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!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Who do you want to come?

Every year at Christmas it seems a different song gets my attention. Twelve years ago we were anticipating the arrival of our second child when "Joy to the World" had my attention with it's words about preparing. In 2008, "Christmas Makes Me Cry" was a reality as I grieved the loss of my grandma and the baby we lost to miscarriage. One year, after seeing Go Fish at a Christmas concert, I couldn't stop singing "It's About the Cross".

I can't carry a tune or read a note, but music always speaks to me. Words are powerful...they remind us of Truth and point us to our Savior. This year the song that has risen to the service is an old, familiar hymn - "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". Theologically this hymn is full of truth and it has stood the test of time. It reminds us of who Christ is and why He came. It offers hope and encouragement for today and the whole year through.

Personally, it matches up with much God has had on my heart. As we turned the calendar to December I made a vow to be more intentional and as a Mom had the desire to enjoy the season instead of simply survive it. During this time, God has been answering this prayer and continues to lead me on a journey. He has me pursuing holiness and studying sin. He's calling me to step out and press on.

When we sang this hymn in church, I was focused on one word - "Emmanuel". This is a name of Jesus, the one that was given long before He was born and one that stands strong long after He's risen from the dead. Isaiah 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." This prophecy is fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23 - "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.' (Which means 'God with us')."

Over 2,000 years ago Jesus came to earth to be God with us. And today as we approach the celebration of His birth we find ourselves singing "O come, O come Emmanuel". The other day as I did that I found myself singing words I've always sung, but feeling something I had never felt. As I sang, God convicted my heart and posed a question I've been pondering - I ask Him to come, but what do I do once He arrives?

Friend, Jesus is here - His Holy Spirit lives in each of us who call ourselves a believer and claim to be a disciple. At Christmas it's easy to sing the song, but in reality it needs to be about so much more.

Think about it like really want to see a friend or family member and find yourself asking them to come. Eventually that longing is filled and they arrive, what do you do? You spend every minute you can with them while you are talk, you share, you serve. Now switch your thinking...reflect on the time you share with those you live with or are closest to. Do you treasure that time or take it for granted? Are you as intentional with those people as the ones you rarely see?

I'm not sure of your answers, but I've been convicted and received some insight too. God came and He is with us. We no longer have to wait for Him to arrive, He is here and it would be best if we acknowledge, appreciate and enjoy His presence.

As I've thought about this...I've been convicted and encouraged and my perspective has changed. I'm treasuring my quiet time in the morning and seeking God throughout my day. I'm pausing to enjoy my people and thinking differently about God's call. Friend, God leads each of us in unique directions, gives us all specific gifts and expects us to fulfill our roles. As we walk this journey, we must remember it's not about us doing something for God, but all these things present an opportunity to be with Him.

The next time you find yourself striving to do something for the God we call Father remember He wants us to be with the One He sent as Savior. Jesus, our Immanuel, is here, He is with us and wants us to be with Him. As Christmas draws near, do your shopping and buy the presents, but remember to abide with the One who is present. And as the new year unfolds, do what God calls you to do and go where He leads, but let's not forget wherever we go He has answered the song of our hearts and come to be with us!!

This Christmas may we sing this song, but also make this our prayer. Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and eagerly look forward to when Jesus will come again. May we also take time for the ones we are with this holiday season and if death or broken relationships leave us feeling alone let's not forget the One who came is with us always!

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, 
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 
Deuteronomy 31:6

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28:20

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Studying Sin

Welcome friends, I'm grateful you joined me here again. The study of holiness has been a long one, at times a hard one, but for sure a good one. If you've missed the previous lessons, you can find them HERE - A Picture of Holiness, A Study on Holiness and Is It Even Possible? I'll open this with a short video that I pray offers encouragement as you dive into a study that may not be easy. 

Holiness has been a topic on my blog in the recent weeks and it's been a subject I've studied over the last couple of months. In this process, 1 Peter 1:13-16 is a passage I keep coming back to. It says, Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 

I've read these verses countless times, but as I study them and meditate on them my understanding is increasing. Lately verse 15 is the one that has my attention. As the rule-following, typically responsible, people-pleasing first born I was often an obedient child, so the opening three words made sense. Over the last couple of weeks though my eyes have been as a 40 year old I'm not nearly as obedient to my heavenly Father as I was to my earthly parents as a 14 year old. 

Stop for a moment and examine your life and heart - are you an obedient child of our heavenly Father? Like me, I'm sure your heart longs to answer with a confident "Yes!", but reality whispers a soft, "Sometimes" or "Not always." Friend, initially this realization hit me hard, which is OK because conviction is good and necessary, but then Satan started to use it to condemn me. If you are, and when you do, experience condemnation remember what Romans 8:1 says - "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." 

Let's move past the condemnation, but take a closer look at the conviction. Remember we can't repent of our sin until we are aware of it. When I was first studying this passage, the last part of verse 15 left me thinking. I found myself wondering about the evil desires of earlier years. In a way I think our world today has led us to wrongly define evil desires. What comes to mind when you hear that term? Do you see yourself as one with evil desires? 

Our culture tends to categorize sin and classify desires, but to put it simply evil desires are wanting or wishing for something that is contrary to God and/or His Word. So let's stop again, "Are evil desires something you struggle with? Or did in the past?" If we're honest, we all must answer with a "Yes"; Romans 3:23 supports this statement as we're told "ALL are sinners and fall short of the glory of God."

There are all kinds of evil desires and we each have our own unique struggles with them, so I'd encourage you to do what I did and pray and ask God to show what yours are. We must be intentional and proactive when it comes to being holy. Satan knows our past and I believe that's why Peter addresses this. We must be on guard or we will easily be tempted to commit sins of the past and will struggle with lies we once overcame with Truth.

If you pray this prayer, chances are God will show you the answer with complete clarity. Awhile back a situation took place that left me anxious and fearful. I wasn't directly involved, but I feared potential conflict. It didn't take long and the whole thing left me feeling sick. That night I went to bed praying and seeking direction, and peace, from the Lord. As I said, "Amen" verse 15 came to mind, you know the one about not conforming to evil desires from my days of ignorance. 

Initially, this didn't make much sense, but as I sat, pondered and returned to prayer, I started connecting the dots. I was doing the very thing I'd studied about and was instructed not to do. I was turning back and conforming. Satan was tempting me to be who I had been - the quiet, people-pleasing girl who wanted everyone to be happy. Internally I was hoping for a loved one to just be quiet, so the conflict I feared would be avoided. This loved one was seeking God for direction and making a stand for holiness and I was conforming instead of praying and encouraging. 

A week later, I found myself struggling with a personal situation; a calling that seemed crazy that resulted in doubt that could be overwhelming. I wrestled with thoughts I've battled before - the I'm not good enough, smart enough stuff that's consumed me at times. Again God showed me this is exactly what Peter is addressing in this passage. Sure it's not an evil desire like sexual lusting or murder meditation, but it's a focus on self instead of God. It's a form of pride and it is sin, which is contrary to holiness. 

Friend, realizing and addressing this sin that is a bigger part of my life than I want to admit has been hard. It's left me in tears. Like Casting Crowns sings my heart is breaking for what breaks God's. As those words entered my mind another line from the song quickly followed which brought encouragement - Jesus is a friend to sinners. We fall short, yet He loves us. We sin again and He forgives again. God hates sin, but He is bigger than it and with His help we can overcome it. 

This time spent learning about holiness has led to a study of sin. Friend, we must realize the seriousness of sin. It separates us from our heavenly Father. It can be done in secret (the extra money a cashier gives and we stay silent, the time we waste or food we eat), we can commit silent sins (thought life), and some sin is simple (think of the habits we have, the TV shows we watch, conversations we allow). Though Satan will tempt us to believe otherwise and our culture can do the same, no sin is small. (See Ananias and Sapphire in Acts 5) It would be beneficial to think of sin as a seed...tolerating one sin often grows into committing more. It's also important to remember that sin can snowball quickly. Finally, one last thing - I read in Nancy Leigh Demoss' book Holiness about "sleeping with sin", which is something we should never allow, but often commit. This happens when we are aware of our sin, even broken over it, but never turn from it.  

Understanding sin is important and it's also critical to remember sin is a cause that always leads to an effect. It creates pollution, brings punishment and carries a penalty. Sin has power, it often comes in patterns and it is present...not just in our world, but in our hearts. 

Friend, I realize this is not a fun topic, but through my experience I know studying it is productive. God will not only open our eyes, but He can change our heart. It takes time and work, but Psalm 125:5-6 offers great encouragement. "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them."

This is definitely a process that will continue for the rest of our days; holiness is a journey not a destination. This look in the mirror and study of sin is something we must do repeatedly. The teacher in me has come out and I've put together a little activity for you to do to take a closer look at sin in general which will hopefully lead to a better reflection of personal sin. If this is something that interests you can find it HERE. I encourage you to write down your responses quickly in the first column and then work through the next two at a much slower, prayerful pace. Look into God's Word and follow that up by looking at your heart. Friend, the Word is living and active and it's useful for training in righteousness, which leads to holiness. I pray God blesses you as you commit to studying sin for yourself!!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

From One Mom to Another

Our First Christmas with 5!

Christmas...a magical season, days of peace on earth and good will for men, the most wonderful time of the year, a time for family, friends and fun. These statements are all true, but there's another side to Christmas - a side that is real and can be hard, crazy and chaotic. Little people are always excited about Christmas, sometimes to a point that tries our patience as parents and leads to meltdowns for toddlers. For some kids it leads to the gimmies and others drive us to never want to shop again.

Our five kids are now stairsteps from 5 to 13, hitting every odd age in between. This year when it was time to set-up the tree and decorate the house it hit me that our oldest son has 4 Christmases left at home, Lord willing. Friends, that put things in perspective and was a bit of a wake-up call. 

Oh the Joy of Christmas Pictures
You see I'm a Mom, who's done more surviving the Christmas season over the last 12 years than enjoying. I haven't been a full-fledged Grinch, but at times I've rolled out and frosted cookies with the J Crew so I could make a check on my list instead of a memory in my heart. There have been moments I've focused on the chaos and craziness instead of the joy and love. I've been caught up in the shopping and presents when all that really matters is celebrating the greatest GIFT and being present with those I love. I've given into the pressure of perfection and been worried about what others think.

Over the last two weeks, I've been trying and praying for a different and better approach. And with 2 weeks to go, I have to say God is answering. I've set my list aside and enjoyed moments with my little boys who won't be little for long. I've treasured time shopping with them looking for the "perfect" I would often never predict. God's granted me patience and provided plenty of opportunities to practice. I've let go of a tradition and embraced less stress. I've surrendered my expectations and embraced a season that will never return. 

I still don't do it perfectly, it helps that we're past the toddler years and we still have two weeks to go, but I'm thankful for a different start to this December. If your's doesn't look like you imagined when you dreamt of Christmas as a Mom, can I encourage you to think a bit differently? 

Stop for a minute and think about your expectations. Are they realistic? Where do they come from? Will meeting this expectation bring joy and peace? How do these expectations impact the ones you love? 

These questions help put things in perspective, but a critical piece to this puzzle is to look at the big picture. We know Jesus is the reason for the season, so it might be helpful to the think about the first Christmas ever celebrated. 

We find this story in Luke 2...Joseph and Mary traveling by donkey at 9 months pregnant, there was no room in the end and the baby, the Savior of the world, was born in a stable. Most of us have heard this story for years, we can tell it forwards and backwards, but have we ever imagined what it was really like? Mom, put yourself in Mary's shoes.

Her "Christmas" was most likely not what she expected. It was probably full of chaos and craziness. Now to that we can relate! 

Let's look a little closer at her story - in verse 19 we read, "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Everyone was impacted by the events of the first Christmas...shepherds were amazed and spread the news. Kings came and gave gifts. It didn't look like the world expected, but yet it was just what God had planned.

Friends, the Christmas story...the good news the angels spoke of in verse 11, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord," changed eternity. Jesus, that baby who was born to die still lives today. His Spirit working in and through you, and me, can still change the world. He can change our expectations and reactions, which will then impact others observations and impressions. Our shared joy and witnessed peace in a time that is crazy and chaotic may be just what God uses to draw another to Christ and allows them to experience the only gift that really matters! 

So Mom, this Christmas can I encourage to take your mind off the list and set your eyes on Christ. May I challenge you to let go of your expectations and embrace God's plan and life's reality. Can I persuade you to treasure the time, enjoy the moments and focus on the people...especially the little ones who call you "Mom" and no matter how long their wish list is want your presence more than any present!

The other day a friend who's a step ahead on this motherhood journey encouraged me to ENJOY this time because one day I'd miss it. Mom, my baby is only 5, but some of the Christmas fun is already behind us and I do miss it. Chances are none of my kids will ever knock the tree over again or get tangled in lights, but I'm thankful for the memories and reminded that we can make more! 

The book of James tells us life is a vapor and it's true - our kids do grow quickly. I think we all know this, but every once in awhile it's good to be reminded. This Christmas I pray you can push pause, reevaluate priorities and be able to enjoy the moments!

This song ties right in...though it may bring tears, I hope it also brings memories and motivation to make more! Merry Christmas Mom, may it be your most wonderful time of the year!!

Dear Heavenly Father, as Christmas draws near I ask You to set my eyes on Jesus...the reason for the season. May your grace sustain me for all the season brings. Help me let go of unrealistic expectations and enjoy the moments. May I share your love and shine your light. May I remember somethings don't matter and focus on the people who do. May I be more concerned with sharing your story than fulfilling my plans. May I give up control and praise You the One who has it all under control. Instead of being frustrated by the chaos or craziness may I be overwhelmed with the joy children experience and you bring. This Christmas help me keep things in balance, make time to spend with You and enjoy the ones I love. Thank you for the gift you gave that first Christmas me receive the love, joy and peace you offer and then share the gift with others. This Christmas may others be pointed to you through me, starting with the ones who call me "Mom." In Jesus' name I pray, Amen

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dad said...

Breakfast was finished and my husband said to our 9 year old, "You can get the table cleared off please."

She instantly replied with, "Why do I have to do it?"

From the other side of the table, her big brother eagerly replied, "Well, dad told you to do it, so it's your job."

As the Mom, I took this as a teachable moment and spoke to J.D. "Just like last night when Dad gave you the job of plowing." This instantly stopped the conversation because he knew exactly what I was getting at...he was enjoying getting after his sister for whining about a job when just 12 hours earlier he had done the exact same thing.

Though the words between siblings ended, a conversation continued in my head. As I finished talking with the kids about accepting our jobs and doing the work responsibly without comparing it to everyone else, God spoke to my heart.

The Holy Spirit brought to mind things God was calling me to do - things I was avoiding, things I considered too hard, things I thought someone else could do better. As I spoke with my kids about obeying their dad, I was convicted to obey our heavenly Father.

Friend, we may no longer whine like a child does or grumble to others about the work we are given, but sometimes we don't obey. Stop for a minute and think about what God is calling you to do. Has He led you to step out of your comfort zone? Is He calling you to forgive? Is He asking you to serve one who's never grateful? Does He want you to stand up for your faith, for Him, when others won't understand? Is He telling you to love the unlovable? I don't know what it is, but I'm guessing you do.

Now think about your response. Can you relate to my Jaylyn? Are you looking around and seeing others not having to do what you do? Are you like my son and wonder why you always get the hard job? Are you like me and are afraid, finding yourself stuck in fear when you should be walking in faith? Again, I don't know, but God does. He sees our response, He knows our heart. He wants our obedience.

My son's words have come to mind a few times through the day and I can still hear him saying, "Well, Dad told YOU to do it." The Dad I think of is God, our Abba Father. The "it" isn't doesn't matter if it's something BIG or small, something easy or hard, something new or a mundane task...when God calls us to do it, we are to obey.

You don't have to take my word on this, God's Word has much to say about our obedience. Here are a few verses that come to my mind and speak to my heart...

"Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22

Scripture clearly tells us what we are and are not to do. The Holy Spirit will help us discern the Word, but knowing is not enough...we must do what we know.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." John 15:16

Friend, God has work for you and me to do. He gives us roles and responsibilities for a reason - the things we do for Him and through Him produce fruit. He created us, chose us and knows us...He will be faithful to equip us and use us.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

The things God calls us to won't be easy, sometimes they won't seem fair and they will often bring opposition from the enemy, but we must remember the bigger picture. God has a plan and He will use, and reward, our obedience.

Regardless of what "job" you have today, I pray, like me, you hear your heavenly Father telling you to do it. And then I pray we respond rightly and obey with hearts that are humble, hands ready to serve, feet ready to walk and a mouth willing to speak up or remain silent.

Heavenly Father, You are my Abba and I'm grateful. May I always remember the joy and privilege it is to be your chosen child. As a mom I know children have responsibilities; one of the most important is to obey their parents. Lord, I ask you for a heart willing to obey. Keep my eyes focused on you, don't let my heart compare or my mind worry. I pray for strength and boldness and ask for gratitude instead of grumbling. The next time you speak, may my words be a quick, "Here am I Lord" followed up by "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." I love you Lord and long to serve you and you alone. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Encouragement from the Christmas Story

December has begun, which means Christmas is coming. Those 3 words entail much - decorating and gifts, cookie baking and candy making, parties and programs and so much more. As our children have been preparing for our church's Christmas program, memories flooded my mind. Back in 2012, our daughter, Joy, was Mary and this year our daughter Jaylyn will have the same role. Seven years ago, I had the part and God taught me much. 

This morning I woke up with something God has had on my heart...something that involves stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting Him. Something I've been wrestling with and at times trying to avoid: I haven't figured it all out (though I've tried) and sometimes it doesn't make much sense. I know God brought this post, and more importantly the Truth it contains, to me for a reason. Friend, I believe the same is true for prayer is He will speak to your heart today.

From 2009 - This past weekend I had the privilege of playing Mary in our Sunday School Christmas program. Six weeks ago when my husband first informed me of the role, I never expected to write the above words. You see acting is not my thing! I'd never been "Mary" as a child and I didn't think now was the time. Honestly, when my husband, one of the Sunday School leaders, told me about this I thought he was joking...

But the following Sunday as the kids were practicing and I was in the nursery with our new little man, I was informed I got the part without having to audition!! I realize being the real life Mom of this year's baby "Jesus" had something to do with it, but still...

Anyway, I agreed, thinking if I don't want my kids to be afraid of this I'd better set a good example. Besides it wasn't like I had that many lines!

So the whole month of December we spent Sunday School time practicing for the play and I was given a new appreciation for those who direct! More than that I began to understand why God had cast me in the role I had never received as a girl. Back then I would have never understood and actually I'm not sure I would have a year ago, but this year there was a reason.

Last January, I was in the midst of editing my book and beginning to make plans to organize a women's retreat. Everything was in the early stages, but still I sensed God was up to something. I was excited, but mostly I felt so undeserving. I can remember sharing some doubts, worries and fears with my husband and basically I told him I wasn't worthy of what God was calling me to do.

He listened, reminded me none of us are deserving of what God gives and then asked, "How do you think Mary felt?" The question had me - back in the day when all of us Sunday School girls wanted to be Mary, I would have answered the question rather quickly, "Lucky, Blessed, Special...," but now as an adult I pondered the question a little longer.

Really I even thought about it in a different way and the idea of "why me?" came to mind. I look at her situation and wonder if she felt the same and another question comes to mind, one Scripture shows she asked, "How can this be?" (Luke 1:34) The angel answered her question - "the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon her" (Luke 1:35) and she was reminded that with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

So the character my husband pointed me to last January became a bit of a study the whole year through. As God continued to call me out of my comfort zone time and time again, thoughts would often go back to Mary, the one who said, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." (Luke 1:38) I always knew she was the mother of Jesus, but in 2009 I've looked at her story in a whole new way.

In today's world we often glamorize the story, the beautiful nativity scenes are nice, but it was more than that. When I stop and think about the reality of it all, wow, I cannot imagine. How does a virgin girl explain this situation to her soon to be husband? Have you ever thought about traveling to Bethlehem by donkey when your nine months pregnant? (I thought the 20 miles to Grandma's by car was bumpy and long at times!!) And then there's a baby born in a stable...what a contrast to our sanitary, state of the art delivery rooms today!

All of these questions and more have crossed my mind, but what's really been on my heart throughout the year was Mary's response. The angel gave her a glimpse of what was to come, but still there was some unknown just like there is for me. What would have I done? What would I have said? I'm afraid to say my words would not have been the same. I look back on my life and just as my calling is different than Mary's my response has been as well.

I tend to be an analyzer and in my head I try to play out how things will unfold. I often find myself wondering how it will all work and what people will think. I believe in a way those thoughts had to cross Mary's mind as well. Did the unknown stop her? No! How about fear of what others would think? No! Maybe the thought of "Why me? I don't deserve to be the mother of the Savior of the world" never crossed her mind, but if it did she didn't allow the feelings she had about herself trump what God said.

She humbled herself and accepted what God wanted to give. I've often thought humbling myself meant stepping aside, playing the behind the scenes role and letting someone else stand in the spotlight. In a way that understanding is correct - there is only One who should be under the light and take center stage, but my recent acting debut has shown me that sometimes Christ does that through people, even me.

Mary didn't question the role God had for her, well maybe in her mind she did, but she didn't question the One who gave it to her. She responded with some words I've come to know quite well, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." My prayer as the new year begins is that God moves me from simply knowing Mary's words and saying them at our Christmas program to living in a way that her words become mine everyday of the year.

Me, Mary? Initially it was a role I didn't want to play, but now has become a desire of my heart. And the thing is there isn't just room for one, I believe God will take as many Marys as He can find, so will you join me today and audition for the role as well? Trust me, it will look different than you expect, but with God as the director we know the final result will be blessed and beautiful.

Friend, have you ever sensed God calling you to something that is crazy and beyond you? Do you ever feel unworthy or unqualified? Do you respond like Mary or feel more like me? What advice do you have for the one who wants to be a Mary, but feels more like doubting Thomas' sister? 

May this Christmas be one where we seek Him and say the words Mary said...

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this Advent season, fill us with your Spirit and joy as we prepare to celebrate your birth. As we reflect on the Christmas story, encourage us to be like Mary - may we trust you with the unknown, join you in your work and see your perfect plan unfold. Lord, humble our hearts and use us as your servants. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiness...Is it even possible?

Welcome to those of you joining me from our holiness study - I was grateful to hear from some of you and thankful to see God at work! I invite you to join us for the 2nd half of our study and would encourage you to share your thoughts, insights and/or questions in the comment section - we can learn much from one another. (You can find part one HERE.) This is a topic I've been learning about and even taught on, but none of that matters if it's not a part of my daily life. I've been praying and asking God to fill me with His Spirit so I can fulfill His call to be holy. This helps immensely, but it's not 100% effective because I'm a sinful human. Friend, a few days ago I was reminded how frustrating this reality can be...

It was past our kids' bedtime when we'd returned home from a wonderful Thanksgiving Eve worship service. The night time routine was about complete when I learned child A had tricked child B and then went on to lie about it. THANKFULLY, my heart was in the right place and I was sensitive to the Spirit's leading as I confronted child A. Since I've been soaking in the topic of holiness and continually ask God for opportunities to teach my children, I asked a question before convicting the one I knew was guilty. I simply said, "Do you know what holiness is?"

I don't recall all of the details but we did discuss God's holiness and the fact that He is without sin. Child A agreed with this, but fell apart when I said, "And He calls us to be the same." Instantly tears fell from her eyes and these words came out of her mouth, "I'll never be who you want me to be." My heart softened as well and I assured her I'd felt the same. I tried to assure her God's (and me) not looking for self-achieved perfection, but instead longs for us to join Him in this daily sanctifying work. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes, but only with His help.

We went on to have a long talk that included more tears, some hugs, a confession, forgiveness and prayer. It truly was a teachable moment...for child A and for me. Friend, part of the high calling of holiness is conviction of sin because our sin separates us from God and keeps us from holiness which means being set apart for Him. I hope this is a topic we continue to understand more and live out better on the Beran family farm and I pray the same is true for you! The place to start is prayer, so let's do that now...

Dear Heavenly Father, 
People say the high calling of holiness for a reason...this is no easy task. I fall short everyday, but yet that doesn't change what you ask me to do or who you ask me to be. Your Word says I'm to be holy as you are holy. Help me understand this more and live it better. May I surrender and give up trying to do this on my own, but instead may I allow you to fill me with your Spirit so that you can work in and through me. Father as I start this study, I ask you to prepare my heart - tender it so I'm willing to receive what You have to say. Your Word is living and active...penetrate my heart and reveal any and all evil in my heart and mind. Equip me to see, confess and repent from my sin. Lord, you are faithful and just and will cleanse me from all iniquity and purify me from unrighteousness, thank you. I praise you in advance for the mighty work You will do. In Jesus' precious and powerful name...Amen

As I studied holiness and started to understand it better, I realized this high calling was even more challenging than I initially thought. I found myself crying out to God, “How do I do this?” Shortly after praying that prayer my daily Bible reading time took me to Romans 6 and in verse 19 I read, “I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Immediately, I underlined those last four words and started a new study as I worked to find the difference between righteousness and holiness. Do you know the difference?

This is a topic definitely worthy of more time, but for now I’ll keep it simple – righteousness is our right standing before God, which happens when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Holiness is a process of becoming more like God which should happen continually as our relationship with our heavenly Father grows. Like Paul says, righteousness leads to holiness, so when I helped my daughter memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17 God gave me some insight. Here we read – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Scripture is useful for training in righteousness, which means God’s Word helps you and me become holy. Striving for holiness is a good work we must be equipped for!! So let’s turn our attention to 1 Peter 1:13-16 and dig a bit deeper.

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
 After an initial reading, what do these verses mean to you?

An important thing to do when studying Scripture is to understand the context so here’s a quick overview – Peter wrote this book to persecuted Christians during the time of Nero. He was attempting to encourage believers and remind them trials would come while stimulating them to respond rightly to God’s gift of salvation. Today, he can do the same thing for you and me, so let’s pull this passage apart and see what we are able to learn.

Let’s begin with a closer look at verse 13. What are some keys words? What role does our mind play in our pursuit of holiness?

As I read this verse a phrase jumped out at me…“set your hope”, and I found myself wondering what this meant, so I did a bit more researching. After doing so I discovered this is an important command that has much to do with our desire for heavenly things over earthly ones. (Matthew 6:19-21) What have you set your hope on? Worldly treasures or success, selfish gain or achievement or God’s grace and His glory?

Friend, we can’t be holy until we die to self. We’ve studied surrender and it’s a constant step on the road to holiness. May we continually ask God to help us set our hope on Him!

 Now let’s move to verse 14 where Peter says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Are you an obedient child? Why or why not?

I want to look at this a minute from a Mother’s perspective…five young people call me “Mom” and I’m so grateful when they obey. I’ll admit part of that joy is selfish because their obedience makes my job easier, but part of it is also pure. As their mom I love them and want what’s best for them; as all parents know that comes from obedience. God knows this better than anyone and friend, as our loving Father He longs for us to obey, but is willing to forgive us when we don’t.

We realize Peter is addressing us as obedient children, but what is he telling us to do?

When did we have these evil desires?

Let’s look at a few verses to try and understand this a bit more. Read them and make note how they connect to verse 14. What insight do they offer?
2 Corinthians 5:17
Romans 8:5
Romans 12:1-2
Ephesians 2:3-10
Ephesians 4:17-24

Before we move on, I want to encourage you to take some time to reflect as you think about these questions – What sins did you struggle with 5 years ago? Are there certain sins you’re prone to during certain seasons or with specific people? What sins do you succumb to when you are angry, tired or alone?

Spend some time in prayer and ask God to help you live as a new creation. Pray you won’t return to old ways, but will instead be filled by the Holy Spirit so God can work in and through you for His glory and your good.  

Moving on to verse 15, we find more instructions for those who call themselves Christians. What are your initial thoughts after reading these words? “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…”

Let’s break this verse into two parts; first what it says about God. Here Peter tells us God is holy. Friend, this is a constant characteristic of God. It doesn’t change…He can’t be holier today than He was yesterday. He will never not be holy.

Now let’s look at what it says about us…first it states we are called. Friend, not everyone has this high calling of holiness, but as believers it’s the expectation God has for us. We often think about our callings in regards to jobs or ministries, but calling typically has more to do with our daily lives than our life-long careers. Our calling is connected to our thoughts, actions and words. Next let’s focus on a powerful two letter word – be. God is holy and we are called to be holy…there is a difference. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a constant state for God, but it’s something we have to do. I can be holier today than I was yesterday and so can you. I can be holy at church or as I lead Bible study and be unholy as I react to my disobedient child. When it comes to holiness, God doesn’t have a choice, but we do.  We must choose to be holy. Finally, again the last four words are vital. What do they say?
We are called to be holy in all things and at all times. Like my daughter commented, does this seem impossible?

Let me assure you of this, on our own it is impossible! But let’s take a look at a few scriptures that will help us know how to fulfill this calling. Make note of the insight they offer…

Galatians 5:16
Romans 6:12-23, 12:9-21
1 Thes. 4:3-8
2 Corinthians 7:1
Proverbs 1:10
Ephesians 5:1

We are called to be holy, which means we are set apart for God and from sin. We are to be different in all our conduct and in every role. Friend, this is not easy and we will not do it perfectly, but the One who calls us will be faithful to equip us.

Finally, let’s look at verse 16 – “ for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.” This is a short verse with a powerful important truth. Peter is not the only one who makes this claim about God, our heavenly Father. Read the following passages, what does each one say about God and what instruction does it offer for us?

Leviticus 11:44-45
Leviticus 19:2-4
Leviticus 20:6-8

Friend, I’d encourage you to memorize these verses from 1 Peter 1:13-16 and pray you continue growing in your understanding of holiness. I understand this is a difficult topic, but over the last 2 months I've learned studying it is so important and powerful. Before doing this, I knew what sin was and I understood I was a sinner, but digging into God's Word has given me a better idea of not just the damaging impact of sin on my life, but more so the pain it creates in God's heart. God despises sin; He can have nothing to do with it. Think for a moment about the last sin you committed...does that break your heart? I truly believe we need to constantly ask God for help in seeing sin the way He does. And I'm not just talking about sin in the world, we must first be concerned with the sin in our heart. The more we study and are aware of sin the more likely we are to see it how God does...this is a hard thing, but a good thing.

I type that paragraph and am reminded of the story I shared to open this post...initially, my child's heart was hard towards sin she'd committed. Since, we're all human, we often respond in a similar way. As her mom, my heart broke to see this and God's does the same when we sin. He sees our potential and knows the power He provides; He longs for us to be holy, but this won't happen until we call sin, sin and decide not to enter in. Like I told my daughter, we can make that decision and still fall short, but when we do we must recognize our sin and go to God. One quote I read was "When we mess up, we must give up." It's easy for one sin to lead to another, so let's be aware of that and not let them snowball - be it with our thoughts, words or actions. Friend, God will be faithful to help us be who He calls us to be, but will we be faithful to pursue this high calling of holiness?

With that I’ll leave you with a few more passages if you want to dig deeper, a prayer and a song that helps me meditate on holiness. Thank you for joining me in this study…I pray God has met you in His Word and has continued the transformation work of making you more like Him!

More verses on Holiness
Psalm 119:9-12, 1 John 3:1-10, Hebrews 12:10, Colossians 3:1-11, Titus 2:11-12

Dear Heavenly Father,
God you are holy and that will never change. I’m thankful you will always be the same and have created me with potential for change. I pray you would continue transforming me into your image. Help me see sin rightly like you do. May I take it seriously and I ask you to convict me of the sins I commit. May it break my heart like it does yours. Lord, you’ve reminded me that I’m sanctified by your Truth, so I ask you to increase my hunger for your Word. Father, forgive me for the sins I’ve committed and thank you for the righteousness you’ve made possible for me. Lord, make me holy like you are holy. In Jesus’ Name I pray…Amen

Listen to the words as Addison Road sings "What do I know of Holy?"