, or if your are really good, a few months, do we typically fall off the wagon?

In my post of two weeks ago, When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck, I examined three mentalities, I believe, contribute to our inability to stick to our new habits. These three thought patterns include being self absorbed, demanding our rights and not caring. I’d like to reexamine these patterns and discuss ways to change our thoughts.

Being self-absorbed

As I mentioned in the original post, taking care of ourselves is not a bad thing. We need to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and stimulate our minds to give ourselves the best life. Being self-absorbed revolves around a preoccupation with certain ideas about ourselves. These can include thoughts that we do not measure up to some invisible standard that we think other people have set for us, and self-degrading messages like, “I’m too fat,” “I’m not good enough,” which can lead to self-destructive behaviors like cutting, addictions and even suicidal thoughts.

We all have self-absorbed thoughts from time to time. It is easy to get into that mind-set when life is hard and things are not going well. It is also easy to dress in this mind set when your past holds tragedy and pain. However, life cannot be lived to the fullest if we allow those things to imprison us.

I am not a professional counselor, but I’d like to suggest a few things that can help us to get out of the self-absorbed mind-set.

1 - Get Moving

This is partly about exercise and partly about behavior modification. Often when we get into an anxious or self-absorbed circuit, we are unable to get out of the loop. Much like a hamster running on his little wheel, our thoughts keep coming back around to the same loop. We revisit the destructive thought, the let down feeling, the disappointment in ourselves or others and round and round it goes.

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Pixabay

It is a well known fact that exercise has good effects on our brains. From increased oxygen flow and release of hormones to antidepressant effects that reduce stress hormones, exercise really is beneficial for the brain. Movement helps to get us out of the loop. It doesn’t have to be rigorous exercise. If you are sitting down, stand up. If you are standing still, move. If you are going north, turn around and go south. Every time those thoughts come creeping back in, move.

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Pixabay

I find walking very cathartic, when I am stressed. As I walk I do deep breathing and I purposefully force myself to look at the world around me, the neighborhood, the people, the trees, the snow, the icicles hanging from the roof tops. These simple things get me out of my self-absorbed loop and help me to think about other things. It also reminds me that the world is not coming to an end, even if it may seem like it today. As Scarlet O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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Pixabay

2 - Get help

You don’t necessarily need professional help, but if you do, or if others who care about you are recommending it, then do it. Otherwise, find a group of people to keep you accountable. Get an exercise and dieting buddy. Find someone who is going to accept you, but also encourage you to do better. Find an older person, who’s got life experience and ask them to mentor you and help you get out of your self-absorbed box. Or if you are an older person, who doesn’t have much human contact and your are still able to get around, volunteer at a dog shelter, a newborn unit at the hospital or a school. All of these things get us outside our own boxes.

3 - Seek and Speak Truth

You know all those side effects you think you have because you got on the internet and looked up the medication the doctor gave you?

“Stop it!”

In reality, the side effects that are put on medications are put there to keep pharmaceutical companies from getting sued. The reality is the statistics on people who die or have severe reactions to medication are rare. It is an exception, not the norm. The same is true for so many aspects of life. As the saying goes, “Sh-t happens.” This is true, but most of the bad things that we think are going to happen, don’t. In addition, many of the bad things that happen to us we bring upon ourselves. Start researching what is true.

In addition start speaking truth:

“I am not perfect, but I am beautiful.”

“I don’t have a college degree, but I am smart.”

“I haven’t published a book yet, but I am not a failure.”

“I got mad at my husband, but I am a good wife who has bad days.”

“I yelled at my kids, but I am a good mom, even when I my hormones have me off kilter.”

Keep it real.

Demanding Our Rights

Once again, having rights is not a bad thing and an ideal that our founding fathers believed was very important for communities and nations to survive and thrive. However, the thought that the world owes us something is not truthful or beneficial. The mentality of, get it all and get it now, is also not an accurate way to approach life. How do we cope with these entitlement feelings we all have struggled with and still act like a caring, giving individuals?

1 - Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

There is no greater preventative to a rights demanding mentality, than to put yourself in someone else’s place. Being in the service industry I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I don’t even think people realize how rude and obnoxious they are at times. I have had helicopter parents demand that their child’s book be given to them free because it wasn’t on the shelf when they came in to purchase it. I have had people accuse me of racism because when I explained the parameters of their rental book I told them they couldn’t spill their lunch on it. I tell this to every individual I rent a book to. At the end of the day, I am just another person trying to make my way in the world, just like everyone else.

When I feel like my rights are being infringed upon, or that I am being taken advantage of, I try to look at things with new glasses; someone else’s glasses. Thinking about where another person is coming from, not only enables us to view the world differently, but it may even move us to have compassion on another person. You never know what another person is dealing with in their life. They might be dealing with deep hurt or disappointment, or they may be experiencing grief, illness or pain. Having compassion and empathy gets us out of our rights loop and enables us to be better, more understanding individuals.

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Pixabay

2 - Recognize Rights Mean Responsibility

Having a right, does not give us a free pass to do whatever we want. In fact, having rights, means having responsibility. People who are for the right to bear arms, understand that owning guns means they are responsible to handle those guns safely and teach others that gun ownership requires safe handling and being responsible to use them wisely.

Many people think that demanding rights is a way to guarantee their freedom to choose to do whatever they want. The opposite is, in fact, true. Having rights means we are enslaved to the responsibility of using those rights for good, not merely personal gain.

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So what does this have to do with our thought patterns and becoming better people. My daughter and I have both struggled with our weight. We both love food, especially things that are full of carbs. Bread, sweets, chips are all on our radar of things we love. At one point my daughter said she wanted to be able to eat whatever she wanted. You might think that being able to eat whatever you want is true freedom. However, true freedom lies in the ability to make the better choice. Even if we were able to eat whatever we wanted and never gain weight, does that make it right?

True freedom is the ability to not be bound by our appetites, whether it be food, sex, money, popularity, alcohol, Netflix or any other thing that can become an obsession.

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
— Virginia Wolf

Not Caring

It is easy to get into the mindset of not caring. When life gets busy, or overwhelming, sometimes it is easier to just give up. Who cares if I eat that whole bag of Twizzlers? I don’t care if my coworkers like me? I’m failing that class, so what?

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Pixabay

Take a look at a few of these quotes:

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.
— Margaret Mead
Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.
— H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.
— Anthony J. D'Angelo

It is important to care. Often, we just need to revisit the why behind the what. In other words, ask yourself why you should care.

Why should you care about your health? Because you are a valuable person who probably has others depending on you and who care about you.

Why should you care what your coworkers think? Because you are part of a team. You can have a positive impact on the people you work with if you care.

Why should you care about your grades at school? Because every choice you make now, will affect the choices you make in the future.

Start thinking about why you should care and maybe that will reignite your ability to care.

Next week will be the final installment in this series on New Year, New Mind. I’ll be looking at setting goals and how to realistically keep them. I will also have some spiritual insights as well. I hope you like this look at renewing our minds. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Have a fantastic weekend and to all my northern and midwest friends, stay warm!

New Year, New Mind

I thought it would be beneficial to start 2019 with a series about our minds. Depending on how you feel right now, you might be thinking there won’t be much to talk about, because after the holidays there is not much going on in my tired brain. Ha, ha. However, as much as it feels that way, our minds are always busy, not only working around the clock to keep us going physically, but also working to keep us going mentally and emotionally.

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When I was young, I used to think emotions were a part of us, but just sort of came out of nowhere. When I finally was taught that the brain actually has an emotional center, called the amygdala, I realized that God did, indeed, create our brains to process emotions. It is fascinating that the amygdala, which is a tiny, pea-sized, part of the brain, plays such a huge part in our lives. It is also interesting to me that the hippocampus, which is the main center for processing memories, is right next to the amygdala. If you think about it, most of our memories center around emotions.

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Pixabay

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about our physical health. Most of us begin new routines, hoping to take off the pounds we put on at the holidays and get into a diet and exercise regimen that will lead to improved health. We also try to begin new habits, like a weekly cleaning routine for our homes or getting rid of clutter. This might also be a good time to think about our mental and emotional health. How often do you start a routine, with enthusiasm and motivation, only to have it stall out in just a few weeks? I know for me, this is more about my thought patterns than it is my ability to get up earlier to exercise.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
— Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

Have you ever had any of these thoughts cross your mind after a few weeks of trying to diet or take control of the clutter in your home:

I’ll just skip today. I’m too tired to exercise.

I’m stressed out, so I am going to eat this ice cream to feel better.

Life is too busy to go to the gym.

Why bother?

I can’t do this?

I won’t do this?

I have all of these thoughts, and more, on a fairly regular basis. The common factor in all of this is my mindset. If I am not sold out on doing something, I won’t do it. For that matter, even if I believe, and know, that it is something beneficial, I still won’t succeed, because my mind comes up with excuses or rationals for why I can’t or won’t. Our minds can sabotage our efforts before we even get started. My husband has a saying at this time of year, “My resolution is to not make any resolutions.” His reasoning is sound, he is a logic professor after all. Why make resolutions that are not going to be kept? Why set yourself up for failure and disappointment?

I believe that our minds are meant to know God and when they do, they delight in obeying His law. God’s law would include things that are beneficial for our well being, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Unfortunately, because we walk in the flesh we walk through life carrying a battlefield in our minds. We struggle to do what is right and good and best, but often fall short. Paul, the Apostle, fully understood this conundrum.

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
— Romans 7:22-24 (ESV)

Next week, I would like to delve into a few of the thought patterns that go on in our minds that easily thwart our efforts for self-improvement and can even be counter active and destructive. Until then, I’d like us to take this next week to think about what we think about. What are the regular thought patterns that go on in your head? What voices do you hear over and over? What sorts of thoughts set you up for failure? And finally, what do you think might be ways to turn those thoughts around?

I’d love to hear your feedback on the thought patterns you struggle with. Leave me your ideas in the comments.

Until then, have a great week!

Clean Up

My least favorite part of the holidays is what comes after the fact. After the gifts are all unwrapped there are bags of wrapping paper to get rid of. After the Christmas feast has been eaten, there are leftovers to put away and dishes to be washed. After everyone has gone home, there are the feelings of let down and melancholy to sweep under a rug, until a later time at which you can process them.

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Pixabay

No one really likes the clean up aspects of life. Babies are adorable, but cleaning their stinky bottoms is not any mom’s favorite thing to do. Garbage collectors, probably don’t love their jobs, especially when the sun is hot and food waste is rotting in cans and dumpsters. Just ask any relief worker what they love most about helping victims of natural disasters. It probably involves the smiles and hugs they get for their help, not the digging through building rubble to find possible lost children or pets.

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Pixabay

As a child, any one of us probably remembers being told to clean our room. Oh my goodness. You might as well be asking a fish to fly or a bird to swim. We thought the task was impossible, but we grudgingly went about our business. Truth be told, I always loved it when my room was clean and even now, when all the laundry and dishes are done and the house is not a complete cluttered mess, I feel so much more at ease.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The funny thing about cleaning is that is has to be done. If no one ever took a bath or shower; if no one collected the garbage or tried to recycle; if mom’s didn’t take care of their little babies’ bottoms, the world would be a very messy, smelly place. It is in those types of conditions that illness, disease and parasites prevail and thrive. Who hasn’t seen a garbage can full of maggots in the hot summer time? Or how about a baby’s bottom when they have not been changed or cleaned and cared for….the poor little one. Their tender skin becomes red, inflamed and itchy.

What does all this talk of cleaning up have to do with the holidays, besides being a place where I can unload my burden as a woman who sometimes tries to do it all? Ha, ha.

It has to do with Jesus.

What?

Yeah, you heard me!

Jesus.

Pixabay - garden

Genesis 1 talks about a world that God created. A perfect world, where the need for garbage collectors and recycling was nonexistent. There was a balance and harmony between God, the created world, man and woman. There was no trash, and no trash talking. There was no disease, no rot and certainly no wrapping paper to burn or dishes to wash. Ahhhh. What a beautiful world. Ha, ha

How did we get to this messy, trash filled, smelly world we now call home?

Sin.

Adam and Eve, with the prodding of a sultry serpent decided that the perfect, trash-less world God had created wasn’t enough. They wanted to be more. More knowledgable, more beautiful, more in control and it led to the mess we have all been cleaning up after, ever since.

Let’s face it, the mess goes way beyond just the physical ramifications that came about in nature. The dog eat dog mentality suddenly became a reality and ever since then we are the custodians of a mess that has grown proportionally to the laundry monster that so often takes over my basement floor. It grows and grows. We clean it up. It grows and grows. We clean it up. The mess has taken over our earth, our bodies, our relationships and our souls.

How do we get out of this mess?

Back to the beginning.

The baby Jesus.

The whole point of Jesus birth was not so we could celebrate Christmas with pretty lights, trees and gifts. The point was clean up. Our relationship with our Creator became skewed. We no longer could walk with Him in the garden. No. Sin and our choice to do it became the deep gap between God and His creation. Jesus was the only one who could bridge that gap. It was His blood, shed on the cross that became the river that purified our world.

Pixabay

Pixabay

So why then, do we still have so much clean up that needs to be done. Why all the ripple effects of poor choices, bad relationships and selfish living? Why, when Jesus died, didn’t things just go back to the way they were in the garden?

Because clean up is a choice.

Have you ever noticed how family members suddenly become preoccupied or have to leave when it is time to tackle that mountain of dishes? Does your husband hand you the baby when that aroma fills the air? Are you ever guilty of just throwing containers away because you don’t want to have to clean that moldy goo out of it and then have to wash it?

Jesus made everything right, but we have to recognize what He did and accept it. In other words we have to believe. We have to believe in who Jesus was and is and we have to believe in what He did and why it was done. We also have to choose to let Him clean up all of our messes. That can be painful.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Standing at the sink as I was washing dishes on Christmas day I was already tired, but it was then I really noticed how my back hurt, my feet hurt and the exhaustion weighed on me like a led blanket. Cleaning up is never pleasant. Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and really scrub with all your might. That is what Jesus came to do in our lives.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are times He is scrubbing with all His might to remove those stubborn stains from our hearts. It hurts. Often it weighs heavily on us. We have chosen to be clean, but we never knew it was going to be so hard. But He does it, because it is His Father’s will and because He loves us. Jesus knew that it is only by cleaning the heart that changes will be obvious on the outside.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
— Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 2:21 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want to be useful to the master and ready for every good work. In order to do that, I have to let Jesus clean me up.

As we head into a new year, it might be a good time to look inward and ask Jesus to show you where some clean up needs to be done. Is it in your thought life, your attitudes, activities you are participating in, or maybe you aren’t crusted up with dirt, but you have allowed yourself to get dusty and you need Him to come in and polish you up.

Maybe you are reading this, but don’t share my faith. There are still things you might need to clean up in your life. Look at your eating habits, what you view or who you hang out with. Are these things making you a better, more useful person or have you become like that pile of dirty dishes, unusable and crusty?

Take some time to clean up today.

The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

A Belief that Leads to Commitment

Commitment seems to be a thing of the past. How many people do you know that are going through divorces, or never made the marriage leap in the first place? How often do you run across people who have changed jobs more times than you can count or who have alienated their families due to disagreements or just different ways of looking at things? It seems that the concept of being committed, whether to a person, a job, the pursuit of a dream or a belief is becoming a way of thinking and living that is no longer looked upon as attainable.

Pixabay

Pixabay

In relationships, people might struggle with commitment issues due to factors from their past, feelings from the present or fear of the future. It may be hard to make a commitment, when you grew up in a home that was affected by messy divorce. Anxiety over meeting new people, starting a new job or traveling to a new place might keep people from committing to a new significant other, applying for a job or moving to find a better economic situation. Often, it is easier to commit to what is already known, ie. a bad relationship, a lousy job or comfortable bad habits, than to change to something new.

I came across this quote from My Utmost for His Highest when I was reading today.

To believe is to commit. In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally, and reject anything not related to that belief. In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally to my convictions and refuse to compromise. But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.
— My Utmost for His Highest - Oswald Chambers - November 6th


What I find fascinating and eye opening about these few sentences is that it seems to be easier to make a commitment in the first two areas, than in the third. When it comes to intellectual learning, I live with a philosophy professor. There are few who are as committed to intellectual learning as those who have studied the works of people long dead, like Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. Learning is an activity that many commit themselves to, but we must ask the question are we more committed to intellectual pursuits than to people?

Pixabay

Pixabay

Getting an education is important. Parents often push their children to do well in school and go on to college so they can have a career, get a good job and support themselves. However, I bet everyone of us knows a young adult who just can’t seem to make it in college, or who would rather start a band in their garage, than spend all that money to go to college where they end up with boat loads of debt and no guarantee of a job afterwards. I understand. More than a few young people have worked to get a degree and end up being a server at a restaurant because it pays better.

When we start talking about personal belief and committing ourselves to our convictions, I think that this too can be easier to actualize than making a commitment to a person. We hear get all sorts of input about people’s convictions. Many times convictions become a battle ground for differing opinions, which we have seen can lead to anger and even violence. Having personal convictions and beliefs are also important, but are they more important than having relationships?

When Oswald spoke about intimate personal belief, he suggests something more than an intellectual pursuit or a personal conviction. He is talking about a relationship. He says that when we have that intimate personal belief we are committing ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Let’s take a closer look at some of the words used in this quote:

Intimate - Webster’s online dictionary defines this word in these ways:

- marked by a warm friendship developed through long association

- informal warmth or privacy

- engaged in, involving, or marked by sex or sexual relations

- of a very personal or private nature

- marked by very close associate, contact or familiarity

These are not the actions of people who don’t have some sort of relationship.

When we talk about intimate belief we are talking about belief in a person, or in this case Jesus, who is trustworthy and with whom we are able to be ourselves.

Commit - Websters gives these definitions:

- to carry into action deliberately

- obligate or bind

- to put into charge or trust

- to obligate or pledge oneself

Pixabay

Pixabay

When we commit to Jesus we are pledging ourselves to Him. This is not about our convictions or what we have learned or know. This commitment is a matter of choice and a matter of trust. In a sense we are to bind ourselves to Him.

Spiritually - Usually when we hear this word we think of that which is not physical. Typically we associate the term spiritual with things related to church, heaven, hell and the soul. As Christ followers most of us believe that we have a spirit and there is a Holy Spirit, who acts in accordance with the will of God the Father and who also translates the person of Christ into our own spirits. Spirituality is thought, by most to be a very intimate part of who we are. This would concur with Chamber’s idea that we are to commit ourselves spiritually, to Christ. This is the most intimate way to commit ourselves to another person.

Determine - When we determine to do something we are making a decision. This decision is come to after thought and contemplation. Usually, when we determine something it is because we have come to believe that this particular choice is what we want and what is best for us. We determine to eat better, exercise or get more sleep. We determine to not let anxiety run our lives. We determine to change, improve or become a better person.

In the same way when we commit to Jesus in spiritual intimacy we have made a choice that involves a relationship with Him. What follows in Oswald’s quote may make the hackles on your neck go up, but here it is.

Dominated - Oswald says that we are determined to be dominated by Christ alone. We hear this word most often in association with something negative. Women are dominated by men. Children are dominated by bullies. Third world countries are dominated by power hungry leaders. I’m sure given enough time we could come up with a long list of who’s dominating whom.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Is Oswald loopy to think that we should determine to be dominated by Christ alone? I think not. I completely agree with him. Who better to dominate us than one who truly has our best interests at heart. This is not a domination as a dictator trying to turn us into mindless zombies. On the contrary, domination by Christ is a life of truest bliss and freedom.

The question then is this, do you have an intimate personal belief that has lead you to commit? I am using this in relation to our spiritual nature, but this could also be true in everyday life. Being committed to a person in a relationship, whether in marriage, as a parent or a child or in our friendships must come from an intimate personal belief that this person we are committed to is valuable. This holds true in our jobs or as we go about our busy lives. Every person we come into contact with has value and it is our belief that will determine how we commit to treating others.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
— Psalm 37:5 (ESV)
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
— Psalm 31:5 (ESV)
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)













Ready to Die

Dust and smoke rose into the air, creating a haze so thick the sun could barely penetrate. They had been fighting for days. Days that seemed to go on forever. They would push forward, but the enemy's forces always seemed able to push them back. She thought they were prepared for this battle. Her father, the King had thought they were ready, but now she wasn't so sure he had been right.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The enemy soldiers were not like any other she had fought. They had battled against them previously, but something had happened in those months since that prince of darkness had taken her daughter. She wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was because they were in his territory. Maybe it was due to the long journey their own army had to traverse to get here. Whatever, it was, she did not feel confident in their ability to win this battle. 

The thought made her cringe. How could she even be thinking these thoughts. She had never struggled with doubt before. She always had been confident in her Father's abilities as both a King and a commander. Now, however, doubts seem to plague her like some sort of blister on her foot and she had a lot of those. Her feet hurt. Her legs were stiff and her arms felt like lead. Fatigue filled her being from toes to fingertips.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Now, her small battalion was surrounded. She was not even sure how it happened. They began the day's fighting in the clear, but now they were backed up against a canyon wall. They were hemmed in on every side. The only thing that kept them from being slaughtered was that they were on the high ground. Every time the enemy tired to attack, they sent a volley of arrows flying and the enemy retreated, but their arrows were running out. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

"Your highness?" One of her men had come up behind her.

"Yes?"

"We only have enough arrows for one more attack...then..."

She knew the time had come. She had to make the choice to surrender or to go down fighting. She turned to face the soldier.

"I want you to bring the men together. I want to speak to them."

The soldier nodded, bowed and quickly left her.

She went to her knees. "Father, I know you cannot hear me, but wherever you are, I want you to know how much I love you and how much I look up to you. I know that I have been angry, frustrated and impatient in this mission to rescue my child, but you have never wavered and for that I am thankful. I know there is no way out of this. My child might be dead and soon that will be my fate as well, but I will never surrender to that vile, son of filth. I will go down fighting. Thank you for never giving up on me."

Tears, brimmed her eyes. She clenched her fists rising to her feet. Turning, she went to where the men were assembled. She was shocked at how very few of them were left. She stood before them, her head high.

"I would like to offer you hope. The hope that I give you is not hope for life, but hope to die with honor. Today, we are going to die, but you have a choice in how you do it. You can go out cowering, or you can go out, sword in hand, taking as many of those cursed vermin as possible before you fall. If you do that, I will be proud. If you do that, my father will be proud."

Her voice grew loud and her words were clear. "Today, let us die, for the sake of our King!"

She raised her sword and the men raised their's, voices matching hers; a chorus of rebellion they hoped the enemy would hear.  

It was not long before they saw the dust of their enemies' horses, filling the small valley below their sacrificial high ground. She instructed the men to form two lines. The first line was made up of the remaining archers. They went down on one knee, nocking their arrows as they did. The second line was made up of what was left of the battalion. She knew they had no chance, but they would die with honor, fighting for their King, her father. 

"Hold steady archers!" Her voice rang out even as the noise rose ushered in by the approaching chaos. "Hold until I give the order!"

Closer the dust came and along with it the sound of pounding hooves, a battalion of enemy riders bringing death.

Her heart beat rose and sweat mingled with the dirt and grime trickling down her neck. It felt itchy. Funny, she thought, the things one thinks about before one dies. 

Suddenly, the sky seemed to turn dark. She lifted her eyes up and saw shadows coursing through the sky over her head. She felt confused, but then those shadows became the solid forms of horses and their riders. Her heart sank. They were surrounded...

But wait! Those riders wore the King's colors!

Her men looked just as confused as she felt, but more and more shadows flew overhead, diving straight into the approaching storm. She heard a shout.

"Daughter!"

Pixabay

Pixabay

A dusty figure on his steady mount appeared behind her. It was her father, the King.

He smiled at her, then held down his hand. Pulling her up onto his horse, he commanded others of his battalion to take up her remaining men. Once all the were mounted with other soldiers, the King raised his hand and his voice.

"This ends now!"

(This was a fictional work by Amy D. Christensen)

*     *     *     *     *      *

This fictional work is meant to remind you, when all seems lost, the King is behind you. When the dust storm of the approaching enemy brings you to the end of yourself, the King is above you. When you are severely outnumbered and you have very little left to fight with, the King is diving in ahead of you. He will be there for you, every day, every hour, every battle and especially when you finally lay down your weapons and face the last enemy of death. 

....I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:20 (NASB)

For the other parts in this fictional series, click on the links below. 

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

Part 3: Waiting

 

 

Too Tired to Cope

The other day my grandson and husband were having a pillow fight. The giggling and verbal noises got rather silly and loud, when all of a sudden I hear my hubby say, "What happened, did the pillow get you in the eye?" I went in to see what was up and my grandson was in a fetal position on the couch, tears running down his face. After trying to get him to calm down and looking at his eye, I determined no real damage was done, other than some amount of pillow fuzz that his eye would eventually wash out naturally. However, my grandson could not stop crying. I tried to console him and asked him if there was something else bothering him and all I could get out of him was, "I don't know," with more tears. Finally, I made him lay down on the couch and left him alone, to try to let him sort out his own issues. He fell asleep!

Pixabay

Pixabay

Have you ever felt that way? As though something terrible has happened, when in reality the worse part of your day was eating that ice cream sandwich when you were really trying to be good on your diet? Often, life gets brutal and we get a poke in the eye and anyone who's been through it, knows that is not pleasant. Usually, we just keep blinking and get on with our busyness without really taking stock of how tired or worn down we might be. Little kids seem to get it. They know when they are tired and they've had enough they need to take a nap...often they don't want to and usually as parents we can tell and promptly lay them down for a much needed rest. Unfortunately, when children get older, they abhor naps, even though they still might need one once in a while. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The same is true of us as adults. We go and go and go and go. Even when tragedy strikes we keep moving, doing, working, puttering, just so we don't have to face the shadows of our back stories. We have all manner of struggles, from childhood abuse, to rebellion in our own children, to grief from the sudden loss of a loved one. Here in the U.S. we have a tendency to not let our vulnerability show. I've noticed this in my grandson. If he's hurt, he usually shakes it off and says, "I'm fine!" So often we don't want to admit that, yes, it does hurt and it hurts so bad that I don't know if I will ever recover. Unfortunately, the way to rest, peace and a better life is being willing to admit when we are weak.

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
— Psalm 127:2 (NASB)

Take a closer look at this verse from Psalm 127. Rest is so important. Last week I talked about mental exhaustion, but today's thought is with regard to actual physical exhaustion. What this verse seems to be telling us is that even in our sleep God is ministering to us.

I don't sleep as well as I used to. I used to lay down and I would be out before my hubby even turned off the light. He has never been a good sleeper. Now that I have more nights tossing and turning or getting up to use the bathroom, I am beginning to see the toll that lack of good sleep has on a person. God has His reasons for what He does. Maybe as we age, He wakes us up to move us to pray. It seems there are always people to pray for. Or maybe it is that He wants our complete and total dependence. I know on those days that I don't sleep well, I am constantly going back to the verse:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

I like knowing that when I am asleep, He is giving to me. What a blessing.

There are no easy answers to this thing we call life and the fatigue we often feel as we are traveling this road, but there are things we can do to help.

PIxabay

PIxabay

1. Make taking care of yourself a priority

I get it ladies. We often give and give and give, until we are dead on our feet, but not taking the time to care for ourselves might lead to someone else having to take care of us. How should i take care of myself? By doing things physically, mentally and emotionally that will benefit you.  Exercise, eating well, getting enough rest (that may mean sleep or it may not, but at least resting), do things you enjoy...sew, read, swim, dance, listen to music, write, get together with friends, watch a movie, go for a walk. There are many things we can do to feel better and take time for ourselves. 

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2. Be honest with yourself and others.

Don't kid yourself. If you are tired, admit it. If you are sad, embrace it. If you are angry, stomp your feet and yell at the sky. Be real with yourself and let the people who love and care about you know what is going on. I have a tendency to keep silent when things are bothering me. I also, tend to keep pushing even when I am tired. Letting my spouse or my daughters know when I need a break or even getting them involved in making myself a priority is helpful. My older daughter and I go for walks with her dogs. My husband has learned to listen to my rants, and my younger daughter, not only thanks me for all the babysitting I do, but she tries to find alternatives when she needs extra help.

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3. Don't carry guilt.

Guilt is meant to be associated with sin. If you have done something wrong, then you should feel guilty, but taking time for yourself is not cause for guilt. Believe me, I know, people will try to make you feel guilty. The world tries to make us feel guilty. We are surrounded by the fabric of "not enough" day in and day out, but that is not from God. The guilt we have when we lie, or cheat, or hurt someone is deserved, but the guilt we feel for going out to eat instead of cooking dinner after a long day, or for a piles of laundry, dirty toilets and stacks of dishes is not worth the energy or time of feeling guilty. 

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4. Don't second guess God.

How much energy do you put into wondering if you did the right thing? I find this rather amusing, and I am guilty of doing it myself. We second guess God. "Are you sure this is what you want me to do?" "Aren't I supposed to be doing something besides being a mom, a housewife or working this job?"

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This quote is very appropriate to the idea that even though we may mess up, God is still the one calling the shots. Perhaps we would feel more rested if we just rest in Him rather than trying to take responsibility for everyone and everything. 

I hope this day will offer you the opportunity to rest, relax and recharge physically, mentally and emotionally. And if you find yourself crying for seemingly no reason, maybe it is time to take a nap. 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

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Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

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We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

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I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

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This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door. 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

This month as I continue to look at the armor of God we are going to talk about shoes! As a fashion blogger, I love shoes of all sorts, whether it be sandals, boots, heels or flats, I love to have a variety of shoes to go with the variety of outfits that I post and talk about. 

I find it interesting that God mentions our feet when talking about His armor. 

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
— Ephesians 6:15 (NASB)

There are several important points that we can pull from this simple verse.

1) We are supposed to have our feet covered. Seeing as it is summer I am sure most of you have made the run to your mail box without any shoes on. When I was a child we spent most of our time outside in bare feet. Our feet became tough and we could walk just about anywhere. I don't go without shoes, or at least flip flops, anymore. Time has made my feet soft and age has made me less tolerant of pain. Ha, ha. God made a provision for our journey in life, in the armor He gave to us. Our feet need to be covered, because we need to keep walking and keep fighting. We wouldn't get far at all if our feet were not in working order.

2) We are to be prepared. The word preparation implies that we are to do some training or making ready in advance. When speaking in terms of military readiness, our soldiers go through weeks of intensive training. They also learn additional skills about tactics, weapons and psychological readiness. I am sure many vets will tell you, even with the training they had, they still weren't prepared for the horrors of real warfare. 

We are directed in the Bible to be prepared, not only for Spiritual warfare as is being discussed in this passage in Ephesians, but to give an account for why we have hope.

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
— I Peter 3:15 (NASB)

 What exactly is this hope that we have? What exactly are we, as Christ followers, supposed to be prepared with? 

3) The gospel of peace. I'd actually like to break this phrase into two separate pieces. 

a. The gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news. Christ followers believe that we are all sinners and all fall short of measuring up to God's perfect standard. Because of this there had to be a sacrifice made to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. Jesus Christ bridged that gap. By committing our lives to Him we are able to enter into God's presence and have fellowship with Him. When we share the gospel, we are sharing the fact that Jesus paid the price that we ourselves should have paid and by believing in His work on the cross and His resurrection we can and will be with God. John 3:16 is the gospel in a nut shell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

b. ...of peace. I love that the word peace is included with this piece of armor. Jesus came so that we might have peace with God.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
— Romans 5:1 (NASB)

However, it doesn't end there. The idea that this piece of armor is for the feet implies that we are taking it with us wherever we go. We don't put on our shoes to get into bed. We put them on so that we can go out of the house to work, shop, play and the many other things we do throughout a day or a week. For us, the gospel is to be an integral part of everywhere we go and everything we do. Not just the good news, but the peace that the good news brings.

In a world of unrest we all need a little peace, not only for ourselves, but for those we work with, hang with, and encounter on a regular basis. You would be amazed how responding with a peaceful and loving attitude can diffuse a volatile situation.

As we go forward this week, let's be prepared by having having our feet ready with the gospel of peace, so that we might have opportunity to share the good news and bring His peace to all we encounter. 

You can see the first 5 parts of this Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18 by clicking on each of the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5