I Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
We can be confident in our relationship with God the Father. He will nurture us from infancy to maturity. This journey is filled with learning experiences just like a toddler learning to walk. Trying to take a step or two, they plop and fall down. Sometimes, they get hurt and even cry. Eventually, they get up and try again and again. Finally, walking is mastered and celebrated with parents. Then, it’s on to running.
We begin the relationship with God as infants and grow to maturity. Each stage of our growth has its difficulties and rewards. This process brings the uncertainty of the wobbling, teetering steps of a toddler learning to walk. When we experience the difficult seasons of life on earth, we can be easily distracted away from the goal while focusing on the injury and refusing to get up to try again. This is the fleshly nature taking over. God, our Abba, is ready to scoop up His children to provide comfort and safety. Re-centering on God’s Word provides the safety net for us to try again. Notice I did NOT say it’s a comfort zone. At least for me, it usually is out of my comfort box. It is this process which allows God to refine and sculpt you and me into His likeness.
Even when life is difficult, we can experience a joyful relationship with God. Life’s pressures purify our souls and our characters allowing God’s love to flow through our hearts. God already knows how the pressures will change us to be more like Jesus and more like God’s image. When life’s pressures surround us, may we turn to God for his peace and joy.
Romans 5:1-5 (TPT)
Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and He now declares us flawless in His eyes. This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!
But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!
1 Cor. 9:25 (NIV) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
What if my crown of glory is a work in process just as my life in Christ is a work in progress?
When a palm grows new fronds, it begins the reproductive process with a solid ball of organic material in the middle of existing fronds. It doesn’t look like much in the beginning. As this ball pushes up, it becomes cone-shaped (male plant) looking like a pinecone or pineapple. It falls away leaving nothing special in its place. Then, the brown fronds begin pushing out from the center. The fronds appear delicate, almost fragile, basking straight up to the sun. As the fronds grow longer, color change occurs. As they project upward to the sky, the weight of the growing fronds begin to curl the ends downward. If you catch this phase, it resembles a king’s crown. The fronds continue growing. Curling ever downward in large arcs, they become arms swaying in the breeze. It is a process of patience for the plant.
I imagine my crown of glory evolves in similar fashion. The first crown is a training crown, giving me the opportunity to adjust to wearing it. It’s nothing fancy by any means. As I mature in Jesus, He bedazzles it with colorful gemstones glistening in the Light of the Son. By the time I reach heaven’s door step, I pray my crown is fully adorned with gems reflecting His light on all who see it. The slow transformation of my crown demonstrates His patience with me. I may be easily distracted by secular life, but He patiently waits for my attention to return to Him. None of this is for my glory. It is to share how God cares for the world and is waiting for each person to call on Him. I pray my life as a servant of Christ is a reflection of how God loves.
This song by Matthew West sums it up perfectly.
‘Cause I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me, You gave my heart a song to sing
I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus
I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus
I’m on God’s zip line. Maybe you can relate. I know God has the best plans for me. I know His ways are higher. I know He never changes. (Can you see the “but” coming?) When I cannot see His arms carrying me, my trust level runs low.
I have taken zip line trips. I have worn the harness, the helmet, the gloves, etc. I can see the equipment is reliable. Yet, I cannot bring myself to jump with abandon from the platform. After a half-way jump, I fly through the air enjoying the ride and the heavenly view. When it’s finished, I am glad I pushed through my hesitation. However, I will have the same pregnant pause my next zip trip.
Often, my relationship with God is like my hesitation on the zip line. I put on His armor. I have faith. As previously stated, I KNOW I can trust God, He never changes. I am safe with Abba. When I am uncomfortable with the path or have an emotional challenge during His plan, I want to stay on my platform, in my comfort zone, avoiding the plunge. I cannot understand His ways, but I know His plans are for good.
As Abba, Daddy, Father, God wants His children to prosper and for no harm to come upon them. Then, why do I doubt His plan? I admit, in my flesh, I like to have control. Trusting God completely is relinquishing control. I pray “Lord, You alone can handle life. Please be over my life.” I want to let go with both hands, but the reality is I often keep one hand behind my back hanging on to my life. The result is missing out on the best God has for me.
Today I pray: Lord, teach me to let go and completely trust Your ways. May others see in me Your reflection of peace and mercy as I walk my path on this earth. lg
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Ephesians 6:13-17 (TPT) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Ahead of me was another exhausting day. My mind raced with thoughts of tasks on the to-do list. My heart sank at the enormity of the list. How could my weary brain keep up? Realization hits me: I am not a super woman. I cannot do it all. Feeling like a failure on so many levels, I wanted to run back to bed and pull the blankets over my head. Where does the pressure to become a super woman originate? I long for unattainable perfection.
Why are we not content with what we have? What drives us to push ourselves so hard? I’m not saying to resign yourself to mediocrity. One should have realistic goals for life in a broken world. What does it mean to be content? Many would say that being content is having adequate food, shelter, clothing and transportation. Here is Paul’s take: Phil. 4:11-13 (TPT) I’m not telling you this because I’m in need, for I have learned to be satisfied in any circumstance. I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
Being content, at peace, satisfied comes from God not man.
So what needs to change? My sphere of influence to change is me, myself and I. I am not responsible for another’s reaction or decision. I am responsible for my own choices. I can say “yes” to tasks that I should decline. Or, I can say “no” when appropriate. When I look internally, I must evaluate the motivation behind my answer. If I am motivated by sincere desire to accept the task, great! If I am motivated by a sense of obligation or guilt, not so great. I may inadvertently lie to myself and others. We have become a culture of keeping things light. We say “I’m fine” when we’re one day out of the hospital or a loved one died. This thinking contributes to the super woman (I can do it all!) mentality. When I add items someone else should take to my to-do list, my list becomes unmanageable. I need to know my limitations and be able to set boundaries. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to set reasonable boundaries. I lack the clarity, the wisdom, the words. Therefore, I must turn to the Creator of Perfection. Only God provides contentment. God’s plans are always better than mine. Ps. 37:29 (ESV) The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way.
I seek His will, His desires for my life. Is. 55:9 (NIV) “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Father, thank you for having the best plans for my life! Grant me wisdom and discernment, and guide my life in this broken world. Help me remember that Your ways are perfect! Keep my focus on what is righteous and holy, so that I may be content in all situations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Writing today from a stuck place. Stuck between earthly pain and heavenly desire. Feelings want to overwhelm and overtake me. Not the fun, happy, content feelings. The feelings that are not fun. No one wants to share about them. Just put them in the closet and lock the doors. When the closet is bursting, a volcano of emotions spew over any and every one in sight. My brain understands I must feel the array of emotions, not picking and choosing which ones to keep and which ones to dump. My heart rejects it. Why? Why do we dart away from the unhappy emotions away like a venomous snake? Did culture evolve and teach us this? Misconceptions carried off to the next generations?
The Bible reveals the gamut of emotions. For instance, the book of Psalms is full of the rawest emotions of mankind. Read these snippets from David’s heart. (The full chapters are great!)
Psalm 103:2-5 (TPT) Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me? You kissed my heart with forgiveness, in spite of all I’ve done. You’ve healed me inside and out from every disease. You’ve rescued me from hell and saved my life. You’ve crowned me with love and mercy. You satisfy my every desire with good things. You’ve supercharged my life so that I soar again like a flying eagle in the sky!
Psalm 38:1-10 (TPT) O Lord, don’t punish me angrily for what I’ve done. Don’t let my sin inflame your wrath against me. For the arrows of your conviction have pierced me deeply. Your blows have struck my soul and crushed me. Now my body is sick. My health is totally broken because of your anger, and it’s all due to my sins! I’m overwhelmed, swamped, and submerged beneath the heavy burden of my guilt. It clings to me and won’t let me go. My rotting wounds are a witness against me. They are severe and getting worse, reminding me of my failure and folly. I am completely broken because of what I’ve done. Gloom is all around me. My sins have bent me over to the ground. My inner being is shriveled up; my self-confidence crushed. Sick with fever, I’m left exhausted. Now I’m cold as a corpse and nothing is left inside me but great groaning filled with anguish. Lord, you know all my desires and deepest longings. My tears are liquid words and you can read them all. My heart beats wildly, my strength is sapped, and the light of my eyes is going out.
David pours out his emotions with all of his heart. He documents the highs and lows of life on this earth. David was a man “after God’s own heart” 1 Samuel 13:14. Shouldn’t we strive for the same?
Jesus wept, was weary, got angry.
John 11:33-36 (TPT) When Jesus looked at Mary and saw her weeping at his feet, and all her friends who were with her grieving, he shuddered with emotion and was deeply moved with tenderness and compassion. He said to them, “Where did you bury him?” “Lord, come with us and we’ll show you,” they replied. Then tears streamed down Jesus’ face. Seeing Jesus weep caused many of the mourners to say, “Look how much he loved Lazarus.
There are many questions running through my brain. Could my emotions be like the wind? If there is a slight breeze, it can refresh and cool. However, when you increase the intensity and duration, a destructive hurricane or tornado forms. If I can process these not fun emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, when I first feel them, I will be refreshed. If I wait for the closet to burst open, I inflict my suffering on all around me, including (especially) myself. I wish for a book of rules to make processing emotions black and white. Where would that leave me? Only half human. God intended for us to fully feel emotions. It is what I (you) do with them next that has potential for greater damage. I need to remember Abba will not reject me when I seek Him. “Rejection from man is NOT rejection from God.” Glynnis Whitwer, Proverbs 31Ministries.
Ephesians 4:26 (TPT) But don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day.
Father, forgive me for bottling my emotions. Grant me wisdom for healthy processing of all emotions. Give me strength for the tough situations. Protect me from the darkness that tries to engulf me through my emotions. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have you ever known a friend or relative who is a “Debbie downer” or “negative Nell”? Someone who is continually complaining or angry? I propose that most of us know a Debbie downer. There was a point in my life when I realized the negative attitude would leap on me, wrestling with me to remove my positive thoughts. For me, it is a battle to keep positive. Some days are easier than other days. My struggle with depression is large component to this war. I need to consciously limit my exposure to Debbie downers and negative Nells. If our conversation begins to sour, I need to redirect it. When that is unsuccessful, I end the conversation as quickly as I can without rudeness.
Have you noticed when you smile at someone they almost always return the smile? One of the many downsides to COVID 19 is the mask. I cannot see if you smile under a mask. When we have Jesus in our lives, we receive His joy and peace. This is peace that passes understanding and is contagious. Even though we are experiencing stay-at-home orders, God brings contentment, joy and peace regardless of the circumstances. How to we share this? It is NOT complaining on social media. It is sharing parts of life that are beautiful. For example: flowering plants, playful pups, etc. When we demonstrate peace and contentment, other people want it too.
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)
Like Paul, I want to be content in all circumstances. Being content isn’t just putting up with life and muttering under my breath. Contentment is more than accepting a situation. It is an emotional state of satisfaction and peace. I must rely on God to supply the peace. When my focus is on the good, I see more good. Since positivity is contagious, it can spread out to others from me.
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (NASB)
Father, during this unprecedented event, grant us Your peace. Remind us daily of the surrounding good in our lives. As our social lives are restored, may we remember to keep You first, to be kind to others (especially family), to live each day full of the life You provide.
Most of us have been involved in some sort of personality test. You know the type that asks “what are your strengths, what are your best attributes”? I venture to say most of us can list our weaknesses, brain and body defects quicker than we can list our strengths and best features. Personally, I struggle with this type of comparison issues. I don’t think I mean to make it a competition. Our culture is self-focused on who makes the most money, drives the most expensive cars, has the best fashion in their closet, is the fittest or has the best hair style. Our eyes see what appears perfect in the movies, on television, YouTube, and social media. What is not shown, is how long and what steps it took to present this illusion. I believe it is illusion. Anyone can put on a happy face for a few minutes and let the professional airbrush the photo. Let’s pull off the mask and see what’s underneath.
I’m going down deep to the root of myself. What is the source of my perfectionism? Is my insecurity based in fear? Fear of rejection? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of hurt and pain? Fear of being vulnerable? Fear is not of God. I must rebuke fear and embrace grace!
2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT) For God will never give you a spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.
I long to be accepted, to belong to the group. The group can be at church, school, work, the gym, the neighborhood. Somehow I am always disappointed within a group. People will ALWAYS disappoint us. Humans are imperfect. Jesus will not disappoint. He is perfect love. We were created to crave a relationship with God, Abba.
Often, I feel inadequate for life! This fact may surprise some of you. Others will know it to be true because they feel the same way. In fact, I speculate more can relate to it than cannot relate. I am my worst critic. Of everything! Jesus still loves and accepts me! Sometimes I need to ask myself, “what is the worst thing that could happen because I burned dinner or was late to an appointment?”
Abba never meant for humans to live alone. We are to be community. Safe. Supportive. So many times in life I have failed. I have eaten too many cookies, burned dinner, or opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut. Is there a voice in your head saying “me too!”? Isolation increases darkness. When I think no one else could possibly have ever felt this way, it is a lie. Darkness cannot stand exposure. I am not alone. YOU are not alone! WE are not alone!
Roman 8:1 (NASB) Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Here’s the kicker: God accepts me (and you) and I (we) belong to His Kingdom. When I am rooted in Jesus, the others fall away. Jesus meets us where we are, without a mask. On earth, there is evil and will be until Jesus’ return. We are in between the first garden and the last garden.
The takeaway: JESUS is the firm foundation for life. The Bible is the manual. When we seek Him first, our hearts have communion with Him. I won’t be perfect this side of heaven and I don’t need to be perfect. God uses my imperfections for His glory. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV) Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.