Monday, January 23, 2017

A Critical Question

Questions - as a Mom I sometimes don't appreciate questions, but I know they have value. We'll never know if we don't ask and we can't understand unless we inquire. Questions serve a purpose for my children, but friend, regardless of our age, they are important for us as well.

Awhile back, in the midst of a conversation with a young man 10 years older than my first born, I found myself asking questions. This gentleman is newly married and walked through his teen years successfully...I'd be grateful if my son does the same. So as we discussed the possible temptations and trials the future held for my children I asked, "So what did your parents say or do that helped get you to where you are today?"

The young man thought for awhile, reminded me of the fact that good, Godly parenting doesn't guarantee good, Godly kids and then paused to share a short story. He said, "One thing I remember my mom saying to me - 'Is Jesus just going to be your Savior?' or 'Will He be your Lord too?' Those questions made me think. If He was going to be my Lord I needed to live for Him and do things His way." I decided I too wanted to have this conversation with all of my children.

Life went on, a few days passed and I found myself drifting a bit. Nothing major had happened, but life was busy, our days were full and I was lacking discipline. I was falling into survival mode as a mom, wife and believer. History repeated itself as my mind began to wonder, doubts crept in and I started to slip. I wasn't in the pit of depression, but I was heading that way.

One day as I talked with my husband, we got to discussing something about the kids and as we did I remembered the conversation I described above. I shared it with Job and God convicted my heart.

If I don't want Jesus to just be my kids Savior, I'd better be sure they know He is my Lord.

Friend, this thought stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. You see I've been in the pit of depression before along with the place of paralyzation. God's led me to do things, stop out and serve Him, but my selfish, prideful insecurities along with Satan's deceitful, destroying lies leave me paralyzed. I turn back and return to my mat. I do what's comfortable and has become a habit. Just like Psalm 40 says, God has saved me out of the pit before and I trust He will save me again.

I will forever be grateful for His saving grace and am aware that at any moment I will need it again, but this situation seemed a bit different. Just like I NEVER want my kids to fall into temptation because they know Jesus will save and forgive, I'd better not willingly do the same.

Friend, can I ask you the same critical, convicting question? "Is Jesus just your Savior or are you willing to confess that He is your Lord?"

As you admit that He is Lord, do so remembering Jesus' words in Luke 6:46 - "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?" We can't simply say, "Jesus is Lord, we must live like He is." If you've been walking with Him and abiding in His Word, you know what He says. Will you do it?

I encourage you to take some time and really think about this. It's easy to quickly give the right answer and move on, but reflect on the last week, your recent thoughts and actions. Is your life proof that Jesus is Lord?

Last week if anyone examined the transcript of my mind I'm not sure I'd been proven guilty. I'm so thankful for the insight the young man shared with me, not only as a mom, but as a disciple. Jesus is my Lord and my Savior. He's pulled me out of the pit and restored the joy of my salvation.

Through His Word He's instructed me, given me commands and expects me to obey. And friend, if you've confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, He expects the same.

Dear Heavenly Father, you are my Savior and you are my Lord. You are mighty and powerful - I'm grateful and I'm humbled. May I always remember who you are and live, act, speak and think rightly because of that. Thank you for still saving me when I fall. And thank you for reminding me to do what you say. Lord, you are the authority figure, help me be the obedient child. The life I live and example I share will teach much more than any words I can say, help me be mindful of that. Lord, thank you for speaking through your people and convicting my heart. Keep me moving forward with you and towards you. And Lord, when I'm tempt to drift may I always reach for you, my anchor. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Monday, January 16, 2017

Who are you speaking for?

As a Mom to five, we spend time talking about the words we speak. This is important, it's necessary and is beneficial. Today as a follower of Jesus, I've been thinking about this a bit more.

Let me ask you a question - "Who are you speaking for?"

That may sound like a silly question, but I hope you'll dig into this a bit deeper. We know our words are powerful; Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Ephesians 4:29 encourages us to "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth..."

Chances are these are truths you know and understand, but let's examine this a bit more. As a believer, we know the right answer to our question - God is the one we are, and want, to be speaking for. We want to be His hands, His feet and His voice.

Those intentions are good and Godly, but do we act on them?

In those moments of anger or in the temptation to gossip it's pretty easy to see when we fall short, but Scripture has given me an example of a time when it's perhaps not so obvious.

Join me in Matthew 16 where Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on whom He will build the church and He's given him the keys of heaven. Clearly, Jesus has a high view of Peter. His opinion leads me to believe we can safely say Peter was a godly man. Following this conversation, Jesus shares what lies ahead - His suffering, death and resurrection.

So let's read Matthew 16:22-23 - "Peter took him (Jesus) aside and began to rebuke Him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'" 

Friend, stop and think for a minute about the contrast that takes place over a few verses - Jesus is confirming and affirming Peter and the call God has on his life and a while later He is calling him Satan. We can't find a bigger contrasting comparison!

It's important to recognize and think about this for many different reasons - 1 it shows us the perfectness of Jesus, 2 - it reveals the humanness of the disciples and 3 it has the potential to teach us much.

That has happened as I look at this quick exchange of words more closely. Like Peter I too have declared in my heart and with my mouth that "Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." I've never had a conversation with our Lord and Savior, but He does speak to me through His living Word and Holy Spirit. And like Peter, I've been convicted of speaking for Satan.

This has never once been my desire, but yet it's happened. Look again at Jesus' words - "You (Peter) are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." 

I don't have physical conversations with Jesus, but I'm guilty of being a stumbling block to others at times. I'm not talking about the obvious situations of anger and gossip, but think about the moments when a friend is walking through a hard time. What do you, I and every other person who wants to be a good friend do? Better yet, what do we want to do?

My desire is to make them feel better. I hurt with them and for them. I want my words to be an encouragement and long to point them to Truth. These intentions are good and I believe they are godly, but this short conversation in Scripture leaves me wondering if sometimes I go about it wrongly.

Peter is a lot like us - he didn't want his friend, his leader and teacher to suffer. He focused on the current situation and spoke what was on his heart. I have to admit I do the same. In the midst of pain, my own or a loved ones, it's easy to lose perspective and allow feelings to take over. Sometimes I focus more on my friend, than my Father. My eyes are on their pain, instead of His plan. Can you say the same?

Friend, I've been thinking about this for a few days and need to keep praying about it for more, and I'd love for you to do the same. There is no easy answer and this is yet another reminder of the importance for daily time in God's Word and an abiding relationship with Him. We must constantly and continuously seek Him for direction and wisdom.

Our hearts are for our friends and loved ones...may our words be for them and from our Father. There will be times those words are ones of compassion, support and sympathy. But there may be times when the words are harder to speak and may be a challenge to receive.

So let me close with another question - Are you willing to speak for Christ even when it's difficult? The challenge may be for you - it's hard to say words that might be misunderstood or unwanted. The struggle may be for the one who's listening - it's hard to receive words that challenge you to act/think differently or push you to end the pity party.

Friend, as I finish this post I pray I've been speaking for God our Father. May these words encourage you to think about yours.

"For I did not speak on My own, 
but the Father who sent Me commanded Me
 to say all that I have spoken."
(John 12:49)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Will you resolve?

We're 10 days into the new are you doing with your resolutions? Are you still exercising daily? Have you stopped reacting wrongly? Are you right back to where you were when 2016 ended? 

Regardless if you made resolutions or not, can I encourage you to think about them a bit more? 

In a recent post, I looked at this word from a Biblical perspective. This is more than a desire for change in behavior or for a better new year. Biblically, to resolve means to set your mind, purpose in your heart, to be determined and steadfast. 

So let's think about a new question, in what ways are you resolved? Have you resolved to follow your dreams? Are you resolved to get your own way? 

I don't know your answers, but I've been convicted of what's in my heart. Friend, whether we make yearly resolutions or not, we have them. And unless we spend time in the Word and prayer, our resolutions are often selfish. We are sinful human beings who tend to naturally focus on our self, but it doesn't have to be this way. 

God, our Father and Creator, has designed us with a purpose and in His image. He has a great call and plan for each of us. If we want to be who He created us to be and do the great works He planned long ago, we must resolve. 

The math teacher in me sees this word a bit differently than most probably do - I not only see resolve, but also re-solve. When a student re-solves a problem they find a different answer and as believers we need to do the same. Changing our resolutions will help us re-solve some of our problems. So friend will join me?

Let's resolve to -  
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Friend, surrender isn't easy, but it's so important. Daily let's resolve to surrender to the One who is victorious and has great plans for us. May we give up our desires and wants, lets sacrifice our selfishness and live for the One who died for us. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

What are you looking for? Who are you looking to? Will you resolve to seek God for direction? Are you willing to seek Him before turning to your spouse, friend, Facebook or food? It's easy to say yes now, but pray about this and set your mind towards seeking Him first and most because temptation will come. If you resolve to seek now, God will be faithful to equip you to do it later. 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:11

As a believer, it's easy to say we stand for Truth and are willing to take a stand for Christ, but what happens when life unfolds? I'm not even talking about doing this in public; first think about what happens when Satan attacks? Friends, our mind is a battlefield and Satan loves to feed us lies. What do you do when he does? Do you listen and let them lead you to doubt or anxious thinking? If so, stop for a minute and resolve to stand!!

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.” Joshua 24:24

Serving Christ...the desire of a believer's heart, right? We long to follow Jesus' example - He's the One who came to serve and we know we are called to do the same. Have you decided to serve the Lord? Me too. But lately I've been convicted to resolve to serve the Lord when nobody is watching, when thank-you's are not spoken and when it's a job I don't want to do. Will you resolve to do the same? 

Friend, these resolutions are not easy, but they are so important. Thinking about them, praying about them and trying to do them make a difference. They can change our perspective, our attitude and approach. When we resolve to surrender, seek, stand and serve God will continue to be faithful. He will equip us to do what we can't do on our own. And in the moments when we don't want to do what we've earlier resolved to do, His Holy Spirit will remind us of Truth and encourage us to see things from God's perspective. 

These resolutions don't have to be big and grand, actually they shouldn't be. We should resolve to do this in the day to day stuff of life - that's where it matters most! So let me finish with one last question - What resolution will you make today?

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your Word, a Word that speaks Truth and transforms my thinking. A Word that gives insight and direction, encouragement and equipping. Sanctify me with your Truth Lord. Help me resolve to surrender, seek, stand and serve. As I make these decisions, prepare me for the moments when I will want to do just the opposite. May I expect Satan's attack and be equipped to handle it. Lord, I resolve to follow you, trust you and obey you. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

For or with? An important question!

Let me ask you  a question...would you rather have someone do something for you or with you? Now I know that might depend on what or who we are talking about, but recently I've been challenged and changed by a version of this question.

Stop with me and think about how God would answer this question. Do you think He'd prefer we do something for Him or with Him?

Well friend, since God can do all things and there is nothing He needs you or me to do for Him, I'll guess He'd prefer us to work with Him.

I don't think it's wrong to have a desire to do something for God and bring Him glory, but that can't be our only focus, or primary one for that matter. Let me explain...

Over the past few years, I've felt the call to write. I've had outlines, chapter titles and even wrote a book proposal. I've started and stopped. I've given up and given in. I've tried and failed. I've been frustrated and overwhelmed. I believe I had good intentions, but realize I didn't have good results.

God has taught me through this process. Though my efforts didn't end like I expected Romans 8:28 is, and will always be true - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

My time hasn't been wasted though few have read those that process God spoke to my heart, strengthened my faith and matured me. He worked for good and brought me to this place. A place where He can change my thinking and transform my mind.

This past fall, He put another writing idea on my heart and honestly I was hesitant. I didn't want to start and stop again. I didn't want to strive after something that wouldn't happen. I wanted to be sure this was God's idea and not mine, so instead of writing I started seeking, studying and sharing.

Instead of chapters for a book, I studied topics for our local Titus24U group. Instead of writing words for a book, I shared short studies on this blog. As I did this God worked in my heart...I was learning from the lessons I was teaching - I surrendered the idea of writing and God transformed my thinking about it.

About a month ago, when the idea of writing again rose to the surface, I started to wrestle. So I went to prayer and sought advice from the Lord. I had no immediate answer, but continued to pray, seek and listen.

Days before Christmas as I worked with my children a phrase came to mind - do this with me, not for me. I didn't hear a voice, but this thought kept running through my head and it had my attention. And friend, I pray it has your attention as well.

Has God put a calling on your heart? Is there something you desire to do? Have you tried in the past, but long to finish in the future? Perhaps this approach will help you as well.

Instead of striving to do something for God, why not join Him and do something with Him? This shift in thinking has impacted me tremendously. I'm pressing on and working on putting a study together, but I no longer feel the pressure to perform or desire to do. I'm not striving towards a goal, but working with my God. Writing is not a burden or task on my never ending to-do list, but instead a blessing and opportunity to build a relationship with my heavenly Father.

As I press on and into the Lord, a familiar verse encourages my heart. In Matthew 19:26 we read, "But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Friend, when we shift our focus and change our thinking, our goal is no longer on accomplishing something for God, but instead acquiring a stronger relationship with Him. This is a little thing that makes a big difference.

And the difference isn't limited to our relationship with God, this thinking also affects our relationships with others. I've been challenged to apply this "not for, but with" approach to my husband and children. Unlike God there are times and things people need us to do for them, but as people we are designed in God's image and created for relationship.

The other day while doing something for my husband, I was convicted of not doing it with him. We were together and doing the same thing, but I was not engaged at all. My desire was to bless him...the activity might have, but my involvement did not. If my goal was to bless him, the mission was accomplished, but if as a wife my on-going prayer is for our relationship to grow, I failed.

Then with my kids, there are times I ask them to do something for me...which certainly is an OK thing for a Mom to do, but it's not the only thing we should do. Our kids need responsibilities and should understand our expectations, but also need a relationship with us. Last week while prepping for a birthday party, I found myself coming up with jobs for every child to do when the Holy Spirit again convicted my heart - "not for, but with". We then joined forces and though the jobs maybe took longer, we invested in our relationships instead of just completing our list.

So friend, I'm not sure if this is a change in your thinking, but today I encourage you to focus on these thoughts and reflect on your day. Do you tend to do things FOR others and God or WITH them? There is a difference.

We spent some time talking about this with our was interesting to hear their thoughts and perspectives. Definitely proof that they value time WITH ones they love. Also a reminder that working for someone doesn't always lead to wanted or lasting results. If we find ourselves always doing something for someone we can burn out and even grow bitter. We don't want that when it comes to relationships of any kind.

Finally, I'll close with this...I've committed to keep moving forward with the writing of the study God has on my heart. I've surrendered all thoughts of the finished project and am focused on joining God for the journey. I'm trying to be disciplined and have the desire to persevere. I know I can't do it all, so I continue to seek God's direction and will follow where He goes. I'm not sure what that means for this blog, so if it seems I'm MIA that's why. I invite you to pray WITH me as I walk this road of faith. And friend, I'd love to pray WITH you too. If there's something on your heart, leave me a comment or send me a message and I will join you in praying to the One who hears and promises to be WITH us always!

May these words encourage your heart as you press on...

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. 
Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged, 
for the Lord your God will be WITH you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thinking about resolutions...

The new year is about to begin, which means you may be thinking about resolutions. I have to admit I have not made a New Year's Resolution in years. How about you?

The ones I've made in the past, well they haven't been real spiritual.

So I got to thinking, what does the Bible say about resolutions? If there were such a thing in Jesus' time, would have He made one?

As I searched the Scriptures I came across Luke 9:51 and the last phrase caught my attention. Here we read - "Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." 

I dug a little deeper to see what that really meant. The Greek word for resolutely means "determined" or "steadfastly set." 

Jesus knew where He was going. He knew what was to come. He understood pain and persecution were part of His future. And still He resolved, or intentionally decided, to go where God led. He had counted the cost and was willing to sacrifice. He knew the road would be hard, but He resolutely set out to walk it.

Friend, these words make me think about resolutions a bit differently. For the first time in years, I'm challenged to resolve. The thoughts in my mind no longer center on exercising more, eating less or being a better person. No, instead they are focused on resolving to be more like Christ and resolutely setting out to follow Jesus. 

This isn't a resolution to make lightly, but it is one to consider deeply. If we truly dedicate ourselves to following Jesus' example and set a resolution like Him, the generic ones will be taken care of. If we confess our desires to God and ask for His help, He will be faithful to provide.

Friend, this year will you join me in trying something new?

Let's move past the same old resolutions and let go of the struggles that come with making pledges we'll never keep. Jesus was the perfect sinless man and with His Spirit in us we can resolve to follow Him. 

Remember He will equip us as we go and forgive us when we fall!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for the example that Christ set as He followed You. I pray for the strength, courage and desire to do the same. Don't let these thoughts be simple words I say, but make them my passion. Give me the resolve to follow You, trust You and obey You. As the new year begins, I ask for direction and wisdom Lord. Fill me with Your Spirit and help me resolutely follow You with all my heart, soul and strength. In Jesus' precious and powerful Name I pray...Amen

Here's a link to something else that will get your year off to a good start - PRAYER. Visit Wendy Blight's site to learn more about a New Year's Prayer by clicking HERE.

A song to start 2017..."I Have Decided To Follow Jesus" - may we resolve to keep moving forward with Him!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Truth A Picture Paints

A BIG welcome to my guests from the Encouragement Cafe...I pray my devotional, "The Thing We Must Always Do" blessed you and will impact your prayer life! Blessings to my regular blog reading friends! I don't say it too often, but I regularly thank God for you and always appreciate your shared comments, encouragement and insight. 

The other day I was driving home and I stopped to snap this picture...I've always been one to enjoy the beauty of the sunsets and this one captured my attention. I thought it was worthy of a share, so I posted it on Facebook along with these words - "I'm not a fan of the cold, but grateful for the beauty of God's creation." 

Instantly, I was notified of likes and comments. I got to thinking about how Facebook works...I share a picture and the likes grow rapidly, while a blog post or Bible verse have a few likes over the course of a day. As I thought about this, the old saying came to mind - "A picture is worth a thousand words." 

Then I found myself wondering, "What does this picture say?" Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we each see things quite uniquely I started to think about what it said to me...

This amazing scene came on the end of a real cold stretch here in Iowa. Sunday our actual air temperature was -24 and windchills were close to -50. Needless to say ball games were postponed, church was cancelled and the Sunday School program didn't take place. The weather changed and so did plans. People weren't just feeling frozen some were a bit discouraged and maybe even depressed. 

I've never liked snow and I tend to always be cold. I don't appreciate winter, but yet as I looked at this picture a new thought came to mind - God is still working even when I don't like the season. He's still creating beauty when the conditions aren't something I enjoy. He's providing when things of man are closed and He's fulfilling promises no matter how low the temperature goes. 

His work isn't limited to the sunset on a frigid, winter day, but He can work in a heart that is cold, with feelings that are frozen with fear or doubt. When we're in a season we don't appreciate or a situation we would never choose, God can and will work. Our feelings don't change His Truth and our doubts about self don't alter the faithfulness of God. 

In this cold spell I was feeling bad for and appreciative of my husband. Though nearly everything was cancelled on Sunday and people were advised not to be outside, he had a job to do. He couldn't avoid chores because he didn't feel like it. No matter how miserable it was in the great outdoors cattle had to be fed, snow had to be moved and equipment had to be checked. 

As believers the same is true for you and me. There may be days we feel like staying in bed and avoiding reality, but we must remember God is always working and we too have to walk thru hard seasons and difficult days. We must feed our soul by reading His Word, we must move our feet and follow the Lord. Rain or shine, physically or spiritually, we must trust and obey. 

Friend, a big piece of this puzzle is something I touched on in my devotional - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray without ceasing." Again a command that is much easier said than done, but what if we attempted to focus on progress instead of perfection? How would your day look if you prayed more today than yesterday? Would your next hard season be different if you prayed more than you did the last time? 

Like normal, God never gives me these thoughts without challenging me with them. The other morning I woke up grateful for all God was doing, how He was leading, confirming and giving me a passion for what He's called me to do. He'd also been providing me time and showing me progress, I was thankful and experiencing some holy confidence...truly something that doesn't come natural.

By the time evening came, things had changed. I said to my husband, "How can I go from believing God to thinking this will never happen so fast?" He responded with one little word - "Feelings". I didn't say much, but thought about it a bit before drifting off to sleep. 

I awoke the next morning in a bigger pit of doubt. Thankfully, I recognized this and a verse I've been studying again came to mind. 1 Peter 1:14 says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance." Friend, remember an evil desire is anything that leads you into sin. (James 1:13-15) This verse immediately prompted me to check my heart and think about the lies I was believing, the doubts I was wrestling with and the road I was walking. In my walk of faith I've had a tendency to turn back when things get tough or my wrong thinking overwhelms and I didn't want to do that again.

Like God promises, this Truth started to transform my thinking and renew my mind. I want to the Lord in prayer and He brought some peace to my heart. I realized Satan was on the attack and the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask for prayer while reminding me others were praying. I was tempted to regress as I battled the pride that told me not to share the request and the insecurity that had me not wanting to bother another. 

Friend, I don't know if you ever experience these same thoughts or feelings, but can I encourage you if God puts it on your heart to reach out for prayer, you can trust Him with it. My worrying and wondering mind took the thinking a bit further as I thought about explaining the request. I again went to prayer and asked God for direction. I then followed His lead and sent a simple text, "Could use your prayers. Trying not to listen to Satan and turn back." 

My husband's words about feelings along with the picture I had shared came to mind and I was reminded of Truth that never changes. God was working, He was making me aware of His presence and reminding me of His faithfulness. My feelings may have changed, but my God was still the same. My situation may have been difficult, but God's way will always be best. 

Friend, I don't know what your life looks like or how you feel, but I pray you know no matter how difficult it seems or how strong Satan fights, God is God, He is good and He's going somewhere. I hope your Christmas prep list is growing shorter, but I pray we remember there's one thing we'll never check off - PRAYER. 

I'd love to share the gift of prayer with you today, just leave a comment or send me a message. I'd be honored to lift you up. Remember you don't have to share all the details, God knows the situation and He will direct my heart. 

Blessings to you! May you enjoy a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family! I'm asking God to bless you with precious times of prayer as well!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seeing, and Stopping, Sin

A big welcome to those of you joining me from "We Are His Daughters" was a joy to share Truth that has been powerful in my life. Jesus is the "Prince of Peace" and He left us with His peace; if you want to learn more about how to acquire and experience peace I'm asking God to speak to you through these words and the ones that follow...

Peace, definitely something we hear about this time of year. Something we long for every day of our lives. It's easy to admit it's something we want and need, but harder to understand how we get it. 

Read the familiar verse on the top of this post again. Who receives peace? The ones on whom God's favor rests. Who is that? I've studied this verse a bit and there is some debate over the final phrase and who truly receives peace. Some versions say "On earth peace to those on whom His favor rests" while others say "On Earth goodwill to men." Many have much to say about this, so if it interests you I'd encourage you to dig deeper yourself. The debate basically boils down to - is this peace for all men or just believers in Christ. 

I'm not going to tell you what to believe, but as a disciple of Jesus, I know God gives me and wants me to experience peace. This peace comes with accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, but it's more than peace about my can and should be peace in my day to day. 

Sometimes that's more true than others and as I've been pursuing holiness and studying sin, I have an idea why. God calls us to be holy, to be set apart for Him, but our sin separates us from Him. When we are apart from God our relationship is broken and our peace is too. 

In my last post I talked about studying sin...we can't overcome it until we know what it is. (If you'd like to read more, click HERE.) And friend, as we study sin, seek God and His will, we will see sin. We will see it in the world around us, but more importantly we will see it within us. And just because that is important, it doesn't mean it is easy. 

Remember Jesus' words in Matthew 7:5? He says, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Accountability is important and powerful, but before looking out the window we must look in the mirror!! So, that is what God has been leading me to do...

Psalm 26:2 says, "Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind." Psalm 139:23-24 says something similar - "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting." Friend, if you pray this prayer...God will answer it! And then He will expect us to do something about it. 

I don't feel the need to explain the personal sin He's been revealing to me, but I do want to share a bit about the process He's walking me through. Being confronted with and convicted of sin is can lead to guilt, shame and condemnation, but remember that is not God's intention, but instead Satan's desire. So pray about that and be prepared for it. When it comes, recognize it and turn from it. 

I'm also learning it's powerful to pray and ask God to help me see sin the way He does. Friend, we live in a world that sees sin much differently than God; so much so that often times we don't even see it. We categorize it and classify it as bad, really bad, not that bad and so on, but in God's eyes - sin is sin. James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just on point is guilty of breaking all of it." God sees no small sins and He is serious about all sins; it would be good for us to do the same.

As God helps us see sin, we must remember who we sin against. It's true my sins hurt others, especially those I love, and even bring consequences on myself, but we must not forget David's words in Psalm 51:4 - "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." 

Friend, God sees sin and has created a sentence for it. You and I commit sin and suffer for it. Sin comes in two forms - omission and commission. We are either guilty of doing the wrong thing or to blame for not doing the right thing. Think back on yesterday...was there something you should have done, but didn't? Something you said, but shouldn't have? I encourage you to write that down and ask for forgiveness. Be specific and name your will help you see your sin and plays a part in helping you stop the sin. 

Don't rush through this process too quickly, though that's exactly what your flesh will want to do. I know, mine often desires the same. We tend to be people who want the problem fixed quickly with as little mess or pain as possible, but overcoming sin is a problem that takes time and work. Remember sin breaks the heart of God; it should break ours too. When a heart is broken, feelings get hurt and grief takes place. Sit with your pain for awhile and allow God to heal. Take some time now and write a prayer to God...share with Him your broken heart, the sin you see, pain you feel and change you desire. 

After praying your own prayer, turn to the book of Ezra and read the opening of his prayer in chapter 9 verses 5-7. What are your initial thoughts?

How did he react to sin? How did he feel about sin? How did he see sin? 

When his eyes were opened to sin, Ezra was affected deeply. Ask God for a heart like Ezra's; we don't necessarily need to tear our clothes at the sight of sin, but we must be aware that God's heart is broken when we do what seperates us from Him. 

This place of brokenness is a hard place to be, and though it's necessary it must not become a place of permanency. Sometimes God breaks our hearts so He can change our hearts. He doesn't want us to stay broken or full of guilt and shame. He created us for more and change will come when we remember who He is and healing will happen when we allow Him to work. Let's continue reading in Ezra 9:8-15. As Ezra acknowledges sin, what do you notice? What have the people done? How has God responded? What attributes of God stand out to you?

The people of Israel had disobeyed and they didn't trust. They had acted on their evil desires and were experiencing great guilt, but God was merciful and gracious. He didn't leave them in their pain, but instead gave them a second chance. Friend, God does not change; Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow." The God who forgave and restored the Israelites years ago can do the same for you and me today. 

God is faithful and will do what He promises, but we must do our part as well. Like Ezra and the Israelites we must confess our sins, turn from them and trust God's timing. How does Ezra 10:1-2, 11 and 12-13 encourage you to do just that?

When we are broken over our sin, confess it and repent of it God will work. He will be faithful, merciful and forgiving. It may not look like we expect or happen as quickly as we want, but His plan will unfold. 

A big part of that plan is often discipline. We find powerful insight in Hebrews. Read chapter 12:4-11 and make notes of what you learn about discipline. 

I always remember my educational psychology professor saying to us future teachers, "Discipline shows you care" and a former basketball coach encouraging the team with this - "When I stop yelling at you is when you need to start worrying." Good teachers, coaches and parents care about the young people they are responsible for and want what's best for them, which means discipline is something they must do. It's part of the process of training and preparing. Do you remember a time of discipline from your childhood or teen years? How did that make you feel in the moment? How about now as you look back? Why did the individual discipline you? What was the result of the discipline?

Friend, discipline isn't something we seek out or sign up for, but it's part of growing up. Your days of being disciplined by your parents may be long gone, but we will forever be a child of God and He is the perfect parent who will always discipline us rightly. With that let's return to Hebrews, read 12:4-11 and answer a few questions - How should we respond to discipline? Why does God discipline? Does God's discipline differ from man's? How?

I have walked through discipline myself and know it is hard. It's not something we take delight in, but it's something we need. It's a tool God uses to humble us, change us and make us holy. Expect it, endure it, embrace it and perhaps even learn to enjoy it. 

I'd like to wrap this up with a parenting moment that put it all into perspective for me. The other night we had a battle between a couple of siblings...our preteen daughter was upset and a bit dramatic when she couldn't find her brush. She was interrogating and accusing everyone, but no answers were found. It came time for bed, I encouraged her to use one of the other 10 brushes we have in the house, get some sleep and we'd find it the next day. 

She initially agreed, but upon telling her little brother good night, she asked one more time. He claimed to know nothing about it, but suggested looking in a laundry basket. With this, I was on to the family trickster and asked, "Did you put Joy's brush somewhere?" He shook his head and I decided to pray and allow God to work instead of me accuse. 

An hour later, Jed came to me as I prepared for bed. He was sobbing and shaking and the boy who prefers wrestling to hugs fell into my arms and wanted to be held. I immediately asked, "What happened? Are you sick?" Again he shook his head, but this time whispered, "Sorry for lying Mom. Me took Joy's brush. Do you forgive me?" 

Friend, as a Mom this was hard at first. It broke my heart to see my little guy feel so bad. Part of me wanted to just hold him and tell him everything was Ok, but I knew it was a teachable moment and required so much more. So, we talked about sin, holiness and what would happen next. 

My little guy still struggles to read, but this made sense. He knows God is a God who hates sin and he knew his actions created consequences. As I spoke with him about discipline, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart about it as well. It is necessary, serves a purpose and helps us mature.

As we finished our conversation, Jed calmed down, received my forgiveness and made things right with his big sister. I was given a glimpse of things from God's perspective...He is the perfect parent who sees and knows all. As a Mom, when it comes to discipline I've said the words - "This hurts me more than it hurts you." That night with my little guy left me wondering if God ever thinks the same. 

Friend, He loves us, sees our potential and wants what's best for us. He also sees our sin and it breaks His heart. He disciplines us because He cares and desires for us to be more like Him. 

My little guy needed more discipline the very next day and so will you and I. This pursuit of holiness and battle with sin will never end until we walk the streets of gold. So today will you join me in praying for eyes to see sin the way God does, a humble heart willing to receive the discipline God gives and the strength to do what God asks. As we do our part, God will do His - He will show us our sin, equip us to stop it and bless us with peace.

Dear Heavenly Father, I say it again, "You are holy and I am not." Yet, You've called me to be holy, so I pray for a filling of your Holy Spirit so that is possible. Help me surrender my desires and selfish thoughts. May I put my self and sin to death. Help me see sin rightly and respond to it deeply. Break my heart for what breaks yours Lord. Once I see sin, help me turn from it and break the stronghold it has on my life. On my own this is impossible, but You are the mighty One and I trust you Lord. Father, when you discipline me, help me accept it and remember it's because you care and have more for me. Father God, you are the Potter; may I be the clay. In Jesus' precious and powerful Name I pray...Amen

May you experience peace this Christmas! Pray this song from Laura Story blesses you today!