Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Open Season

I'm not a hunter so I'm not sure what's up for grabs right now, but in any case, whether it's deer, dove, or ducks, the hunted have to be more aware of their surroundings during Open Season.

I was watching the news this morning and Actress Goldie Hawn was being interviewed concerning a program she is involved with in the classroom that teaches elementary through 8th grade students how to meditate. This is being  embraced by schools to help alleviate stress in the lives of children. Schools are reporting that they have seen a reduction in suspensions, bad behavior, and that it has helped some students with A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder).

More and more children are coming into the classroom with major stress factors because of homes  that are tense and filled with anxiety. I understand the need to help these kids relax and breathe, but the main concern for me is what they are meditating on. Scripture warns us about providing an open, empty mind that focuses on "nothingness".  An empty mind is an easy target for the enemy to attack.

Our minds are a battleground; the place where Satan is standing at the gate just waiting for the smallest of openings.  His sole desire is to seek, to kill and destroy as many lives as possible. (See John 10:10) We, as Christians, have to be on our guard at all times; aware of our surroundings, and what is fighting for our attention. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Heart can also be interchanged with the word mind.) When we let our guards down allowing our minds to be filled with "nothingness", we have given the enemy an easy in to accomplish his agenda. If we aren't focused on Christ and filling our minds with His truth, then we are fair game. It's Open Season!

There are many subtle ways that Satan can gain access into the minds of unsuspecting souls, but one of the most popular is Yoga; a meditative based exercise program which teaches breathing, and relaxing techniques.  Now I have no qualms with relaxing or de-stressing, but the goal of these types of meditation techniques is to allow your mind to empty; to flow with "nothingness". 

Remember the commercial with the phrase, "The mind is a beautiful thing to waste."? That is so true.  Focusing on "nothingness" is a waste and also an opening.  BEWARE! The mind is the devil's playground when the gate is left open - even a little bit!

So how do we relax, breathe and de-stress without being hunted and attacked by the enemy?

God promises in Isaiah 26:3 that He will give perfect peace to those whose minds are steadfast on Him.  When we trust and rest in Christ, then we have an indescribable peace that passes all understanding.  With God's peace, our stress is alleviated, our worry is gone, and our fear disappears. With God's peace, our mind is strong. And when our mind is strong, we're able to defend ourselves during Open Season.

Let's do a gate check today to make sure the enemy does not gain entrance by focusing our minds on that which provides perfect peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Colossians 3:2

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15

"Do not conform any longer 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

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:8

(all Scriptures taken from the New International Version of the Bible)

My Pleasure,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Squeaky Clean or Spotless?

Which house would you rather live in? One that is squeaky-clean or one that's spotless ?

A squeaky-clean house has absolutely no dirt, grime, dust, etc.  It's so clean you could eat off the floors- a house where nothing can be touched or enjoyed.  Life is null and void.

A spotless house is one that has its share of dirt, grime, dust, etc., but it's cleaned along the way.  It is full of life. People live here and enjoy living.

As I talk to, listen to, and observe people, many seem to be wearing themselves out striving for squeaky-cleanness.

They're working so hard at being good enough, loved, accepted, appreciated, and admired, that they're missing out on experiencing the real joy of living as God intended.

Squeaky-clean living is not really living at all. It's all about trying to measure up to the expectations of people we think we must live up to and those we think God has placed on us too.  An impossible task!

Spotless living is all about giving Jesus, the One who meets all of God's requirements, the freedom to live in and through us.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
                                          (Hymn, Nothing But the Blood, words and music by Robert Lowry)

Jesus doesn't require us to do the cleaning. Thank You, Jesus!  He wants us to let Him make us spotless.  He has already done the hard work for us! We could never do enough to be good enough, perfect enough, or clean enough for God on our own merit.  It's only because of Christ, the cross, His blood, and His righteousness that we are clean and have the power to live clean lives. 

"Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins." Hebrews 9:22 NIV

Knowing Jesus through a personal relationship, we are robed with His righteousness.  When the Father looks at us, He doesn't see our sinfulness- He sees His perfect Son, the spotless Lamb of God. 

Wow! That sure takes a load off.

"Thank You, Jesus, for loving me with a love beyond words and making me spotless before the Father.  I love living life with You; me in You, and You in me.  Spotless living is how I want to live. Clean and free to be what You want me to be. Full of joy and worry free. Resting in and relying totally on Your strength, Your power and Your grace - moment by moment. Amen."

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Legacy Unleashed

When I think of the word Legacy, I think of something that began in the past which pushes into the future.  A legacy is the life-print of someone who came before us and is impacting what we do today.

A couple of weeks ago, our church had a Legacy Service.  It was a time to reflect on what God had done in the past through His people and how the legacy is affecting the future of His people. It was a challenge to stay the course with the vision God birthed in the hearts of those very first members who acted by faith and brought to life the God-given vision.

I have been quite deeply affected by the legacy of many Christians who've gone before me, but the first person on my list would be my dad.  What a man of faith - not perfect - but in this daughter's eyes, he was as close as they come. He loved Jesus Christ with all of his heart, his soul, and his mind.  He strived to be the man of God that he was called to be.  Not only did he love His Savior, but he loved people just like Christ did.  His daily goal was to reach as many with the gospel as possible and to show them how much Jesus loved them. And he did just that; just like his dad, my granddaddy Cook.

My dad left a life-print on my heart that is affecting the way I live my life today.

A legacy unleashed.

Right up there with my dad is my mom; another life-print burned into my heart.  She was such a gracious and elegant hostess.  Seared into my memory is how she opened our home to kids, teenagers, adults.  Anytime there needed to be a home for a fellowship, a women's meeting place, a youth pool party, choir events, lake parties, bible studies, even for some who needed guidance or counseling, our home was always open and filled with the grace of my mom.  I never heard her complain about so many people being at our house all of the time. Instead, her laughter was what you heard.  Her hands were what you saw- making and serving some of the best food you have ever put in your mouth.  A legacy of grace, love, and service. That was my mom.

Her life-print continues today in how I host and open our home for others to enjoy and to be served. I pray I'm just half  the hostess she was.

Another legacy unleashed.

The song Steve Green made popular many years ago called "Find Us Faithful", was a song  challenging Christians to leave behind a life-print of faithfulness to Christ that can be traced with ease. A life so full of Christ that others migrate towards it to be loved, encouraged, and discipled. A life so faithful that others want to follow in its' faith steps.

Isn't that what the writer of Hebrews challenged us with?  "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." Hebrews 13:7 NIV

If anyone challenged me to love Christ and live like Christ, it was my parents.  As they are now a part of that vast cloud of witnesses cheering us on to stay the course, I pray their legacy of Christ is living on through me and many others that were deeply impacted by their life-print.

Lord Jesus, help us be the leaders today that others can imitate tomorrow, not just by speaking Your words, but also bringing Your words to life.  A legacy unleashed is becoming what You have called us to be, and living how You have called us to live- just as You lived...with Your power, through Your Spirit, rooted in Your truth!

My Pleasure,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Stay Calm and Live On - Stronger

I've heard several people over the last year say that they had chosen a "word" for the year.  I had never really thought about it, but what a great idea - to focus on one word and to claim God's promises concerning that word for a whole year.

I'm not a long-term, goal-setting girl when it comes to projects.  I'm the see-results-fast, short-term type. That's why I write magazine articles and not novels. Short, sweet, to the point and you get to see the finished product in less time.  If I can't see immediate results, I can get discouraged very easily. So choosing one word for a whole year sounds really boring to me.  Instead, I'm choosing a word to focus on for just the winter months. It's the title of a new Bible study I will be teaching this semester.  It's called Stronger... Finding Hope in the Fragile Places, by Angela Thomas.

So my short-term winter word is Stronger!

On this very piano, at the age of 3 or 4, I climbed up on the bench and began to play by ear one of the first songs I ever learned, Jesus Loves Me.  A line in the song says, "They are weak, but He is strong."

What a profound truth learned early in life. Exercising that truth though, is sometimes very difficult. I know that God is strong and that He is where my strength comes from. But often I want to do things my way; the way I think they should be done. So, I try to accomplish His plans in my own strength.  What am I thinking? 

The joy of the Lord, which is my strength, is not there when I try to do things in my own strength. It seems to get lost in the struggle for control.

I should get it already that God has a divine plan for my life.  His plan is best and I should trust Him to work things out for my good, and not trust myself to work things our for His good.

This winter, as I study, learn, and teach Stronger, I am focusing on His strength and how I can be stronger because of the power of His Spirit living inside of me.  Jesus Christ wants us to rest in Him so He can do the work through us.  When we fight Him for control, we are actually saying, "Lord, You don't know what You're doing, so let me do things my way."  That is an ungrateful attitude with sassy written all over it. An attitude that I can display well, I'm sorry to say.

Stay Calm and Live On - Stronger - in 2014 means I have to let go of the reigns of my life and trust that Jesus will lead me into a much stronger life with Him leading the way.  If people are to see Jesus in me then I have to live that early learned, spiritual truth which says, "...I am weak, but He is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so."  (personalized)
Go on. Sing it out loud! You know you want to!

"Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
(1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NIV)

My Pleasure,

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dealing with Disappointment

My adventure today began with disappointment.  Something I have been looking forward to was put on hold - again.  Not because of anyone else, but because of circumstances I am mostly responsible for.

Our daily adventures, sifted through the fingers of God, are divinely designed to teach us, mold us, and make us more like Christ.  Sometimes those adventures bring disappointment. But that doesn't mean that all is lost and that His love for us has changed.  Nor does it mean that our love for Him is any less.  God is still as good as He always is, it's just our human emotions take over and put us in a bad mood. Circumstances do dictate our feelings much of the time as Satan seeks to steal our joy.

That's why I wanted to blog, first thing.  I need to deal with this disappointment in the best way possible.  I need to focus on what's best and not what I want.  There's that selfish spirit raising its ugly head again.  I need a whack-a-mole club to beat it down.  Why am I so selfish sometimes?

Our sin nature is what we battle day in and day out.  If we turn our focus inward, we become moody, angry, and say things we regret.  So far I haven't hit the regret part, but moody and angry have made an appearance.  Satan is seeking to steal my joy. But God doesn't expect us to do battle alone when He lives in us.  His Holy Spirit dwells within us to help us overcome sin.  Scriptures tell us that God in us is so much greater than the enemy that is in the world. (I John 4:4)

This is where my strength comes from - from the power of the Holy Spirit. The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10b)This is how I can put on the brakes before I say something I will regret or hurt the feelings of someone I love.  This is where the rubber meets the road; how I can choose what is best over what feels right.  This is how I keep my joy in the face of disappointment!

So for today's adventure with the Lord, I'm dealing with disappointment by giving my disappoint to God; letting Him reign in the selfish desires of my heart and by allowing my spirit to draw strength from the Holy Spirit who is stronger than any emotion that I may display.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for convicting this heart that sways toward sin sometimes.  Please forgive me and help me to be strong. I want to radiate You and Your goodness to those around me. Help me keep my emotions in check, focus on Your character, and wash my mind with Your Word.  You never disappoint.  You always satisfy.  True joy is only found in a relationship with You. And as I trust in You, and stand in awe of You, You promise I will lack nothing. (Psalm 34:9) Fill me today, Lord, with Your joy. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

I'm already feeling better!

My Pleasure,

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Brand-Spankin' New

Don't you love the feel and smell of a brand-spankin' new car?  The leather seats firm with no indentions. The carpet, dirt free.  No fingerprints on the windows or dashboard. It has the look and smell that only a new car has...fresh and untouched.  But if we never get in it, or drive it, we would never really experience the joy that it offers.

Today began just as a brand-spankin' new car...fresh and untouched.

I woke up with a clean slate, nothing on the to-do list.  No conversations to rattle my mood, and even the rain was a welcomed blessing. No dents or fingerprints on the day yet, just me and my sweetie anticipating enjoying  this day together.  Then reality set in...

"I have to get up.  My sweet husband is spending the whole day with me. He's taking our daughter's car to the body shop and then taking me out for breakfast.  Later in the day, he's taking me to a movie. I have to go pick him up.  He's waiting on me at the body shop. I have to get the day started. NO...not yet! My warm covers are holding me as securely as the swaddling cloths held the Christmas baby. I don't want to get up yet....!"

I could have rolled over and gone right back to sleep, but I also would not have had a happy husband who desired to spend the whole day with me either.  A special gift would have been missed if I had given in to my selfishness and my warm, cozy bed.  The joy that awaited me would have never come.

Isn't that what happens many times when we think the way we want things is better than what God has planned for us?  If we settle for our comfortable rut, never experience anything new, and never step out to see what God has for us, oh, the joy we would miss!

This new day, as fresh and untouched as it was, had to begin. It had to be touched, felt, experienced.
I had to get up.  I had responsibilities. But more importantly, I wanted to live this day with and for my Lord, Jesus Christ.  I wanted to go on the adventures He had designed for me and me only. I wanted Him to show me how faithful He is, how strong He is, how much He loves me. I wanted to worship Him with my life today. I wanted to look for and take the opportunities He would give me to share Him with others today. I wanted our relationship to deepen today.


So, at the end of today, I will reflect on the wonderful God I love and serve.  We will talk over the day and what we did together; the places we went, the people we saw, the words He spoke to me through His Word, the songs we sang, the adventures we had, the love we shared. Just as I began the day with Jesus, I will end it with Him, and anticipate the adventures of tomorrow as I drift off to sleep tonight.

What are you waiting for?  Get up! Jesus is waiting to spend the whole day with you, too!

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." (Psalm 91:1-2 NIV)

My Pleasure,