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.

Image by  Annalise Batista  from  Pixabay

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!



How Do We Bloom, When Life is Tough?

I think as women we spend much of our time over thinking things. Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Is what I'm doing making a difference? How does my life count? What sort of legacy am I going to leave behind? Am I worthwhile? Am I enough? 

For this particular post I am not going to address all those other questions we ask ourselves: What am I going to make for dinner? Does my spouse really love me? Are my kids listening to me? Am I too fat? Am I pretty? You get the idea and I am sure you could add your own list of questions.

petunias

You have probably heard the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted." It has been around for a while. I found an interesting article on Huffington Post written in 2014. You can see that article here. The author, Smita Malhotra, MD has a basic premise; that we can live a full life no matter what situation we find ourselves in if we just practice four things:

1. (Remember) Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through concrete.

To thoroughly understand where she is coming from it would be good to read her article. What I would like to do is use that as a spring board for us, specifically as wives, mothers, and grandmothers. You all know it is true, motherhood and sometimes being a wife is a thankless job.  I'm sure there are those who would say, If you teach your children properly, they will be thankful. While this is true, the hard bits of motherhood are not easily understood until experienced. 

I think there are several scriptural ideas that we need to be reminded of to enable us to better bloom where we are planted. 

1. God is in control. I know we all say it. It rolls off our tongues as easily as water, but how many of us actually believe it? It's okay to be honest. I have a hard time with it myself. Didn't the disciples struggle with believing He was in control those dark hours after Jesus was crucified then laid in the tomb? Read through the Psalms. David questioned God on more than one occasion.

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
— Psalm 10:1 (NASB)

But he always came back to the fact that God was in control.

The Lord is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.
O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
— Psalm 10:16-17

Perhaps that is part of the problem. We let ourselves go through hours, days and even weeks of wandering, worrying and hand-wringing, when really all we need to do is exactly what David did. Bring it back to God. 

2. God is trustworthy. There is an element to trust that must be akin to jumping out of the airplane. Let go! When it comes to our kids and our grandkids, we want to be able to keep them from all evil, but frankly evil happens. Our wishing it away, or ignoring it, is not going to keep bad things from happening. However, we can choose to place our trust in the One who is higher than I. 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

The Psalmist again, questions God's goodness at the beginning of the Psalm. This is showing us, it is okay to feel these difficult emotions. The worry, stress, fear, anger, are all part of being human in a fallen world. 

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6 (NASB)

By the end of the Psalm, which isn't very long, the psalmist remembers who God is, and that He is faithful. He makes a choice to not allow his thoughts to stay on the despair and agony page. He is confident that God is trustworthy.

3. Thankfulness makes a difference. I can't say this enough. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book on the subject, called One Thousand Gifts. Go to Amazon and type in books on gratitude to see the list that pops up. Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote Choosing Gratitude. For perspectives that are not strictly Christian there is also, The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Daily Gratitude by National Geographic. Thankfulness can transform our minds and our lives. It is, after all, commanded in God's word.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

4. Get positive. I wanted to differentiate this from being thankful because I think there is more to bringing our thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, than just thankfulness. Thankfulness is a huge part of it, but we can forget to be thankful, or we can express gratitude and then quickly move on to something else that is wearing away at our peace. God's word expresses this idea of positivity in the book of Philippians.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

This verse comes after verses 4-7 which talk about rejoicing, not being anxious and the peace of God. This verse brings the whole idea of positive thinking into fine focus. We are to be thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent and worthy of praise. Start measuring your thought life up against that list. Would you say your thoughts are mostly positive or are you seeing some work that needs to be done? 

Positivity can come from music, good books, uplifting movies, non-toxic friendships, exercise, getting out in nature, owning a pet and of course things like going to church and reading God's word. 

mirror

There are times when I look at my reflection in the mirror and I talk out loud to myself. I tell myself I am valuable, loved with an everlasting love and beautiful. I also tell myself that most of the worries I have are never going to happen, so just chill. Sometimes, I pray out loud, doing battle with the enemy and hearing myself say it makes me realize I have the power of God available to me at all times. I love to go for walks and when I do, I try to thank God for the beauty of the world around me, even on a gray day. 

Blooming where we are planted is basically the ability to be the person God wants you to be no matter where you are at any point in your life. You might not think you are blooming, let alone thriving, but try to remember whose you are and that He's got it all figured out. Then just lean into Him. He will help you to grow through the toughest concrete out there. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Waking Up from Our Black Sleep

In all areas of life, remaining static is not an option. One of the grocery stores I shop at has a small rise in the middle of the parking lot. As much as I try to not park there, I still seem to end up at the top of that small rise. You can guess what happens when I get my cart to the car and try to open the trunk. The cart starts to roll away. Those who say multitasking is really not a very efficient way to do things have never seen a 52 year old grandma fling open the car trunk, hang onto the cart and stuff the bags of groceries inside. Multitasking is essential. In the same way growth is essential in our lives. Life, so often, is like a juggling act, one that takes off even as we struggle to hang on, just like my gravity bound cart. If we do not make purposeful choices to grow, life will get away from us.

Growth in our Christian lives should always be our goal. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but no, we have not arrived and we never will until we meet Jesus in the air. We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be Christ-like (Philippians 2:1). We are to do whatever we do for the Lord, rather than men (Colossians 3:23). Unless you know of some special pill we can take to make us instantaneously Christ-like, we have to grow.

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

It sounds so simple. You've heard sayings such as, "Bloom where you are planted," and "Sew seeds of love." So quaint. So easy. Not! True growth is like exercise: repetitive, grueling discipline. Wanting to do better, go higher and be more is a choice. And most often, not an easy one. Paul spoke in Philippians 2:12 of working out our salvation. Notice in the verse there is a four letter word - work. Work implies effort, but it also implies reward. When God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and tending the garden (see Genesis 2) he was rewarded, not only with a beautiful companion, but with the satisfaction of his effort.

Some of you may be gardeners. I like to play with flowers and plants. I find something richly satisfying about getting my hands dirty. I love the feel of the soil in my hands and the tearing of weeds from their deeper holds. This comparison transfers easily to our Christian growth as well. Is is satisfying to read God's word with attention and understanding. It can be enriching to find a church home where you can have fellowship and teaching with other like-minded individuals.

Think of growth like a river. As long as the river flows freely, growth and health are taking place. When the river hits debris in its path, it may become backed up resulting in a stagnant, murky pool. Do you want to be a stagnant and murky Christian? Or do you want to allow Christ's Spirit to flow freely, directing your life and taking you where He wants you to go?

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

Is growth necessary? Absolutely! Examine your life and ask Jesus to show you where you need to grow. Maybe your prayer life is weak or nonexistent. Maybe you have secluded yourself because you have been hurt. Take steps to reconnect with those who care about you. Maybe you feel God calling you to get back into His word. Why not start a Bible study with other women at a coffee shop? Even in our wilderness wanderings, we still need to grow. In fact, it is often in these times of loss, loneliness and suffering that we have the most opportunity for growth, but it is up to us.

If you were a tiny seed or a bulb, down in the dark earth, you would not think to question, "Gee, should I grow this year?" As soon as the earth started to warm in the spring sun, an energy would fill you with urgency to push yourself up and out of that black sleep, to rise and bloom. We are the crown of His creation. If a little seed can be transformed into a beautiful plant then we too need to push ourselves our of our black sleep and grow.