Archives

Pursuing Holiness

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

© Depositphotos/ PetarPaunchev

I didn’t grow up going to church. I did, however, grow up hearing about church, and what I heard wasn’t very good. “It’s full of hypocrites, judgmental people who just want your money.” It was all a farce.

So here I am, a Christian, loving God, Jesus and the church He built. Why? How could I go from being taught the “church” is for fools to becoming the church myself?

People are people.

You don’t need to go to church to be judged. That happens in our own families. You don’t need to go to church to experience others hypocrisy. That happens in our places of work. You don’t have to go to church to be asked for money. That happens with our schools, sports programs, and countless non-profits.

We find these people at church because that’s just how people are. We are all pursuing something and we use the means we know to achieve what’s important to us, what we think we really want. In our brokenness we use and misuse the emotions and understanding God gives us. And if we are not careful, we will pursue what’s temporary and short-lived rather than what will last forever.

God is God.

I don’t go to church because of who people are. I go because of who God is. The church is not a building or a place we go. Church is the coming together of those who follow Jesus. In our brokenness we encourage and love one another. We support each other in our pursuit of Christ. And while not everyone who goes to church fully understands the temporary versus eternal, over time the pursuit becomes more clear.

The Pursuit of Holiness

I used to think of holiness as a vague, hard to understand religious term. What exactly is holiness and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? Is it about being perfect or following some set list of rules? And who decides what is perfect or on this list? Hopefully, it’s not the broken people at church.

In pursuing holiness, we are actually pursuing Jesus. It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can even want to pursue holiness. Jesus has set the standard, not the people at church, and it’s too high for us to achieve in our brokenness. We cannot be perfect in this lifetime and yet, in Him, we strive after Him. We strive after His perfection. His death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead makes it possible for us to pursue holiness in this lifetime and achieve it in the next. It’s in our pursuing of Christ and His holiness that the Spirit of God transforms us into the image of Christ throughout our lifetime. It’s in the pursuit that the things of eternal importance win out.

Something to Consider…

What do you pursue in your life? You can look at your calendar and your back account, but I challenge you to look at your heart. If one thing in your life could change what would it be? What would be the source of that change?

In our pursuit, we do nothing on our own. The Spirit draws us to Jesus. He softens our hearts to hear and accept His grace and truth, and yet we can choose to participate in this pursuit. What one thing can you start doing to pursue Jesus and come to know holiness?

Advertisements

For Those Who Love God

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

© Depositphotos/Abigail210986

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.

Now, if you asked them, they’d say there’s plenty I wouldn’t do for them. And they’d be correct.  This statement is only half the picture. The truth is there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children as long as it was good for them. In the moment, it may not seem good to them, but as their parent who has lived through many more experiences, I may have a better idea of where things are leading and what is good for them.

There are times I offer help and there are times I wait for them to ask. There are times I take care of a situation completely and there are times I won’t touch it. It’s theirs to see through to the finish and then we can reassess if needed. Sometimes I (try to) teach a lesson and others when I let them learn on their own. In some circumstances, I make the decisions and in others I give them the reins. In all of this, I’m right here. Watching. Waiting. Ready.

And I always pray for them to know the Lord. I pray that Jesus would be at the center of and in all that encompasses their lives. It matters what they believe and who they go to for guidance, direction and understanding. It matters that they know their true value and that they believe the truth of who He says they are.

I pray this for myself as well. In this life, I will never arrive at the place of perfection as an individual or as a parent. I seek His wisdom and guidance in raising my children because without Him I would fall short of His best for me and for them. And even with Him I make mistakes, miss the mark, don’t quite understand and sometimes, admittingly, refuse to listen. I know that I’m an imperfect parent.

It’s one reason I’m so grateful that God knows, sees and understands all things. He can make something good come from my shortcomings. He can work things out according to His good purpose even when I misunderstand. In every situation and in all of my character traits and flaws, I can seek His will rather than my own and allow Him to change me according to His purpose.

As His child, there are times when He helps without a word from me and there times when I need to let go of my pride and ask for help. There are situations in my life where I have no control and I can trust that He is in complete control. Then there are times when He says, “You need to do what you can do first.” It’s how I know where I end and He begins. God teaches me lesson after lesson as I read His Word and experience His wisdom through others who know Him well. I love when He breaks into my day to give me a glimpse of who He is right in the middle of some mundane task that appears to have no purpose. Or when I can’t imagine a more excruciating pain from rejection or a deeper love for another and He says, “I know. I’ve been there. It’s a reflection of my love for you.”

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. But we also know this is only half the picture. God has a great purpose in the good that He works.

Something to Consider…

As you’ve come to love God, how has your perspective of what is considered “good” changed?

When you struggle to trust God’s good purpose, what can you do to remember that He knows and sees what you can’t yet understand?

How does knowing His heart for you help trust Him more?

Be Transformed

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Woman thinkingWhat is the pattern of this world?

Ecclesiastes says there’s nothing new under the sun. Everything that has happened will happen again … and again … and again. We think we’ve learned our lessons from life and death, war and peace, and yet we find ourselves repeating our mistakes. Maybe a generation effectively passes on to another what they’ve learned, but then a generation or two later, it starts all over again. Why?

The corruption of the world caused by evil desires. Or, put more simply, sin: Disobedience to God.

So Paul says, rather than be disobedient to God, let Him transform your thinking. Let Him renew your mind. Let Him show you and teach you a different way to live. What does this way of life look like? Here are three ways of living that will change as your thinking changes.

1. Sacrificial Living

When we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we nail to the cross our old ways, that old self we talked about in my previous post. We let Him weed out the evil and deceitful desires that fill up our hearts and minds. Some of these weeds have long and deep roots. The deeper He goes, the more painful it can be, but when we allow Him space to work, the soil of our hearts moves more freely. We give up what we want for what God wants for us. We let Him remove the bandages we’ve put in place to protect ourselves and let Him heal the wounds and broken places within us. We deceive ourselves when we allow our desires to draw us away from God’s protection and provision. And while we seek Him, sacrificing anything that gets in the way of our relationship with Him, we will find that He gives us the good and perfect desires of our hearts because He’s the one who has put them there.

2. Holy Living

It seems that as the world is more and more connected, this is harder and harder to do unless we completely unplug. As we consecrate ourselves to the Lord, we are not only separating ourselves from the world, we are being set apart for His work. And more often than not, His work will require us to be in the world. As we are taught how to be in the world, but not of it, we are learning to test or discern what is God’s perfect will, putting into practice what we’re learning. God grows in us the desire to live His way, not our own nor the world’s.

3. Worshipful Living

In Matthew 22, Jesus is questioned about paying taxes. Jesus asks whose image is on the coin. It was the image of Caesar. Jesus says, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) What is meant by (give back) to God what is God’s? Whose image is on your heart? What do you hold precious in your heart? Everything you do begins and ends with worship to Jesus Christ when it’s His image, His Spirit that resides in your heart. And our worship is true and proper when we live sacrificially for God and His will. We don’t grumble and complain about what we don’t have or can’t do, but rather rejoice that we are able to serve God’s purpose in this world wherever we are. We get to give back to God our gratitude through a lifestyle of worship.

If in Christ we are whole and complete, then every part of our lives must be grounded in and moving the same direction with the same purpose. When we hold back even one part of ourselves, our whole self is affected.

Something to Consider…

In what ways has your thinking been renewed in regard to the ways of the world and the ways of God?

Where in your life are you challenged the most when you think of living a sacrificial, holy and worshipful life? In what areas are you encouraged and joyful?

As new creations, possessing everything we need to live God’s way, we need to remember there is a process of learning, growing and choosing Him over all other things.

The Life You’ve Learned

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24

© Depositphoto/xerox123.mail.ua

© Depositphotos/xerox123.mail.ua

There was a way of life that I learned before I knew Jesus. Growing up, watching those in my family, my neighborhood, at school and elsewhere, there was a way of understanding myself, others and God that I was learning. I was learning how to process information and interpret my experiences. I didn’t realize I was learning a way of life, I was simply living, existing, surviving, and trying to have some fun in the process.

If, in Christ, we are a new creation, then that means there was an old creation. If we are a work in progress, that means we started in one place or state and are moving toward or becoming something else.

In Ephesians, Paul is explaining in part what it means to live as this new creation. He’s given examples of the old that is gone from within us, but still exists in the world around us. He says there is a former way of life, an old self. This old self and way of life was full of corruption and deceitful desires. Peter refers to these desires as evil. (2 Peter 1:4)

Part of this “work in progress” that we are experiencing is the learning to discern between the old way of life before Christ and this new way of life in Christ. As we begin to understand what God wants for us, certain things will look different. As we become familiar with Jesus, we will recognize attitudes, motivations and actions that look like Him and those that are the opposite of what we know to be true about Him.

As I mentioned in my blog A Work in Progress, there are things that will change because the Holy Spirit now lives inside you. There are also things that you will need to choose to do differently. This choosing is the putting-off of the old self and the putting-on of the new self. There are things we need to remove from our lives and hearts in order to make room for more of Jesus.

If we listen to music or read materials with vulgar or offensive language, we are more likely to use that language ourselves. We teach ourselves to talk this way. When we choose to listen to music, teachings, or read materials that encourage and honor God and others, we are more likely to speak in this same way. We teach ourselves to encourage and honor rather than offend.

There are also the deeper issues of our hearts. When we learn that resentment and bitterness cause us to hold grudges and not forgive, we need to instead choose kindness and compassion forgiving those who’ve hurt us, letting go of all that keeps us angry and hard-hearted. This is why repentance is so important. Repentance says I recognize my own sinful nature (the corrupt and deceitful desires within me), and am choosing to put it off and put on Christ and His righteousness.

In Christ, we learn there is a new way to live. There is a new way to think, a new way to participate in relationships with others and with God. There is a new way to respond to what we experience in this lifetime. And we have an active role in how this happens in our lives.

Something to Consider…

As you think back on your life before Christ, what did you learn about how to live? Who taught you and how did it affect you and your relationships?

What is God giving you to “put on” in this season of your life? What do you know you need to “put off” in order for it  to be effective?

Even though we must choose to do this, the Holy Spirit is always with us helping us to know what needs to be done and giving us the strength to do it.

In Every Season

Depositphotos_10073264_xs (2)

© Depositphotos.com/menz11

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 8:5, 3:11, 3:1

I’ve been going through a season. I’m on the quiet side when I first meet people, but my husband, children and best friends would say I’m anything but quiet. I can talk for hours, days even given the right circumstances and people. I have an opinion about everything and I am more than willing to tell you if you really want to listen.

There are three things of which I’m certain: Jesus Christ is Lord so I submit my entire life to Him, my marriage is a lifelong covenant so I seek to move forward with my husband in unity, and God loves my children even more than I do so I can entrust them to Him. Every other opinion is subject to change and I willingly admit I don’t have all the answers even if I speak like I do.

But I’ve been going through a season of silence. My last blog was nearly 3 months ago and that was more of a response out of an assignment than my actually having something to say. I have no desire to add to the noise of the world just because I can.

So why am I breaking my silence now?

PRAISE!

When everything feels hopeless, Jesus gives us hope. When everything seems lost, Jesus provides the way.

There is a season for everything. There is a proper time and a proper procedure for everything. And in obedience to Christ, we can walk in whatever season we find ourselves.

And since there is also a purpose to every season, I’ve learned a few things in this season of silence.

Prayer is better than simply talking. As I said, I can talk it up with the best of them. But simply talking about our problems, concerns, stressful situations, and even our joys and celebrations only goes so far. In laying out in the light, openly and honestly, all of our “talk” before God, we actually engage with the One who can do something about our circumstances. We ask God to join us in our struggles, we ask to join God in His solution. We thank Him for what He has already done, what He is currently doing, and for what we trust He will do in the future.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Silence encourages us to listen more. When we aren’t so busy talking, we can listen with more intention. We can hear the people around us. We can be present in their lives and respond as needed to them. Because we pause to engage with God, if we really want to join Him in what He’s bringing about, we need to be able to hear what He has to say. We need to be able to respond in accordance with His character if we really want to see the fruit of what He is able to do in and through us.

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8

 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

Peace comes when you realize there’s only so much you can say. I admit, I want to try to talk people into understanding, agreeing and complying with my ways. Even more so, I want to talk people into understanding, agreeing and complying with God’s ways. But that isn’t something I have control over. Only God can change, move and transform someone’s heart and mind bringing it into alignment with Him. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can cause someone to call out to Him in their deepest need and trust Him to respond. And only the power of the Holy Spirit through a relationship with Jesus can give me the peace to know when I’ve said enough and trust Him with the rest.

“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:16-17

Something to Consider…

What season are you in? Do you struggle to find God in your situation? Do you assume things will always be this good? Regardless of what season you find yourself experiencing today, know that God is only a prayer away. He hears you when you talk to others, but He really wants to talk with you Himself. Ask Him to join you. Choose to join Him.

Do you ever feel like you just talk too much? Like you’ve said it all and you’ve said it to everybody? Before we know how to do anything, we learn and practice. If you have a tendency to struggle with quiet, with silence, set your mind to learn to listen. Practice what you hope others will do for you. Give God space to speak so your ears can be fully attuned to what He has to say.

Come … Willingly

© Depositphotos.com/Madrabothair

© Depositphotos.com/ Madrabothair

 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

We have a rule in our house. We actually have several, but this is one we’ve actually been able to hold to pretty consistently. It’s even been used in settings outside our home with others.

If you volunteer someone else to do a job, you are the one who will do it.

Why? Because volunteering requires a willingness and when you volunteer another instead of volunteering yourself, you impose your will on another. You say, “I don’t think I should have to do it. I think you should do it.” And when they don’t, judgment creeps in.

Jesus didn’t sit behind His followers and say, “Pick up your cross and do as I tell you.”

Rather,

“He (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34

And,

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15

Jesus says He will not volunteer you for anything, but if you are willing, here is what is required. He will not volunteer you for anything He is unwilling to do, but as His follower, He will ask you … no, no, He will expect you to do what He has already done.

We have a choice.

Jesus knows we are not perfect, yet here are His ground rules:

  1. Deny yourself.
  2. Take up your cross.
  3. Follow me (Jesus).
  4. Do as I (Jesus) have done.

Jesus has accomplished His purpose of reconciling the world to God. We don’t need to do this. It is finished!

However, as His ambassadors in this world, this is the message we spread. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and set us free to live His way. If we are unwilling to “do”, we’ve stopped short of accomplishing our purposes for God.

We don’t wait for God to show us who to love; we love those we are with. Our expectations of what others should be doing dictates what we ourselves believe is right.

Jesus invites you to come. Will you?

Something to Consider…

Jesus will not volunteer you for the life He wants to give you, but He has set the perfect example and He invites you to come willingly. What is He currently inviting you to come and join with Him in doing?

What expectations do you have of others, yet you yourself are unwilling to do? As you seek God’s kingdom in your own life, let Jesus be your example. When you choose to follow Him, you will be less concerned with what others are doing or not doing because you will be doing what He is doing.

Why Do I…

W“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sometimes, I imagine conversations with others. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing, an introvert thing or just a strange habit, but it happens.

I’ve been struggling with the “why” of what I do. Everyone has reasons for what they do. Reasons that to them, make what they do worth doing.

There are a lot of really good things that I can be doing, but each day I need to choose certain good things over others. It helps when I see the end result of my work or receive feedback and appreciation for what I’ve done. There are also times I just need to do the good thing because it’s the right thing in the moment.

So I imagined someone specific asking me why I blog. This is what I said:

I believe God has laid it on my heart to share with others what He’s sharing with me. He teaches me about Himself every day. He shows me things about myself as well. Ultimately it’s all about my relationship with Him. And He has given me an opportunity and desire to share those things with others.

God knows us and loves us and He wants us know and love Him as well. He has really good things for us.

For example, there was this time when my dog was just a few years old. He was a bit temperamental and we were working with Him to help Him learn to trust us. One day, I just stopped and said to Him, “Why don’t you just listen to me? I give you everything you need. You have food to eat and a warm place to sleep. I play with you and take you for walks. I am happy to just be with you. I don’t want to have to put you in your kennel because you’re not doing what I tell you to do. Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

And I stopped and heard God ask me, “Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

He has provided everything I need. He enjoys me simply because I am me. There is joy in our time together. He doesn’t look to give me consequences, but sometimes He has to. He just wants to love me. And that love requires a response.

And that’s why I write:  God loves me. And in order to experience His love, I need to be in a relationship with Him. That’s how we each experience His love – in relationship with Him. Which means we need to acknowledge Him, look to Him and trust Him.

I hope what I write encourages others to do that, to turn to Him and trust Him. I hope others don’t just know they are loved but experience His love in real ways every day.

I didn’t really consider His response in my imaginary conversation, but I realized it was again, a message worth sharing.

God loves you and wants you to know Him.

Something to Consider…

How has God shown His love for you?

Today, how will you respond to His love for you?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a