I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for the ‘Personal Study’ Category

Who Are We?

One of the things I love about the Bible App I use on my phone and iPad is the Devotional feature.  I can choose a devotional AND have the app remind me each day.  And this latest devotional is hitting me HARD. I just have to share yesterday’s devotional reading and the scripture it referenced.  What you are about to read is not my creation.  It’s from “When Faith Catches Fire” by Samuel Rodriguez and Dr. Robert Crosby.

Rev. 5:9 – And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

There is a new song arising! Can you hear it? It is deep within and longing to rise from a sacred place of silent hope to be a sound that will pierce the darkness. There is a new song arising!

This new song will not be sung exclusively by a black chorus, a white ensemble, a Latino band, or an Asian soloist. No! This new song will be sung by a multiethnic, multi-generational, kingdom-culture choir washed in the blood of the Lamb. A church united.

But rest assured, this song rises not out of programmed promptings or emotional exuberance, but rather out of the depths, out of the leading of God’s spirit at work in the hearts of surrendered men and women. It is not born out of hype but rather of hope.

It is time to sing a new song! The new song reminds us of our identity. So who are we? We must respond with clarity, conviction, and courage and affirm the following:

  • We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
  • We are a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14)
  • We are a people of the Word (Matthew 4:4)
  • We are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
  • We are prophetic and not pathetic
  • We are disciples, witnesses, and Christ followers (Matthew 28:16-20)
  • We are children of the cross (Romans 8:17), fruit of the empty tomb (John 12:24), and products of the upper room (Acts 2)
  • We are the redeemed of the Lord (Psalm 107:2)
  • We are forgiven, free, and favored (Galatians 5:1)
  • We are called and chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
  • We are warriors and worshippers (Psalm 144:1)

We are not first and foremost brown, black, white, or yellow, Hispanic, Charismatic, Pentecostal, or reformed.

We are above all the born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-empowered children of the Living God.

This one is a day late – apparently, the schedule got away from me but I figured better late than never!

Hubby got a chance to preach at 2nd Baptist this past Sunday.  It was a treat to get to hear him preach again!  But I learned something new from a passage I’ve read numerous times.  Hubby’s text was Matthew 17:24-27.  In this particular passage, Jesus and all of the disciples are in Capernaum. Peter is approached by those who collect the temple tax.  They want to know if Jesus pays his temple tax.  His immediate answer is yes but Peter asks Jesus about it later.  Jesus has a conversation with Peter in which he makes about being the son of God and should he really have to pay the tax to maintain God’s temple . . . but that wasn’t the “new thing”.  Jesus gives Peter an instruction in verse 27 – “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel.  Take that and give it to them for you and me.”

The temple tax was established in Leviticus.  Those men 20 years of age and up were to pay a half shekel to the temple.  Jesus and all 12 of his disciples were in Capernaum.  Jesus tells Peter how he will get a shekel to pay the temple tax for Peter and Jesus.  Only Peter and Jesus.  The implication of this act is that the other 11 disciples are not yet 20.  Somehow, in all my years growing up in the church and the Bible courses I took in college, I missed this.  During Jesus’ 3 years of active ministry, he was surrounded by 12 young men.  Possibly even teenagers.

Here’s the “take away”.  If Jesus entrusted the establishing of the early church to men not yet – or barely – old enough to pay the temple tax, we can certainly trust teenagers to make good choices and impact their world in positive ways.  I’ve always been a big advocate of seeing the best in young people and setting high expectations for them.  And it would seem I have the best of all role models in doing so.  Just didn’t realize it till now.

Necessary Change

I’ve been away for quite some time because explaining where I am in my own personal growth is challenging at present.  I am finding my personal paradigms blown to bits with new ones being rebuilt that look nothing like what I used to think faith was and how it worked.  This passage – from Ted Dekker’s newest publication, “Waking Up:  How I Found My Faith by Losing It” – slapped me right in the face with an intense level of personal conviction.  I have so failed letting love define me and that has to change.  Read and do with this what you will; it’s just the latest step in a new way of looking at faith and how it affects my daily behavior.

“If there is one elephant in the room among most of us who call ourselves Christian, it is that what we think and say we believe and what we actually experience are all too often two, radically different realities.  Ironically, we ourselves are often the last to see this disparity.
We think and say we believe in Jesus, but we are anxious for tomorrow and cringe with fear in the face of the storm.  We think and say we love our neighbor and our enemy, but we court jealousy of those who have what we want, and we secretly despise those who lash out against us.
We are Christians from different denominations with various emphases in doctrine, yet in our daily lives we seem to be the same, often stumbling in darkness and feeling lost and condemning ouselves and those around us.
The evidence of our lives does not match our rhetoric.
Paul’s teaching was utterly clear:  The primary evidence show by those who know the Father is this:  love.  Jesus was just as clear:  Not just any love, but an extravagant expression of love that is kind to those who are cruel to us, not only those who show us love in return.  
As Paul wrote, a love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record or wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  These are the evidences of true love which flows from those who know the Father and his limitless love for them.
But it seems that we show all manner of evidence but the one that matters most.  We call ourselves Christian but we are not known for the kind of love Jesus said would mark his followers.  Have we lost the tune?  Are singing the wrong song?
We show the evidence of profound words to others, speaking truth in the tongues of men and angels, but we rise up in anger at our brother and are therefore as guilty as any murderer, as Jesus said.
We show the evidence of informed doctrine and all knowledge, having studied the Scriptures, and yet we do not love the lowest person as Christ, so our knowledge is worthless.
We may give all of our possessions to the poor and surrender our bodies to be burned and have faith to move mountains and heal disease, calling Him Lord, yet these profit us nothing if love does not rule our hearts.
We call ourselves born again, baptized in water and the Spirit.  We are diligent in taking communion, singing in choirs, serving the church, paying tithes, reading the Scriptures, fasting when called to humble ourselves, gathering in Bible studies, attending conferences, going on missions, voting for the right bills, and rehearsing our doctrine.
And yet rivers of love, joy and peace do not flow from us like living waters, and so, as Paul said, all of these profit us nothing.
Can you relate?
What matters isn’t our stated belief and doctrine but how we live and what we experience in the story of our lives, as Jesus, John, James, and Paul all make so abundantly clear.  It’s our actual experience and expression of life that shows us and the world what we truly believe and to waht extent we truly love, not what we say we believe or who we say we love.  If we say we have faith, but the working of our life don’t reflect that faith, that faith is either asleep or dead.  
This brings us back to the elephant in the room, easily seen by all.  We are not being who we say we are.  And if what we say we believe and what we experience in life are in conflict, we end up in misery.  One of the two must eventually yield.”

  

The Rest of You

Just recently started reading “The Furious Longing of God” by  Brennan Manning.  Each chapter ends with two “Consider This” questions and I use them as journal prompts.  The questions are always profound and get me thinking about concepts I’ve never addressed on my own.  Just finished chapter 2, and one of the questions seemed worth sharing:

“There is the “you” that people see and then there is the “rest of you.”  Take some time and craft a picture of the “rest of you.” This could be a drawing, in words, even a song.  Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions.”

So there ya’ go.  I won’t be sharing my answer.  Partially because it was lengthy but mostly because it was REALLY honest and there are some things that are just not meant to be shared with others.  At least not right now.

Whatever you do, be honest with yourself.

By This, All Men Will Know

I have this horrible habit – I try diligently to mind my own business and seem to attract those who wish to discuss things loudly within my hearing.  It’s not that I try to eavesdrop – I just seem to be surrounded by those having what should be a private conversation at a very public volume.

One such conversation occurred recently – a woman was griping to her male companion (husband? friend? co-worker? Not sure) about a woman who she has significant difficulty getting along with.  In the speaker’s opinion, the woman in question has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  At least that’s what it sounded like.  She listed several flaws this woman has.  In the end, it sounded like the woman speaking and the woman she was bad-mouthing just have different ways of approaching tasks to be completed.

Then my heart broke when the woman finished with, “I just cringe every time I see that woman walking toward me in church.”  Wait.  You were verbally shredding a fellow believer?!  Pretty sure that’s not an okay thing to do.

John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command:  Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”

It’s simple – disciples of Jesus are recognized by the love they have for one another.  Not how ornate their church buildings are, not what style of music they use in worship, not what translation of the scripture their pastor uses . . . their love for the family of faith.  There is no escape clause in that command – we are to love one another in the same way God loved us.  Period.

My heart often breaks when I see the rage and animosity that has become a part of the internet culture.  We all want others to accept/support the causes that are nearest and dearest to our own hearts but we can often be heartless and unloving when interacting with others of different views.  But my encounter today tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  If followers of Jesus cannot love one another, how on earth can I expect those who don’t agree on “big” issues to treat each other lovingly?!  I’m not going to lie – what I overheard was also very convicting.  I’ve been guilty of the behavior I observed more often than I want to think about.  I screw up this command far too many times.

Let’s face it – followers of Jesus are humans.  We fail, fall down, sin, hurt others, get hurt, deal with disappointment or cause it . . . we all screw up.  But none of that is an excuse to treat each other harshly.  The command above is pretty clear.  It is our love for our brothers and sisters that will distinguish us as follower of Jesus.  It doesn’t mean we pretend not to have differences or that we act like we never disagree.  In fact, I personally think it would have MORE impact if those outside of the faith could see us deal with differences of opinion/disagreements with gentleness, empathy, compassion, and love.

As I said earlier, it was a convicting experience.  The challenge to myself sounds simple but is going to be a challenge – all those who claim to be followers of Christ are my family and I will seek to treat them with love first and foremost.  I have no delusions – it won’t be easy!  But it’s a behavior that needs to become so deeply ingrained in me that doing anything else would be impossible.

Quotes

I recently read through a devotional entitled “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyers.  Found a few quotes that jumped out at me and have sort of stuck with me.  Sharing those quotes here!  (All quotes are to be attributed to Joyce Meyers.)

“If the enemy of your mind can convince you that you’re too bad or too worthless, he has set up a stronghold in your mind.”

” . . . Satan is never in a hurry.  All he needs is an opportunity to inject unholy, self-centered thoughts into our heads.  If we don’t kick them out, they stay.  And he can continue his evil, destructive plan.”

“That’s exactly how Satan works.  He begins by bombarding our minds with cleverly devised patterns of irritation, dissatisfaction, doubt, fears, and reasonings.  He moves slowly and cautiously (after all, well-laid plans take time).”

I also just completed a devotional entitled “Praying for Your Elephant – Praying Bold Prayers”.  The quotes below come from that study, written by Pastor Adam Stadtmiller.

“The boundaries of our personal prayer lives often have les to do with biblical restrictions and more to do with the limitations we place on them.”

“The Devil has no ability to contain prayer.  Prayer is spiritually nuclear in nature; it is the raw material of God and His people.  Prayer is out of Satan’s influence.  He has no power to warp or influence a prayer’s trajectory to God’s throne after it has been prayed.  Once a prayer is unleashed, it bounces around eternity in perpetuity, burning before the throne of God like incense.”

“When prayer is primarily about answers, our relationship with God becomes results focused.  When God says no or works outside of our time schedule, we desperately question why and are tempted to feel inadequate or unloved by God.  Be assured that as you grow in the area of asking prayer, the Devil will seek to shift the focus of your prayers from relationship to results.”

“When God answers your prayers in dramatic fashion, you will grow in the knowledge of His power and care for you.  When God works on His schedule instead of yours, you will come to know more about His sustaining power.  And when God says no and your dreams die or perhaps you lose someone close to you, you will come to know the God of all comfort who weeps with you.”

“Here is a truth.  Jesus did not die on a cross so that he could continue to speak to you primarily through some other person, movie, or book.  Christ came and suffered to be known intimately by you and to open up the lines of communication blocked by the fall of mankind.  He came that He might speak mightily and directly to you.  Scripture is clear when it says, ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Heb. 4:16)’ It does not say that we are to approach the throne standing behind a human mediator.”

Quotes

Nothing super profound from my own head today.  Just some quotes from a Joyce Meyer study I’m doing!

These two deal with the painful issues from the past –

“I encourage people to let go of their past, but never to run from it.  The only way to gain victory over the pain of our past is to let God walk us back through that doorway of pain and into victory.”

We have to let God take us through things and let Him work in us so our mess becomes our message. Difficult things that we have endured in our past prepare us for God’s blessings in our future.”

(Can you tell which phrase really jumped out at me?!)

These were on the subject of joy –

“We will never enjoy life unless we make a quality decision to do so.  Satan is an expert at stealing and our joy is one of his favorite targets.  Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  In John 10:10 we are told that “the thief” comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but that Jesus came that we might have and enjoy life.  Satan is the thief, and one of the things he seeks to steal is our joy.  If he can steal our joy from us, we will be weak; and when we are weak, the enemy takes advantage of us. Weak believers are no threat to him and his work of destruction.  In order to live as God intends for us to live, the first thing we must do is truly believe that it is God’s will for us to experience continual joy.  Then we must decide to enter into that joy.

“Joy and enjoyment are available just as misery is available.  Righteousness and peace are available and so are condemnation and turmoil.  There are blessings and curses available, and that is why Deut. 30:19 tells us to choose life and blessings.”

And this was probably my favorite!

“Regardless of how it may happen or who may be responsible, it is hard to go on when everything we have counted on falls down around us.  That’s when those of us who have the creative power of the Holy Spirit on the inside can get a new vision, a new direction, and a new goal to help us overcome the downward pull of disappointment, discouragement, and destruction.”

Still “mentally chewing” on all of these so I’ll just let you do with them what you will! Enjoy!

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