Monday, January 22, 2018

Health Food

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." - Galatians 5:22-23

We've all been schooled in abundance about proper nutrition.  As soon as we begin to apply healthier eating habits to our own lives, we can feel our bodies changing.  They function differently; we often feel lighter, more energized, and generally more positive because of our healthy choices.  What a perfect metaphor for our relationship with God.  When we grow in communion with him and invite the spirit into our lives, we can feel change creeping into our hearts and minds. 

We begin to think differently.  We start to speak differently.  What was once okay coming out of our mouths suddenly doesn't feel right.  We begin to see the world through a different lens, and this is a good thing.  Pride and self-service runs so rampant in our society, but God calls us to be everything that the people of the world are not.  







Second to others.

We can't make these changes on our own.  As humans, we let circumstances dictate our moods.  We try to take justice into our own hands.  We pass up opportunities to serve others when it inconveniences us.  Our frustrations mount and anger takes over.  We make sure to get the last word in during an argument when we should be holding our tongue.  But as we grow in communion with the Lord and our perspectives shift, we can begin to employ these fruits with the help of the holy spirit.

Feed your body healthy food - things that will nourish and fortify.  But don't forget to feed your soul - the holy spirit and the word of God will satisfy and fill a void that no chocolate bar or cup of coffee can.

Let the holy spirit work in you, and humble yourself to feel the transformative power of a renewed mind in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

God's Voice

"The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.  In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.  One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.  The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.  Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, "Here I am."  And he ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."  

But Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."  So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, "Samuel!"  And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."

"My son," Eli said, "I did not call; go back and lie down."

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord:  The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, "Samuel!"  And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'"  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel!  Samuel!"

Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

If you're a mother, you will most certainly relate to this.  If you were ever the child of a mother or father, you will also find this scenario familiar.  How often are our children playing in another room and we call to them repeatedly, only to hear crickets on the other end?  We have to call for them several times, with a booming voice, for our presence to even register on their radar. 

Such is it, often, when God calls us.  Our ears are not attuned to his calling, and we miss out on hearing his voice.  We walk around claiming that God is silent, and some go as far as to say that God has neglected or forgotten about them.  Yet, when we draw near to God through scripture and prayer and ask to hear his voice, he is most often faithful in his communication with us.  We just have to turn the dial to the right station to get reception.

We, as Christians, have to pray for discernment.  God uses many avenues of communication to reach us.  He might use scripture, prayer, or those around us to relay his will to us.  There may be circumstances when, unbeknownst to the other person, they have the exact words you needed to hear in response to a prayer.  When we pray for the ears and the wisdom to recognize which medium he uses to speak to us, it becomes much clearer.

Ask God to reveal to you the ways in which he communicates with you, and you'll soon learn to open your mind and heart to hearing his voice.  You'll be listening much more intently when you know how to listen. 

We may never be so successful in reaching our children lost in play.  However, we can be assured that, as children of our Father, if we listen with the right ears, we will eventually hear his voice.  It may not be on our time, or what we want to hear, but we will hear the will of God from the voice of God.

"My son, if your receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." - Proverbs 2:1-5

Friday, January 12, 2018

Spiritual Milk

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." - 1 Peter 2:2

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." - Psalm 119:105

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." - James 1:5

If you are too busy to spend time in God's word each day, you're far busier than he ever intended you to be.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wind and Waves

Matthew 8:23-27
"Then he got into his boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us!  We're going to drown!"  He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

During times in my life when I am overwhelmed with worry, anxiety, or fear, my first instinct is to turn to prayer.  First, I have to evaluate whether the thing I fear is something over which I have any control.  If not, I know I must immediately turn it over to the Lord.  If it's something I have the power to change, I ask for wisdom, discernment, and peace.  Often, the things we fear most never come to fruition.  When they do, we rarely have complete control over the situation.  

The serenity prayer is a wonderful resource when you can't seem to come up with the words on your own:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept 
the things I cannot change, 
the courage to change the things I can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference."  
- Reinhold Niebuhr

While you rarely have the ability to control the situation, you have an immeasurable power within you when you lay your troubles at the foot of the cross.  Saint Paul wrote to the people of Philippi while in prison - "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13 - emphasis mine.)  He knew the source of his strength, and turned to the Lord for endurance and provision.  Paul knew that to let his circumstances dictate how he felt would be his demise.  He trained his mind to be self-controlled, and found peace in the Lord.  

What we think in our minds is what will be.  We have to overcome this by disciplining ourselves and filtering what thoughts we allow to take up residence.  Paul also said that we are to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Take captive your thoughts, or they will hold you captive.  

I am reading a wonderful book right now by Max Lucado, titled Anxious for Nothing, which addresses this very subject.  If you find yourself grasping for truth during uncertain or fearful times, I highly recommend reading it.  There is another wonderful resource I recommend reading, but I'm pretty sure you already know about that one... :)

2 Timothy 1:7
"For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline."

Matthew 6:25-34
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  

"And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Monday, January 1, 2018

Humble Pie

When I was a little girl, my mom would paint my nails from time to time.  She would take my little hand in hers and tell me to relax it.  I didn't understand the concept in the beginning, so she would lightly flop my hand up and down to get me to loosen up and go limp.  My hand needed to be malleable in hers so that she could move it the way she needed.

As I sat in church yesterday morning, it dawned on me that this is a perfect metaphor for our relationship with the Lord.  My husband and I had just had a small spat, and I was indignant in the car in the tense silence on the way to church.

I prayed, "Lord, humble me and help me to release my selfish pride."  But Satan was onto me, and countered with,

"But he snapped at you!  He's so self-righteous.  He was in the wrong, too.  Change his heart."

And I kept coming back with, "I know I need to release my anger and bitterness, Lord - change my heart."

And you know what?

The homily our priest spoke COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE PERFECT.  He discussed how we often let our moods and external circumstances color our interactions with familyHA!  The holy spirit gave a hard blow, and I immediately thought back to when my mom would attempt to get me to relax in her hands.  Sheepishly, I praised the Lord for changing my heart and making me realize that when I was asking to be humbled, I was wallowing in my own righteous anger.

You cannot attempt to justify your sinfulness in prayer to God.  IT DOES NOT WORK.  You can't change someone else's actions or mind, but when you come to the Lord humbly, he will work in you.  We can only be responsible for our own actions, thoughts, and behavior.  We have to surrender completely and relax, giving the problem to him, so that we can get out of his way for him to do his work.  In order for him to work in us and in our lives, we must be completely malleable in his hands.  This means:

We cannot try to explain away our anger from yesterday.

We cannot say, "I'm sorry, but..."

We cannot ask for forgiveness while seething in anger about something else.

Obviously, as humans, we struggle with letting go completely and giving it to God.  I believe we need to first examine our own part in the matter, while simultaneously asking for a change of heart.  Recognize your need for God's mercy, and allow yourself to be malleable putty in his hands.  Only then will his grace abound and he can begin to work for our good in accordance with his will.

Relax your hand in his, and let the father do his job.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." - Ephesians 4:2

"But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."" - James 4:6

"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." - Luke 14:11

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Discerning Woman

 Transparency alert.

I am someone who generally struggles very much with the Old Testament, for many reasons.  

One, I've always found it drab and full of impertinent information (this is no longer the case).  The genealogies, geography, and battles of the Old Testament threatened to put me to sleep on more than one occasion.

Two, it has always been extremely intimidating to me to contrast the God of wrath and punishment with Jesus, who saves and redeems.

However, within the past couple of months, I have dedicated myself to the study provided within my bible, which travels through the most influential Old and New Testament stories.  MAN OH MAN, was I ignorant!  The treasures to be had within the Old Testament are boundless, if only one will read scripture with an open and humble heart.  Most recently, I've been wildly affected by the story of Abigail, who, in my humble opinion, is a very underrated participant in the Old Testament.    

Abigail was married to a man named Nabal, a sheep shearer and curmudgeon by nature.  King David's men approached Nabal under his orders, asking for Nabal's kindness in the sharing of food.  He turned them away haughtily.  When Abigail heard of this, she quietly ran off to King David with a bounty, asking for his forgiveness and attempting to save the misfortune that would certainly be theirs if King David and his men came back for vengeance.  She was successful in receiving his mercy and went back home, delivering the news to Nabal the next day.  At this, Nabal's heart failed him and scripture says the Lord struck him dead ten days later. 

Though Abigail was wise and took action, she knew this was not her battle to fight.  She didn't protest to Nabal, or rise up in anger in fear of retaliation.  She discreetly and humbly did what she knew was right and went to make amends to David.  God then dealt with Nabal according to his sin and pride.

There is a word I have been hearing and reading in abundance lately, and that is discernment.  Abigail used good judgment and discernment in going to David for forgiveness.  In order to do such a thing, one must be in direct communication with the Lord.  We have to know his will and his word before we can be able to correctly discern the direction in which we're to go.  How do we become privy to such communication?  

-Prayer:  we cannot know God's will and purpose 
if we aren't opening ourselves up to prayer.
-Scripture:  his word clearly lays out so many answers to 
life's questions about how to interact with and treat others: 

Turn the other cheek.  
A gentle answer turns away wrath.  
The Lord will fight for you.  
Be humble, gentle, and kind.  
Be disciplined and self-controlled.

Get on your knees.  Open up in prayer and invite the Lord into your battle.  He already knows all about it anyway.  Be humble and know your part, if any, in it.  Give it to him completely and pray for his instruction and for discernment.   

Sometimes we have to sit down and get out of God's way so that he can fight our battles.  

Sometimes we have to stand and fight.  

No matter how we're undergoing battle, though, one thing remains - we never have to fight alone.  

"Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  Exodus 14:14

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kicking and Screaming

Any blushing mom who has ushered a screaming toddler out of a store knows of what I'm about to speak.  It's often about a battle of wills - the toddler, exercising their newfound ability to make decisions and test independence, protests being told to do something (or that they can't have something), and a dramatic scene takes place.  The child leaves with mom, kicking and screaming, insisting to have their way.

I envision that a lukewarm Christian's walk is often like this.  They go to church and hear an inspirational sermon, determined to better walk the straight and narrow path.  They do their best to pray, and they put some money into the offering plate on Sunday.  They know right from wrong, as it has been ingrained in many of us since childhood.  They might buy a few cans for the food drive, and donate a box of clothing to a charity.  Do not misunderstand me - these things are all good things.  But it's not enough.  The inspiration will often fade, the spirit will get weak, and people slip back into old ways and sinful habits.

Sometimes, we are like a toddler in the midst of his tantrum - unwilling to lay down pride to surrender to the one in charge.  We often come to the Lord, yet inside our hearts are reluctant to give up selfish ways.  The Lord summons us, but often we're kicking and screaming.  We aren't ready to submit, to surrender, to humbly accept defeat and powerlessness.

To achieve true closeness and relationship with the Lord, though, much more is required.  In the gospel of John, when John the Baptist is questioned about Jesus, John states, "He must become greater, I must become less."  Such is it in our walk with Jesus.  WE CANNOT COMPLETELY SUBMIT TO JESUS UNTIL WE BECOME LESS.  Jesus says in Matthew 18: 3, "Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  That is to say, we are to be completely, utterly, wholly dependent upon him for provision, guidance, and survival.

What does complete surrender look like?
It looks like unconditional love.
It looks like forgiveness (maybe seventy times seven times).
Picking up your bible regularly.  
Being able to lovingly confront someone else's sin.
It looks like giving your time on the Sabbath to the local soup kitchen instead of kicking back and watching football.
It looks like tithing, even when you don't know where the money will come from to pay your other bills.
It's biting your tongue instead of engaging in gossip.  Or, perhaps standing up for the person and possibly enduring ridicule or judgment.
It's teaching your children to pray and sticking with it, even if at the end of the day you can't put two sentences together.
It's withholding criticism of character in an argument.
It looks like submitting sinful thoughts to the Lord and denying them.
It looks like self-control.
It's a purity of heart and mind.
It looks like submission to God's will, even if it scares the pants off of you.

Colossians 3:5-10 states, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But no you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with these practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."

As humans, we are sinful by nature.  It is IMPERATIVE that we come to the Lord in prayer to surrender these things to him.  He is faithful and will hear us when we ask for transformation.  "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 (emphasis added)

So, as in the case of the exhausted toddler, we learn that we will not win this battle.  The Lord is in charge, and we must completely bend to his will and surrender to him in order to achieve peace and transformation.