Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Too easily forgotten...



There are many things throughout the day and week I won't forget to do, most especially eating!  lol. Calendars ensure I won't forget work schedules, appointments, birthdays, church events and social engagements.  To do lists keep me organized at home and at work so that no task will be forgotten.

On an emotional level, I don't forget to love or that I am loved by my husband, children, parents, brothers, extended family and brothers and sisters in the Lord, EVEN if those relationships become difficult, as normally can happen in any relationship dynamic.

Why then, is it so easy for me to forget that I am loved by God, a Love that suffered and died on the cross, for ME!

While studying Galations chapter 2, the answer to this question came to me...

"Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."  Galations 2:16  Too often, while I  believe that I am saved through faith, trusting in Jesus death on the cross to justify me before a Holy God,  I can still find myself "going through the motions" of my Christian walk in "my own power".  Without setting out to do so, I am essentially adding "works" to my faith.  My motivation in spiritual things becomes obligation or rote.  I forget that "I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who LOVED me and gave himself for me."  Galations 2:20-21 

 The true root cause of my tendency to "go through the motions" in my Christian walk is forgetting that "I am as loved by God as if I had lived the life Christ lived.  So, it is not 'me that lives, but Christ'.",   and  "ONLY WHEN I SEE MYSELF AS COMPLETELY LOVED AND HOLY IN CHRIST WILL I HAVE THE POWER TO REPENT WITH JOY, CONQUER MY FEARS, AND OBEY THE ONE WHO DID ALL THIS FOR ME."  - Galations for You, Timothy Keller.  I re-read those passages over and over so that their meaning would sink deep within me.  Even my fears, which I spoke of in my previous post, are rooted in my forgetfulness of God's love for me!  "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."  1 John 4:18

I have been perfected in Love and I need to start living that way!

The following verses are wonderful reminders of God's great love for us.  I hope to commit them to my heart so that I will always be motivated by His Love in all that I say and do.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  Psalm 86:15

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

GOD LOVES YOU!  :-)

You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-up, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, Titus 2 Tuesday Link-up, 3DLessons4LifeLivefree Thursday






Saturday, January 24, 2015

Worry Wort


When I was a little girl, I would often hear the phrase, "don't be a worry wort".  You guessed it, I was a worrier, and still can be...  At that tender age, my mom taught me to pray when I was worried.  God was planting seeds...

In my early 20s I experienced my first full blown panic attack which seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn't distressed about anything at the time, but there it came.  If any of you have had a panic attack, you know how scary they can be.  Unfortunately, that first panic attack began a pattern of anxiety and fear of "having a panic attack" that became debilitating at times.  God was beginning to  draw me to Himself...

Years later, when I was doing a Bible Study with the friend who ultimately would lead me to the Lord, it was Matthew 14:30, in our study, that jumped off the page at me, "And He said come!  Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But seeing the wind he became frightened, and beginning to sink He cried out, "Lord, save me!"  Immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him..."  Oh what comfort I found in that verse - words of life!  Not only did it begin the process of my being freed from the bondage of anxiety, but it would ultimately draw me into a relationship with Jesus my Savior.  God redeemed me...

In the years after I gave my life to Christ, my anxious tendencies were sorely tested, especially in the areas of health and the health of my husband - a "mystery" illness that left me dizzy and weak for six weeks; a heart condition that looked serious to the doctor, but was later determined to be a benign finding; a thyroid cancer scare, and my husband's carotid dissection which led to a stroke.  As you can see, the trials grew progressively worse, but I found that with each situation, although I became anxious, I still had an underlying peace that became more and more profound.  "And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7.  God was strengthening me...

I hope you find encouragement in the following promises from God's precious Word that have given me courage over the years and blessings beyond measure.  The verses were discovered in trials, through personal Bible reading, and in particular,  Beth Moore Bible Studies, where her insights into certain scripture verses were truly the turning point in my rising above anxious moments.

When I was suffering with a mild form of agoraphobia, my life verse was born - a verse I have clung to in so many anxious situations :

"It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8

Beth Moore's explanation of the following verse is so helpful to me when I get extremely anxious about doctor's appointments born out of my past history of "quirky" diagnoses.  Beth Moore basically said to "take the fear factor out of decisions and/or situations, and to stop projecting old fears on a new day, but to instead, fear missing God."  Her explanation of God's promise was such an epiphany for me and it has helped me immensely!

"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."  Isaiah 43:18-19

We are certainly called to, "Humble ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us at the proper time, casting all our anxiety upon Him, because He cares for us." 1 Peter 5:6-7."  Unfortunately, for me, I would also end up "telling" God how I wanted Him to fix the problem I was worried about, not resting and trusting in His will for the situation.  Through an insight of Beth Moore's, I began "casting all my anxiety upon Him", but now I was believing the promises in the following verses:

"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.  Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of your hands."  Psalm 138:8

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished."  Luke 1:45

In future blog posts, I hope to share some of the amazing answers to prayer that resulted from trusting that the "Lord would accomplish all that concerns me".  Answers that at the outset appeared not at all to be going the way I hoped and prayed, but in the end, the Lord not only gave me the desire of my heart, but He did "immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine". Ephesians 3:20

And finally, when praying about anxious situations, I have learned to pray scripture over them.  When a loved one was deployed to Afghanistan, I knew it was going to be the most "out of my control situation" I would ever experience!   I felt led by the Holy Spirit to put together a scripture prayer for him using Bible verses about protection, peace and seeking the Lord.  This "worry wort" cannot even adequately explain to you the incredible peace I felt praying those scriptures for him while he was deployed.  The Lord blessed those prayers in miraculous ways by sparing his life not once, but three times!  But... not only was his physical life saved, but God met him in the battlefield where my loved one gave his life to Christ.

 "Your Words were found, and I ate them, and your Words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of Hosts."  Jeremiah 15:16

God is calling me to bring Him Glory...

In closing, my prayer for you and I...  "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of Christ which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7




You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-up, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, Titus 2 Tuesday Link-up, 3DLessons4LifeLivefree ThursdayEveryday Jesus



 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Miss Goody Two Shoes

Our church is doing a sermon series on the book of Galations, and the small groups are simultaneously doing a Bible study using Tim Keller's book, Galations for You, which I referenced in my previous post.  A quote from the book that bares repeating says, "He (Paul the Apostle) shows us that we must have the courage to be vulnerable and speak personally about what the Gospel means to us."

As was taught in our Bible study last week, the Gospel, in a nutshell, is contained in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.".  But... the Gospel, in a Christian's life,  isn't  just that moment when Jesus is accepted as Lord and Savior, it begins before birth and continues until arriving in Heaven's Glory to meet Christ Jesus face to face.    "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I set you apart.  Jeremiah 1:5;  "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me."  Philippians 1:21-22  "But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself."   Philippians 3:20-21.

My Gospel story...

Growing up, I was basically what most would call a "Miss Goody Two Shoes".  I was a "good" person with a guilty conscience that would stop me from doing most things that I shouldn't.   I never had a desire to smoke, drink or do drugs.  I was a good student.  I loved being a daughter, granddaughter, and eventually wife and mother.  I considered myself a loyal friend.  Integrity and honesty were important to me.  I certainly had shortcomings, but to the outside world, I was a "good person".   I don't say all of this to boast about what a wonderful person I was - quite the contrary...  I share this to show the workings of the Gospel in a life that didn't have "major sins" by the worlds standards or by her own standards, but indeed by God's standards, "For whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." James 2:10.

Some of the most moving testimonies of salvation I have heard are from those who were rescued out of the pit of destruction, from addictions or very bad life choices or life situations.  To me, these stories showcased God's incredible love, mercy, forgiveness and redemption.  I would actually struggle sometimes wondering "was I truly saved??" since I didn't have this epic rescue story or profound moment of salvation
.

In God's mercy and love, He met this "Miss Goody Two Shoes" quietly in her anxiety and worry, her insecurity, selfishness, vanity, complaining, criticizing, self-centeredness, bad temper, impatience, gossiping, slandering and a multitude of other sins.   First a co-worker shared the Gospel which I mocked.   Then, as we were looking for our second home, "circumstances" prevented us from getting the house we wanted essentially "forcing" our decision to pick the house we live in now.   And it was here, that I would eventually meet two neighbors.  One who gave me a Bible to read and said God would speak to me, but when I read it, "He didn't speak to me" - my heart was still hardened...  Another neighbor moved in and through her example, I saw something that I wanted to share in - my heart was softening...  She eventually introduced me to a woman who invited me to do a Bible study about the Apostle Peter which addressed anxiety and worry - the biggest struggle of my life!   I agreed to participate.  The more I read God's Word as part of the Bible study, it was then that I finally understood what the first neighbor meant when she said, "God will speak to you through his Word".

 I don't know specifically what date it happened, but I know that I received the Holy Spirit when the Lord Jesus came into my heart.  How do I know this?   Because this "Miss Goody Two Shoes" didn't see herself as "Miss Goody Two Shoes" anymore, but as a sinner desperately in need of a Savior.  Suddenly, God's Word lept off the pages, and I finally understood them.  My behavior and actions changed to one of a Christ follower who desired to live for Him.

 It is always such a blessing to look back at all circumstances in my life, even the ones that were difficult or "didn't go the way I hoped it would", only to see how God's "ways are higher than my ways". Isaiah 55:9b  I can say that as a "Miss Goody Two Shoes" who didn't recognize my need of a Savior for the first few decades of my life, I am filled with so much gratitude that the Lord blocked the purchase of the house I had hoped for and used my struggle with anxiety to ultimately draw me to the Him.

Stay tuned...  My Gospel story is continuing...


You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eLivefree Thursday,Everyday JesusSDG GatheringInspire Me MondayTell His StoryTitus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Never a stone

"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?" Matthew 7:9 ESV





After publishing my first blog post, I admit it was exciting to see how many page views I had received.  I found the encouraging comments from friends, family and even one stranger to feel quite good.   But... in the back of my mind, that "still small voice" was whispering, "Are you writing this for yourself or for Me??  

Never a stone...

Later that evening, I settled in to read a dear sister-in-the-Lord's blog, http://www.readytobeoffered.com/.  That particular day she had a guest blog post from her sister Alicia from, http://abrighterdestiny.blogspot.com/, entitled, "Living and Writing as a Revolutionary" where she spoke about writing for God's glory.  She quoted Francis Schaeffer who said, "Increasingly, I believe that after we are saved, we have only one calling, and that is to show forth the existence and character of God."  The Lord convicted me through those words of the great responsibility I have when writing blog posts to pray while diligently studying His Word in order to rightly share about His love, His character and His way. 

Never a stone... 

The next day I was reading a homework chapter from Timothy Keller's book Galations for You.  The author was speaking about Galations 1:11-24 where the Apostle Paul is giving his testimony sharing about his past zealousness for Judaism, meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, his conversion and ultimately ministering the Gospel.  And there it was again, contained within my homework, more convicting words...  "Paul does not share his testimony out of habit, or for general inspirational purposes, nor because he enjoys putting a spotlight on his personal experiences.  He only shares his testimony because he believes it will help his hearers find Christ, and to encourage them not to lose Him.  He has no desire for attention or acclaim...  He is not using his hearers to boost his ego, but using his testimony to help his friends.  Paul is a good example to us here.  He shows us that we must have the courage to be vulnerable and speak personally about what the Gospel means to us.  Why?  Because Christianity is an appeal to bring our whole life, mind and heart, to Christ. To leave out how we think or how we feel, is to give an incomplete picture of how comprehensive Christian commitment is.  If we leave out our testimony, it also gives an incomplete picture of how complete Christian fulfillment is."

Never a stone...

I don't know why I am always in awe when the Lord "speaks" to me in such profound ways.  "My times are in your hands."  Psalm 31:15  In the two examples above, my Heavenly Father was admonishing me and guiding me to write with humility, vulnerability, and to personally testify for His Glory alone.

My tendencies expressed at the beginning of this blog post "could" have made my desire to blog a "stone"... but then the Lord would not have made the way possible.  Before I even began to blog in earnest, He used the words of others to continue to refine, correct and guide me.  

When we pray to the Lord, He may answer with a "yes", "no" or "wait".  I have learned, through this experience, that the purpose of His "no" and His "wait" are for the purpose of "giving me bread, never a stone"...




<a href="http://feedshark.brainbliss.com">Ping-o-matic</a>



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beginnings - in the Lord's time



The first week of 2015 seemed like the perfect time to start a blog for the purpose of deepening my relationship with the Lord and encouraging others; a desire the Lord laid on my heart five years ago... You might wonder why so much time passed before I began blogging.  My Heavenly Father was preparing and refining me for such an endeavor. 

In the past five years, I've endured many trials and life changes which caused a greater dependence on the Lord.  It may not always be revealed to us this side of heaven, but the Lord, in His infinite mercy, showed me in a few very difficult circumstances that "what man meant for evil, God meant for good".  Through those trials, He sustained me and brought about amazing blessings that were above and beyond what I hoped or imagined.  In any trial or affliction, we have opportunity to bless others with the Comfort in which we were comforted. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV  I hope to bring those experiences and blessings through my writing as the Lord leads.


The Lord also provided me with ministry opportunities to women. A ladies bible study was beginning at a church I had just started attending when I felt a strong leading by the Lord to participate.  The idea of taking part in this Bible study was outside of my comfort zone as I am by nature a shy person and have dealt with anxiety issues, but I obeyed... And just as the Lord ordained, the Bible study dealt with anxiety.  My Heavenly Father used the lessons learned in the Bible study to bring about healing of my anxiety. When the fall session of the ladies Bible study ended,  I prayed that the Lord would "drop a ministry into my lap" where I could serve women. By Divine appointment, I was approached to be a leader in that same ladies Bible study. By God's strength and by His grace, I served in that ministry position for four years. Through that ministry, I was approached to also serve as mentor for our local Mothers of Preschoolers Group where I served for three years.  The Lord "stretched" me once again out of my comfort zone when I was approached to prepare and share a devotional of life lessons learned from God's Word to an audience of 60 moms, something that would have struck fear and apprehension in me not long before.  But again, through His strength and by His grace, I actually enjoyed speaking in front of all those women! Both experiences were born out of obedience to the Lord's leading and as you can see, oh what blessings I received!

More life changes happened, and that ministry season of my life ended...  To be perfectly transparent, I am recently in one of the driest seasons of my Christian walk.  It has been difficult for me to find a balance between my family, working part-time and spending time in the Word and in prayer.  

God still speaks to us in those dry times.  He uses ALL our times for His Glory and our good.  "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand." Psalm 37:23-24 ESV  The Lord has used the past five years to prepare me both practically and spiritually to begin writing this blog at this point in time - in the Lord's perfect time...  After being parched for this past season,  I have a true thirst to drink up the Word of God and to share all that the Lord reveals to me.

Starting a blog is humbling to me.  I am not an eloquent writer, but I love to share what God is teaching me through His Word and in my life experiences. This blog is just as much about my growth and accountability to the Word as it is about bringing gracious readers encouragement and hope.  My posts will be prayerfully written reflections of how the Lord is blessing my life through His Word.  "Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them.' The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy."  Psalm 126:2-3.  My hope in writing this blog is for the Word of God to dwell richly within me, that you would be edified, and that God would be glorified.