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Archive for March, 2011

How Big Are You?

Little kids love to measure themselves on a growth chart.  It’s exciting to see that you’ve gotten taller and watch the marks climb with each measurement.

It’s fun for the parents too.  From the moment our little one is born, moms keep track of every accomplishment, the first smile, the first laugh, the first word and so on.  And with each new growth mark on their chart,  claps of joy erupt.  It’s a normal thing to do.

A healthy relationship between God and us will look that way.  We can’t wait to get bigger and He rejoices at each new step we take and each inch we grow.

And like a good parent, He has a plan to help us grow and a mark to compare our progress.

Ephesians 4:11-13 sets it out. We are all parts of Christ’s body.  God wanted every part to be mature and grow properly.  So he equipped us with various gifts that when used together would be built up to the perfect body.  He calls that the church.   Not the ‘religious institution’ but the living, breathing, reflection of Christ made up of those who follow God.

Vs 13 tells us the why behind these gifts.  “That it (the church) might develop until we attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God, that we might arrive at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ’s own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and completeness found in Him. ”

Some believers think that following Christ means to give up their whole personality.  They think of the rules and principles of Christ as being harsh and demanding.  But God made us with unique personalities and put gifts in us.  He wants us to develop and grow and loves seeing us recognize and use what He has given.

As we grow, we have a great measuring stick.  As Christ followers, we should measure ourselves against the height of Christ’s own personality.

Why is this important?  (vs. 14,15) The bigger we get in Christ, (the more we grow), the less we are like children (I think teenager would be a better word!), tossed between every teaching and doctrine, at the hands of men.

Instead, we live in love and truth and both are exhibited in our lives.

We measure maturity in our kids as they get older by how well they use the gifts and talents they have, how well they get along with others, and how much love their words and actions show.

The same is true with us. With God there is no limit set on how big we can get.  We never stop growing.  We can never measure up to Christ’s full personality.

With that in mind:  How big are You?  What could you do today to use the gifts God has given you?  Where do you desire more love and truth in your life?

 

 

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Why did the children of Israel, after seeing the miracle of their deliverance from Egypt, end up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years?

For the same reason we get stuck in the places we don’t want to be.

Scripture tells us God has a plan and purpose for all of us.  The Bible is full of promises of hope and victory.  Yet, how many of us are really walking in our land of promise?

We seem to either have forgotten there is a promise land or lost our way in finding it.  We tend to wrestle with every decision, circumstance, and obstacle in our path for much longer than is necessary.  For too many of us, our focus is consumed by the journey and its challenges instead of on the reward of reaching the promised place.  We allow ourselves to be overwhelmed instead of the overcomer we were meant to be.

Psalms 95 10 paints a clear picture of the dilemma of the wilderness wanderers.  “Forty years long was I grieved and disgusted with that generation, and I said, It is a people that do err in their hearts, and they do not approve, acknowledge, or regard My ways.”

I’m not referring to life’s trouble.  We will always have challenges and obstacles to overcome.  But, all of us at one time or another find ourselves wandering directionless, or in a season without joy, hope, and strength. If we don’t do something to bring about change when we find ourselves stuck there, we can experience the wilderness for years!

That is not God’s plan for us.  He is always desiring us to move to the land of promise.  There is no doubt He uses wilderness experiences, but He would rather we just kept going toward the future He promises for us.

There is one way to leave the dry, barren, wandering places in our lives.  Like the children of Israel, we are there because we have erred in our heart.

We don’t understand who God really is and don’t recognize His truths.  We don’t trust  Him or don’t like the solution to our situation–in essence we don’t like and disapprove of His answer.  We do it our way, disregarding what He says.

If  we are going to get to the Promised Land of our lives we must take three steps forward.

Step #1:  Acknowledge that God knows best and learn what He says.

Step #2:  Agree with His principles and His promises to us.

Step #3:  Take His instruction seriously.  Listen and Do what He says.

Following these steps will move us from the land of nothing and lack to the place of promise, possibility, and purpose.

What could you change today that will help you follow these steps?

 

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In some ways, it’s a lot easier for me to understand why God would judge the world, rather than why He would love the world.  How about you?

Even in my own life, it’s easier for me to think about what God may be judging about me than how He sings and dances over me as His daughter.

I was raised with two sometimes conflicting views of God.  One as the angry God, demanding our service and our love and the other as a kind, merciful God who loved each of us fully and always saw us through the eyes of who He made us to be.

Does our perception of God matter?

Consider this.  Which is more healthy: A child who obeys and listens to the parent because they are secure in a loving, trusting relationship and wants to do good things in honor of who their parents are;  or a child who obeys out of fear that they will be punished or because they feel the need to perform to receive love?

In my life, I’ve experienced both sides of this picture.  The second scenario brought me shame, guilt, condemnation, discouragement, and most of all fear.

On the other hand, the more I focus on just building my relationship with Jesus I find I’m feel more secure by His love and faithfulness to me.  That brings me freedom, hope, and helps me to consider my choices much more seriously because I am so grateful for what He’s done and I want to bless Him.

There’s a 1970’s song called The Look of Love.  There is a line in that song that says the look of love in your eyes says ‘so much more than words can say and what my heart has heard, it takes my breath away.’

That’s how I feel about God’s love in my life.

I love Psalm 89:3 . (The Message) “Your love has always been our lives’ foundation, your fidelity (faithfulness) has been the roof over our world.”

No matter what is going on in your life or your world, God’s love and faithfulness is your foundation and covering.  He’s waiting for you to climb up in His lap and let Him hold you and love you and teach you.  He isn’t just waiting, He is longing for that moment.

What could change in your life if you start with His love for you as the foundation for every choice you make?

 

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My Baby

Every little girl needs a daddy.  I lost mine to cancer at 11 years old.  Many others deal with abuse, divorce, neglect, or abandonment from theirs.  It is natural to transfer the view we have of our earthly fathers to our heavenly father.  It’s even difficult to see God as a loving father if we had a poor relationship with our own.

This video describes how many of us feel about our dads and how it can affect us at a deep level when they aren’t present for whatever reason.

It can be part of our struggle for self worth and identity.

Many of us try to perform better, be “good”, in an effort to win or feel like we are lovable.  One day I received this word from a friend.  I think it paints a beautiful picture of God’s Father heart for us.

“He is passionately and madly in love with you.  Every moment you are on his mind and heart.  There is nothing you can ever do to gain favor with Him.  That being said there is nothing you can do to lose favor with Him.  You are His dream come true..  His hope is not so much for repentance and obedience as it is that you will climb up into His lap and allow Him to smother you in kisses.  Your beauty radiates in His throne room and when your name is spoken His heart swells with pride…His baby, His love, His sweetness.”

God loves you and there is nothing you can do to change that!

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God’s Great Turn-Around

Nobody likes pain. When we hurt for whatever reason, it’s easy to ask why?  However, it can be more beneficial to ask what.  What is the purpose of pain and loss in life?  The answer I think lies in where we turn in it.

There are a lot of different reasons we can hurt and I believe God uses all of them for our good as we turn to Him.

One of the greatest turn-arounds we can have is when God uses our own self inflicted pain brought on by bad choices in our lives.

Scripture very clearly (II Corinthians 7:10) lays out a picture of godly grief and pain and worldly grief and pain. There is a lot of understanding to be gained in this verse no matter what type of pain you are dealing with. But for now, let’s talk about self-inflicted pain due to our choices.

Here’s the difference as I see it.

Worldly pain and grief brings:  Hopeless sorrow, discouragement, and defeat.  Breeds death.

When we make poor choices based on quick fixes, medicating our hurt, or for the need of approval or self-validation eventually we’ll experience worldly pain and grief.

The answer to stepping out of that cycle of hopelessness is to acknowledgment (confession) to God and possibly others.  When we do that, God will step in and turn it around to a God perspective of pain and grief.

Godly pain and grief:  God desires to use pain and grief to direct, produce a change of mind that leads to rescue, restoration, hope, and freedom for evil, and never brings regret.  Brings life.

Whether one is grieving loss, or experiencing pain they brought about or suffered at the hands of someone else, God turns that pain into a gift. Once we recognize the gift in it and follow where it leads we will move beyond that pain.

There will always be loss and pain in this world.  We can’t get away from it and God does not promise a life without it.  Pain is good when in the hands of God it makes us better, brings us to a better life, or helps us live life without regret.

Don’t be afraid of pain.  Instead put it in God’s hand and open your own to receive the precious gift within it.

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He Sees YOU!

Did you know that in the gospels, Jesus asked 183 questions? Even more interesting is he answered only 3.

I picked up a book called The Questions of Jesus by John Dear this morning.  I love the question Jesus asked on the page I opened to.  It’s found in Luke 7:44.  “Do you see this woman?”

Considering the times of the day, it was a very telling question.  In a culture of dishonor, where women were considered the property of men, it shows a lot about Jesus perspective. It’s still a valid question today.

All over the world, we find women who are treated as objects of man’s pleasure,  anger, rule.

The sex trade is rampant.  Violence against women is a huge problem.  Emotional and verbal abuse is considered a part of every day life by so many women.  And even in the church, women have been demeaned, considered unworthy of certain roles, or pigeon holed into wives and mothers who stay at home, raise their children, and fulfill their husbands every need.

These problems are not limited to any one country or locale.  It can be found in every neighborhood, any community, any church.

A great example is the football player, Lawrence Taylor.  At least he admitted to the crime he was charged with, but it was interesting how he tried to justify it.  You definitely saw his view of women in the interview he did for Fox News.  He’d been away for less than two weeks and needed service.  Then he stated paying for it keeps it ‘clean’ because the woman isn’t expecting any emotional connection.

He went on to say if you want to stop prostitution you’d have to close every bar, etc.  because it’s everywhere and justifying the crime by saying “Everybody does it so it’s something you don’t think about.

Excuse me!   You may not stop it but in reality it would become much rarer if men would change their view of women.

In this scripture, a Pharisee was angry at the woman who had a bad reputation.  He didn’t want her to touch Jesus.  He couldn’t understand why Jesus allowed her to pour out her fragrance and was His feet with her hair.

As He asks the question, “Do you see this woman?”  I’m sure the religious leader was caught by surprise.

Jesus didn’t see what the woman had done, He saw her adoring and open heart.

Jesus sees your heart too.  He sees your worth, your dignity, your significance.  He appreciates the vital role you play in the world and in His kingdom.  He never rejects you because you are a woman.  He never limits your destiny or calling.  He made you.  He said what He makes is good.

No matter what you’ve done, the circumstances you may find yourself in, you are not insignificant to Jesus.

Next time you are tempted to feel like a failure, or afraid to stand against abuse  or mistreatment at any level, remember Jesus doesn’t say you are less than!  He says you are my daughter and my daughter deserves the honor. My daughter is equal to my sons in my kingdom and I love them all equally.

What could happen in your world if you began to embrace yourself as Jesus sees you?

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Make Today a Snow Day.

As much as I hate snow except at Christmas time, there is something beautiful about the fresh layer that is falling this morning.  A heavy snow has a tendency to make me want to just nest inside, cook something warm and take the day to read or be still.  I think once in a while everyone needs a snow day!

I can’t help but think God’s love is like a blanket of fresh, white, snow. Think about it.  There is an old hymn that says, “Wash me in the blood of the Lamb, and I shall be whiter than snow. ”  Jesus sacrifice proved God’s love once and for all.  When we accept that sacrifice and acknowledge we are loved by Him are lives are really changed.  Here’s a few ways it changes us.

He covers the barren, dry, ground of the past with His sacrifice.  All the old mistakes and wounding experiences are covered by the sacrifice of Jesus for us.  We are forgiven.  We are restored.  We are like pure, new snow.  And like snow, the more God’s love  melts into our heart and waters the soil, the more our lives are an environment for planting and fruitfulness.

His sacrificial love creates a barrier of protection in the dry seasons of our life.  It is the promise that we will enter a new season and bloom again.

His love is a resting place.  It’s just like a snowy, winter day that makes us want to stay inside and cuddle up by the fire.  The more we experience and understand His love for us, the more warm, secure, and safe we feel.  And we keep coming back for more!

Whether the sun is shining or you are experiencing a storm, I hope you’ll join me today in letting God cover you in a blanket of His pure, soft, protective, and restorative love.  Let Him wash away whatever is holding you back or causing you to be disheartened.  Let him remove the tension of the day.  Take time to  feel His presence and love today.   Make this a Snow Day!

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Power Up!

Personal power is something we hear a lot about these days.  Here’s the definition from businessdictionary.com:  “Influence over others, the source of which resides in the person instead of being vested by the position he or she holds.” I would go one step further.  To me it’s also the influence we have over ourselves.

Here’s the great thing about that for a Christ follower.  We get a double dose of personal power.   We get personal power by from inside and from our position in Christ.

I’m nowhere near the finish line on my transformation to healthy eating but it’s been about 10 days now and I’m amazed at some of the changes.  They have been a long time coming and one of the reasons I finally committed was because I can’t separate the way I treat my body from the fact that I believe all our life belongs to God. That’s kind of scary to admit because now I have to own that belief and am accountable!

Every area, every day, every minute, every moment of our life is sacred because it is all God’s.  Loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and spirit  doesn’t exclude one area in life.  It means all of it!  Whatever the relationships to family, others, money, business, fun, food, or anything else look like, the way it affects you is a matter of where their power is.

We have lots of choices in all the areas of life.  God never takes our choice away.  That’s what makes it complicated sometimes.  We don’t really want to acknowledge that power to choose because with choice comes responsibility.

Even if  a circumstance or situation is in our control or not, we still must choose the place or affect we are going to give it in our lives.

So if we must choose, and we must in everything, how do we?  I Corinthians 6:12 may hold the key.  “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”  My paraphrase of that verse is I can choose anything I want but not everything will be helpful.  What I choose determines what or who is going to control me.

When faced with a choice of what to eat, I have to choose the thing that is most helpful to my body, if I want health.  The same is true with any other area.  It’s a choice between healthy and unhealthy.  In fact,  God gave the law, not to box us in but to show us the healthy choices that would keep us living as we were meant to live–safe and successful.

If I am part of Christ’s body, how am I going to treat it?  If my life is part of Christ’s life, how am I going to live it?  It’s all sacred.

Personally, I don’t believe we are as weak as we think sometimes.  Instead, I think we just might not recognize that Christ through the Holy Spirit  really does live in us.  I don’t think we understand that through Christ we are positioned in a place of authority over anything that would try to take away the power He’s given us.

What if we recognized our choices are not simply a matter of right or wrong but one of  what/who we  will allow to have power over us? Would we choose more thoughtfully?  Would we be more serious about each choice we made in life?

True personal power comes from recognizing that everything we are and all of our life is God’s.  Once we understand that just as the most beautiful temple, we are a sacred place, set apart for the purpose of worship and glory to God, why would we trade that sacredness for something else? Why would we replace the power of God in us and on us with a counterfeit.

I hope you’ll join me in taking back the power from anything other than God in your life.  That is personal power at its best.  We really have no excuse.

It’s time to power up!!!!!!

 

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Change It Up

When things get tough it seems easier to quit than stay on course.  Whether changing a habit, working on relationship, or pursuing a dream, I can 100% guarantee there will be challenges and obstacles.

As we talked about yesterday, you need a strong root system so we can bend with the season and storms of life.

We all understand that sometimes you just have to weather a storm until it passes.

Sometimes we have to sort out the obstacles and make a course adjustment.

I was recently discussing with a friend, a challenge I was having in a particular relational area.  Well aware that the cause of some of those concerns could be a result of my own perception and emotional baggage and that some could be the result of the other person’s, I was having difficulty sorting through it. In addition, I know there’s a spiritual battle when you are trying to walk in unity and love.  I also understand  what I desired could be a matter of timing or me communicating more clearly.

Through this whole process I have been asking God for help in healing my “junk”, adjusting my perception and attitude, and clarifying my vision.  All three of those things are vitally important in overcoming obstacles. Those adjustments, no matter how major or minor, can be the difference between a person who considers themselves a victim of circumstance or one who views themselves as a victor over them.

There is one more adjustment I had considered but it wasn’t quite as clear until my friend made this statement.  “Sometimes you gotta consider whether you are an orange tree trying to bloom in Michigan when you belong in Florida.”

Especially when pursuing our calling or purpose, the challenges are about refining us or someone else.  Other times they come from the enemy who wants to trip us up and get us to quit.  Sometimes it is about waiting for the right timing or season.  And other times it’s because we are in the wrong place to make it happen.

There are times when even our dream may have to die.  But all too often we quit our dreams because we can’t see a way to the finish line.  Part of the race is sorting through and understanding what’s holding us back.  Like any good navigator, if we can’t find a way, under it, or over it, or through it safely, we eliminate it by stepping back from it, adjust our course, and go around it.

Overcoming and succeeding in life’s race is hard to realize if one won’t adjust.  No matter what the struggle change is inevitable and we can always change something.

What obstacle is in your way today?  Why is it there?  What could you do to eliminate that obstacle or change your course?

 

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Strong Enough To Bend

I remember a time in my life when I was struggling in my marriage and with my identity as a young mom. Tanya Tucker had a country song out at the time called Strong Enough to Bend.  She compared love to a willow tree in the midst of conflict and storms being strong enough to bend.

I love that picture.  We will always face storms in life.  There will always be obstacles in the way of where we want to go in our marriage, in our jobs, in parenting, in our finances, and along the way to success in our life’s work.

There are also seasons in life.  (Ecclesiastes 3) A time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to cry, a time to laugh

Whatever season we are in, we can either choose to let it destroy us or hold us back or move forward until we are beyond it.

So what makes the difference between someone who moves through the storm and overcomes the obstacle and one who let’s it rip them off in life?

We found the answer to that question years later, while going through the biggest challenge of our lives.

You must be flexible but strong.

The strength we had in the middle of situation came from a set of strong values or principles and our belief and trust in God.

We didn’t find those in the storm.  We had worked on those before the storm hit.

In other words,  our tree had a stronger root system and was able to weather the storm.

If you want to overcome in life, start now.  Figure out your motivation, your values, your core beliefs about what you want in life.  What would be important to you if you had no money, no possessions, no stuff?  What is important in your relationships?  What are the character qualities you want to live by?  What do you believe about God?  What does the scripture show us about weathering life’s uncomfortable places?

If you think about that now, and put that into practice now, you will be strong enough to bend with the wind and have enough wisdom to find solutions or ways to overcome the obstacles in front of you.

You can have confidence that you’ll make it and that God will turn the tough stuff into a gift for yours and others good.

You can have peace in the pain.

You will reach the joy of a life well lived and without regret, in spite of difficulties.  You will overcome, if you are strong enough to bend.

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