Tag Archive | persevere

A Wise Leader (Part 4)

This is the last in a 4-part series on leadership.

In Part 1, I addressed the difference between feedback and criticism, as well as the important role feedback has in effective leadership.

In Part 2, I acknowledged some things that I learned about myself through the process of asking for, receiving and accepting feedback and a few things I will be doing to help move myself forward in this area as a leader.

In Part 3, I recognized some truths about others that I learned through this process and have a game plan to help me be willing to hear what others have to say.

© Depositphotos.com/ ysbrand

© Depositphotos.com/
ysbrand

Now on to Part 4…

Love truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

According to this verse a good leader is one who is truthful, has integrity and is loving. The first two make sense, although I think our society too often lifts up those who are willing to bend the truth and break a few rules to get ahead. This verse contradicts that idea by throwing in love. And not just once, but twice. And not just here and there, but right from the start.

“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NLT)

Love is required for good leadership. Again, in society, we think of people as good leaders because they’ve accumulated wealth, status and a following of thousands, maybe millions. Obviously, they’ve got something worth having, hearing or imitating. But followers eventually get hurt or are left empty when a leader loves themselves and their own benefit more than those they lead.

When love for others drives the thoughts, decisions and actions of a leader, they will be someone worth following.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34 (NLT)

In light of God’s love for me, what does that mean for me as a leader? What does it mean for me as a follower?

What I learned about God is that ultimately He wants me to see myself through His eyes, not my own or those of others, because His love for me is true and trustworthy.

God knows who He intended me to be when He created me. Sin has left its mark and tainted the beautiful creation He has made. Sin has stained my view when I look at myself through my own eyes. I am not unsusceptible to its effects. In fact, we all, every one of us, suffer its effects whether we realize it or not. But, when we do recognize it and are willing to let God change us, He begins to work with us as if we are already who He created us to be. I am not good enough on my own, but in Christ I am not a lost cause. God has given me strengths that sin has distorted. I also have weaknesses that sin accentuates. On the other hand, when I see myself through His eyes, there is only beauty. I see no flaws in any way that really matters. I am willing and able to address issues and apologize freely. My heart is open, honest, loving and caring. There is joy, energy and passion for what He is doing in me, through me and in the world around me. And I thank God for the people He has put in my life who are helping me see myself through His eyes because they see what He sees. What a blessing to experience life in His kingdom now knowing it’s only going to get better.

As I think about what this means for me, I also have to consider what it means for my relationship with Him.

  1. God is for me.

Everything God does in teaching, loving, correcting, disciplining and encouraging me is meant to draw me closer to Him and make me more Christ-like in my attitude, actions, thoughts and ways. God wants the best for me. It doesn’t mean I’ll always have the best according to the worlds definition. Status, position and power aren’t how we know God is for us. His blessings don’t always show themselves in worldly qualities and easily quantitative results. Sometimes His blessings show up in the dirty work of persevering. Sometimes His blessings show up in the painful experiences that help us trust Him more. But when I know and trust that God is for me, I will know that He can bring good from every situation, conversation and experience I go through.

  1. God is with me.

I am not alone. Ever. I spend so much time working alone: processing information, deciding next steps and wondering if I should think about things the way I do that I get quite lonely. I feel separated from others so when I’m around them I tend to think they feel just as separated from me. It’s hard to break back in. But when I know God is with me, I can talk to Him just as if another person was sitting with me. I can listen for His guidance, direction, thoughts, and input. And God is with every other person who knows Him as well so He is in fact drawing us all closer to each other as well. In Christ, we are unified, not divided nor separated, but coming together for His purpose so we never need to feel like we are against or opposed to each other, or on different paths. He is the way, He is the path. We walk it differently, but we walk it together. When we can find our common ground, our differences can actually be used to our advantage.

  1. God isn’t done with me.

There is a constant work in progress going on inside me simply because I’m still here. God doesn’t stop or give up even when I choose a wrong path, make a mistake or even fall back into old patterns and ways of thinking … not when I turn back to Him. He won’t force me to change, but He will lead me to change. His love makes the change worth it. A relationship with Him makes the challenges, difficulties and hardships worth it. When I’m willing to hear, receive and accept His feedback, I’ll be better able to hear, process and understand the feedback of others. His love leads to love. I hope to lead and love well.

Something to Consider…

God is for you. He made you and knows you intimately. He has your best intentions at heart. Will you turn to Him and let Him speak His truth and love into your life?

If you’ve accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells in you. God is with you. If you haven’t already, say yes to Jesus and let God’s love lead you.

God isn’t done with you. Life is an ongoing process of learning ourselves and leading others into a deeper relationship with the One who loves you best. Continue to seek God’s guidance in your life and willingly walk alongside others who will help you be a leader for those who follow behind.

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.

Three Nails

Three Nails“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:32-35 (NLT)

My oldest daughter lives a few hours away so whenever she comes home, we pray for her safe travels. Her car had been parked at a gas station when, as she was getting ready to come home, she realized she had a flat tire. With her fiancé’s help, they were able to remove the tire, put on the spare and drive to the repair shop. After waiting a few hours, they were told the nail was too close to the edge and thus the tire was unable to be repaired. She was going to have to buy a new tire. Not the news a college student wants to hear. She purchased the tire and they were soon on their way.

The next day we were able to meet up with family members for lunch. We had a wonderful time only to come home to another flat tire. Her car had been parked in our driveway all day and yet, there it was, a different tire flat as a pancake. Her dad was able to help her get the tire off, put on the spare, and bring the tire to the repair shop. This time it was able to be repaired. Knowing her financial situation, we willingly paid for the repair. Her dad was able to replace the tire and she was on her way once again, this time to see friends.

A few days later, we were out shopping and running errands. When we returned home, guess what we found. Unbelievably, another flat tire. A third nail in a third tire. Her car had been parked in the street in front of our house. Since it was not completely flat, we tried filling it only to notice the pressure dropped as soon as we turned off the pump. Again, her dad was able to help get the tire off and the spare on, but because of the time, we couldn’t take it to the repair shop until the next day. We worked out how she would get around in the meantime. Again, the tire couldn’t be repaired. A little more money, a little more time, a little more frustration.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

When we found the third flat, she said she felt like she was being punished. Did she do something to bring about this fate?

I admit, it seems like more than a coincidence that she would have three nails in three different tires in five days. What are the odds? And if she’s not being punished, what would be the point of this situation?

Maybe a better question is, what did God want her to know about Him through this situation?

As we talked, she admitted she felt like she had no control, was helpless, angry, and frustrated. We then talked about how God is always in control, is our help and is never frustrated by our circumstances. So why did this happen? How would this help her trust Him more and draw her closer to Him, rather than push her away?

She realized that she had always been parked, never on the road and she always had help. She was also always able to keep moving. These hindrances didn’t stop her from what she needed to do.

The next day, as we were driving home, I asked her another question. “What did these three nails cost you?”

She said money and time and peace. It was inconvenient and stressful.

Then I asked her, “What did three nails cost Jesus?”

Her answer: His life.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus Christ took the three nails so we could how much God loves us. Jesus Christ took three nails because only He could accomplish this purpose. He took the three nails so we could be completely reconciled to God and live with Him in peace forever. These three nails were not a hindrance to God’s plan; they were the plan.

How might God want to use the difficulties and hindrances in your life to draw you closer to Him so you could know His love more deeply?

What difficulties are you willing to endure so the love of God can be made known to others?

Lord God, as I see the troubles of this world, experience the difficulties of life and struggle through my own frustrations and desires. Help me remember that it’s nothing compared to what you endured for me. The problems we face are real, they are hard and painful. They wear on us and try us in ways we didn’t expect or ask for. But in You we have hope. In you, we know there is more. You are our ever-present help in trouble. You are our refuge and strength, our shield and strong tower, our joy and salvation. Thank you for your protection, your help and your strength to keep moving. In Your precious and most holy name, Jesus. Amen.

Anxiety, Depression…Anger

DSC06926“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Anxiety was my response to the reality of having no control over or in certain situations. Depression was my response to the reality that I wasn’t taking control of what I could.

Anger is my response to the reality that I want control and don’t have it, can’t have it or, actually, don’t want it.

God has been doing an amazing work in me. The past 12-18 months have been some of the toughest in my life and yet I rejoice because I know God is at work in me, transforming me into the person He created me to be. It’s painful, but most good things are at some point.

It takes determination, perseverance, pain, struggle, and failure, along with focus and commitment to do anything that really matters. You will succeed only if you truly believe in what you are doing. Why suffer so much if it doesn’t really matter? (This is a post for another day…)

Because it does matter.

Last summer I posted about the process God had been moving me through, working out in me, to help rid me of anxiety and depression. My fight or flight response to problems was wreaking havoc in my life and the lives of others. In the first post, I stated:

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt uncontrollable rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me.

So here I am, angry…again. Why?

I thought my anger would subside when my anxiety and depression were gone. I’d just be a happy, go-lucky person. But each layer God removes reveals more. It reveals something deeper, darker, more difficult to deal with.

Anxiety and depression are acceptable issues in society. It’s true. There are commercials touting the positive effects of medication to control anxiety and depression. There is a commercial that encourages people to ask about a person’s depression, ask them if they want to talk about it. They make it commonplace, acceptable and manageable.

But it’s not. Yes, it happens. Yes, we need to be able to be real about it. But God doesn’t want us living in anxiety and depression. I don’t think He really wants us expecting it to just be this way. He wants so much more for us. As I’ve said before, I do believe medication is necessary and helpful in some situations, but I also believe that if you are willing to let medication be your savior in this situation, you will miss the work of the true Savior in your life.

So I choose to let God do the painful work of exposing the deepest, darkest, most painful areas of my life and conditions of my heart so that I can be free of what the world says is acceptable and truly be free in the love of God.

Anger, on the other hand, is not acceptable. It shows no compassion, tolerance or acceptance. But, anger does have a place. Its purpose is to move us toward good, toward making things right, toward ridding ourselves of those things that hurt us and each other.

But anger can be misused. It has been my new form of protection. God is going deeper and showing me that I want control. I do, I want it…BAD! I want it so bad I’m angry about it. I get rude and ugly. It’s truly horrible. I hate it, while at the same time feel completely justified in it.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

My true colors show that I’m not so sure how much I trust that God is really in control. I want God to move faster, if He’s even moving at all. My anger and desire to control shows that I think I can do it better, understand it better and want better than what God can do, knows and wants.

But I know that’s not true. God can do whatever He wants. He wants what is good, what is best. And He also knows exactly what it’s going to take to get to that outcome and He is always on the move. He not only wants this for those people and situations in my life, He wants it for me personally.

The NIV version puts James 1:4 this way: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be or become mature and complete, not lacking anything, not only means I seek to gain wisdom, new thinking, and new attitudes, but that I give up the old foolishness and behaviors. This anger needs to go.

Lord, as I fix my eyes on You and Your goodness, I am thankful for your loving working my life. As You peel back each layer and fresh wounds are exposed, You are my Healer. As You reveal to me those things that keep me from loving You and loving others, You are my Wonderful Counselor. As you ask me to walk into difficult situations and conversations, You are my Strength and Refuge. You have never given up on me and it is my deepest desire that I not give up on You. I trust you with the people I love and the situations I don’t like or understand. Your love is pure and right. It is the best of all things. Help me recognize quickly when I am trying to take control; calm my heart, reassure me of your love, protection and provision and let me rest in You. Give me Your heart for others and peace in Your ways. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

 

Fight or Flight…or Do (The unexpected part 5)

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:13 (The Message)

Last fall, I wrote a four-part blog explaining the process of understanding my anxiety and letting God take control.

It wasn’t long before I realized I had settled into a state of depression. I was dumbfounded. How on earth could I have just come through this battle with anxiety finally feeling like I was set free, only to find myself sad, lonely and hopeless?

Helpless.

And that’s when God once again spoke truth to me in a very loving way.

“You’ve given up control, but you’ve given up too much.”

What, too much? You, God, have all control and I’m in control of nothing. Isn’t that the way it works?

“There are things you can’t control, that aren’t yours to control. But there are things you can control and should control. You have work to do and you need to grab hold and move. Don’t wait for permission or approval. Get up and go!”

God won’t do it all for me. There are things I need to do myself. My “doing”, my moving forward in His purpose for me is how I take control of what I can. My ability to confidently make decisions and carry out the actions required by those decisions makes me anything but helpless.

These decisions and actions are based on and affect both the external situations around me, as well as, the internal condition of my heart, mind and soul. If I’m not focused on Jesus, someone or something else will influence my decisions and my actions. I “do” because He did. I start because He finished; He did all that needed to be done.

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’” John 18:9-10 (NIV)

“In addition to all this (the full armor of God), take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16 (NIV)

As I said in my previous posts, anxiety and anger were my ways of protecting myself. Depression has been as well. Anxiety and anger came when I stepped into a situation thinking I had to be my own protection. Depression came when I stopped stepping into any situations at all thinking I had no protection. But when I trust that Jesus is my protection, I can do all things He calls me to do. He’s been showing me that I can put down my sword, drop my guard and pick up His shield of faith. In doing so, I pick up, lay hold of, take control of what’s within my reach and I trust Him with what isn’t.

I understand there are times when medication and professional help is necessary when dealing with anxiety and depression. Both were essential for me in my ability to make progress. But Jesus is the only reason I have clarity around any of this. He’s the one who saved me and continues to show me the way.

Something to Consider…

If you have a sense of helplessness, there is something you can do. You can choose to put your trust in Jesus. Ask Him to come into your life and be the Lord of your life. Invite His Spirit to come in and help you lead the life you desire. Find a local Bible-based church and speak with someone about this decision.

If you already have Jesus in your life, choose to believe and hold tight to the faith you already have. It seems obvious, but there’s a chance doubt or unbelief has entered your heart and you are unable to fully trust Him. Ask Him to show you anything that may be hindering your walk with Him. Ask Him to reveal where in your life doubt or unbelief has taken root.

Choose to put down your sword, let Him be Lord and Savior, and have faith.

Cleansed Once and For All

???????????????????????????????“Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin…Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:2, 7 (NLT)

About two years ago, my husband and I decided to take on a minor makeover. The bathroom our daughters shared was in need of some repair. Moisture had condensed in the ceiling fan vent and dripped through damaging the ceiling. We had it repaired, but the new paint caused the old paint to peel making it look like there were upside down meringue whips covering half of the ceiling. At one point, water had run over the edge of the tub causing the paint to peel near the baseboard. In addition, the bathroom décor was not as appropriate for my daughters who were now young ladies and no longer little girls. A good cleaning, repairing and decorating were in order.

We took a long weekend to thoroughly clean the room, remove any cracked and broken materials, repair damaged spots, paint the entire room ceiling to floor and finally bring in new décor. It looked like an entirely different room when we were finished!

Both of our daughters were out-of-town during this process. One came home and was thrilled at how nice it looked. She noticed just how clean it was compared to when she left and decided she didn’t want to let it to get dirty again. In her resolve, she now cleans regularly. She treats it with the care it deserves.

It’s funny how once something gets dirty it’s so easy to let it stay dirty. The work we put into cleaning it just won’t last so we don’t waste our time.

Thank God, Jesus sees us differently.

When Jesus comes to us, we are a mess. He sees not just the shallow, maybe deep layer of dirt that covers us, but He sees beneath the surface. He sees the cracked and broken places in our hearts, the damaged material we’ve become. Some of it’s out of neglect, some has been caused by others, but either way, He knows we need a makeover.

And He doesn’t just point out our need; He takes on the project Himself. He will do the work we so desperately need in our lives.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

I love that the very first thing He does is cleanse us from our sin – the filth and grime we sit in day after day. At times it’s so easy to believe we will never change, so we don’t. But Jesus changes us immediately when He thoroughly cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

Next, He gets to the nitty-gritty of the specific repairs of which we are in need. I wish it could all be taken care of in a long weekend, but it will be an ongoing process of repair and maintenance. Sometimes it will be painful as He strips and peels away the things that seem safe and feel comfortable, but are really hurting us as well as others.

The interesting thing about a Jesus makeover is that He is able to make complete what is not yet complete.

He doesn’t wait for all the work to be done before He gives us our new décor. We receive that as soon as we say, “Yes” to His invitation of a new life. We are a completely new person right off the bat even though the work continues.

So how do we keep ourselves “clean” while He is still repairing and working on our broken parts?

We choose to seek Him out daily asking Him to show us and clean us of anything not of Him. We refuse to go back to old habits, behaviors and attitudes with which He has already dealt. We allow Him to continue His work knowing all we need to do is be in agreement with Him.

In Him, we are free to respond in His righteousness to the world around us. We are cleansed and given a new identity, one many won’t recognize. Will you treat yourself with the care you deserve? Will you respond to His loving care for you?

Something to Consider…

Do you believe you are really a new creation with a new identity in Christ? Accept His forgiveness and be willing to see yourself through His eyes.

In what ways are you in need of a cleaning? Acknowledge them to Jesus. He is faithful to cleanse and repair you from top to bottom.

Do you have a difficult time maintaining the work He has already done? Remember, He doesn’t leave or give up; He is always there continuing His work in your life. Follow His lead knowing He and you are worth the effort.

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!

The “Aha” Moment

“I myself (John the Baptist) did not know him (Jesus), but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” John 1:31 (NIV)

I’ve joined some women in a study on the Gospel of John. John is the beloved. John is the disciple Jesus loved. John also wrote the books of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation. He is an interesting character who is completely in love with and confident in the truth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

John the Baptist is a different person. He is the cousin of Jesus approximately six months his elder. He was created and born for a specific purpose. When asked by the Pharisees about himself, he replied by quoting Isaiah the prophet:

“I am the voice of the one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23b

John knew his purpose. He knew he was meant to help fulfill Scripture prophecy.

So when, in our discussion, we came to verse 31 in the first chapter, there was some question around what John meant about not knowing Jesus even though they were cousins and he knew his purpose to make way for the Lord.

Have you ever felt God put you in a certain place at a certain time for a certain reason? You felt compelled to take a job even though it didn’t make sense. Maybe you already had a good job or had to uproot your family to take the new job. Maybe it’s your marriage. You know God brought you together even though you’ve felt like you are worlds apart at times. Maybe it’s where you volunteer. There are certain tasks you enjoy and you’ve found a place where you can really put those skills to work but after a while it feels routine and you wonder if what you do really makes a difference.

I wonder if this is how John the Baptist was feeling. “I’ve been out here baptizing people day in and day out. I know God has a purpose for me. I know there is a bigger, greater reason I am here than what it appears to be to me and everyone else. God has revealed certain things to me, but it isn’t happening. When will it happen? Will it happen? What if I was wrong?”

Now, I completely expect that John knew he wasn’t wrong. He trusted God at levels where I get vertigo. But I’ve heard this sentiment from many people. “What I think is supposed to be happening doesn’t seem to be happening so maybe I didn’t understand God and am nowhere near where He really wants me.”

But then…it happens!

You’re there, doing your thing and suddenly you know exactly why you are where you are when you are doing what you are doing! Maybe it’s a conversation. Maybe it’s a networking opportunity. Maybe it’s an answer to a prayer. You have that “Aha” moment and you are certain you were meant to be right where you are. God’s plan was made clear!

John was performing baptisms of repentance for the forgiveness of sins for all who would come to him. God had made it clear that there would be one who was different, One who would be identified as His Son. How long had John been doing this thing, waiting and waiting for the One to come? (Luke 3 actually tells historically when God moved John to begin preaching and baptizing.)

When Jesus showed up, John knew exactly why he was there. This baptism of repentance for a sinless man, Son of God, would mark the beginning of Jesus ministry. God had entrusted John with a purpose and was faithful in bringing about the fulfillment of that purpose. John may not have had all the details, but he was faithful in carrying out his purpose and trusted God in His timing.

Something to Consider…

Has God revealed a purpose and a plan for you? Has He promised you something and you are not experience the fullness of that promise?

Trust that God has a purpose for you right where you are at this time. He may be using it as a stepping stone for the next phase of your life, but there is still a reason. Choose to embrace it trusting that His timing is perfect and He is faithful.

Maybe you’ve stepped away from what God has called you to do. Maybe you’re not sure how to get back on track with what He really wants for you. Ask Him to make a way, to make your path straight. Choose to follow Him and trust that it is not too late to fulfill your purpose for Him.

Love Never Fails

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Love ListWe’ve had some trouble in our family as of late, a bit of poking and prodding, provoking and pushing of buttons. We pass it on to our friends and others we come in contact with whether we realize it or not. They notice our attitude, look, tone and body language, making judgments on the state of our hearts and minds. They don’t mean to be judgmental; they just don’t know how close they want to get to us in our current state. And they have good reason to want to keep their distance. Our demeanor could rub off on them. They could feel the rough sting of our indifference toward them. We are so caught up in how we feel, it doesn’t really matter to us how we make others feel.

God is not indifferent. His heart longs for each child He has created to know His great love. Jesus came to make His love known in this world. He truly cares what we believe about His love for us and what face we put on our relationship with Him. How will His love through us rub off on those we are around? What does His love look like? What does His love convey? What does His love do?

My daughter’s favorite section of Scripture is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read this section and decided to take it apart. On one side of my paper I listed everything it said love is. On the other, everything love is not. I decided to type it out and hang it on our refrigerator at home where we could all see it.

Love: Love:
Is patient Does not envy
Is kind Does not boast
Rejoices in truth Is not proud
Always protects Does not dishonor others
Always trusts Is not self-seeking
Always hopes Is not easily angered
Always perseveres Keeps no record or wrongs
Never Fails Does not delight in evil

Everything we do will fall on one side or the other of love. God is love so everything love is, God does in love. And everything love is, we can also do in His love. I’ve already found myself recalling these two lists and recognizing when I’m on the wrong side – the “is not”, “does not”, don’t do side. God has helped me reconsider my attitude and bring it into alignment with who He is and what He does. In this practice, I’ve been more at peace with letting go of issues rather than holding them over the other person.

Something to Consider…

When you think of God’s character, which side of the list do you gravitate towards? Do you think God is patient and kind or do you think He is easily angered, keeping track of everything you’ve done wrong?

When you think of those closest to you, how do you see yourself in this list? Do you protect and rejoice with them or do you compare and think they deserve the bad things that happen?

God offers His love freely to those who come to Him through Jesus. Embrace His love, choose to rejoice in His truth and let His love change how you love today.

The Likeness of Christ

s“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26a (NIV)

I love this verse! Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness. God is the creator of the universe, of everything in it and He, the Father, Son and Spirit, decide to make people. And not just any people, but people who are made in His image, who are created to be “like” Him.

Everything in the Bible is based on two things: relationships and love. They are at the center of every story. How we live together and how well we love in the process. This isn’t just between us as people, but between us and God as well.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) The very first image of God’s love for us is found in the first chapter when He makes man and then woman so he wouldn’t be alone. We don’t know what it’s like to be God, so we have each other to relate to and live with in a different way than we live with God. Genesis 2 goes into more detail on the making of both man and woman and then finishes up with a picture of how we are to live together and love as men and women.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

So if we are made in his likeness, we should be doing things like He does them. Ultimately, we should be loving Him and each other as He first loved us. Our relationship matters to God. They should matter to us as well!

My husband and I, with a group of friends, recently completed a marriage study titled The Art of Marriage. We were excited to learn what it really looked like to have a God-centered, God-honoring marriage. Not that we haven’t considered it or done other studies on marriage before. We are just in a new place in our walk with Jesus and we really hadn’t been intentional about it for some time.

We went to the first session and got so much out of the teaching, had great group discussion and really felt like we were moving forward. Then, we had to actually talk to each other about the topic and lesson…

This shouldn’t have come as any surprise to us; I just don’t think we thought that far ahead. Maybe we were in denial. Maybe we thought all the years of communication issues (one of our friends had actually nick-named us The Bickerson’s) would just disappear because we wanted to do it God’s way. Maybe we just hoped this time it would be different.

In our group, we had decided that each week a different couple would lead the discussion. Since we had already done session 1, there were 5 sessions remaining and 5 couples in the group, we would have the couple who had been married the longest lead the next lesson, second longest the next and so on. As it turned out, we had been married the third longest so we got the lesson on, of all things, communication and conflict. God definitely has a sense of humor.

And God knows what He’s doing. In everything, He loves, teaches, corrects, and encourages. We did have some difficult times communicating and may even have had some conflicts come up. But this time, we focused on God’s desire for us to love each other and His purpose for our marriage. We made it through with barely a hint of a scratch! We discovered some new ways to communicate and are set on trusting each other for good first!

Something to Consider…

God created you to be in relationship with Him. He loves you deeply and cares about you. How well do you nurture and care for your relationship with Him? Do you love Him first before all things? Consider what you can do to love Him well and keep Him first in your life.

Marriage reflects Gods love for each of us to our spouse. We are Christ in flesh for each other. If you are married, how well do you nurture and care for relationship with your spouse? Does what you do or how well you love depend on the other persons willingness to do the same? Choose to do your part well so your spouse knows they can trust you for good.

If you’re not married, you still live in relationship with many other people. We all do. How well do you nurture and care for the other relationships in your life? Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people with whom you volunteer, clients you serve, the stranger on the street all need encouragement and love. While we shouldn’t give to get, we do reap what we sow, so be sure to love others well. We don’t need to be married to be the likeness of Christ to others!