Tag Archive | humble

Deny Yourself

© Depositphotos.com/ bst2012

© Depositphotos.com/
bst2012

“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

We are currently in the season of Lent, the 40 day period of preparation leading up to Easter. People of faith give up all different types of foods and activities during this time period each year. Some choose things that are easy and won’t really be missed. Others choose things that will not only be missed, but will at times seem unbearable to go without. Either way, it’s a defined period of time and then we often go back to our old ways.

It’s good to change things up at times. It helps us draw closer to God in a different way so we can refocus on Jesus and our relationship with Him. I encourage you set aside time at Lent and other times of the year to refocus, rededicate, and remember that He is enough. His grace is sufficient.

But I do believe there is a difference between these occasional denials of self and the lifestyle of denial Jesus refers to. Here are three ways we can experience those differences.

  • It isn’t what you choose, it’s what He says.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15a, 17

Sometimes what we choose to give up is surface level and shallow behaviors or activities. We focus really hard on not doing these things and then are relieved when our time is up. But often, God wants to get to the stuff behind the behaviors and activities. He wants to go deeper and not just change what we do, but change our hearts so we do things differently choosing His will over our own.

  •  It isn’t for a limited time, it’s every day of your life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

We don’t acknowledge Jesus just to walk away going about our business. We stay. We remain in Him and continue to do the things He shows us to do. We will continually be challenged to give up the things we want, the way we react and respond, the way we think about and see others. Denial is a counter-cultural lifestyle change that continues and does not end.

  •  There is no going back to the old way. The old is gone, the new is here.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

In Christ, you are no longer the same person you were before knowing Him. When you go back to your old ways, you don’t deny yourself, you deny Him and why He came. You can’t follow Jesus and do things the old way. You may try for a while, but eventually, you will go your own way. You will no longer be following Him.

We are called to deny ourselves daily for the sake of the One who called us to Himself. His love is seen and experienced best when we allow ourselves to get out of His way. Choose today to deny yourself and acknowledge Him.

Something to Consider…

Do you want to follow Jesus, but are unsure of just what it means to deny yourself? As you spend time in His presence reading His Word, rely on the Holy Spirit to show you the things He wants you to get rid of from your life. He will help you move forward in a new way.

Do you know what God’s Word says and yet, you are doing what you want satisfying your own desires and ignoring what He says? God loves you and it’s in remaining in Him, doing what He says that you are able to follow and experience the benefits of His presence in your life. Choose to not just know what Jesus says, but deny yourself and do what He says.

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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.

The God of Second Chances

Cave and sunset in the desert mountains“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.” Exodus 33:7

God had made a covenant with Israel and before the last period was put in place, they had broken it. God’s desire was, and still is to dwell among His people, but because of their sin, their breaking of the covenant they had agreed to, they were separated from God.

Exodus 33:7-11 almost seems to imply that only Moses went to the tent of the meeting to inquire of God. The people would watch and worship as the pillar of cloud, God’s presence would stay at the entrance of the tent after Moses entered. But verse 7 says: “Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of the meeting…”

Did anyone else go? Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t they take advantage of the opportunity to meet with God personally?

Moses had repented for Israel and it appears they liked it that way. It kept them at a distance from God, maybe what they saw as a safe distance, but a distance none-the-less.

In order to approach God now, we need to acknowledge our sin and ask for forgiveness personally. We have to face the truth of their own hearts. Was this an option at that time? Was anyone bold enough to ask?

Confessing with a true desire to change is hard enough. This along with asking for forgiveness can be one of the hardest things we do – ever! We have to take an honest look at ourselves, assess the situation and our actions, and admit what we did was wrong with no justification, excusing or blaming.

When we ask someone to forgive us there is always the possibility they won’t. We may want our relationship with them restored, but they may not and that’s a hard truth to accept. So rather than risk it, we keep a distance and our relationships are never quite what they could be.

But what you need to know is God is not like people. When we come to Him admitting our mistakes, weaknesses and outright rebellion, asking Him to have mercy and forgive, He does. When our hearts are right with Him and we are sincere in our desire to have a relationship with Him, He does not withhold His love.

He actually gave it before you even asked.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, you have the ability to come to God, fully forgiven, unconditionally loved and free to live His way. You don’t need to go to another person to speak to God on your behalf. You have Jesus: mediator, atoning sacrifice, the Righteous One, God Himself giving you full access to the throne room of God.

What concerns weigh on your heart this Christmas? What problems seem too big, too impossible to overcome? What desire do you long to see fulfilled in your lifetime? What guilt or shame to you simply not want to carry anymore?

You are not alone.

God is waiting.

He is available.

He loves you and wants to enter His presence through a relationship with Jesus. Will you take a chance and consider the possibility that not only is God holy, requiring a separation from sin, but that He is loving, faithful and compassionate in His provision of the one and only sacrifice for sin ever needed.

Jesus is the one and only way to God. It is by grace through faith that you can come to God and it’s because of His kindness that you can open your hear, lay your sin at His feet and trust Him to love you fully.

“Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting…”

Will you choose to take a chance and meet with God today, the God of second chances?

Something to Consider…

Has some distance grown between you and God? He is right where He has always been willing and waiting for you to return. What do you need to face, deal with or acknowledge so you can draw close to Him once again?

If you’ve never inquired of God, will you consider the possibility that God really does want to meet with you? He wants you to know the fullness of His love for you and that comes through a relationship with Him. Come to God, asking Him to help you with all of your questions, doubts and uncertainties. He will help you get your heart set right so your relationship with Him can be all it should be.

 

 

Daddy! I need you…

photo

“the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15b-16

I saw this in the grass the other night when I took our dog out before bed. It looked like a little bird, but I had no idea what it was. It’s still there and I still don’t know.

photo (2)

 

This morning I saw something next to it. Now, some of you may know exactly what it is and I would certainly appreciate it if you would share you knowledge with me, but it’s got me a little befuddled!

Is it some type of exotic mushroom?

Is it a hive or nest of some kind?

Is it a seed pod from a tree or a body snatcher pod from the movies?

If I get a long stick and try to flick it, will something fly out of it?

Will it know I flicked it and come after me?

Will my neighbors know I flicked it into their yard?

I would love to put this off and leave it for my husband to remove. (I do that on occasion, but don’t tell him.) The problem is that he’s not going to be able to deal with it for a while and it’s right where we take the dog out so it would be easy to forget and overlook. The last thing I want to do is accidentally step on it or have the dog try to eat it.

And even as my mind goes through all the scenarios of what could be and how I could take care of it if should I choose to accept the mission, I am reminded of another such situation over a decade ago.

In our family room two houses ago, we had a bar type counter with a space for a waste basket. I was cleaning, bent down to remove the garbage and in the corner of the cabinet was a big, dark, furry looking creature. I was armed with a bag of garbage, an empty can and a broom. Maybe some of you can relate to the idea that this was not going to cut it. The bag wasn’t heavy enough to crush it if I should get it out with the broom. If I was able to capture it with the can, how would I then get it out from under the can? And besides, it would probably grab onto the broom and climb up the handle before either of these could be valid options!

So what did I do while my husband was at work?

I called my dad.

Yep, at the time I was a thirty-something wife and mother and I’m calling my daddy to kill the bug. Of course, that meant my mom would come as well. Never mind that they are older and move slower than me so whatever reaction time I was worried about with my own abilities would be cut by some fraction. Never mind that they lived half an hour away so I would need to wait and keep an eye on the cabinet lest it get away. Never mind that they were always out and about enjoying the retired life so they might have to stop what they are doing to come to my rescue.

In spite of all this, I called anyway.

And my daddy came; He answered my call. He always did. I never doubted that he loved me because his actions always showed me he did.

I understand this isn’t the truth for everyone. Not everyone has a dad who answers when called, who loves at all times.

But there is a heavenly Father who loves unconditionally; who is ready and waiting to answer your call for help and is already intervening in ways you don’t even know. He knows you, loves you and is for you. All you need to do is call out to Him.

Because of my dad, I’ve had a better understanding of God’s love for me which leads me to ask the question: will my children understand the love and sacrifice of Jesus better because I am their mom? Will they know the importance of faithfulness and kindness, peace and patience? Will they understand the difference between punishment and discipline and be grateful for me choosing to do the hard thing?

When I’m not sure if what I am doing is the best for my children, I know I have a Father in heaven who will answer my call for help and show me His loving ways.

By the way…the big, dark, furry bug ended up being a candy bar wrapper that missed its mark. My dad had a great laugh, too!

Something to Consider…

Do you know God as a loving Father? Why or why not? Who in your life has painted the picture of who God is to you?

Do you believe He is always available, ready and willing to come when called…already by your side in times of trouble?

Who in your life will know the truth about Jesus because you have given them an accurate picture of who He is through your words and actions?

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son (Jesus) into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba,Father.'” Galatians 4:6

Fight or Flight…or Die? (Part 4)

This is the final post in this four-part series.

field water“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

This has been a long and painful journey for me, but victory in Jesus is my reward!

The fight or flight mode is about survival. God has wired our minds and bodies in such a way that we can make reasonable decisions and respond so that we can have the best chance to survive. Do I believe I am strong enough to come out on top if a battle should ensue? Or do I believe I can outrun my enemy? In either situation, if I am wrong, I die. At least, that’s the way it works on Wild Kingdom.

My desire to be loved, appreciated, thought of or at least, acknowledged by this world is wearisome. There is always someone else to please and something else to prove. I have never found real pleasure in praise, but rather relief in no punishment. I thought staying out of trouble was good enough. As long as I wasn’t causing problems, God and others would be good with me.

But the truth is God doesn’t want me going along to get along or just existing. He wants me living, thriving, and loving. And love is risky business. We might get hurt. We might be rejected.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” Luke 6:27-28, 32

I thank God that my bout with anger didn’t last long before He showed me how I needed to love and serve those under my authority, taking control of what I could and giving up to Him control of what I couldn’t. And again, God met me where I was and showed me how I couldn’t ignore or deny my responsibility to love others through difficult situations. Even people who I do not consider an enemy will mistreat me or hurt me at various times. How should I choose to respond? Too often, this is the sentiment proclaimed in society: “Run far from those who cause you problems! Get them out of your life! You don’t deserve their treatment and they don’t deserve your kindness!”

Well, that may be true, but it’s not good…and it’s not love. God says we are to love, do good, bless and pray not just for those who do the same for us, but for those who hurt us as well.

At the heart of deciding not to fight and not to run is surrender. “I give!” I had to acknowledge that I am not perfect, I would not please everyone, and I could not do everything. In relying on myself, I denied the power of Christ in my life. In looking to others to save and protect me, I had taken my eyes off the one who had already saved, sealed and delivered me. He has already overcome the world!

God has called me beyond my comfort zone, beyond the safety of my own little world where keeping the peace was more important than speaking the truth. All this time, God was working in me, transforming me into someone new. Hidden in Christ’s perfect love, I have no need to fear. I have died to Him so no one can take my life. I answer to Him so no other approval is needed. No more fighting, no more running, no more hiding. I have surrendered; I can rest.

Something to Consider…

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.’” Luke 10:41-42a

Surrender doesn’t mean compromising your standards, values or principles which are founded on God’s truths; it means fighting for the right things with a humble heart of compassion, mercy and grace. Don’t waste your time fighting for things that have no real value. Pick your battles wisely, boldly fighting for and standing on His truth.

Surrender also doesn’t mean we run from our problems and give up; it means we run to Jesus and invite Him to be the solution. In what areas of your life do you know you need to move forward? In what ways can you be strong and courageous each day, taking one step, choosing one thing you can do to make progress following His lead?

In Christ, we have all we need to live and die without fear, walking in His perfect love!

Growing Pains

Light Streaming Through the Crown of a Tree

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.” Ephesians 4:15 (The Message)

When my children were younger, I was constantly measuring their growth: height, weight, and abilities. Can she crawl, sit or walk? Does she respond to her name? Does she stack the blocks or just consider them a no-calorie snack? If their mental attributes along with their physical attributes don’t change, they aren’t growing in a complete manner.

Growth can be a challenge. All growth is the result of action and we must be diligent and intentional about the type of actions we take. Even a baby doesn’t just grow. If they are not receiving enough food, they won’t grow physically or mentally and if deprived of food for a long enough period will die.

Spiritual growth is the same. I’ve known a few people who really wanted to grow or at least thought they did. What it seems they may have wanted more was to continue doing what they had always done, but somehow manage to have peace and feel good about it. But nothing that grows stays the same. There will be changes. To ignore or deny the truth of what is needed for growth will only bring about death. The truth of Jesus is the source of eternal life.

Spiritual growth begins with knowing the truth about Jesus. You hear about Him, ask questions, learn some more and eventually have enough information to make a decision about what the truth of Jesus means to you and for you. If you are not seeking to know the truth, if you are not asking questions of people who know the truth, you will not grow in your understanding of who Jesus really is and you will have no reason to move forward in a relationship with Him. The problem with this is that everything else you consider about Him will be false. Just like eating protein will add muscle and eating sugar will add fat, growing in the knowledge and truth of Jesus will lead you to eternal life while ignoring or denying the truth of Jesus will lead to eternal separation from God. False teachings will lead to a false understanding which in turn will feed you with empty calories which will not sustain.

One of the growing pains involved with knowing the truth of Jesus is that we soon realize there are things we like, think or do that are not actually good for us. They seem good because they make us feel good and give us some enjoyment, at least for the moment. We don’t want to give it up because we don’t really want to believe it’s bad. Maybe it’s easier than changing. We operate out of our feelings rather than facts. We live for what seems good rather than what is truly good.

When my daughter was three years old, we could tell she wasn’t eating well. We pulled out our Dr. Spock baby book and did some research. We wanted to know answers and the truth about what might be causing this problem and what we could do about it. We learned too much sugar would ruin her appetite. Right away we knew the problem: apple juice. She loved apple juice! But the juice was hurting her, not helping her even though she enjoyed it. We promptly removed the apple juice from her diet and replaced it with water or milk only. For three days she cried! Each day was a little better until rather than cry over not getting apple juice, she asked for milk. Her eating improved and she chose milk over almost every other beverage for most of her childhood.

But those three days were painful. She wanted what she wanted and was willing to forsake the good thing for the enjoyable thing…until she realized the good thing was better.

Something to Consider…

Do you struggle believing the entire Bible is true? Does it contradict what you’ve been told is true? Is it difficult to understand how God’s ways are better than your ways, how they are truly the best way?

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” 2 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for empty satisfaction. God in his goodness sent His Son, Jesus Christ so we would know His grace and truth. You have the opportunity to choose the better thing. The growing pains of faith are real, but the truth of Jesus is better than any lie the world would have you believe. Seek to know and understand His truth and discover the real source of all you need to be able to change and grow up into all He created you to be!

Pray for Your Leaders

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13:1 (NIV)

I admit, I have not prayed for my leaders as I should. I have not been diligent in seeking God’s guidance, understanding or wisdom for leaders in government offices, whether elected or appointed. I have not prayed regularly that those who do not know Jesus would not only come to know Him, but would seek to follow Him in their role of leading others. I have prayed my will, my understanding, and my desires but even as I seek God, there are things I do not understand and I sometimes desire things outside of God’s will.

I have prayed for my husband, my children and myself watching God answer prayer after prayer in His time, in His way. Maybe my distance from the political office keeps me from believing my prayers make a difference. Maybe I’m just so critical and judgmental I don’t really believe they can change. Two issues arise in my own life when this is my mindset:

1) I give myself authority to judge what is only meant for God to judge. I don’t really know their heart. While I may not agree with or understand their position, only God can judge the true motives and intentions of their heart.

2) I limit what I believe God can do. It is not by the power of my will in prayer, but the power of our God that hearts are changed and emboldened for Him.

Why should we pray?

It takes strength, boldness and courage to follow the Lord. In Joshua 1, Joshua knows the Lord. He has been faithful from the beginning. He is the new leader raised up to take the place of Moses after His death. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. To remember and obey all that God has told Him through the Book of the Law. Even though Joshua already has a heart set on the Lord, He needs encouragement to stand firm. Times will get tough. People will want to go their own way. They may come up against his leadership out of fear or pride.

As we pray for our leaders to be strengthened and filled with courage and boldness for God, we are as filled as well. God meet us when we pray for others.

What should we pray?

There are many things we can pray based on the person and the specific needs of a country, community, business or organization but here are just a couple that cover some basic ideas.

1) Our leaders who do not know Jesus would come to know Him. If we are to follow God, it is best that those we submit to would be leading us His way. In surrendering to His authority, they understand the limits of their own authority.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

2) Our leaders would create laws that are fair and impartial. They would not be swayed by public opinion just to be elected. They would not use circumstances as an excuse or justification for wrong doing. And they would not allow wealth to keep someone from a consequence nor would they use it as a reason to have a heavy hand and take more than due. When laws are applied fairly, mercy prevails.

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)

3) Our leaders would be peacemakers seeking to reconcile and move forward with the necessary business they are in office to carry out. One key role for leaders is conflict management. As peacemakers, they are to help settle disputes between parties that disagree, quarrel and fight. Leaders should be unifying not divisive with their words and actions.

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:18 (NIV)

God’s perfect plan does not always play out the way we think is fair or just, but in knowing Him, we can trust that He is faithful. He is and always will be in control.

Something to Consider…

What attitudes, criticisms, or judgments have you held against your leaders? How does your attitude add fuel to the fire or help others move forward in solutions? How do your criticisms and judgments move you closer to or further away from Gods heart.

In your own role as a leader, whether at work, volunteering or at home, what attitudes, criticisms and judgments do you find others hold against you? What would you want others to see in you as a leader?

As you seek to be resolved as a leader who you would willingly follow, ask God to not only help you bring glory and honor to Him, but that those you submit to would also seek His glory and honor in all they do.