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So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

~James 4:7-10 MSG~

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I was just listening to Lisa Bevere talk about how we need to change our perspective and start seeing ourselves as God sees us.  If ever there was a message that I was having trouble absorbing, this would be it.  For some reason, I understand it in my mind but I cannot seem to get it to translate to my heart.  And in my confusion and refusal to accept that I am so much more than what I see myself as, I find that I make the same stupid mistakes over and over.  While I’m watching myself do the wrong thing, the devil stands back and laughs and says, “See, no matter how much God blesses you, I can always make sure you don’t have any real joy in your life because you don’t really believe He wants you to be blessed.”

Can that be true?  Do I not truly believe that God wants to bless me?  It would certainly appear so if you watch my behavior sometimes.  Though I like to think I’m on the intelligent side, I’m always amazed at just how clueless I can be when it comes to the strongholds in my life.  And there is no good reason for it other than what appears to be a serious lack of faith on my part.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have faith that God will protect me physically and that He will provide for me and that He is doing something in my life at all times.  I know that whatever weakness I am dealing with is not the product of His lack of love for me.  I know that it is a blatant manipulation by the devil meant to knock me off course.  And it is not lost on me that this manipulation occurs at the exact time that I’m attempting to receive a blessing from God in another area of my life.  Every good thing that He does for me is countered by yet another obstacle that the devil has flung my way.  And as Paul said in Romans 7:15 (MSG), “I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.”

That about sums it up.  When I can’t seem to get it right, it is absolutely necessary that I surrender the matter to my God and let Him help me overcome that which tries to pull me under.  In the past, I struggled to make good choices in the area of relationships.  I made choices based on feelings and on hopes that the other person would somehow become what I needed.  And though I know that only God can be everything I need, I still tend to be drawn to those who will never be totally available to me.  Even after so many years of learning and trying to do things the right way, I still make my biggest mistakes in this part of my life.  I’ve had long talks with God about why this still trips me up.  I haven’t actually heard an answer yet, but I know that He must be trying to show me something that He thinks I need to learn in order to get to the next level on this journey.  There is always a reason for these things even if we cannot see it at the time.

The point in all this is that God never stops loving me or being everything I could ever want or need in my life.  He never stops being the unending source of strength, peace, and joy.  It is my unwillingness to accept His love that cuts off the supply of these things in my life.  That power, He has given us.  We unfortunately have the ability to keep ourselves from receiving His blessings.  He knows this, but He also knows that when we’re finally ready to take an honest look at the person He sees in us we’ll stop giving away our peace to those who don’t love Him.  And we’ll stop letting others treat us like we have no value, because we’ll realize that the problem actually lies in their inability to value themselves.  Fix your eyes on the One who knows you best.  He will never make you feel like nothing.  He will never break your heart.  You’ve got a sure thing in Christ.  Love Him with your whole heart and He’ll give you everything you’ll ever need.

 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

~Isaiah 44:3 NIV~
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Does he not see my ways and count my every step? “If I have walked with falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit—let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless—

~Job 31:4-6 NIV~

Sometimes it takes hitting bottom to completely convince us that what we’ve been doing is nowhere near what God would want us to do.  He’s given you a life with a purpose and it is the devil’s mission to consistently throw you off course by challenging you with obstacles that are directly related to your biggest weaknesses.  He’s been very successful in doing this to me lately, but I have decided that I’m done playing around.  Though I didn’t realize that I had been playing around, some things have come to light that have made it difficult to deny that my actual actions weren’t matching up with my perception of my actions.  Putting your trust in people who consistently show you that you can’t trust them is just plain crazy.  Putting your hope in anything that professes to be something it isn’t is simply insane.  Pretending to be happy with a life that in no way challenges you to follow His plan for you is just a waste of time and energy.  For a few years now, I’ve been calling mediocrity a life of simplicity.   I’ve been calling the fear to stand up for myself humility.  I’ve been settling for less than what He tells me I deserve as His child and I’m not going to do it anymore.  I’m awake now.  And it’s simply not going to be enough anymore.

Years ago I had a list of about a hundred goals that I wanted to accomplish before I die.  I had people to meet, things to do, places to go and a whole bunch of life to live ahead of me.  But something happened and one day, I put the list away and never got it out again.  Eventually, the list disappeared…just as my desire to do more with my life did.  I’d like to say it was one thing that caused this, but it was the accumulation of many hurts that began to impress upon me the idea that I just wasn’t worthy.  Of course, I had glimmers of hope mixed in here and there.  God tried to give me things to love and appreciate so that I would remember that He was there.  But it took years before I figured out that He was the missing piece of the puzzle.  He gave me friendships and relationships and even great jobs and a little talent for a few things.  But I still lacked confidence and underneath it all, I just couldn’t accept that He meant for me to have these things.  Whether it was shame or guilt or just a lack of understanding that kept me from fully receiving His gifts, I do not know.  The point is that it has been a constant struggle for me to accept what He has been trying to give me all along.

My daughter has been the most effective means He has employed thus far of getting me to understand who I am to Him.  Before she was born, there was absolutely no way I could have understood what it means to love someone so unconditionally.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her no matter what happens.  There will always be grace for my child; as there will also be grace for me in God’s eyes.  So, step by step, conflict after conflict, struggle upon struggle, I’ve been learning that He still loves me in spite of all my efforts to turn Him away.  After nearly four years of being back in church and trying to develop and understand my relationship with God, I’m still amazed at how hard it is to not try and make Him let go of me.  For some reason, I still try to convince Him that I’m not worthy.  I still try to make Him see how much of a waste of time it is for Him to work with me.  And He still picks me up and brushes the dirt off of me and says, “You can do this.”  I’m not sure I’ll ever understand that.

So, after a bit of an emotional struggle over the last few months (which I can’t detail now, but will likely blog about later), I was sitting at my favorite spot at a park I like to visit when I can.  I was looking out over the water and thinking to myself, “Are you still there?”  And for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t asking that question of God.  I was asking it of myself.  I’ve been so convinced that there was nothing good enough in me for Him to work with that I began throwing away the parts of myself that I thought were offending Him.  If there was something in my personality or behavior that I thought He wouldn’t want others to see in me, I either got rid of it and replaced it with something milder or went ahead and did it, but made sure nobody knew that I was doing it.  In the process, I forgot to be who I truly am.  I was doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons and some of the wrong things for the right reasons.  And to ensure that I didn’t get too proud of myself for completely cutting me out of my life, I made sure to do a couple of things that I knew He didn’t want me to do.  I was so sure that I had proven myself unworthy and of no value that I had almost decided to lay down and just let the grass grow over me.

But as I sat there looking out at that beautiful sky and the water below, I remembered something.  I’m not who I used to be.  But I’m not who I am yet to be either.  I am a work in progress.  God’s Masterpiece, being painted little by little each day.  I am like that piece of clay that has to be molded and shaped and held in the fire until all of the imperfections disappear.  And one day, I’ll look up and instead of seeing all that I am not, I’ll see all that I’ve been able to become in Him.  But I have to let the fires of this world do their worst to me in order to become my best.  So, even though my heart has been broken time after time by selfish people who only wanted to use me, and even though I’ve struggled with alcoholism and anxiety, and depression, and even though I’ve suffered so many losses of those I loved dearly and those whom I never had the chance to love, I know that this, too, shall pass.  I just need to remember that the question is not whether or not He’s still there for me but whether or not I’m trying to draw near to Him or push Him away.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

~Hebrews 20:22 NIV~

I will teach you about God’s power. I will not conceal anything concerning the Almighty.

~Job 27:11 NIV~

It is so frustrating to scroll through the Facebook feed and read comments and arguments against Christians. Knowing that this is not what Jesus intended when he walked on this earth all those years ago, seeing what people have done to pervert His message and then seeing how others have so misconstrued His teachings is heartbreaking. Sadly, many of the people who are doing the most damage are sure that what they are doing is fulfilling the Great Commission to go forth and make disciples. Too bad they aren’t equating the lack of followers they are gathering to a serious deficiency in their understanding of God’s word. Or maybe they are gaining followers, but they aren’t seeing how God’s word has positively impacted the people in their lives. I guess it depends on what our aim is as followers. If we truly want Him to live through us, then we can’t possibly be happy with ourselves when we see how far out of step some perceptions of Christians appear to be. We need to speak up and get the right message circulating.

This doesn’t mean that any time we attempt to disciple someone we are automatically going to see a huge improvement in their situation. But we should be able to see that their eyes are opened to something that they weren’t seeing before we brought the word to them. If not, then they are most likely just going through the motions in an effort to make someone else happy. As disciplers, we need to be able to discern the subtle difference between those who have taken a step toward God and those who are merely falling into step with what they are hearing and trying to reach the Promised Land without putting forth genuine effort. I don’t say this to be critical of the new or renewed believer; I say this to reinforce the importance of walking a genuine walk so that when others fall into step with us, they are walking in the right direction. We can’t help anyone if we’re a mess.

Many new believers may not understand that it doesn’t happen like that and if we allow them to continue blindly and we don’t adjust our ministry to fit their needs, they will eventually place the blame for their failure to feel “redeemed” on God. This is why when new believers stop feeling that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get right after you have been saved, they may fall out of step with Christ or backslide, whichever term you want to use. Ideally, when we really get that God wants to save us, we understand that we need to change. We understand that our way is not the right way and that we will only begin to feel the peace His love affords when we are totally committed to following the plan He has for us. We understand that this WILL involve surrendering our will to His and that this won’t always be pleasant. Sometimes I think every Christian should have to wear a sticker that says, “Don’t follow me, I’m still lost.” At the very least, we should have to wear something that says, “Don’t follow me, follow Him.”

This message probably sounds very negative to those of you who feel that your personal walk with Christ is pretty solid. If you’re offended by what I’ve said, well I apologize. However; I caution anyone who is walking with Christ to be aware of how your walk is impacting others. If the people around you are telling you that your Christianity is hateful, you might want to examine the reasons why they are saying this? It could be their own reluctance to accept Christ, but then, it could be that you are not really walking in love. Sometimes we convince ourselves that just because we call ourselves Christians and we go to church every week and we tithe and we do all the things that “good” Christians do, we are automatically setting a good example. It can’t possibly be our fault that anyone has stumbled because we are doing this thing perfectly. Um….if you’re thinking that, you should have a huge red light flashing above your head right now along with some pretty annoying sirens going off. But if you are wondering how people are viewing your walk, then you’re probably on the right track. That’s called humility, and it is good.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a huge mess. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. My walk has been a series of hills and valleys and most of the time; I walk down the wrong fork in the road. Thankfully, God leaves plenty of breadcrumbs so that I can find my way back onto the right path. The goal is to have a right heart and to attack evil as Jesus would have; with love. If what we are doing to fight the battle causes people to hate Jesus or God, then we are not doing it right. My God is not hateful. There are things He hates, but He would never make the sinner feel as though they aren’t fit to be in the same atmosphere that He rules. And yes, He can put us through some difficult things in order to test us and refine us, but that doesn’t mean that His followers have the right or authority to test one another in that way. Only God has that authority, anyone else who tries to bring that sort of judgment or sentence against his or her fellow man or woman is still working for the wrong team.

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.

~1 Corinthians 4:20 NIV~

That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”  This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

~Romans 4:17 NLT~

I used to watch the popular television series, Star Trek:  The Next Generation and in each episode, Captain Picard would say to his second in command, “Make it so, Number 2.”  Before you begin to think that Picard was somehow insulting his beloved Commander Riker, please understand that Number 2 was a term of endearment.  The point of sharing this tidbit with you is not necessarily to shed light on the importance of putting ourselves second, but to lead into a discussion about how God prepares us for something and then ever so confidently places the reigns in our hands and tells us; sometimes clearly, sometimes not so clearly, to “Make it so.”

God’s gentle guidance sometimes seems overwhelming no matter how long He babies us.  The idea that He will trust us to take bold steps seems far fetched when we consider how often we’ve been instructed to simply listen and obey.  For some reason, we tend to think that means that none of the gifts He has given us are meant to be put into action unless we see it laid out in Step 1, Step 2, Step 3…fashion.  When those steps aren’t laid out for us, we stall.  We rest on verses  like Psalm 27:14 that says, “Wait patiently for the Lord,” but sometimes the greatest tests He gives us have more to do with our ability to trust what we know about God and keep moving forward until He says to do something else.  He doesn’t always mean for us to sit by idly while we wait for Him to move.  Sometimes we have to actually do something.

I’ve been hanging back for a while, trying to figure out what it is He really wants me to focus on.  In all of my seeking and straining to hear Him, I’ve managed to remain frozen in place while my faith has been slowly melting into a puddle at my feet.  Not my faith in Him, but my faith in my ability to hear Him…or in His desire to speak to me.  It’s amazing how we effectively can put the brakes on our ability to carry out His plan simply by spending too much time wondering when He’s going to tell us what to do next.  Sometimes, you just need to keep swimming.  Eventually, He’ll shift the current to ensure that you reach the destination He wants you to reach.

When you realize that you’ve just been standing around like an idiot, sometimes you begin to doubt whether or not God should even allow you to make any progress.  As I said before, it isn’t as much a matter of our faith in Him but a matter of our faith in ourselves.  Like Gideon, we may doubt that we are strong enough or capable enough to be trusted with the task He’s placed in front of us.  But God is patient with us whether we’ve moved in the wrong direction or failed to move at all.  He waits for us to “get it” and when He sees that we have finally caught on, He gives us a push and out of the nest we fall.  Thankfully, if we can’t figure out how to use our wings He will also catch us or somehow cushion our landing.  But His hope for us is that we remember who we are and that we spread our wings and allow ourselves to take flight.  And when we do, His glory shines through every time.  So go ahead and use what the Good Lord gave you.  When your actions are rooted in obedience and reverence for the Almighty, even if you heard Him wrong you’ll be okay.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
~Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT~
Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
~1 Chronicles 21:8 NIV~
Have you ever done something you knew you should not have done?  Of course we all have at one point in time or another.  I’ve been guilty of this many times, even after I thought I was incapable of such stupidity.  I was watching the movie, Maleficent with my daughter today and it occurred to me that there must have been times when Satan felt guilty.  Though I’m sure he would never admit it, he cannot feel good about the way he’s acted or the reputation he has earned.  Even if there is pride there, surely he realizes that he has made the gravest of errors.  Or is it possible that he’s just so bad that there is no part of him that experiences remorse or feelings of shame for doing so much damage to God’s creations?  Would he ever come to a point where he would feel compelled to beg for God’s forgiveness and try to right the wrongs he has done?
Before you freak out, don’t think that I am in any way so gullible that I would trust Satan.  I’ve read the story, I know what he has done and what he continues to do.  I also know how God plans to deal with him in the end.  This is just a question that occurred to me after watching a pretty interesting version of one of my all-time favorite fairy tales.  Imagine how different our lives would be if Satan would only relent.  What if there was no evil in this world?  What if all that is bad in man suddenly disappeared and we were left with the perfect reflection of our God in each and every soul we encountered? Well, it’s not really a matter of if…but when.  God is going to bring Satan to his knees and although it won’t be in a peaceful, okay-I-give-up kind of encounter, it will happen and we will see God’s glory come bursting forth as a new Heaven and a new Earth.  As in Revelation 20:10, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
The judgment of Satan will occur, no matter how desensitized we all become to what constitutes evil.  No matter how pretty a picture Satan tries to paint of himself as he continues to prey on those whose foundations are not in Christ.  And so, while there are attempts through media and entertainment to make me consider the possibility that maybe Satan is just a misguided soul like the rest of us, I’m grounded enough in the Word to know that Satan possesses an altogether different level of evil.  There will not be a time when he can turn back and find redemption as he has already rejected God and even worse, tried to overthrow Him.  It is only fitting that Satan be bound in the same way that he has kept God’s creation bound by evil and sin.  With each soul that breaks free from his hold, he loses just a little more power and we get closer and closer to the day when he will be bound in chains and cast into the lake of fire! Praise God!
So naturally, for those he can’t seem to win over any other way, he is trying his best to find ways to make God’s people consider having sympathy for him.  He knows there is no heaven in store for him, so all he has left is to try his hardest to prevent anyone else from experiencing it…and sadly, many of us fall for it, hook, line and sinker.  This is where the mentality that some sin is probably okay comes from.  Satan trying to make us believe, as he convinced Eve, that God really didn’t mean what He said.  Yes, God means for us to have compassion on our fellow man, but not on demons.  This includes the demons that have taken up residency in the people we love.  So, we must be vigilant to show the love of Christ in all things, but to remember that being tolerant of sin is to invite evil into your heart and give it clearance to consume all that is good.  There is a reason why God’s word tells us to guard our hearts.
The devil will try to convince you that it’s okay, everyone makes mistakes…and besides, you’re not really doing anything that other people aren’t doing.  He might even try to convince you that being bad is somehow good.  And until your flesh is lined up with your spirit, that logic might work.  He might convince you that as long as you’re doing something good somewhere in your life that you don’t necessarily have to be all good.  Be advised that this is very much an instance when we MUST choose sides.  God is paying attention.
He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.

~Job 36:10 NIV~

Today's Pondering: Finding God Everywhere

Where You go, I’ll go
Where You stay, I’ll stay
When You move, I’ll move
I will follow You.

Chris Tomlin~I Will Follow

I often think about the words to this song and wonder if I could be that devoted to my God. I claim that I am and I certainly want to be; but the idea of moving if He says to move is sometimes the most terrifying thing I could think to do. Day after day, I ask Him to use me as He created me for a purpose, but what would I do if serving Him meant to pick up and leave everything I know?

There haven’t been many times in my life when I couldn’t see possibilities on the horizon. I’ve always had hope that there was one more thing I needed to do and that there would be many steps to take before I could complete that task. Lately, however; I’ve been feeling like He is not going to let me take another step until I figure out whatever it is that I’ve not yet been able to figure out. And to save my life, I cannot figure out what that might be. Although I trust that He has something for me, I am now at a point where I don’t see that I have the ability to hear Him as I have heard Him in the past. Obviously, I’m missing something or He would allow me to move forward.

I was racking my brain about it this morning and I couldn’t seem to come up with anything that made sense. Then for some reason, He brought me to the story of Jonah:

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”(Jonah 4:9-10 NIV)

And there it is. This makes sense. I’ve been the one who went in the opposite direction when God called me. I’ve been in the belly of the whale. It isn’t fun. I’ve also been the one sitting under the tree that withered and left me struggling in the heat of the day, while God tried to explain to me that I was more concerned about what served me than what served Him. As in Jonah 4, He was trying to show me that the issues in my life, while they seem huge and insurmountable to me, are no big deal in His grand scheme. He can wipe all of that out in a moment. What He’s more concerned about is my ability to move through all of this and meet Him on the other side, ready to serve His greater purpose in spite of all the little struggles I’ve had to face.

I may not be able to see the purpose of the “heat” and I may not see the point of going through my struggles when all I want to do is be happy so that I can serve God without feeling the pressures of this world. But that isn’t how it works. The pressures of this world are part of the serving. All of our troubles don’t disappear when we fall into step with God’s plan. The point is that we lay our trust on Him and we see that when our hearts and minds are set on serving out His great purpose, it won’t matter that we can’t get every little piece of the puzzle to fall into place when we want it to or how we want it to. It is so hard to go with the flow and allow Him to fix those things that we cannot seem to fix, but part of following Him means understanding His power and knowing that His purpose for us sometimes includes a struggle or three.

As it says in Luke 16:10, he who can be trusted with a little will be trusted with much. If God sees me doubting His ability to bring me through this, He sees that my faith isn’t yet where it needs to be to bring me into my promised land. He sees that I’m not ready yet. But if I press on and I remember that He lives in me and that I can do all things through Him, He sees that I am ready to reach that next level and He will promote me at the appointed time.

Satan knows where we have the most difficulty in our faith. He watches for opportunities to discredit our God and He uses the least little temptation to doubt God as his opening. If he sees that we’re struggling to trust Him with our problems, he’ll step in and pour gasoline on that fire. Hence, the heat. And it’s no accident that heat inspires thirst. And the only One who can bring relief from that heat is He who brings the living water for which we thirst! So slow down, take a breath, rest from your toil and lift your eyes and your hands to Him. He will bring you what you need at the exact moment you need it. He is our Refresher, our Redeemer, the One who restores. If you’re thirsty, let Him bring you a drink of that wonderful, living water that only He can bring. And then jump right back in the race. He’s made a place for each of us at the finish line.

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

~Isaiah 49:10 NIV~

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

~John 10:10 NKJV~

The devil is a sneaky guy. Literally. When all of his attempts to pull your love away from God fail, he tries even harder to bring you to a place where everything you associate with God begins to hurt you. Hence the many individuals who have been hurt by churches and congregations that aren’t focused on the message of Jesus, but on gossip and backbiting and judging.  But that’s another post.  In this particular case, he caught me off guard by presenting me with what I thought might be my Boaz. For a long time, I had prayed to God that He would send me a good man. A man who loved Him first so that he could love me as a man is supposed to love his woman. Well, it took nearly three months of hell, but I finally figured out that this was just another one of the evil one’s tricks meant to sway me from my love for my God. Even what I thought God had sent had been used against me to draw me out of His love and toward the bitterness and anger that often accompanies a bad breakup.

Luckily, I look at failed relationships as successful research. If I didn’t, by now I would have sworn off men altogether. I’m not making light of this situation. My time with this man has caused me innumerable problems; many that I can’t even discuss here at this point in time. I’ll be cleaning up after this mess for a long time. In reflecting on things today, it occurred to me that just as the devil was able to sway Judas to betray his friend Jesus, he is able to persuade a desperate man to take advantage of a compassionate and loving woman. After being lured into relationship by a man who was willing to watch Bible programs and pray with me, how can I ever trust another man who claims to be a good Christian? I had never figured that this man would begin playing the very same games that other men had played in my past relationships. I never would have guessed that he would deceive me in the way that he did. But in my enthusiasm for what I thought God had sent me, I forgot what I’ve learned so many times in one Bible study after another; man will ALWAYS disappoint us. God is the only one who will never fail us.

So, even though this one didn’t end well…all IS well. I have not forgotten where my help comes from and I have faith that when it is time, He will send me the man who can appreciate the woman He has made in me. He will provide all that I need at the exact time that I need it and I will not have to wonder whether or not this one will break my heart or try to manipulate me or use me. As for this guy, I’ll pray for him. And I’m not angry. I’m not the least bit upset with him. I’m more upset with myself for allowing the devil to use my love for my God to almost get one over on me. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…well…you know the rest. For now, with my faith still intact, I must believe that God wants my focus to be on something better than a pseudo-relationship. And so, I press on.

“And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

~Luke 9:5 NKJV~

And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.

~Genesis 35:2 NKJV~

At what point do we decide that we’ve dwelt in the past long enough and it is time to really move on? What is it about the familiar that keeps us focused in the wrong direction even when we know that it isn’t good for us? Change is scary. Commitment is difficult and sometimes even resembles work. Funny thing, we have no trouble committing to the patterns in our lives which drag us down, but will go out of our way to avoid establishing habits that will lift us up and propel us into a better way of living.

In my experience, it has always been easier to return to what I thought I knew than to go forward into that which I’m sure I have no clue how to navigate without significant difficulty. Taking that first step toward making those kinds of changes is always the hardest. Like the DC Talk song says, “What if I stumble? What if I fall? What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all? Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?” I’ve felt this way every time I’ve tried to do something new. As though the fate of the world depends on my ability to do the right thing at all times. Thankfully, it doesn’t. So, I can rest easier knowing that I’m not nearly as important as I’d like to think I am.  If I stumble, people will simply do one of a few things; walk around me, walk over me, walk away from me, or stop to help me back to my feet.

The point here is that rather than take the opportunity that lies in front of us, many of us choose to hang back and repeat the behaviors that have kept us in a perpetual cycle of unhappiness. And our only justification in doing so has been that we already know what to expect from the hell we currently occupy. Why create more uncertainty than we already feel? God would say to us, at least I think He would say, how will you ever know what blessings lie on the other side of those trials if you wrap yourself up in them and refuse to come out? Yes, transition is painful. Yes, change is unsettling. And yes, sometimes we have to leave things behind that do nothing but hold us in place. But what happens when we step outside of that comfort zone and follow His leading is amazing…no matter what it takes to get to the other side. If He is in the center of it all, the end result is beauty for the ashes we have been sitting in.

So, my advice to you is to get up, grab a broom and start sweeping those ashes into a neat, little pile. Put them in a little bag and carry them willingly (and only for a moment) to the next stage of your journey. And when the time comes, hand them over to Him and let Him show you what it means to be truly transformed by His grace and mercy. He makes all things new. Let Him take over from here. He does good work.

If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes.
~Job 14:14 NKJV~

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 ~Matthew 5:13 NIV~

There are those who cannot function in our society unless they are looking at things from one side or the other. Neither side wants to learn about or understand the other; they both just want to be right. Sadly, this is a large portion of the population. Many Christians would have you believe that we are called to be vigilant about one side or the other, but the reality is that the only way we can be vigilant against evil is to be very balanced in our treatment and understanding of one another. In order to choose life, we must understand and be compassionate about death. In order to be light, we must know why the darkness exists. We must seek to understand what we don’t want to be. And in that understanding, we find grace, mercy and compassion for one another which brings about the very kind of love that Christ walked the earth to teach so very long ago.

I was thinking yesterday morning that the thing which most often comes between us in our relationships is our need to be right. Our need to dominate one another on whichever side of an issue we choose to stand. But the key to truly loving each other is to meet in the middle, with God at the center, and allow the heart to absorb what it is about each other that is light. And in doing so, we sometimes have to be the salt that gets into the wounds and burns away the contaminants. Sometimes, we have to say things to each other to shake one another back into reality. Sometimes, when we see someone we love suffering through a problem that they are having trouble overcoming, the most loving thing we can do is to throw a little salt into it and help them get rid of whatever is causing the pain. Of course, we encourage them to pray. But we can also pray with them and for them; that God would give them the strength to bear up under the weight of whatever has been pressing them down.

Part of achieving that balance lies in not being afraid to confront sin. Sometimes, it isn’t necessarily sin that is weighing someone down, but just a lack of direction or courage. Which, technically could translate into sin if we’re trying to pick it apart. The point is that when a loved one is suffering, we should not be afraid to talk to them about it and try to direct them to God so that He can help them fix it. I read somewhere that salt creates a “hostile environment” for bacteria. And so, when we are afraid to say the things God puts on our hearts to say, we allow things to continue to attack those we love. If we think that it is none of our business or that maybe they will leave us if we tell them the truth, then we are doing them a disservice. Sometimes, you just have to break a few eggs to make an omelet…or something like that. I’m not much in the kitchen, so my cooking analogies may not be spot on. But you get the point, I’m sure. Sometimes people just get into a rut of unhappiness and they don’t even see that they have a problem. What you bring to their attention may be the exact thing they need to hear in order to begin breaking free from a stronghold.

The other part of achieving the balance, however; is to realize that the salt we throw is only useful if it is infused with light. The light of God’s love, working through us to get to those who need it. If we are just criticizing people and telling everyone what is wrong with them in the name of Jesus, then the reflection of Jesus that they are seeing is that He was critical and mean and basically unsatisfied with everyone He created. That is why it is so very important that when we attack sin through our posts on social media and elsewhere we take into consideration the balance of salt and light that we are putting out there. Sometimes what I see posted is simply salt. All hate…based on hating sin…but sadly misguided in its attempts to help people overcome the burdens this world is placing on them as they stumble along trying to find God’s hands to grab onto. Pictures of unborn babies, hateful speech and other tacky displays of Pharisaical standards of Godliness are not going to win any souls. Instead, these things just push the broken even further away and place obstacles in their path. There is a reason why we are told to love one another in John 13:34-35, for it is love that heals all wounds. And when we don’t have love for others, it is a sad reflection of the depth of our love and acceptance of Christ as our Savior. You may claim Him, but do you really love Him? If you are not loving your neighbor, then you are not loving Christ.

We all fall short of the glory of God, without a doubt. And we may never be able to be an accurate reflection of who He truly is. But He knows the hearts of those who are out to make a point versus those who truly want others to love Him for being their Almighty Savior, their Great Rock, their Awesome Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, our Strong Tower, our Healer, our Provider, our Protector, and our loving Father. He knows when the salt of our words is just salt. He knows when our aim is to hurt and not to heal. And He knows the depth of our brokenness when we can’t be light to others. Lucky for us, He loves us anyway. He is, as the verse goes in 1 Corinthians 13:4, patient and kind. The point of our salvation was not to bring us to stand a vigilant post on one side or the other, but to help us achieve the balance that lies in knowing God and living in His promises, receiving His love, and being able to give freely to others the gift that He freely gives us. No, we are not called to embrace evil, but we are called to understand how good evil can be once it allows God to heal it. For we are all evil at some level. We all have the sin nature and we all will sin. We are called to love the person and hate the sin; but we must understand that sin is part of the person and that we cannot effectively love the person if we are so focused on the sin that will fall away when the blood of Jesus is applied, that we spend all of our energy beating the person down to get them to receive the love. I realize that part might be a little confusing. Just let it sink in a minute. It makes sense.

We must accept that in order to love one another, we will need to understand that the sin nature is always present and that there is no one who lacks the capacity to sin. We can all fall down. Even the ones who seem to be standing the strongest. And we all deserve each other’s love and mercy. And not the watered down version we reserve for those who don’t quite meet our personal standards of a good person. God is the final judge and He calls us to love. When He calls you, will you be able to say that you’ve done as He asked?

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

~James 4:11 NKJV~

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

~John 8:17 NKJV~

 Holding onto opinions about a person based on something they did in the past is not walking in love. Yet, there are so many who would rather continue to hate someone based on who they once were than to begin to love them based on what God has done in them. Would you consider yourself to be the kind of person who truly understands what it means to forgive others? What if God’s will for your life put you right in the middle of an issue that was not what others perceived it to be? Do you walk away from it because others don’t understand? Or do you continue to listen for God’s voice in the storm and persevere? This is where I find myself today.

Most of my life has been spent trying to live up to the expectations of others. Only in the last few years have I begun to question why it was always so important that I be the person they want me to be, even if what they want for me seems to conflict with what God wants for me. If I hear from God and He is guiding me, then why should I allow others to deter me from what I know He has asked me or told me to do? Life is confusing enough without having the people who are supposed to love you tell you to ignore what God is saying to you.

When I love someone, I try not to place conditions on that love. Even if you have wronged me, if I ever loved you, chances are that I will still love you even though I may not give you the opportunity to hurt me again. Love means being able to forgive someone who hasn’t yet figured out how to love. It means being able to forgive those who don’t seem interested in learning how to love. It means being able to forgive those who cannot forgive themselves or anyone else. It isn’t about doing what everyone else thinks you should do. Those who claim to love you while at the same time doubting every move you make or giving you grief because they do not understand the path God has you on have no idea what love means.

If I say that I love, that means I understand that people will always fall short of my expectations. The only one who will never disappoint me is God and He is also the only one who will ever love me without the condition that I impress Him or do exactly as He wants me to do. Even when I go in the wrong direction, His love for me is perfect and unfailing. Even though He is fully aware of the person I have been, He still loves me as though He can only see where I am headed as I walk alongside Him.

It is so important not to pass judgment on those who are attempting to emerge from their trials. Only when you are in the process of breaking free from your own strongholds can you fully understand how much He loves you. No matter how much I think I know about your situation or about your capacity to change and grow, I will never know you the way God knows you. I have no justification in directing your life. I can only share with you what God has done for me and hope that you will allow Him to work in you. When I do that, I’m showing the most love I can possibly show.

 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV~

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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