In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Do you long to be beautiful?

I have yet to meet the woman who doesn't have an inner longing to be beautiful.

Stasi Eldridge and her husband talk a lot about this truth in their book Captivating. We're all more than aware of how the fashion and cosmetics industries capitalize on this need in the souls of women.

My own recognition of this need in myself and others caused me to be quite captivated by a few scriptures I came across during my time with God this morning.

I was reading in Ephesians 5:26-27, focusing on what Christ has done for His church. But the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased these verses, specifically the 2nd half of the 26th verse, in The Message especially caught my attention. He put it this way:

Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty.

Christ's words evoke the beauty of His bride, the church. So how can I hear Christ's words?

Certainly the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart. The Holy Spirit also takes the Bible and quickens it to my soul and mind. I truly believe that studying God's Word, taking in what it says, changes us. Brings out the beauty within which God created us to exude. I believe this includes both internal and external beauty.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 reminds me:

Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man's face and changes its hard appearance.

Have you ever looked into the face of physically attractive person, but found them unattractive because of something "hard" about their face? Perhaps something in the eyes or expression. Or have you ever met someone who looked old beyond their years, like they'd had a terrible life? There's no doubt that who we are, how we've lived, affects how we appear.

What kind of beauty is it that you long for?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What if you do the right things but don't see the right results?

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about spiritual leadership in the home. Today I'm posting about my current experience in this area; I'm doing the right things, but not seeing the right results.

Come on over and tell me what God's been teaching you about spiritual leadership in the home.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Heart of the Matter

I'm still here thinking on various aspects of the pastor's sermon from Sunday.

One of the things he brought out that turns many away from Christianity is how Christians sometimes get caught up in using externals as a spiritual yardstick. Looking again at Luke 18:9 - 14, I can see in verses 10 -11:

10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.

The Pharisee is looking at a list of actions he refrains from, as well as comparing himself to others. Let's face it; if we look long enough, we can always find someone who'll win in the comparison game. Also, although outward actions do mirror the heart; we can get a "religious" attitude that just looks at those externals and refrains from seeking to allow God to reveal our inner motivations to us.

I never fail to be convicted every time I read 1 Corinthians 13. I've always been especially astounded when I read the 3rd verse (NLT):

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

To my way of thinking, to give everything to the poor and sacrifice my very self, are the epitome of what it's about. The height of generosity. Yet God tells me that even those wonderful actions mean nothing if they aren't proceeding from a heart of love. I'm reminded of the passage in Matthew 15:15-20, I'm especially fond of the way verses 16-20 read in The Message paraphrase:

Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there."

I think it's so easy to get caught up in looking at the externals instead of seeking to have my heart be right. The pastor posed some great questions in the sermon that I found helpful examples for determining if I'm too focused on the externals:

* Which bothers you more, if you didn't get enough time with God this week, or if someone criticizes your kids?
* When someone asks you what you feel really great about in your life right now; do you focus on current achievements or the work God is doing in your life, the changes He's making in you?
* Which bothers you more, if you didn't get to spend time getting your heart right before you come to church, or if your hair is terrible when you come to church?

What are your challenges when it comes to focusing on the heart instead of the externals?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Do you find yourself liking the "sinners" more than the "saints"?

The sermon in church this morning was so thought provoking, that I'll probably be thinking on it, and writing about those thoughts, for the next few days.

Our pastor started with a great joke this morning; it went something like this:

I work for Purina dog chow company and recently I attended a dog food convention for my work. On the first night of the convention the key note speaker was a man who is very high up in the company. He opened up his talk with a series of questions to which the entire crowd responded. It went like this:

Man: Who makes the best dog food around?

Crowd: Purina dog chow!

Man: Who has the best dog food delivery system?


Crowd: Purina dog chow!!

Man: Who has the best packaging and advertising, the best branding, around?

Crowd: Purina dog chow!!!

Man: Then, why doesn't Purina dog chow have the best sales around???

To which the crow was silent for several moments. Then, finally, one lone voice at the back of the crowd cried out: Well, sir, the dogs just don't seem to like it.

The pastor clarified that of course we're not "selling" Christianity. But the truth of the matter is that Christianity is the best - Jesus paid the price for our sin if we'll accept it, God sends the Holy Spirit to live inside us to teach us, provide direction, convict us of sin and empower us. We are truly blessed. Yet - why do so many find Christianity so unattractive? Why don't they like it?

There's lots of answers to these questions. But, certainly, one of the reasons many are turned off to Christianity is Christians. As a group we can be so self righteous.

In church this morning we looked at the passage in Luke 18:9 - 14:

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
1 4"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Don't you find yourself feeling compassion toward the tax collector in this story and frustration with the pharisee?
The tax collector recognized who he was and his need for God; he was filled with faith. The pharisee was so full of himself that he wasn't even looking to God.
What Jesus said in that 14th verse here really hit me as I was sitting in church. Jesus said that if we choose to exalt ourselves, then God will humble us. But if we choose to humble ourselves, then God will exalt us. I don't know about you, but when God is dealing with me, I'd rather it be exalting me, then humbling me.
Like I talked about in my post over at Kingdom Bloggers this past week, it's not about false humility - thinking all about what a less than, worm in the dirt, I am. When I do that, the focus is still on myself. True humility is putting others first. There were some real life examples of how to humble oneself that came up in the sermon, plus some additional ones I've thought about for my own life, that I found helpful:
When someone cuts you off when you're driving, let it go. Go head and have the attitude concerning that other driver, that he just must really need to get where he's going quickly.
Don't tell others all about your accomplishments. Just do what you're meant to do and remain silent.
When I've done something for my teen sons, or anyone else, and they do not show appreciation, count it joy because I've done it as unto the Lord, not for the praise of others.
If I'm ignored when I go to church, don't stress out about it. I'm not there to be noticed by others or have my ego stroked. Look around and see if there is anyone around me who might be feeling left out, and make sure to reach out to that person.
When my boss at work doesn't seem to realize what an incredible job I did, how above and beyond I went, and how much money I make for the company - don't sweat it. I work hard for God, not for the praise of my boss here on earth.
What about you
  • Why do you think so many people are turned off to Christians?
  • Would you rather humble yourself or have God humble you?
  • What are some ways in daily life that you can humble yourself?



Thursday, July 22, 2010

Leadership

Recently I've attended a series of training sessions for those working through the church in women's ministries. While at one of these sessions, I was amazed when a friend told me that she did benefit after all from a leadership training session, even though she doesn't see that as her real gift. I guess it surprised me because I can think of few things more interesting than the topic of leadership; it's truly one of my passions.

This week at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about Leadership. In my post today I've answered some questions that I then turn around and ask you:

How has God changed the way you look at leadership?
How has God taught you about leadership?
What's He taught you about leadership?

I'd be interested to hear your responses either here, or over at Kingdom Bloggers. If you go over there, you can see my answers to these questions in my post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Keep me aware of my own sin

OK, I'll admit it. The truth of the matter is that sometimes it's way easier for me to see the sins of others than my own. Perhaps that's why I was so captivated by this this prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian. May it bless you as it has blessed me:

O Lord and Master of my life,
Keep me from sloth and prying,
From hollow pride and empty chatter -
From hollow pride and empty chatter.
Grant unto me instead the grace
Of purity and humility,
Of patience and neighborly love -
Of patience and neighborly love.

O Lord and King and Giver of grace,
Keep me aware of my own sin
So I shall not think ill of my neighbor.
And blessed be Thou forever -
And blessed be Thou forever.

Amen

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do we really need all the stuff we have?

This has long been a question on my mind.

My husband John and I committed to simplification in terms of our finances before we married (that will be 5 years ago as of tomorrow!). When we purchased the home where we currently reside, we could have purchased a much nicer/more luxurious/newer/more prestigious home, but agreed to this home so that we could outright own it and not carry any mortgage. Living without debt has gone quite a way toward helping us simplify our lives and focus on what really matters.

Today John showed me the following video that totally captivated my attention:


Is this a cool idea or what?!

Don't get me wrong, I don't, at this point right now, see us selling all we have and purchasing land and going to a tiny home. But I do see this as an awesome life simplification.

John & I are currently seeking to live a simple lifestyle and are incorporating ways to do this on an on-going basis. So, instead of going after the "good life", we're living and constantly incorporating ways to live with more joy and less stuff. Or to buy stuff we think we need second hand so we have more money to give.

What are some practical ways you've found effective for simplifying your life?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Worry Box

Do you ever have a problem with letting life's worries wear you down?

Sometimes I do.

One of my favorite scriptures with regard to this is in Philippians 4:4-7. I'm especially partial to the way it reads in The Message paraphrase:

4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

6-7 Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

I benefit greatly from renewing my mind by thinking on this scripture when I'm tempted to worry and stress. I've recently found another thing that helps - keeping a "Worry Box". I got the idea from one of the characters in the book series The Sister Circle. The idea is that whenever you have one of those life issues that's really bothering you, as you're giving it over to God you write it down briefly on a piece of paper and put it into your "worry box".

For some reason, this act of writing it down and placing it in the box is helpful for me, somehow seeing that I'm giving it to God creates more of a completed feeling inside. Perhaps I'm just one of those people who finds visuals helpful.

I have a friend Paula who gave me a beautiful butterfly jeweled box that I keep my "worries" in on my dresser. It's actually been kind of exciting lately as God's given me insights into things that are motivating and causing problems for some of the people in my life, to be able to pray for them and place my concerns for them into the box as well.

What about you, are there some ways God's been helping you deal with your life stresses lately?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sex and Faith

This week at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about sex and faith. Check out my post today entitled "It doesn't have to be Either - Or".

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marriage is important to God

Is it just me or have you noticed that in Western culture it seems like marriage is no big deal?

People commonly have sex outside of marriage, live together outside of marriage, cheat on their marriage partners, and often get divorces simply because it doesn't seem to be working for them. I'll never forget my shock once at work when a lady was talking during a break in a meeting and was sharing about how her daughter had wanted to marry this guy but that "fortunately" she'd talked her into living with him for at least a year first. A man who sometimes comments on my blog, whose intelligence I admire, once told me that he thinks it's ridiculous that someone would marry someone with whom they had not had sexual experiences because it's like buying a car that you haven't test driven.

Besides all of that, it just seems that our culture doesn't focus much on marriage, doesn't perpetuate the value of nourishing one's marriage to keep it strong.

But today as I was reading in Genesis 20 I found verse 6 intriguing. What's going on in this passage is that yet again, as Abraham is traveling, he lies to the local king and says that Sarah is his sister. Once again the king takes Sarah. But this time God talks to the king in a dream and warns him of the truth of the situation. I found these words in verse 6 significant:

Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her

What really hit me this morning was that God didn't say it was a sin against Abraham, but against God Himself. God must regard marriage as extremely important if a sin against someone's marriage is a sin against Him.

So I was sitting there with my open Bible, thinking about how messed up our culture is about marriage, and then the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about me.

There have been some situations lately that I've been witness to that God's used to open my eyes as as to some of the lies the enemy tells people about marriage. The lies are:
  • Certain actions are little and don't matter
  • Giving into one's feelings, even at the cost of being inconsiderate to one's spouse, is just natural so why not go ahead
  • There's always time later to work on one's marriage since right now it's easier to be involved in other business
But this morning God began asking me questions about if I've been listening to those same lies as the people I've been observing. He began asking me if I've fallen into just living and taking things for granted rather than doing those things which nourish my marriage.

Gee, it's so much easier to look at how messed up culture is, or focus on how other people aren't doing things the best way, than it is to look at me!

What about you, what's God been teaching you about marriage or how has He been challenging you in your own marriage?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Greater Miracle

As I've been studying in Genesis 18:1-15 these last couple of days I've found myself pondering the concept of how often the greater miracle results when we don't get what we want.

This is the passage where 3 men came to Abraham when he was camped under some trees and he had them rest while he, Sarah and his servants prepared these men a meal.When Abraham took the food to the men and stayed with them while they ate,the men begin to ask Abraham about Sarah and tell him that by this time next year she'll have a son. Sarah is listening in on the conversation and finds it amusing because by this time Abraham is more than 99 years old and Sarah is more than 90 years old.

This is a passage where we also see God in a human form; it appears that one of the 3 men must have been God Himself. The reason I think this is because in Genesis 18:1 it says that the LORD appeared to Abraham, then it goes on in the following verses to talk about these 3 men, then in the 13th verse it again states what the LORD said to Abraham.

But what really hits me as I read this is that Sarah was expecting to have that baby way back many years before all this. In Genesis 16, when Abraham was 86 years old, Sarah had gotten tired of waiting on God and tried to fulfill His promises to her by having Abraham have a child with Sarah's maid.

As I'm studying these chapters I wonder if part of why God waited so long to fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah was so that there would not be any way Abraham and Sarah could claim credit. By the time they had Issac they were so old that it was impossible for them to have children, so it was obvious that it was God making things happen.

Sarah was old, but you don't have to be old to feel worn out. Have you ever felt too tired, worn out, and beaten up by life to believe God can do anything miraculous and wonderful with you? Can you come up with all kinds of reasons why you think God would be past being able to use you?

My experiences have shown me the truth of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:3 (MSG):

You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

Have you ever had a time when it seemed that God had waited to bless you until you'd gotten out of the way?

Fruit in your life

This week at Kingdom Bloggers we're talking about faith,works, and the fruit of the spirit. Today my post is about how fruit in our lives is a result of relationship. I'm interested in finding out, what are some of the ways God has worked in your life to make you fruitful?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Am I the same person behind closed doors?


I don't know about you, but I've always been uncomfortable with those Bible passages that seem to be telling me to be perfect or blameless; like Genesis 17:1 and Matthew 19:21.

But today as I was studying in Genesis 17, I came across some comments made by Beth Moore that I found helpful. She was speaking with regard to the way God told Abraham to walk before Him and be blamelessness/perfect in Genesis 17:1:

"The word translated perfect in King James and blameless in NIV doesn't mean sinless. It means "I am God, huge and powerful. I don't need you. You need me. Now, take every step with the keen awareness that you walk continually before My gaze. I want all of you - not one person behind closed doors and another in the open. I want you mind as well as your heart. I want your soul as well as your spirit. If you want to do do this thing with Me, get all the way in."

Periodically I have to ask myself if I really am all the way in. Periodically I realize that I've gotten into wanting all God has for me, but am only giving Him a part of me, while there's this other part....

How about you, do you ever find that you've not given God your entire self?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How has Christ set you Free?

With July 4th just around the corner, it seems natural to be grateful for our freedom. This week over at Kingdom Bloggers our theme is Freedom. David asked me to share my testimony so that's what I've posted over there today, in all the gory details. But I've got a question at the end of my post today - what's Christ set you free from?
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