Tag Archive | understanding

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!

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But Why?

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 (NIV)

I was talking to my oldest daughter this morning before she went on a photo shoot. She is just beginning a photography business and does amazing work. While she is starting to get leads and line up work, she is young and still in college. She has not quite made the transition to the adult, working world.

One of the people who she was “shooting” was someone from her day job. They know each other well and have seen each other in various states of being “put-together” and completely falling apart. It was an early appointment so she was going to get up, throw herself together and go.

Before jumping in the shower, she asked me about her attire for the morning. I gave my input and watched her cringe in disappointment.

She told me what she planned to wear and why. I let her know that it didn’t matter who it was, the goal was to look professional whenever possible. She wants her clients to know she is capable and trustworthy with their memories.

While we shouldn’t judge others on looks, it is one way we can influence the relationship from the first moment of meeting. Regardless of our desire to not judge, often we have an initial reaction to what we see.

As she tried to convince me of why it should be okay to wear what she had first chosen, I told her, “You obviously questioned your choice of clothing or you wouldn’t have asked me. I simply confirmed what you already knew. Stop fighting it and do what you know it right.”

And with that she picked out different clothes and went to get ready.

And I smiled as I watched the Holy Spirit direct her in the way she should go.

Does the Holy Spirit, God, really care what we wear? Is it that big of a deal? Who cares? We already know people shouldn’t judge us so shouldn’t they just accept us as we are regardless of what we look like, clothes and all?

I admit, I don’t know to what extent God cares but here is what I do know: We have the ability to influence. Our appearance may matter, it may not. If God knows our appearance may make the difference, He will let us know. I don’t think He will tell us to buy clothes we can’t afford just to look good. He won’t tell us to use our looks to get what we want. But He does know what is best in every situation and since He is working in all things, He knows and cares about every detail.

For my daughter, this may have been the beginning of a lead to something more. There were others involved, not just her co-worker. While that was the relationship she was thinking of, it may not have been the one God was orchestrating.

“The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.” Galatians 5:17 (CEV)

Stop fighting God and do what you know is right.

As God speaks to you through the Holy Spirit, stop fighting His direction, guidance and counsel. Be willing to submit to His will and His way because everything He does leads to His love.

To finish the story, as my daughter left the house, she had a bounce in her step, a smile on her face and she carried herself with confidence. God is good indeed!

Something to Consider:

Is there something God is asking you to do and you are fighting it because you don’t understand why it matters? Do you find yourself struggling with what you want versus what God is telling you to do?

Seek God’s guidance and counsel. Step out in faith doing what He asks even if when you don’t understand. Jesus has made a way for us to have direct access to the Father through His Spirit; choose to listen, learn and live out what He tells you.

Our Desire, His Plan

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

I have had plans and dreams that I assumed could never happen. I’ve also had plans that I thought would satisfy and fulfill some deep desire but still fell short. There are things I always thought I would do and those that I said I would never do. And yet, here I am; nowhere near where I thought I would be.

Recently, I was thinking about our retirement plans. We still have a number of years before that reality but we’ve always had a general idea of where and how we wanted to live. Somewhere warm and near water would be perfect! No snow, no seat warmers in the car, no shovels, snow boots or ice melt needed. Then out of the blue, just the other week I thought, “I don’t want to move. I can’t imagine leaving and giving up what we have here. This means way too much to me!” How would I ever tell my husband that I didn’t want to go south?

But to my surprise, just a few days later, we were driving through the neighborhood and he said, “We’re going to be living here the rest of our lives, aren’t we?” He didn’t have a defeated tone, just one of fact. All I could say was, “Yes.”

God had changed our hearts and lead us to a new way of thinking; a new desire in our hearts.

I have found lately that God has a different plan for me than my deepest desires; at least those desires I had before I really knew Him. The idea of “giving up” my desires for Him was so scary. If I really stepped into what He wanted for me and from me, what would it require of me? What would I have to give up?

So far, it’s been some material possessions, self-gratifying activities and ultimately, fear.

I had to give up the fear that I would never have what I really wanted – a life of convenience, ability, and fun.

The truth is God has shown me how much more fun my life is when it’s not all about me. There are conveniences that free up my time, help me stay in communication with others and allow me the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do; but the focus is on serving, not being served. As I step away from the desire to have things, I move closer to the ability to provide for others.

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Just as we didn’t see a past move to California coming, there may be something else God has up His sleeve for us. And just as we did think we would be moving back to Minnesota, we know God’s plans for us will be good.

Something to Consider…

The deepest desires of our hearts cannot come close to the plans the Lord has in store for each of us. Until we begin to understand this, we may tend to approach God with a bit of fear and intimidation worried about what we will have to change or give up.

The dreams and desires this world says we should crave and fulfill are empty and dissatisfying. God has good plans for you when you seek Him and His desires and dreams for your life. Boldly come to Him and lay your plans out before Him. Ask God to show you how His plan not only brings glory to Him, but can truly fulfill the deepest desires of your heart.

God’s Best

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

There are some really difficult situations and topics we deal with in this life. We sometimes find ourselves glossing over the truth because it is just too difficult. Rather than addressing the issue based on what God’s Word says about it, we say “Well, who can know the mind of God and what He really means?” And I completely agree; who can know the mind of God? His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are well beyond my full ability to comprehend.

But neither was God’s Word written for us to read and continually seek out others opinions without deciding for ourselves what we believe.  We are to read it and He will help us understand it when we seek Him and His knowledge, wisdom and understanding. He has given us His Word for a reason; to know Him and His ways better.

“’I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in the synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’” John 18:20-21

He has a best plan, path and direction for our lives. We often mess it up and while some of what we mess up is still good and not bad, it may not be the BEST He has for us. We can often decide what the best is for our children and others in our lives, but we just as often don’t think that same best is true for us. We want what we want, think what we think and do what we decide is okay. Who does it really hurt? What does it really matter?

We’ve all seen family and friends head a direction we know will get them in trouble. We wonder why they can’t see it as well. As you try with all your might to direct them a different way, they dismiss you, thinking your way is just one way and their way is just as valid. They think we don’t truly understand and so our advice is not relevant. I think this is how God sees us many times. He sees where our way is taking us and He does everything He can to tell us and show us the truth of where we are heading. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He tries to get us to see the goodness of His direction and the danger ahead while still allowing us the freedom of free will.

While we do have free will and God can redeem and restore, heal the brokenness of the most broken, and bring good from the worst of the worst; our choice can be to look to Him for His guidance and direction and choose to follow His ways, not our own.

Something to Consider…

Is there a section of Scripture or topic you struggle with believing is true? Something you’re not sure you agree with as written?

As you read God’s Word and come across Scripture that you have a difficult time agreeing with or understanding to be true, ask Him to show you how His Word is His best for you.

Tell Him About It

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

One of the hardest things to do is admit I was wrong. There are times I didn’t see it as wrong and there are others when I knew my action or reaction was hurtful, disrespectful or simply not the best thing to do. I replied out of anger or self-righteousness when I really had no compassion or understanding. I put my wants and desires first, even before God.

God’s Word says we all sin, we’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. When we act like we don’t sin or think what we do doesn’t really matter, we deceive ourselves. Not only that, but by believing we don’t do anything wrong, we call God a liar.

You may think, “I’ve never called God a liar.”

Everything we say falls into three categories: it’s true, it’s a lie and we know it, or it’s a lie and we don’t know it. If we don’t believe God is telling the truth, then we call Him a liar.

1 John 1:10 says if we really think God is lying; no part of His Word has any place in our lives. We can’t pick and choose what we want to believe and dismiss the rest. God’s Word says we’ve ALL sinned, that includes you and me. God’s Word is either true or not and we shouldn’t live by a lie.

My daughters often ask questions about the Bible. They don’t understand what certain Scripture means in general or what it means for them. For a very long time, I felt the same way and still do on occasion. What I tell them is that I believe it’s all true and I ask God to show me how it’s true. I pray for His wisdom and understanding because in my own mind, I don’t and can’t really understand. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to understand because the truth can be really difficult to accept.

It’s hard to admit our sin, our shortcomings, our flat-out disobedience and selfish behavior. What if when we acknowledge what we’ve done, our family and friends get angry and leave us? It is possible. But hopefully, our family and friends love us for who we are and not what we do. Hopefully, they will forgive and love us all the more for being a person of honesty and integrity, wanting to make things right.

Regardless of what the people in our lives do, when we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins. He doesn’t leave us; He loves us. He doesn’t relive what we’ve done, holding it over our heads; He takes it away. He sent His Son, Jesus, to do just this. Through our faith in Him, our sins no longer exists. God sees us new.

Something to Consider…

God is for you, loves you, and is waiting for you to be honest with Him regarding every part of your life.

Is there is a situation, behavior or attitude that keeps you at a distance from God or others? Choose to tell Him about it. The truth is He already knows but by talking to Him about it, you choose to be open to what He has to say about it.

Confess it to God. Ask Him to help you understand how to handle the situation or change the behavior or attitude. He will forgive you and help you live out His right ways.

The Golden Rule

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

My daughters and I were talking once about another child at school who was giving one of them a hard time. She wanted to be able to come back at this person and say something really mean just to show them what it was like. I completely understand this thinking. We think if we can make them understand or show them what it’s like to be in our shoes, they will stop. But really, what it shows is that we can be just as mean.

I mentioned the “Golden Rule” in our conversation and this was the reply: “Well, if this is how they are treating me, it must mean they want to be treated this way.” I think I laughed out loud! That is one way to view it; it’s wrong, but we probably think this more than we care to admit.

This verse does not put the responsibility on the other person to treat us right; it puts the onus on us to treat others right.

  • If we want to be loved, we need to love.
  • If we want compassion, we need to be compassionate.
  • If we want people to be kind, we need to show kindness.
  • If we want to be able to trust someone, we need to be trustworthy.
  • If we want people to help, we need to be willing to serve.
  • If we want _____________, we need to_____________. (You fill in the blanks.)

Which of these pieces comes first? Our willingness to love and listen, follow through and serve should always be first in our minds.

I have seen so many postings on Facebook to re-post the condemnation to bullies that they really don’t understand how they hurt others when they bully and if they only understood the other person’s situation, they would stop. I believe for the most part that they do understand the pain and hurt because they feel it from others as well. It’s what they’ve been taught and have learned.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:44-45a (NKJV)

So my prayer is this:

I pray for every bully who has ever been emotionally, physically, or mentally abused by a parent, relative or friend. I pray for every bully who has ever been told they would never amount to anything; that they are stupid or worthless. I pray for every bully who thought they finally had a breakthrough only to be told it wasn’t good enough; they are second-best, second-class. I pray for every bully who thinks the only way they can feel better is to know there is someone who feels worse. I pray that the love, kindness and compassion of Jesus would be made real in their life through a person who is willing to serve and show that their real value is found in Jesus. In His precious name, Amen.

“If we say we are His, we must follow the example of Christ.” 1 John 2:6 (CEV)

Jesus did not shake His finger at those who didn’t know and understand His ways. He reached out His hand in love and compassion to show them the love of His Father in heaven.

Something to Consider…

Is there someone in your life: a spouse, co-worker, boss, in-law, or friend, who wears you down rather than builds you up?

While there is no guarantee they will change, I challenge you to pray for them and love them like Jesus. That, I can guarantee, will change you!

Life in Christ

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6:1-2 (NIV)

Life in Christ begins the moment we put our trust in Him. As we acknowledge our sin, those things we haven’t done that we should and those things we have done that we shouldn’t, we ask Him to help us change our ways and we choose to follow Him.

We have died to sin through His death and we live in Him through His Spirit. To live means to be alive; to dwell or abide in; and to fully experience life. While we are alive in this world, Christ lives in us and we are to abide in Christ. We remain with Him and Him with us. He will give us a new life as we continue to seek Him and His ways, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. He will never lead us back to our old ways and our life of sin. He will only lead us in His good and right ways that lead to life.

Some would say that it doesn’t really matter what we do as long as no one gets hurt. “God will forgive us anyway so what does it really matter? And besides, if God forgives me for all the things I continue to do, won’t that really demonstrate God’s grace all the more?”

Jesus, himself tells us to repent. To repent is to feel regret for our conduct and choose to change our ways. Our lives in Christ do not stop at the idea that God offers grace and forgiveness. We are to be living examples of how God’s grace and forgiveness work in our lives. Our desire is not just to live with Him in heaven when we die but to live in and experience His life while we are here in this world. We cannot knowingly live in sin and expect to experience the fullness of life in Christ.

As human beings who cannot completely understand God’s will or ways because they are so far beyond our ability to comprehend, we will do things we shouldn’t or not do things we should simply because we really don’t get it. But, when we do get it, do understand what is outside of His will for us and go there anyway, we willingly choose to remove ourselves from Him. We are choosing to not abide in Him and we miss out on the fullness of His love, joy and peace now. These come when we live in Him, not our sin.

Something to Consider…

God desires to be reconciled with you. He offers His grace and forgiveness through the death and life of His Son, Jesus. What is God calling you to turn from so that you can experience the fullness of life in Christ?

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

God does not just remove something from our lives; He replaces it with something better.