Tag Archive for Christian Living

An Unexpected Pathway to Blessing

There are days when I feel truly blessed. Like the days I wake up with no knee pain and plenty of Starbuck’s coffee. When my children are all super cooperative and the house is in order.

I think my idea of “blessing” is sometimes pretty shallow.

Yes, all of those things are good things and the Lord does bless us with all that we have, but I’m studying Acts right now and learning about a less obvious way that God blesses us.

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In chapter 3, Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray and they meet the lame man who was asking for money by the Beautiful Gate. They performed the first miracle of the church era with these familiar words spoken to the paralytic:

“I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts. 3:6)

Physical healing. What a blessing. People are taking note as a crowd begins to form to see this once beggar–now fully whole, walking-leaping-praising God man.

Peter was quick to give glory to God as he addressed the crowd and explain what just happened:

“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power of piety we have made him to walk.

(Amazingly instructive verses. AS IF we did any of this ourselves. Look to the Lord! A good truth to remember as we work for the Lord.)

Peter then explains that the man was healed because of his faith in the risen Jesus Christ and how to be truly blessed. (Hint: it’s not the health or healing. It’s not the money.)

  • Repent and turn back to your God through faith in Jesus. That is the path of blessing.
  • Repent and receive times of refreshing and the promised Holy Spirit.
  • Repent and stop going your own way. Rather, “You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” (v.22)

“God, having raised up his servant, {Jesus} sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (vs. 26)

What? Bless me by turning me from my wickedness? That’s rather unexpected, especially in a culture that promotes the health and wealth gospel.

Did it ever occur to you that your biggest blessing today might be the supernatural enablement to stop being wicked by the power of the Holy Spirit?

  • To hold your tongue when you feel like giving a piece of your mind?
  • To choose to bless when you know others are choosing to curse you?
  • To choose to love when it’s not reciprocated?
  • To humble yourself when pride reigns all around?
  • To serve where nobody else wants to?

Sometimes wickedness is so ingrained in us that we don’t see it for what it is. We believe that we’re born this way so we’ll stay this way, or reason that because I was brought up this way, that’s just who I am.

You were created to bear God’s image.

What does this mean? It means to look like Him, to love what He loves and hate what He hates. To represent Him well.

Wickedness is a defamation of who we were created to be and misrepresents God to others on this earth.

Every time we believe Satan’s lie that living life on our terms is the way of empowerment and happiness, we’re rejecting this pathway of blessing and not bearing His image well.

Every time we quench the Holy Spirit and neglect His prompting because we’re too proud to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we’re admitting that we don’t see holiness and sanctification as a blessing. We’re actually confessing that living life apart from God’s Word and directives is what we believe will make us happiest and bring blessing.

From the smallest child to the oldest adult, every time we choose sin we’re showing that we are still under the delusion of the old Serpent who whispers to all ages, “THIS will make you happy. “

This week, I’m praying that God will remind me daily that His way is best and that true blessing comes when we submit ourselves to His Word and forsake wickedness.

If you find yourself in the midst of a hard situation this week and you are struggling to see the blessing of God in your life, perhaps every time you fight against the flesh and choose obedience instead of wickedness, you’ll recognize how blessed you truly are to have the empowerment of the Spirit and the opportunity to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Praying for you, my friends. So very thankful for this community of women. If you need prayer support or encouragement from God’s Word, I would be honored to pray for you. Feel free to email me at joyfilledmama@gmail.com and I will answer as soon as I can.

What My Daughters Need to Know This Valentines Day

Ask your daughter this question: “Who are you? Describe you.”

I work with teen girls and I’ve asked this very question. They nervously and giggly begin telling me what they excel at and enjoy.

I’m so and so’s girl friend. I play the piano. I draw and paint. I write stories. I am a dreamer, runner, friend, singer, student, soccer player, Spanish speaker, etc.  

They describe attainments and roles.

What answers pop into your mind when you think about who you are? I find that we self-define in similar ways: I am a wife, mother, teacher, grandmother, speaker, artist, author, secretary, ministry wife. I homeschool, knit, grow organic food, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, etc.

Although we play many roles in life, but this is not who we are. We are first and foremost a PERSON in a personal relationship with Christ.

Why does knowing this matter?

Because it’s a fundamental. Knowing who I am in Christ keeps me grounded and secure in His love and Word no matter what happens to me in life.

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Ephesians is one of my favorite go-to Scriptures for spiritual identity. It tells us that in Christ we are

  • blessed (1:3)
  • chosen (1:3)
  • adopted into God’s family as a son/heir (1:5)
  • redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1:7)
  • forgiven of all my sin (1:7)
  • lavishly given God’s grace (1:8)
  • sealed and secure through the Holy Spirit (1:13, 14)

I am who God says I am in scripture. I am not the sum total of my roles.

  • My husband is a blessing, but if he leaves, I am not diminished or loved any less by God.
  • When my children leave home my job may change, but my purpose in life is the same: to live to the praise and glory of God no matter what I am doing.
  • If we lose our house, or friends, or ministry, we will not be shaken because our standing in Christ can never be taken away.

I fear that we confuse roles for true identity and look for significance in what we do and how others relate to us in our roles.

Girls, you are a person first and your God wants a personal relationship with you.

You may never have a husband. Or maybe you will and he will walk away. At your core, you are still a person living in the presence of God. He wants a personal relationship with you first, before all of your other relationships. He wants your satisfaction to come from Him alone, not in your roles, your abilities, or your achievements. Keeping Christ central is essential to fulfilling your other roles in a godly manner.

We live in a world that is no friend to my daughters. It screams and promotes worldliness which is contrary to Scripture. The world peddles its goods to my girls, promising them satisfaction in everything and anything apart from God.

You have to flaunt it to be noticed. You’ll never be anything if you don’t look like this. Follow your heart, forget the rest. To be popular, you need to _____, and the more popular you are the better. “Likes” matter. You need to be extraordinary. The pretty girls are the thin ones. You need Botox. You need this brand to be popular. You need, you need, you need.

At its root, of course, the world promotes worldliness. It’s usually a self-centered, grasping, covetousness message meant to make you unhappy with what you don’t have and ready to do what it takes to get it. Covetousness is the very essence of worldliness. (James 4:4)

James 4 tells us that we crave, and strive, and war because our worldly passions are driving us to seek satisfaction in all the wrong places. “You desire and do not have, so you…war.” (James 4:4)

War is one response. When we sin to get what we want, we know we are acting on covetous desires. What lengths will you go to get what you believe will satisfy you?

James also tells us that our satisfaction is elusive. “You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.” (4:2)

And mercifully, God is not willing to give you your covetous desires. “You ask and do not receive,  because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.” James 4:3 (envy, covetous motives.)

Why? Because God is jealous for your heart and wants to dwell in it exclusively. “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.” James 4:5,

It all comes back to you and God. God wants your wholehearted devotion. He doesn’t want you to do great things for Him or be great things for Him. He wants you to love Him.

That’s what I want my girls to know this Valentine’s Day, because all of life and love starts there. If Jesus Christ doesn’t satisfy you, nothing ever will. When you are satisfied in Christ, your circumstances almost don’t matter.

 

How to Be Holy When You Wake Up Grumpy

How are you supposed to be holy when you wake up grumpy?

We know what holiness is not, and what it looks like, but how do we get there?

If I had to describe myself when I wake up in the morning, holy is not the first word that pops into my mind. Tired, yes. Holy, no.

Some mornings I wake up grumpy. I don’t want to face the day. I wake up overwhelmed.

So, what now?

KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_nHoliness is not about being perfect. Jesus was the only person to walk this earth in a sinless manner. He was perfect for us!

So, holiness is not a matter of attaining perfection, but of mimicking. We want to follow Christ’s example, because we want to be like Him. And, holiness is not about feelings, but about direction. We are purposefully choosing to walk as He commands. Obedience. Choosing the right path.

Here’s what that looks like in real life:

You wake up exhausted. Instantly, thoughts flood into your mind: problems, worries, what-ifs.

You breathe a prayer for help: “Lord, this day, all of it is yours. You are ruler of my life. Help me to follow You.”

You have two choices: you can feed on the negative thoughts, or you can choose to feed on what’s true, honest, just, pure, lovely. You can choose to praise God with your heart, soul, and mind.

Holiness is about making excellent choices.

The phone rings and you’re greeted with that problem person (Love your Nellie Olsen!) and her stinky remark. You have another choice. You can use this person’s sin as an excuse to sin yourself and retaliate in kind, or you can choose a higher road. You decide to overlook the lousy attitude and treat this hurting person with care and kindness.

The kids wake up and didn’t seem to get the “holiness” memo either. They’re bickering and grumpy, and general selfishness seems to reign supreme. You could react in kind, with snarky remarks, put-downs, or threats, or you could see things with eternal perspective, encouraging them to follow you while you follow Christ and His commands, helping them see where they’ve fallen short of God’s code of ethics for loving others well.

The list of scenarios could go on and on, but you get the picture. Holiness is about obedience and not necessarily about feelings.

Some quick tips for pursuing holiness:

1. Take time to be holy. It’s a song, I know, but the truths are spot-on. The more time you spend communing with God through prayer and Bible reading, the more transformed your mind will become in your desire to pursue holiness. Cut out needless distractions to make time for the Lord. Then, go out and serve people in a way that points all the glory back to Him.

2. Don’t make excuses for your sin. Call it what it is and agree with God. Make it right with the person you’ve offended. If you don’t own up to your own sin, you won’t put it off or make progress in holiness. (Confess, find forgiveness, move upward.)

3. Listen to your heart. And I don’t mean in the sense that you’re following it. Listen to what you say to yourself when you are alone with your thoughts. Where does the needle of your internal compass land, when you have a free moment? If it’s on problems, then you’ve got to recalibrate. If it’s on bitter or unloving thoughts, you’ve got some forgiveness to do. If it’s on worry, take time to get to know your God. (You can only trust God to the extent that you know Him! The more you know His character, the greater your ability to trust Him!) Self-assess what’s going on in your own spiritual life.

4. Just do the next right thing. The flesh is not your friend, so whatever feels natural in the heat of the moment, don’t do it. Don’t tell that person off or give her a piece of your mind. Don’t give the cold shoulder and pretend they’re dead. Don’t yell at your kids. Don’t manipulate behind the scenes. Don’t gossip or slander. All of those sins feel good for a minute, but that’s it. They’re killing your spiritual life, your testimony, and your quest for holiness. It’s not worth it. Count the cost, and do the RIGHT thing. Take the higher road. When everyone around you is “seeking their own,” you love others enough to transfer that care that you once had for yourself to them. That’s God’s way. That’s what He did for you. Loved you when you were unlovely. We’re trying to be like Him.

5. Spend time with those who are pursuing holiness. You become like those you spend time with! Choose carefully. Look for women who are trying to respect God’s word. Spend your “free” time with women who are confident in their identity in Christ, who give and receive encouragement, who are transparent about what they are learning and how they are growing, who will challenge you to be a better person and who talk about others in a positive way, when they are not around. (Of course, there are several types of friends, and we all spend time with a variety of people, but when you have a choice, choose the person who’s walking the same direction as you are!)

What about you? What are you doing to pursue holiness? What would you add to this list?

How Not to View Your Devotions.

Have you ever had someone tell you that their day did not go well because they had not done their devotions that morning? I have, and although I want to assume that I know what they mean, the idea that your day played out based on whether or not you read your devotions shows some misunderstandings about what devotions really are.

Is the noun “devotions” really even a good word? After all, devotions is not meant to be something we do and then check off for the day, like I did my laundry (check), fed the kids lunch (check) or I did my taxes!

Isn’t it really about a heart that is devoted? Could the root of your “bad day” be more about the fact that your heart was devoted to something other than God? You were too busy worshipping secondary things and neglecting to worship God? Were you more interested in self than serving God?

Today, I’m sharing five ways NOT to view or do your devotions.

1. You read God’s word, and learn things, but don’t apply them to your daily life.

Warning! This is the most dangerous thing you can do–gather knowledge and then not apply it to yourself.

Teachers, Ministry Wives, Missionaries: take note. If you are studying to teach others but your actions and reactions, or in your inner man, show you’re making soft choices for yourself and not applying to yourself, you are in a dangerous spiritual spot.

We’ve all heard of Doug Phillip’s resignation this past month. A man who was teaching on family life while engaging in a 10 year affair on his wife. How does that happen? It happens when you study to teach others, but fail to apply to yourself. You become the spokesperson for morality while not practicing what you preach.

It’s really pride, and blindness and hardness of heart. It’s an “I’m above the rules” mentality. It’s a finger pointing mentality. It’s not a “I desperately need God’s word in order to grow and change myself” mentality.  And it doesn’t just apply to Doug Phillips or gross moral sin. It’s there every time we teach our kids while ignoring anger in our hearts. It’s there when we teach a class, while indulging in bitterness and envy against another person in the church. It’s there when spewing “Christianique” phrases, yet covering a heart of discontent and unthankfulness. (See James 1: 21-27)

2. You think you’ll earn favor with God for “doing your devotions”. Perhaps you fail to understand your position in Christ?

3. You think that if you don’t read so many chapters or do so many minutes of devotions, the rest of your day will be affected. It’s like a magic charm, warding off negative experiences.

4. You think you are out of fellowship with God if you miss a day, and that makes you liable for punishment.

5. You read the Bible like a horoscope for the day, opening to a random passage to see what God’s going to say today. It’s kinda a spooky, random approach, but people do it. Or you view the Bible as a spiritual drugstore full of “pills” that you need to get  you through whatever ails you?

Things to remember about your “devotions”-

  • Reading God’s word without a desire to change is really futile. I’m not sure why you’d even bother? Knowledge without obedience is deadly to your spiritual life.
  • Your entire day is sacred when you are living for the Lord and dwelling on His goodness. Don’t separate in your mind your time in the word as the holy part of your day. Your entire day is holy unto the Lord whether you are doing menial work with your hands or praying.
  • The Bible is not a quick fix for our day. Reading does not guarantee a problem free life. But a heart devoted to God and His word will help you focus on the right things and respond in the right way to trials. A Godward focus is our goal.
  • Worship is our privilege and stems from a heart of love. When you don’t feel like worshipping, get into your Bible in order to change!
  • Reading and studying is essential to know the heart of God and to get wisdom. We can’t know the God we serve without the scripture!

What about you? Do you have misconceptions about doing devotions? Do you think we should get back to using word like hearing, dwelling, studying, memorizing, meditating, honoring, obeying, fearing when we speak of reading God’s word? Words that show how we respond to God’s word?

Wise Words, Wounding Words

This week I have been meditating on words. I am studying Proverbs and am constantly amazed at how much it speaks of words and the lips. What we speak reveals what we are all about. It shows our heart. Someone has quipped “The tongue is the tail of the heart.”

Proverbs tells us that the virtuous woman had a “law of kindness” for her speech. That means she set a self imposed standard on herself. She made sure her words were wise and kind.

When people think of you, do they say ” Oh, she is always so wise and kind with her words, ” or would they characterize you as harsh, cruel, petty or critical with your words?

Here are some of the types of words and lips mentioned in Proverbs for you to meditate on:

Wise Words:

  • good words
  • truthful words
  • insightful words
  • wise words
  • gracious words
  • judicious words
  • righteous words
  • prudent words
  • healing words
  • pure words
  • sensible words
  • right word in season(at the right time)

Wicked Words:

  • bitter words
  • angry words
  • ensnaring words
  • rash words
  • foolish words
  • harsh words
  • hasty words
  • lying words
  • deceitful words
  • too many words

Which list best characterizes your speech? What will you change to become a woman who blesses her family and others with wise, kind words?