Tag Archive | understanding

Rooted and Established

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

© Deposit/sonerbakir

© Deposit/sonerbakir

In Christ, the Spirit of Christ lives in you. You are in Christ. Christ is in you.

Do you see how fighting God could make you frustrated? You’re one with the living God and you’re trying to work in opposition to Him.

It’s not that you don’t understand God, at least in part, it’s more that you do. You realize deep down what it’s going to take to follow Him fully. You realize what you’re going to have to give up, what will be sacrificed in your journey with Him. And less than money, position, influence or relationships, but more of your pride, excuses, vices, comforts and conveniences.

But here’s the deal: fullness of life comes from God, not these other things whether material or self-satisfying attitudes and motivations.

When we hold back even one part of our heart from the saturating living waters of the Holy Spirit, we lack fullness. Our relationship with God can seem stagnant, but it’s not. It’s always moving. We are always moving. He is the same. He is constant. We are always moving closer to Him or farther away. We can choose to let His fullness invade our hearts or we can close off more and more pieces to Him. Because when we find reasons and justifications to keep one area closed, we’ll find reasons and justifications to close Him out of others.

Even a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that has no mind, knows that it’s best to grow deep roots into the ground that’s saturated with water. And it’s best to be saturated with the Spirit.

Streams of water move. The Spirit within us moves.

Ground saturated with water from streams has a fresh supply of oxygen. The stream feeds fresh water in while pushing old water out the way our lungs pump oxygen into our blood and our hearts move it through every part of our body. And just like our bodies know how to dispose of toxins, this flow of water in the ground allows for drainage of anything that may hinder the growth of the tree.

The stream flushes the ground and the Spirit flushes our hearts.

A heart saturated with the Holy Spirit has a fresh supply of God’s fullness. The Spirit brings all of God’s goodness and glory into our hearts and we can tap into this fullness through the roots we grow. When the Spirit reveals those things in our hearts that are damaging or harmful to us, we need to let the Spirit remove them. We have to let go and stop fighting Him.

God’s resources are unlimited. He will never run out of what we need to live, move or have our being in Him. As He empowers us with His strength through the Spirit, we learn to trust Him more. Our roots grow deep. We choose Him sooner, we choose Him first. We look to Him to satisfy rather than other people, other things or our surrounding circumstances. As we come to understand how deep His love runs, we realize our roots will never outgrow Him. His love is long and wide. There is nowhere He won’t go to find you and no pit too deep for Him to pull you from. How high is His love? Higher than any cloud, any star. Higher than the most powerful telescope can see.

This is the love that loves you.

When you allow your heart to be saturated with Him, every dark and secluded corner filled with His light and love, there will be nothing that can bring you down. He will establish you in a firm foundation and strengthen you with His strength that stands for eternity.

Something to Consider…

Does the understanding of God’s great love for you escape you? Do you feel like you have too many questions and not enough answers? God wants to you to ask your questions with a willingness to listen. He wants you to know Him in the depths of your heart. He is strong and His love for you can handle any question you throw at Him.

Do you have a hard time letting Him into the deep recesses of your heart? Does the thought of what He will reveal worry you? He already knows what’s there and He knows how to bring healing through the living waters of His Spirit. As cool water refreshes our bodies, His Spirit refreshes our hearts and our souls.

Every success and accomplishment along with every difficult decision or situation will cause you to choose where your roots will grow. Find your satisfaction and fullness of life in Him.

Where Wisdom Comes From

“Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job 28:20, 23-34

© DepositPhotos/nature78

© DepositPhotos/nature78

I received a phone call from my daughter not long after she left the house this morning. Since few people actually pick up a phone to talk anymore, my radar went up and I was instantly concerned. Yes, it turned out that she may be having car problems.

Ugh.

She has places to be and she’s not close to home. Our coming days are full so we need to deal with this now. Of course, my concern for her safety is always high on my list of priorities.

I’m not a mechanic and my answer to any car issue is to bring it in. I don’t know what the problem is and I don’t really want to know too much. I just want it fixed. I just want her safe. It’s so good that others know so much more than me!

Since she was almost to her destination, I told her to go. I called the repair shop, made an appointment and then started processing how we would work out all the details. In the middle of everything I continued to feel a bit wound up and stressed. I can have a tendency to panic and I want that to be different in my life.

So I talked with a friend. Not just any friend, mind you. A friend I not only trusted, but one who I knew didn’t panic. One who I knew had dealt with car issues. One who I knew would give me some straight answers with common sense.

And she did.

Sometimes there are practical issues and situations in our lives where we need concrete answers and decisions in the moment. And then there are times when we need an overall shift in our thinking, our emotions and our way of understanding our situation.

This is what Jesus does.

Did His car break down? No, because He didn’t have a car. He didn’t have a donkey either. And when He needed one, He asked to borrow someone else’s. He reached out and asked for help. God had already ordained the response.

There really isn’t a situation in my life that Jesus hasn’t experienced in His own way. He understands completely and if I’m willing to ask for help, He will comfort and encourage me. He will guide me to the people who can help. He will help me shift my understanding and perception of a situation not because it’s changed, but because He’s already brought about a resolution.

He is the resolution and the response to every situation.

Something to Consider…

Does this situation seem petty? In the middle of all the hardship, troubles, and chaos in our world right now, does this seem so very insignificant? In comparison to other issues, I’m sure it is. But how great is it that we have a God who is truly just as concerned with our small and petty issues as He is with our big and overwhelming concerns.

What small issues in your life do you try to handle on your own? How can trusting God in the small and petty help you learn how to and be able to trust Him in the big and overwhelming worries of your heart?

Difficult working conditions, strained family relationships, oppressive governments, unfair opportunities and general day-to-day problems…Jesus has seen it all. He has overcome it all. Will you seek His wisdom and His way today?

A Wise Leader (Part 3)

friends(View: A Wise Leader Part 1 and Part 2)

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

As I’ve gone through the process of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback, I’ve learned so much about myself, others and God. I know I need to be more comfortable with and accepting of who I am. I need to allow myself room to learn and grow understanding that the process is not always easy. As soon as I feel like I’ve done something that seems inadequate, I fold which is why feedback has been so difficult.

Because I see myself as inadequate, I expect others to as well. I read a blog by Seth Godin a while back where he talks about the idea of always bracing yourself for the worst. It’s a difficult, defeating and draining place to live. It also makes relationships hard to navigate because you never really feel like you can be at ease with others. Rather, you have to be in a posture of defense, ready to deflect or fight back.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NLT)

But this isn’t really fair to others. In Christ or not in Christ, all people need to be viewed from Christ’s point of view. People fit into two categories: Those who already know Jesus and those who Jesus wants to know Him. All people are made in the image of God. Jesus died for everyone so I need to view them as someone He loves, and be secure in His love myself as I love them, too.

So what does this say to me about others in regards to feedback?

What I learned about others is that they do truly want to be encouraging and helpful.

While I think this is true in general, I believe it goes to a higher level in the family of believers. When people are aware of their own sin, failings and shortcomings, they are more willing to forgive, overlook and come alongside someone who struggles. Because we know our hearts are set on Jesus, we trust each other’s hearts in a deeper way. Their hearts are for us just as God is for us. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but when heard with an understanding that this person has a desire to move you forward, lift you over a hurdle or straight-out break down a wall, it can be received with the grace, kindness and love it was intended.

So here are a few ways I hope to be intentional with others.

1. Be open.

People like to give feedback. People like to be heard. Sometimes, we just need to listen. Listening doesn’t mean we need to receive what they have to say, but when we really listen, we might just hear something we really need to know. We might also learn something about the person speaking because God actually wants us to enter into a conversation that will help them as well.

2. Be discerning.

As I said before, we don’t need receive everything that’s said to us. We also don’t need to ask everyone for their opinion. Discernment helps us know who to engage in the process of growing. It helps us hear and recognize truth from lies, understand who has well-intentioned motives, and determine if they really have a solid understanding of what they are talking about. There is so much information available today that people think they are an expert just because they read it on the internet.

  1. Be grace-filled.

I say really stupid stuff sometimes. This isn’t about me being inadequate. It’s just a fact that I’m flawed and make mistakes. I don’t have all the information, I don’t have a complete understanding of the situation and sometimes, I don’t speak from a humble servant’s heart even though I know I should. But God has never turned His back on me so when others say things that hurt, I need to be willing to offer grace, forgive and give them room to learn and grow as well. It’s easy to want to fight back and defend, even accuse, but that’s not the way of Jesus. Grace that doesn’t overflow hasn’t been fully accepted.

Something to Consider…

Do you tend to brace yourself for the worst? Do you dismiss people who don’t say what you want to hear? Do you have a hard time seeing others through God’s eyes, especially when what they have to say seems harsh and unfair?

We are a broken people. In Christ, we have the freedom to be broken. In Christ, we have the freedom to love broken people. As we are healed in Christ, we will love and listen to each other His way.

Follow Me

© Depositphotos.com/ rachwal

© Depositphotos.com/
rachwal

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Prior to this, Matthew was following the Roman government and other tax collectors. He was hated and reviled by the Jewish people. And yet, Jesus, a Rabbi, called Matthew to follow Him. In other words, He called him to stop doing what he was doing and start doing something new. Matthew would have to give up what he was pursuing in his following and pursue what Jesus was doing. It didn’t take but a moment for him to decide to take Jesus up on His offer. He walked away from it all.

Following isn’t mindlessly going where everyone else is going. In this case, it’s an intentional decision to go somewhere and do something very specific. There is an intentional effort to learn and do what someone else already knows and is doing. We learn what we pay attention to. We learn what we see, hear and experience.

Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

There is a benefit to giving careful consideration to our actions, relationships and who we pay attention to and learn from.

Paul in writing to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians and others says, “Imitate me.” Do what I do, follow my example and put into practice what you hear me say and watch me do. Why? Because I follow Christ. He is my example.

Paul also tells Timothy that he is to be an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

There are plenty of people who are in the spotlight and are considered role models and examples regardless of whether or not they want to be one. Some take it seriously, others just assume it’s not their issue.

As a follower of Christ, you are to follow the example of Jesus and those who knew Him. These examples are recorded in the Bible. We also follow the examples of those who have followed the followers of Jesus, and those who have followed the followers of the followers of the followers…

Something to Consider…

So who do you choose to follow and why? Whose example do you imitate? Have you given it much thought? Take an inventory of who influences and affects your decisions, words and actions. Do they help you follow Jesus or lead you away from Him?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also an example to others. Do you know who is following you? Ask God to show you any thoughts, behaviors or words that don’t honor Him. Ask Him to grow your understanding of the importance of demonstrating the true character of Christ with others.

Choose today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. He is the role model worth imitating.

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.

The Problem with Grace

Sun Rays“Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.” Philippians 4:23 (The Message)

Grace is difficult to grasp.

Even in a world that says we are free-to-be, there are rules upon rules upon rules.

Sentiments of, “Don’t judge me,” mixed with policies of zero tolerance. Love your neighbor to their face, but public bashing on social media is acceptable.

Some of you may scoff at it and say you don’t agree, but I’m thinking the clerk at the store, the co-worker in the next cubicle, the lady on the bus, the bully at school – they are each your neighbor. Have you read your posts about them? I’ve read mine and it’s not pretty.

God is stripping down the walls of my heart. He’s removing the old habits and thinking. He’s reshaping my heart because it must operate in a whole new way. I’m getting an extreme makeover, but I don’t get time to separate from life until it’s over. And it’s not a quick process finished in one week. At times it’s freeing and others it’s painful.

I’ve been reading and studying the Gospel of Matthew, really digging into the heart conditions that contribute to our sin versus those that solidify a foundation of love, along with the reasons we just won’t let go of our own way of thinking, our own way of relating to others. I admit I have a hard heart at times.

How does grace and truth come together in a way that doesn’t seem too naive to the troubles of sin nor too harsh about our need to do the “right” thing? Everyone has an opinion about what is right. I ALWAYS have an opinion. I try to save it until someone asks, but that doesn’t always work. There are times when I just need to speak.

What does mercy and justice really look like in certain situations with certain people? Everyone wants the other person to get what they deserve: get caught, be sentenced, pay their debt, but each of us wants mercy: understanding, a second chance (or unlimited chances), and someone to let us off the hook. I definitely don’t want to be caught and try to slide by. I want to pretend it never happened…and then I sit in my mistakes.

How do I let go of the rules that I can check and check off each time I want to know if something is good or right and instead, trust and follow completely the One who is only good? I want to know where He will lead me. I want to know what to expect. If I can’t see it, conceptualize what will happen, I struggle moving forward in obedience.

There are people in my life who have hurt me, yet I love them. I don’t spend much time with them, yet I care what happens to them. All this happens at a distance. So what does it really look like to love them up close when they don’t think they did anything wrong? In this, I keep God at a distance sometimes in my shame.

How do I live in this world, hating the sin, loving the sinner; recognizing there is good and there is evil while forgiving what others don’t understand or even what they do? How do I accept that they believe what they believe and will do what they do without having to agree, condone or go along with them? I don’t want to be accused, hated or rejected for what I believe.

Grace is so beyond how we live, how we think and what we hear.

Grace is a free gift, but we’ve been taught nothing in life is free. Everything has a cost.

And Jesus paid it.

Grace and truth came through Jesus. Jesus shows compassion because He understands our struggles and our need. He is kind because He sees beyond our mistakes. He is generous because He gives knowing we can’t pay Him back. He is gentle never forcing Himself on anyone. He is good because He lifts us out of the pit and places us on a firm foundation. And He is love because He restores us completely and there is freedom.

In order to even begin to understand Grace, you must first know Who it really is and trust Him, letting Him have complete control.

I’ve found the only problem with grace is me.

Something to Consider…

What does God’s grace mean to you?

How willing are you to offer grace, forgiveness, and mercy to others?

What struggles and heart conditions keep you from freely living in God’s grace? If you feel you do, how would you explain it to someone else?

The Tree of Life

Lone Maple Tree“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9

I’ve been thinking too much lately about what is missing from my life. I’ve been wondering what God has been doing, what He wants me doing and what results will come from any of it.

I have many great friends; better friends than I ever thought possible. They hear me say things like this and laugh…in a kind way. As we were driving and talking about all my concerns, we came across two signs. We couldn’t miss them. They were huge billboards, bright yellow with black lettering. “I love you anyway.” “Jesus.”

Regardless of the answers, regardless of my questions, regardless of me getting it all right, Jesus loves me anyway.

All too often, what is missing becomes the focus; not the abundance of what already is.

In the beginning, God placed two trees in the garden: 1) the tree of life and 2) the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Look what He has to say about these trees.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” Genesis 2:16-17

In the beginning, there was one rule, one command: you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He even gave the reason: for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

God allowed people to eat from the tree of life. He told them not to eat from the tree that would lead to death.  Sounds like a pretty good deal!

Even though God warned Adam and Eve, they rebelled. They did what they wanted focusing on what was missing; something they believed was being withheld. They allowed themselves to be wooed away from the truth, the warning and the blessing.

They lost the right to eat from the tree of life.

They had life! They chose death. And because of this choice, we receive death as well. If they had understood the full consequence of their actions, would they have rejected the fruit, accepted the truth and remained in the garden?

“(Jesus said) Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

But here is the good news. In Jesus Christ, we regain the right to eat from the tree of life! Jesus removes the barriers to the garden, to paradise, and to God.

God has made a way once again for us to have life! But once again, we are the ones who have to make the choice. We can choose our own way of doing things settling for death. Or we can accept God’s way, Jesus, and receive life everlasting!

We can focus on what seems to be missing and wonder about what we don’t know. Or we can remember what God has already done and know with certainty we already have life in Christ.

Something to Consider…

Where is your focus, on your abundance or on your lack?

In what ways do you reach out and grab for yourself what you believe is missing? Do you want to do it your own way not believing or understanding the truth of what you may lose when you do?

Do you trust God’s willingness to provide all that you need? Why or why not? If not, what would need to happen or what would you need to know in order for you to trust Him?

Jesus has come so you can have abundant life; life to the full! (John 10:10)