Sunday, October 25, 2015

plowing time

The other day, I sat on my porch and watched a very large tractor plow the fields across the road. The farmer carefully followed a path to plow every inch of that ground and even went back over some areas. I have had the privilege of getting to see that field provide crops over the past couple of years.  Corn, soybeans, and wheat have all been planted and harvested.  It struck me how after the farmer had gone through and harvested the corn, he brought in a plow to turn under the left over corn stalks. This day, he was running that plow over that ground again to prepare it for the coming winter and prepare it for next spring.  Next spring, he will plow it again to remove the weeds and to prepare that ground for seeds.

It brought to mind the parable of Jesus spoke about the sower planting the seeds and some seeds fell by the wayside, some on the rocky ground, some fell among thorns, and some on the good ground.  (Mark ch. 4) How does the ground become good ground?  It is prepared by a good farmer.
To become good ground, we have to be plowed and prepared to be good ground. We have to have the rocks removed and the weeds destroyed.  Coming to repentance is the start, but our hearts are not always in the best condition.  Weeds try to sneak back in and grow.  Rocks or hardened areas of our heart still need to be softened.  God will work on us and keep plowing to soften our hardened hearts.  He will keep pulling out those weeds that choke His word and keep His will from growing.  We don’t always like these times.

How often do we go through times of ‘plowing’ and feel like God has brought us trials and allowed terrible things to happen?  We might feel like He is not there. We might feel forsaken.  We might even whine and cry about why this is happening.  But God is doing something that is for our good.  Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

We go through times of ease and times of hardship. We go through joy and pain.  We go through sufferings and time s of plenty.  But all is part of life and can be times of growth, times of preparation, and times of rest.  Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Sometimes we need to recognize that God is preparing us for something.  We may be in a struggle or a time of rest and feel like we aren’t doing much for Him,  but He sees what is coming.  He may be preparing us to face a battle.  He may be preparing us to be strong for someone else.  He may be preparing us to receive a great blessing. He may be preparing us to move in closer and deeper in relationship with Him.  In 2008, I had a bad car accident and was injured badly,  I did not understand and it was  hardship. I was off work for three months.  I stayed with my parents  for a few weeks so mom could take care of me for a while.  I was in no condition to care for my own family.  Two months after that accident, my parents left on a vacation to minister at a friends church and then visit family.  That Sunday night, my husband spoke about how God gives us strength to go through the fire.  He spoke about how God carries us and will be our comfort.  It was an anointed message that filled me with joy, peace and strength.  That very next morning, the call came that my parents were involved in a collision and both my parents were in bad shape.  Within the hour, we knew mom was gone and with Jesus. Dad was facing surgeries with a broken back, hand and ankle as well as a head injury.  God was so good. He had prepared me by giving me a time of rest to spend with my mom and dad before she was gone.  I got to spend time with her and have those deep conversations that we needed to have.  God prepared me. He gave us a message to strengthen us before the pain.  He carried us for the next few weeks in the palm of His hand as we prepared a funeral, helped dad and adjusted to life without mom.  God may have allowed a time of plowing just so I could go on. He knew what was coming and knew I needed to slow down and take some time to be with my mom.  I am ever grateful for those two months I got to spend everyday with my mom and dad. I am grateful for my dad still being here.

When the plowing is going on,  God is at work doing what he knows will bring us into a place to be good ground. We will receive the word of God, it will be planted and grow. We will bring for the fruit that he has purposed in our lives.
Psalms 51:10 can become our prayer.  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a right spirit within me.”

He will make us like that tree is driven by the wind and beat by the storm but our roots will remain firm in Him.  We will be grow and bring forth fruit.
Don’t despise the time of plowing.  It isn’t to destroy us, it is meant for our good.
He is creating in us, a soft, compassionate, good heart that receives His Word, allows it grow and become planted, rooted and grounded.  A heart that will not waiver will not be swayed, and will not turn from the truth of God’s love.

I pray, Lord, plow my heart, make it good ground.  Good ground that you can use for your purpose. Help me not despise the times of plowing or the times of rest.  Help me know it is for my good.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

beware the bitter root

 Luke 6:45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

What is in your heart is what comes out of you.  It is what you speak of and act on.  The things of your heart motivate and control you.

About three years ago God showed me the following:
I saw a man in with arms outstretched.  I saw a thing that began to take root in a heart of a man. It was as a small thread attached to heart and burrowed in and out. This vine-like thread began to plant itself to suction from the life of the man. This thread began to grow and gain strength. It became longer, wrapping around the man, enclosing his arms, legs and body. The vine trapped him and held him. When the man wanted to reach out to hold his family, to serve another, to do anything that God was asking, he was unable to accomplish much and as the vine continued to grow, he was less capable and more trapped.
I felt great concern and began to sorrow for the man. I identified with him. I asked God “what does this mean?” “Help him!” God again spoke to my heart. “Bitter roots begin slowly, taking deep roots. Then wrap around a person, slowly taking away their ability to reach out in love, to deeply care and to do the ministry asked of them. The ability to be an effective light of God, effective sharer of God’s love, and effective worker for Christ has been slowly taken.”

Bitterness destroys a man or woman and the relationships they have.  Bitterness causes anger, hatred and depression to thrive. Feelings of hurt and suspicion take precedence. This is exactly opposite of what God wants for his children.  I have found several verses that speak to this very thing.

Acts 8:22-24
22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

· Romans 3:13-1513 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”[a]“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[b]14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[c]15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

· Ephesians 4:30-32
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you

· Hebrews 12:14-15 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

· James 3:13-1513 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic

I know there are times that is would be so easy to allow hurt to take over and live in it.  I find I may find bits of this in my own heart.  I may choose to not talk to someone because of the hurt I feel they caused. I may avoid that hurt again. I am allowing hurt and unforgiveness to dictate to me how I should act.
I am a bit disappointed to myself that I have allowed my heart to harbor any hurt or bitterness.  This is actually described as poison. I do not want to partake of this poison.
God has called us to get rid of all of this.  We must forgive, really forgive.  Not for the other person, but for our own well being.  I recently listened to a missionary speak of a young lady who forgave the very people who had abused her, prayed for them and brought them to Christ. That is getting rid of all bitterness and true forgiveness.  I hear people say this alot. "I forgive them, but..."  I have even uttered that very phrase.  True forgiveness carries no conditions.  It does not hold back on love and compassion. Jonah went to Ninevah and preached his doomsday message.  He sat on the hillside to watch the destruction and gloat.  When God responded with mercy and forgiveness, Jonah was angry.  God reminded him that he was no more worthy of mercy and yet, God had shown him mercy.  He reminded Jonah that God is just and God is love.  God is faithful and willing to forgive those who repent.  He is not willing that any perish.  His main goal for sending Jonah with the message was to bring them to a place of repentance.  He accepted them back, had compassion on them and completely forgave them: unconditionally.  He did not forgive with a but at the end.
I am tired of bitterness dictating my life.  I am tired of finding it lurking in the corners of my heart to be stirred up at the slightest bit of hurt, strife or discontent.  I want to have a so full of God's love and compassion that there is no room for any other thing to fit.  I want a heart that dictates true love from God to control my thoughts, words and actions.  I must get rid of any bitterness, rage, anger, slander, brawling, any form of malice.  I must be kind, compassionate and forgiving.  I must have a heart that is filled with God's love only . Lord help me cleanse me heart and fill it with only you. Remove any thing that can produce a root of bitterness.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

do you know who you are

I have talked with some people this week that have caused me to really think about who I am. I am a daughter, wife, mother, sister, cousin, friend, speech therapist, etc. But, there is an identity that is more important than any of these: I am a Christian.  This week many things have made me think about what that means. Saying I am a Christian should imply many things. This identity should supersede all others. It should permeate everything I do and think. It should be reflected in my actions, thoughts and daily life.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

In Acts 11:26 it says, "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch."
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Christian as " one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ."
Most people interpret 'Christian' as meaning 'like Christ.'

So, I am going to go with the idea that to be a Christian means that someone is going to reflect Christ in their daily lives and activities.  A Christian will be someone who acts like Christ and follows  His teachings.

If I am a Christian, I will do what Jesus Christ taught, follow His commands, and have a life that shows who He is.

How do I show Christ in my actions?

My actions should reflect Jesus.  There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians.  There are a lot of people who think they know what a Christian should act like.   I remember in high school, there was a boy who would tease me and give me a hard time about being a Christian.  If I said anything in defense, he would say something like, "Christians have to turn the other cheek, so you can't say anything to me."  There was some truth in that statement, but he had it all wrong. He had a view of Christians as weak, weak-minded, self-deprecating and unable to think for themselves.  He completely misunderstood what it means to be a Christian.
I have heard a lot of people question a person's christianity based on one action or one statement. I have heard a lot of people say things like, "If they are really a Christian, they would ........"  You can fill in the statement. I am sure you have heard many of these statements or even said them yourselves.
I am realizing that most of us have preconceived notions about christianity.

What does the Bible say about a Christian?

Well, we know that to be born again we must repent and accept that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He came to call the sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). We know that Peter preached “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38.  We know we need Jesus to cover us in His sacrifice of blood for salvation.  That is only the birth and beginning.   Our lives should then be changed and different.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Paul wrote the following about how we live out that faith.
Romans 12:9-21

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”[b]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If we go through the writings of the New Testament we would find a lot of descriptions of a Christian life.  It should bear good fruit, do good, be kind, be filled with love and have power from God.
I can find a lot of Biblical descriptions we need to achieve.

How do I achieve these descriptions in my life?

It comes down to really knowing Jesus.  If I don't really know Him, I cannot be like Him. I cannot just pretend I am like Him.  I can't just be like Him on Sundays.  I cannot go through life and just hope that that one time I repented will be enough to claim I am a Christian.  It cannot even be a ritual of daily Bible reading that should define my Christianity.
My Christianity should be defined by a relationship that is dynamic and growing.  My relationship with Jesus should be the ultimate definition of who I am.  I love Him because He first loved me.  He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is my Savior, Protector, Provider, Healer, Friend, Lover, and Giver of my life.  He is the One to whom I turn with joy and pleasure as well as with trouble and pain.  He should be the One I think of every moment, the One I talk to, run to and seek.  My relationship with Him should define me. It isn't enough to just say I am a Christian.  It isn't enough to just talk about Him.
I need to live in Him, breathe Him, think of Him, love Him.
When I got married, my relationship with my husband became a definition of who I am. I took his name and became a wife. I choose to do things for my husband because I love him. I choose to do things because I am a wife.  I redefined myself as a wife by how I think and choose to live because of the relationship I have with my husband.
This should also happen as a Christian.  Our relationship with Jesus should be reflected in our lives. It should define us, change us and permeate everything we do.

There was a skit I remember from my teen years about a Christian being put on trial to find out if there was enough evidence to convict them of christianity.  I hope that there will be overwhelming evidence in my life to convict me.  Not just my verbal claims, but my everyday life.  My choices, my words, my actions should all reflect Christ.  I want to be known as a Christian.

Is Jesus operating in my life, making the changes necessary to bring about His work in me?  Is the power of the Holy Spirit flowing in me and through me so that those around me feel His presence and know that God is there?  Do others recognize that I have the kind of relationship with God that my prayers are effective?  Do I reflect the love of God to those around me?  Do they even feel conviction of the Holy Ghost because of His presence in me?  Does the very environment around me change because I carry the presence of God with me?

It is time to allow Jesus to demonstrate who He is through us.  It is time we understand who we are in Christ.  We are blood-bought, power filled, children of God.  We have been purchased by the blood of Christ and filled with His Spirit to be a light to a lost and dying world. We are the royal, chosen priesthood and we have been given authority in God to speak life, destroy the enemy and heal the broken.  We have Jesus Christ in us and it is time to walk in this life with all the purpose for which .He has called us. I am a Christian.  I am to be like Christ. I have hope and life more abundantly.  I can walk in that knowledge and never be ashamed of this fact.  I can live to bring glory to my Savior Jesus Christ. I am to be a reflection of Jesus Christ in this world. I am His and He is mine. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves me and I belong to Him. He has poured His Spirit into me and I have His power operating in my life.  I can do all things through Christ Jesus.  I know who I am in Him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

all my ways

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6

I have known this verse most of my life.  I am very familiar with it.  I have quoted it, memorized it, read it and spoke it. I find it to be easy to say, it is quite another to actually understand and live it.  I am asking myself, “What does it mean to acknowledge Him in ALL my ways?”  Do you know?   I have a lot of ways. I am busy and do a lot of stuff.  As I list it in my mind, I am thinking really wondering if I am acknowledging God in all my ways. I am a mom, wife, speech therapist, coworker, sister, daughter, friend, Sunday school teacher, shopper, cleaner of the bathroom and house. I have a lot of roles and jobs that I do.  I realize I may not always perform these many activities as always acknowledging God. 

So what does it mean to acknowledge God in all my ways?  
God has answers for that as well in His Word. He gave scriptures such as:

Rejoice always; Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men, Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers. Psalms1:1

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

There are many more verses. Many verses that address our daily activities, daily lives and daily thoughts. Our thoughts should mirror God’s thoughts. Our actions should mirror God’s actions. Our ways should acknowledge God. As I go throughout my day, I need to keep my mind focused on the purpose He has for me, not just the task at hand.  How can I bring glory to God as I do this task?  If it is a daily chore, could I be taking this time to pray or praise God?  If I am with someone, should my words be encouragement and uplifting or words of gossip and frustration?  If I am working on my job, does my performance reflect the integrity and faithfulness of God?  Have I portrayed Christ as I go through my daily routines, stores and in encounters with those I meet?  Do they feel God’s presence as I come by or have I gotten so lost in my own frustration and self-promoting thoughts that I have forgotten to keep His purpose as my goal?  I may have missed an opportunity to pray with someone, touch a heart, or change a life by not keeping my focus on the right priority and fussing over a small detail like why the store not longer has that cake mix I wanted. Does complaining about circumstances at work change them or does it diminish my faith in God?  Do my words bring about praise or shame to God?  

Rather than getting bogged down in frustration and complaint, shouldn’t we rather take that moment to speak life even if it is to our own soul?  Wouldn’t that bring glory rather than shame?  
Our words and deeds need to speak life rather than bring about discord and shame.  
We can speak and act in ways that acknowledge the awesome glory of God, His power and His love.  We only need but choose to put aside words of discord, actions of pride, and thoughts of self.  We spend so much time worrying, feeling, and thinking about so much when we really ought to spend that time focused on the One who gave us life; The One who sacrificed for our salvation; The One who is waiting to direct us into His best ways. He has the ultimate plan already laid out.  

We only have to look and listen.  He is trying to show us and teach us what he wants. His Word is so important. It tells us how to live. He will direct our paths. He will give us more understanding, more compassion, more joy, more peace, more love than we ever thought possible if we truly give everything over to Him.  Isn’t it about time we really acknowledge God in all our ways.  

Psalms 119:105  Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.