Friday, December 4, 2015

Faith Walker

The paths we chose to daily take can make a difference in our ability to withstand the detours life throws our way. As Christians if we always chose to take the safe path, one that is not challenging, uncomfortable & unfamiliar then we will never truly need to rely on our faith to carry us through. Like an undeveloped or unused muscle our faith will shrink and become weak, not able to see us through when things are tough. Life happens to all of us but when we are regularly engaged with working out our faith muscles- it is easier to cope through the messiness of life.

Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hope specifically in Christ can sub stain us when things seem difficult but to get to the hope stage of your faith- you need to work out your faith daily. As we go through trials, suffering but clinging to the hand of God, we develop endurance. Just like a marathon runner learns as she begins to increase her long run from 8 to 18 miles- there is suffering that occurs to the body but if she faithfully sticks to the plan, she will come out of the training able to endure the marathon of 26.2 miles. 

Endurance & the ability to endure the hard develops character specifically strong, unbreakable character- faith walkers knows that they can endure the hard so this iron strength character shines through in their life by attitude, choices & perseverance. Character that is refined by God through hardships & trials allows faith walkers to know the true meaning of hope- hope is placing all your faith in the only one that can truly serve you. Hope in the Lord shows that when life is piling on so hard but the faith walkers continue to look up- they don't let their surroundings & circumstances keep them down. They look up to the only one who can provide all they need to persevere through the life path they have been assigned to travel. 

Keep walking, faith walker! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lord, give me an "undivided" heart.

Have you ever been in the car and your favorite praise song comes on the radio, causing you to belt out your own song of praise?  Have the words from a song become so real and authentic that you wanted each and every one of them to ring true in your life?  For a brief moment in time, the car becomes your own place of worship before reality slaps you back in the face and you find yourself just sitting at another red light. 

Years ago, I remember being in my car and a song by Hillsong called “From the Inside Out” came on the radio.  For the first time I felt my heart truly feel these words- I wanted them to be real in my life. Especially the lyrics- “In my heart and in my soul, Lord I give you control. Consume me from the inside out.”  I felt something change inside me and for that moment I knew my life was to be lived for God- for Him to consume it all- to live for His praise and His glory. 

From that moment on, every day and every hour I devoted my heart and my soul to living for God.  Yeah, right!  Oh, how I wish I could say that was true.  My heart desires many things and constantly leads me astray.  My heart is fickle, volatile, inconstant, and flighty- above all else my heart is divided.  I feel like the man in Mark 9 who asked Jesus to heal his demon possessed son- his precious son who had been possessed since childhood.  He came to Jesus for healing with a shaking hope that God would come through- the father asked of Jesus, “but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  Jesus replied, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” The father immediately cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  Such honest reply from a desperate man who only wanted his son to be healed but protected himself from rejection by not fully believing that “everything is possible”.  I feel the same way about my heart condition- I want to say to God, “Here is all my heart; every last piece of it is yours.  I am all in- consume me from the inside out.”  But to be honest, my heart is not completely God’s; I do hold bits and pieces of it very tightly in my hands, not fully surrendering it all for the one who gave it all.  Lord, help me overcome my “undivided heart”.

David is an example of a man whose heart was all in for God.  David led with his heart and his heart was bent on pleasing God.  As the author of many psalms, David constantly spoke about the heart, writing almost 77 verses about it. In Acts 13:22, God testified this about David: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”  David sought after God’s heart- he knew God as His Lord and Savior and chose to obey Him out of love and respect.  Psalm 78:72 says this about David: “And David shepherded them (his people) with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them”.  In Psalm 86:11, David asked God to “teach me your way O Lord and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.”  David had a heart that was undivided, full of integrity and obedient to God. 

If you are familiar with David’s story then you know that he was not a perfect man.  David sinned against God but what set David apart and allowed him to become a man after God’s own heart was that he did not cherish sin in his heart.  He allowed God to bring him to repentance and be turned back fully restored.  David knew that God would clean him up and help him start anew no matter what he had done.  After disobeying and disappointing God, David wrote these verses in Psalm 55:10-12- “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  David wrote these words after he had experience God’s forgiveness for his wrongdoing in the death of a man.  He knew that as soon as he turned back to God with a repentant heart that God would remove all filth and bring restoration to their relationship. 

How can we get a heart like David’s?  How can my heart be undivided; only loyal to God?  Based on the example of David’s life, there are a few key things we can do in our walk with God to allow our heart to be all in for God.  First, we cannot cherish sin- when we have not dealt with sin, we remain out of sync with God.  It is kind of like bad cell phone reception- you know the other person is on the line but you can’t hear them or they can’t hear you- the call keeps being dropped.  That is what our relationship with God is like when we are walking around in our sin; clinging to those parts of our heart that we haven’t released over to God.  Next, we need to turn back to God and ask for Him to not allow sin to rule over us- 1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.  This automatically happens when we turn back to God and ask for forgiveness but how many of us are not allowing the forgiveness to affect our behavior?  How many times has God forgiven you but you haven’t forgiven yourself and you walk around life under a self-inflicting rain cloud of condemnation.  Been there, done that, still do that… it is not fun and it is not what God has for us.  Last, walk in obedience according to God and His Word.  Find a group of friends to do this with whether it is a bible study group, an accountability partner, a spouse- you do not have to do this walk alone.  Find “your people” to help you stay on the straight, narrow and often terrifying path- be honest about your struggles, fears, anxieties.  Let God redeem you and others remind you of His redeeming power in your life. 

How is your heart today?  It truly is a day by day, step by step journey that we are on- look to be obedient and loyal to God in your heart today.  As you daily set to make Him your # 1, He will ultimately become the only one who has the key to your heart.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Living Quietly

“And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

As I enter a new chapter in my life, I feel challenged by God to work out the concept that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Thessalonians.  He urges this church to “make it their ambition to 1) lead a quiet life, 2) mind their own business and 3) work with your hands”.  In the midst of a social media crazy culture, it is almost impossible to lead a quiet life or mind your own business, let alone make it your ambition.  Most people’s ambition is to be seen and heard through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest- all social media sites that I enjoy using but do they help me achieve this goal of living quietly?   

Due to the recent changes in my life, I think Paul is drawing on something wonderful and life-changing. 

Months ago, my family moved to the Palm Harbor area to be closer to schools, water and boating.  This lifestyle change has been on our heart for years but unattainable for many reasons.  This move to a smaller but taller house (3 story home) has its benefits and disadvantages.  First, my husband has a much longer commute to his office though time spent working at home has led to more family time.  Also we left many dear friends in the Lutz area that we hope will remain in touch with especially since we live near the beach- road trip!   Finally, I decided to leave our church which I spent many hours serving in women’s ministry.  This church change was something that I can see now as necessary to my spiritual health and growth.  I feel as though God is urging me to have a period of rest while I draw closer to Him for strength, wisdom and guidance for next steps of ministry or occupation.  My desire to “do” for God has always been strong and clear.  Now I feel a desire to be available more emotional and mental to my family and enjoy my quiet time with the Lord without any set agenda.  But I have to be honest, I feel a little lost- God has always been clear on the next step.  All I can do is put my trust in God- He knows the when, where and how for my next steps.  

When I came upon these verses in a study on Paul’s letters, I was immediately drawn to this concept of living quietly.  Making it my ambition to just live quietly, mind my own business and work seems like my new plan from God- one that might win the respect of outsiders and open the door to new relationships. 

To truly understand what Paul is urging in these verses, I had to pull out key words to help me understand this passage.  Ambition means “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.”  Paul is telling them “to be determined” to live quietly- this is not very true of the culture we live in- what does living quietly even look like?  I don’t think Paul was suggesting that these new believers hole up together keeping the outside world at a distance but instead to integrate themselves quietly, intentionally and mindfully into their communities.  Living quietly means to live not for your glory but God’s.  To look out for the best interests of others- to love your neighbor.  Forgive when it is hard to forgive, love when it is hard to love.  Always giving back to Him all credit and honor through your words, actions and deeds. 

"Working hard” at minding your own business tends to be something that women struggle with more than men.  As believers, we need to be concerned with ourselves and not engage inappropriately in other people’s lives.  The type of person who is making this their ambition will not meddle in other’s lives- they will be concerned with their house and keeping it in order- looking for ways to help people, not add to or create drama.

Finally, it is important to work, specifically with your hands.  The Thessalonica church had become idle, waiting and watching for the Lord’s return.  This was not a good witness to the outside world that was watching them.  When you are engage in good, honest work, there is no time to be idle- the idle life doesn’t please God.  Idleness leads to worry, fear and meddling which will not earn the respect of others that are watching your life. 

God’s heart yearns for the unbeliever to turn and come to Him.  He uses believers to be seed planters in the lives of those around us.  In order to even plant a seed or nurture an existing seed, the soil needs to be soft and pliable- ready to receive.  This is also true with the spiritual seeds we plant and nurture in the lives of the people we come in contact with daily.  If their heart isn’t ready to receive a word from you then the seed will eventually die.  But we play a huge part in the readiness of the soil- the respect you gain from others due to the way you live helps the soil of one’s heart to be open to the seeds God has given you to plant. 

Paul’s challenge to live quiet lives will not only lead to a more abundant and fruitful life for yourself but can lead others to God.