Thursday, July 25, 2013

Caution: God At Work

Hey Friend,

I am in awe of my son.  At the ripe old age of twenty, he knows it all.  There is no knowledge that my fifty two years of living can impart to this young man who has all life's answers.  If only I had been so wise at his age?!  But, wait...isn't this the same young man that not too many years ago explained to the police officers (in my presence) that the reason he and his friends were sitting on the roof of the school was because there was a ladder leading up there?  Enough said.

Oh to have all the answers!  I remember when I was young, thinking that there would be a point in time when I could finally say, "I've arrived."  I would have a perfect faith and life would no longer be a great mystery to me.  Not to burst anyone's bubble, but at fifty two, I have not arrived.  I have learned, though, that it is impossible for me to "arrive" this side of Heaven.  I will still be growing until the day that I die.  True growth involves trials, change and challenges.  God is ultimately most concerned about my character.  Sure, he wants me to experience pleasure and happiness (just look at the creation He's given us), but growth of character is His goal.

Who is in charge of building our character?  Philippians 1:6, 9-10 answers that question:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus...And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and be pure and blameless until the day of Christ...

In short, we are "under construction" and God is at work in us.  Whew, and I thought I had to do it all by myself.  Unlike me, God finishes what He starts.  A running joke in my family is the cross stitch Christmas stocking I started for Nicole when she was born.  She will soon be twenty five and the stocking sits unfinished somewhere in the attic.  If I am blessed with grandchildren, there may still be hope?! 

Jesus is the author and perfector of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2)  Jesus initiates my salvation, continues perfecting my faith and will eventually bring it to consummation.  It is a work that He does in me.  My job is to abide in Him and be willing to let Him work miraculously through me.  I don't know about you, but that gives me great comfort knowing that I don't have to muster all this faith up on my own.

Christian love is not just a warm and fuzzy sentiment; it is rooted in knowledge and understanding.

God is faithful to meet me where I am each day and then he renews my mind and grows me in depth and knowledge of His word (Bible).

And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude.] (Ephesians 4:23)

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

Though I resist change, God is constantly growing and changing us.  He keeps us from getting burned out.  Every day is a new focus.  How boring it would be if we "arrived" and then just hit cruise control. 

If we will allow Him, God, through His son working in us, will take us to unfathomable heights and depths.  Caution: it may involve change, challenge and even suffering at times, but God promises that our eternal glory in Heaven will far outweigh our suffering here on earth.

So if you haven't "arrived" yet, if you are still growing and learning; take heart, God loves you and has you right where He wants you!



Thursday, July 18, 2013

God Rejoices In You

Hey Friend,

Do you ever get so worn down that you just need a good ole dose of lovin'?  And, not the kind of love that says, "I'll love you when..." or "I'll love you if...".

Let me share with you a birthday card that always sits on the table beside me where I do my writing.  It was given to me by a wonderful friend who knows I struggle at times with truly believing that God loves me...period.  No strings attached.

It reads:  God Rejoices In You

The Lord your God is with you...He will take great delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

(The cover of the card is filled with sparkly pink cupcakes with candles in them- how girly and yummy is that?)

Inside it goes on:  Not once upon a time, but all of the time...God rejoices in your life.  He believes in over you...and tenderly keeps you in His constant care.

You are valued and loved, not only by those who know you, but by the one who created you!  Happy Birthday! (thank you DaySpring cards).

I love the word "delight"!  When was the last time someone truly delighted in you?  Not for what you did or accomplished, but simply because you were you?
We are human and we put conditions on our love for people.  Everyone we know, including our closest family, will forsake us at some point in our lives.  Not so with God.  He is capable of pure unconditional love.

I am a very emotional and "feelings" oriented person.  I admit I have struggled with a vision of God who is emotional to the point that he would gush over me with love, delight and singing.  I can picture Jesus doing that...after all he was the one who sought after lost sheep and performed compassionate miracles of healing.  He was tender and loving toward little children. But God?

He's capable of plagues and who has not heard of "the wrath of God"?  But, Jesus says it himself in John 14:9. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."  Jesus is God in human flesh - fully human, yet fully God.  When I look at Jesus, I am staring straight into the eyes of my Heavenly Father. 

This is the God who so loved me, that he sent His only Son to the cross because He couldn't bear to live without Me...God sent his own son so that He could adopt me, little old me, as His very own child. 

Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, "Abba, Father."  (Romans 8:15)

Abba translated means "Daddy".  Because of what Christ did for me, I can now call God, Daddy.  I've always wanted to be "Daddy's little girl", and because of what Christ did for me, I now am.  The bond is forever and nothing can ever separate me from my Daddy.  I am worthy! I am loved unconditionally!

"...Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:39)

Have you ever stood beneath a mountain waterfall?  I have, and it is the most wonderful feeling having the pure, fresh, life giving water gushing over you.  The water has no just keeps on coming...drenching me, enveloping me, soaking me...

That's how I envision God's great love for me.  A love without end.  I invite you, if you never have, to accept God's offer of adoption.  It doesn't have to be all flowery and profound, but a simple prayer that invites Christ to come into your heart and be the Lord of your life.  A prayer that says, "I accept your act of unconditional love, by which Jesus took my sins upon himself so that I will never have to be separated from you, my Abba Daddy."

Then run and fall into the arms of your Father, your Abba, your Daddy and let him rejoice over you with singing.  Let him delight in You!



Thursday, July 11, 2013

This Disease Called Perfection

Hey Friend,

Today, I am writing to myself because I am struggling.  Though this is a sort of therapeutic journal writing, I hope you can listen in and perhaps glean something from my ramblings?!

I have mentioned that I suffer from ocd (an anxiety disorder).  When most people think of ocd they think of people who compulsively clean or wash their hands.  In some ways I wish that were the case because my house would be a lot more tidy than what it is.  Instead I have a form that attacks the very thing I care about most - my relationship with God and His precious word.

I was reading a devotion yesterday that spoke about not worrying and not being anxious about anything.  These are definite "trigger" words for me.  My inner dialogue went something like this: " Oh no, I am not able to follow God's word on not being anxious perfectly.  I get anxious and do worry at times.  God must be disappointed in me.  I have to try harder to follow his word to the tee.  Others don't worry and cast their cares on the Lord...why can't I.  I'm never going to be able to get this right..."  And on it goes until my heart is racing, my blood pressure rises and I am scared out of my mind because I am sinning. And the really insidious part is that these negative thoughts obsessively repeat themselves over and over again in my brain and I can't stop them.  It really is torture!

You may be reading this and think...that's really crazy Bev.  Well, yeah it IS crazy.  Thus the reason it is categorized as a mental illness.  The neurons in my brain are not firing the right way and I get caught up in obsessing about thoughts that others are able to let roll off their backs.  It's a vicious cycle.

The first step is to Acknowledge a few things.  First, there are so many verses written in the Bible about fear and anxiety, not because God is going to condemn us if we fear or are anxious, but because God knows that we are going to be fearful and anxious at times.  He created us with the ability to experience those feelings.  He does, however, want us to "cast our cares upon Him". He also knows that we will not be "perfect" at casting our cares.  We may give them up for awhile, but then we often take them back to mull over them again ourselves.

For He himself knows our frame.  He is mindful that we are but dust.  (Psalm 103:14)

In essence, God knows our constitution.  He knows we are going to screw up and miss the mark.  After all He created us.  He knows us better than anyone.

He also knows that we are going to sin.  We will do the things we don't want to do.  But God, in his loving way provides a solution to our sin problem.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

When I do feel like I have screwed up and have sinned...God provides a way for me.  I feel my heart beat a little slower when I realize that even if I have sinned, God tells me if I confess my sins, then He will purify me. I don't have to be perfect.

I also take comfort in the fact that I am not alone. 

We have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  (Isaiah 53:6)

I am not the only "dumb sheep" that has gone astray.  I am in good company.  Maybe it's "miserable" company, but I know that I am not alone. 

The second thing, I believe, God would have me know is that I live under Grace not Legalism.  If I could do everything perfectly on my own, I would have absolutely no need for a Savior.  Every time I read scripture and feel a rush of condemnation, I need to remember that is precisely why I need a Savior because I can't follow the scripture perfectly on my own. It brings me back to a dependence on God and the grace poured out on me through Christ's blood.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God..." (Ephesians 2:8)

My heart calms a little more when I realize that I am under Grace and am not tied to the old covenant of the law.  Even better...the faith in God's grace is not something I have to muster up on my own; it is a gift of God.

Last of all the biggest "cure" for the condemnation that comes with perfectionistic thinking is grace in knowing Christ as my Savior.  This last verse is my mantra at times.  When the condemnation of the ocd weighs heavily on me I may often have to say this verse many, many times to combat the hundreds of times the condemning thought goes round in my brain.

Therefore, there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

I feel the anxiety diffusing.  It's not gone, but it's better.  Thank you for letting me write to myself this week.  I pray that there is something? you can take away from my struggle.  Though I hate this illness, I am grateful that it always brings me back to an utter dependence on God which is where he would have me be.  Grace and peace to you my friend. You don't have to be perfect...God loves you just where you are.



Friday, July 5, 2013

When Not In The Word

Hey Friend,

Yes, I am a little late on my weekly post...I had great intentions of writing something beautiful and stirring about this great Nation we live in, but the words didn't flow.  Then I thought I could take a whimsical look at the 4th of July as a holiday and mention how there is a day for just about everything.  Take July for example: first comes Independence Day on the 4th; then comes National Chocolate Day on the 7th; followed by National Ice Cream day on the 21st; and finally Parents' Day on the 28th.

So we emancipate our children on the 4th; we give them a caffeine buzz on the 7th; follow it up with "brain freeze" and a sugar high on the 21st and then when all that's said and done, we parents have to recuperate on the 28th...clever, but then the pen dried up.

What is my problem I ask myself?  Why can't I write? 

And then it dawns on me...I haven't been in the word...I am like a withered rose on the vine.  I've been basking in the sunshine, enjoying the passersby, but I haven't been drinking from my roots.  There certainly has been enough rain (literally and figuratively).  My Bible sits on the table beside me where I usually sit to write, but this week it's been collecting more dust than usual.  There sits a wealth of "living water" but I haven't paused long enough to take a long drink.

"I am the vine and you are the branches.  Those who remain in Me and I in them, will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  (John 15:5)

I am unable to bear fruit, if you will, because I have not been abiding in the Lord.  He is the vine and I am the branch.  Without His word flowing through my stem, I quickly wither and dry up.  Without spending time at His feet reading and listening I can do nothing.  It doesn't say, "Apart from me you can do 80%, or 50% or even 10%" says I can do NOTHING.

Wow!  It really is true!  The old Bev would have immediately gone into self condemnation mode; beating myself up for getting so caught up in the world that I forgot about God.  How could I do that?  He's always there for me?  But the Bev under grace knows that:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

God has lovingly used this experience, not to chide me, but to say, "Child, I love you and long to spend time with you.  Put away the cares of the world for awhile and just be in my presence." 

"Be still, and know that I am God..." (Psalm 46:10)

And so, for a long while, I am still.  I set aside the world with all its clamor and chaos that demands my attention and I drink in God's Holy word.  Like a parched runner I feel the hydration returning to my body.  I am drinking up water from deep within my roots and then it happens...the words begin to flow...

May you drink deeply from His word this week my dear friend.  You will be glad you did.