Fresh Start

I actually love the week in-between the Christmas and New Year celebrations.   The emphasis on true love–agape, sacrificial love–is the perfect backdrop for the New Year.  And the New Year doesn’t feel like starting over…it feels like a fresh start.  And it is!  The truth is every day is fresh and new.

We don’t need the calendar to move us forward…but it sure does help focus eyes on the future, doesn’t it?

Today–the last day of the year–is the perfect time to put everything at the foot of the Cross.  2482236610_4c2d16c398_z (283x267)

Box it all up! The good and the bad and put it at the foot of the cross.Box it all up! The good and the bad and put it at the foot of the cross.

AND REMEMBER WHAT THE CROSS GIVES IN RETURN!

Ephesians 1:7 is a great verse to go to for that reminder!  IN HIM, we have forgiveness of sins and redemption through His blood according to the riches of God’s Grace.  

Think about what that means.  In Christ, we are secure and significant.  We are citizens of heaven.  We have a spirit of power and love.  We have all the grace and mercy we need–just for the asking!  God chose us!  He is at work completing what He began in us!  doesn’t that make you excited for the new year…and for each new day in it?

May you shine for Him in incredible new ways in the coming year!  He has equipped you…use what He has given and rejoice in Him!

Come back tomorrow for one of my favorite tips on growing in faith!

Fresh Look at the Past

Just like the important individuals in our lives, circumstances and traumatic events of life shape us.  What one finds traumatic, another may not; this is personal feeling and is not right or wrong.  Healing comes by spilled milkplacing the past in the hands of Jesus.  There are folks who do that easily–but truly letting Jesus into the memories enlarges your capacity and understanding of His presence.  We cannot give to others what we have not received.  The more we accept of His love in the details–the more we have to give to others.

Current medical research finds that ‘unhealed’ childhood traumas surface in a vast array of medical issues.  In fact, studies indicate that 80-95% of all medical and psychological illnesses originate from unresolved trauma.  Christ still heals and He is the Mighty Counselor.  You can trust His love to re-frame anything you have, do or will face!  Consider which of the influences have impacted your life in the past (or in the present):

Poverty
Family Fighting/Divorce
Alcohol/Drug Abuse
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse/Rape
Prejudice
Prison
Illicit Sexual Activity (promiscuity, homosexuality)
Abortion
Rape
Death of a loved one
Other addictions:  gambling, food, pornography
Abandonment (including adoption grief)
Other trauma:  fire, accident, major illness/injury etc

There is often fear involved with even looking at difficult things of the past.  That spirit of fear is a tool the enemy uses to hold you captive.  Discipleship Coaching aids in finding the treasures buried in the dark times; God never allows what cannot be transformed.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  (1 John 4:18)

As you look at the INFLUENCES, write a list of the top three stressful influences in your life.  Prayerfully consider the following questions as you journey toward God in those areas.

  • What feelings rise up for each…list specific words as best you can.  If you need help with identifying (or being persuaded to feel emotions), visit:  Discipleship Coaching:  Emotions.
  • How did/does each experience influence how I see myself?
  • How does this experience influence how I relate to others?
  • How did/does this experience influence how I see God?

Finally, assess (on a scale of 1-10) how ‘healed’ do you feel from these experiences.  0 being “I feel the pain as sharply today as then”, 5 being “I survive” and 10 being “God is using this for great glory in my life.”
Life does not happen without hard, painful things.  In fact, the greatest opportunities lie in those dark times.  However, a barrier to blessing is unforgiveness.  True forgiveness is rare–and incredibly difficult.  It does not excuse wrong behavior but it does not use wrong behavior against another.  Forgiveness is the foundation of the Christian faith and such a major topic, it demands focused attention in its own right.

The forgiveness of Christ gives us life; our forgiveness of others is also life-giving.

What’s Your Family Story?

Do you know the history in your own family?  It is a great holiday project to interview the older generation.  You probably know the old saying:

‘Life is a gift from God.  What we do with that life is our gift to Him.’

It is also said that ‘life happens while you are making other plans.’  Great stories exist in our own families…but those stories get lost.  Don’t let that be your heritage!

I believe every life matters…every life reveals the very glory of the Maker.  Within our families, we have tremendous treasures.  Do we see those treasures?  Do we celebrate them?  My wish for you is exactly that:  wherever you are, whomever you are with…may you see and savor their unique beauty!

With that thought, I offer you this little booklet to help you see and share your own story.  Perhaps it will inspire you to give it to others in the family and help them reveal the glories of God deposited in their lives too!

God is present in our every day.  Too often we fail to see Him.  We do not acknowledge Him or treasure His presence.  Christmas is the perfect time to receive the gift of God…and give glory back to Him.

Family Heritage Booklet

A simple 10+page booklet to help you record the stories of your elders. Questions are designed to get the conversation flowing…but don’t stop there. Create your own questions, build your heritage booklet! Suggested Donation of $0.99.

$0.99

If you cannot afford the suggested donation, please fill out the contact form below and indicate the specific resource you would like to have.

Divinely Designed & Equipped

 I recognize alternative teachings can be dangerous; this will stress some and bless others.  I do not take the Scriptures lightly; I ask you to read, pray and ask what if any of the alternate view God would have you embrace.  Tradition spiritual gifts assessments clump all of these passages–and leave some discouraged or confused. I find clarity in looking at the passages with the specificity of the Givers.

Clearly the instructions given in the passage are to the children of God (the redeemed who trust in Christ). However, overall the letter is in the context of the love God that covers all. Not all are children of God but all are created by Him. Paul was speaking to the Church…and we should use our design for Kingdom purposes! This view does not negate that concept; it enhances it!

Romans 11:29 says God calls and gifts without repentance–meaning He seeks us and blesses us long before we ever acknowledge it. To God be great honor and glory!

With all that and the scriptures below, I offer this with a prayer of blessing for any who read.  Individual entries for each of the ‘Designs’ can be explored by clicking the links.

Gifts from the Father

Design
Sin to Battle
Victory to win
Scriptural Examples
Name of God to Meditate On
Idol of control
Fullness of Relationships!
John the Baptist, Miriam, Naomi
Jehovah Jireh
Idol of peace
Finding value in God’s eyes!
Joseph (father of Jesus), Barnabas, Timothy
Jehovah Rophe
Idol of being right
Live Truth not just know it!
Luke, Isaiah, Samuel
Jehovah Nissi
Idol of comfortable
Embracing hard times for joy set before you!
Paul, Jeremiah, Moses
Jehovah Shalom
Idol of materialism
Excellent stewardship of God’s resources!
Matthew, Abraham, Job
Jehovah Rohi
Idol of me
Leadership that blesses masses!
Joseph (coat of many colors), Nehemiah, Noah
Jehovah Tsidkenu
Idol of my way
Intimacy with God that delivers holiness!
John (son of Thunder), Ruth, David
Jehovah Shammah
Jesus fully portrayed every aspect of these designs. We are designed to grow into His image…to grow into all of these areas, but we have a default design that God gave us.

But what about….

Looking at the Romans 12 gifts as individual design leaves us with many other scriptural gifts, doesn’t it? But mushing all of those gifts together in one spiritual assessment is not the answer. In Ephesians 4, we see that Jesus, the Son, gives gifts to the Church. These are often called the Five-Fold Ministry Gifts or Equipping Gifts. Not every believer receives these gifts…Christ gives what His Beloved Church needs. Every Church body has the gifts within that it needs to grow and flourish.

The gifts to the Church are the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Shepherds and Teachers. The individual designed as a ‘teacher’ may or may not be a Teacher for the Church. God may use a Prophet as the Teacher in an individual body of believers. The Gifts of the Son are to the Church based on the needs of the Church.

Gifts of the Spirit

Perhaps the most well known list of spiritual gifts is found in First Corinthians. It is the preface to the ‘love chapter’ for Paul said NOTHING is of use without love. These gifts are also called manifestation gifts…because they manifest (or make visible) God!

These amazing gifts are available to every believer as needed…when the believer is walking in the spirit. Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discernment and tongues are among the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

The gifts of the spirit are all about ministry. When you are face-to-face with a hurting soul, the Spirit longs to meet that wounded soul with a touch. Quiet your own soul and listen to the Spirit; He will provide the gift needed at just the right time!

Further Reading you may desire

Growing Up in Christ

Growing up spiritually takes a plan.  When I accepted Christ as Lord–as opposed to receiving a ticket out of hell–I had trouble finding folks who could articulate the Way.  They told me ‘read the Bible,’ ‘do this’ and ‘do that.’  They were not wrong, but I needed more.  It is always my heart to offer that ‘more’ to others who are on this glorious path!

Throughout this website and in my materials you will find resources for ‘more.’  Soul Training in the Barn is a basic study to move believers on in their faith journey.  BUT the bottom line is this:

We cannot “DO” to be…but when we “BE DISCIPLES” we will surely do the works God plans for us!

so, here are some BEs to do!

  • RELATIONAL – Discipleship demands relationship with the Holy Spirit. Become best friends with the Holy Spirit; distinguish His voice; and increase your responsiveness.
    • Be Spirit-led. Be Spirit-loved. Be Reverent.
    • Isaiah 30:21; John 14:26; Galatians 5:16
  • BIBLICALLY LITERATE – Study the Scriptures to know the King, the Kingdom and the Way.
    • Be Students of the Word. Be Faithful.
    • Psalm 119:9-11; Joshua 1:8; Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:15
  • TRANSFORMED – What you learn as you study, must be practiced. Live the Word you read.
    • Be the Word. Be Growing.  Be Eternal. Be Obedient.
    • Proverbs 4:20-1; John 14:15; James 1:23-25
  • TRANSPARENT – Be honest and allow the Spirit total access to your heart, mind and will.
    • Be Teachable. Be Humble.  Be Hospitable (invite people to know the real you!).
    • Proverbs 12:1; Luke 18:17; Hebrews 12:6
  • FAMILY – Produce spiritual children, care for one another.
    • Be Leaders. Be Encouragers. Be in Fellowship.  Be Peacemakers.
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 14:13; Colossians 3:13
  • LOVE – Live the Word that others will see it and long for it.
    • Be Christ-like. Be Unselfish.  Be Eternal.
    • Proverbs 10:12; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4:7, 18-19

Spiritual Journaling

There are many ways to keep a ‘spiritual journal.’  Each has its own merit; recently I have had the joy of exploring a particular method with a small group of ladies.  I am overjoyed with the potential.  I have kept prayer journals, Scripture insight journals, diary journals, photo journals—and various combinations of all those.  This

Would you like to explore the tool of spiritual journaling for yourself?  

You don’t have to be a writer!  You simply have to want to hear from God!

f601f-hubpicThis style of journaling offers a powerful tool for becoming aware of the presence of God.  It doesn’t ‘bring’ God to your life—He is already there!  It opens your eyes that you can exclaim like Jacob:

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”  Genesis 28:15

The type of journaling we will explore is ‘real people telling stories of real life.’ It has several powerful potential outcomes:

  • Helps us viewing weaknesses, flaws and failures as a necessary part of growing.
  • Aids us in taking the details of life and connecting them to beautiful—but abstract—principles of faith like: love and truth, sin and salvation, atonement and holiness.
  • Exposes and eliminates the pretentious habit of using ‘laws’ as a spiritual girdle to create god-shaped lives.
  • Allows us to celebrate the powerful uniqueness of individual lives…lives that are scarred, blemished and sometimes even embarrassing. Lives that tell a story of redemption by a loving heavenly Father.

Journaling takes us beyond our perceptions to God’s view of our lives.  We know at the core of our being that we are not always correct with what we think…but we live as if we are always on target.  Journaling helps us pause so we can recognize wrong thinking, because it is vital that you:

DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK!

Journaling helps us hit the pause button and truly evaluate our perceptions.  Not everything we think is correct.  Not everything we believe is correct.

Beliefs can be TRUE or FALSE!  Much of the time, we don’t stop long enough to figure out what our actions actually reveal about our beliefs!

 BELIEFS ⇒  THOUGHTS  ⇒  EMOTIONS  ⇒  ACTIONS

The Word of God is the only source of Truth.  Journaling helps us quiet the noise of the world and ourselves and expose the lies that threaten to destroy us!

If you are interested in being a part of an upcoming group, please complete the form below.

Growing Spiritual Fruit

 

Character is described aptly as ‘who you are when no one is looking.’  Christianity is no a self-improvement project but we represent Christ.  In fact, we are being transformed into His image.  Knowing what HE looks like, helps us as we take responsibility for the things that are ours to do.

Let’s take a look at some important Christian Character attributes.  Using a scale of 0-10, consider whether you never (0) exhibit the trait or you consistently (10) demonstrate that trait.

Loving (accepting & available)

Forgiving (not holding grudges)

Respectful (honors others and self)

Trustworthy (count on their promises)

Humble (puts others first)

Honest (transparent, truthful)

Patient (willing to wait w/o complaint)

Peaceful (quiet confidence in good)

Joyful/Hopeful (expects good to come)

Self-controlled (vs. addiction-controlled)

Do any of those traits cause you dismay?  There is good news:  these are by-products of a Spirit-filled life.  We do not transform ourselves; the Holy Spirit is our power source.

Developing these flavors in our lives is the goal of Discipleship Coaching.  Take time now, to list—in order of priority, the three things from above that you most desire to develop.

1.

2.

3.

Our history is part of us; it need not define us or limit us.  However, when we stuff it away without understanding, negative stuff can simmer deep within.  Living fully in the freedom of Christ requires bringing even the past into the Light of His love. As you consider the character traits that trouble you, you may find lingering resentment about negative deposits in your character bank.  Forgiveness sets you free…ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything limiting your fruit.  If you feel resentment in your heart, please visit Discipleship Coaching – Forgiveness.

Growing in Unity

This piece was written for and published by Christian Light Education.  Here is the unedited version offered to help us all grow toward greater unity in Christ.

Brotherhood…it’s been a concept fraught with desperate need for God since the beginning of time.  The first brothers, Cain, Abel and Seth, show us both the desperation and the hope inherent in brotherhood.  The lessons they offer could transform our world!  (Genesis 4:1-2)

The names of our Scriptural ancestors offer great instruction.  The Hebrew words related to Cain speak of a spear and mourning.  Knowing the story, we intuitively understand how his name reflects truth.  Cain became a tiller of the ground; he served and worshipped what he could produce through his work.

His younger brother, Abel, opened the way to better living.  His name implies emptiness and transition; not that his life was empty but he became the way for God to show His true desire.  Abel became a steward of what God gave; he took dominion over what God entrusted to him—just as God originally instructed before the fall of man.

Then, we meet Seth; Eve understood that God offered a replacement in this child.  Having revealed the only way to Himself with Cain and Abel, Seth came on the scene—and we read that men began calling on the name of the Lord!  (Genesis 4:25-26)

So, what does this have to do with brotherhood in our lives today?  Everything!  The instruction to Cain is ours:  “Do well and I will receive you; you will be in my presence.  Do not do well, and you will be in the presence of sin.  It will crouch at your door to devour you.”  (Genesis 4:7) We live in a world of devoured lives.  Too often, we follow the example of Cain, relying on ourselves, promoting our efforts and preferences.  The results he produced are ours:  the destruction of others and us.

Sin escalates negative behaviors.  God told Cain that the very ground cried out against him.  (Genesis 4:10-11) Made of the earth, his very essence rejected the path he chose.  The curse of unrest within himself—and conflict with all around him—becomes a life as a vagabond and fugitive.  There is no brotherhood in that.

Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Genesis 4:9)  The apostle Paul emphatically taught that we are far more than that:  we belong to one another; we are part of one another.  (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Ephesians 4:25) Abel revealed what we all need to be—stewards of what God entrusts to us, open vessels for the purposes of God.  We must die to our selfish nature and determine to follow the way of Seth:  calling upon the name of the Lord.

The presence of God is the only way we enjoy brotherhood.  The spirit of God: compassion, meekness, humility, forgiveness and patience produces unity.  Our flesh generates division.  The passion of Jesus Christ flows forth in his prayer for us in John 17; unity is the heartbeat of our Savior.  (John 17:21-23)  Unity with the Father and the Son allows brotherhood.  May we long for it as we long for fellowship with the LORD.

Exceeding Expectations

Christmas creates more expectations than most any other time of the year.  We are tempted to cram all our hopes for mankind into our celebrations.  That sets us up for conflict and disappointment.  “Joy to the world” is what we long for…frustration and failure is often what we feel.  When Isaac Watts wrote Joy to the World, he intended it as a year-round hymn.  The hopes we have at Christmas-time don’t fit in a day, a week or even a season.  Let this be the Christmas that launches you on a Joy Journey that lasts into eternity.

Perhaps you would enjoy listening as you read?

Our hearts naturally thrill to Christmas.  We know that the truth of Christ’s coming is joy.  Knowing truth is never enough; it must be lived. At Christmas time, especially, we try very hard to LIVE IT.  We haul out the decorations, empty out our bank accounts and flood our schedules in a frenzy of anticipatory joy.

The frustration comes when our hearts respond with a hollow ring…or even anger at the emptiness and chaos. The trappings of Christmas point out the vast canyon between our hopes and what we can produce.  Earthly joys are a gift from God above.  Christmas tends to fix our eyes on the present moment–and God is here, but He is so much more!

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May our hearts be a haven for Him!

The celebration of birth is sweet to consider but it is only the beginning!    The infant Jesus, Emmanuel–God with us–was nurtured and instructed.  Scripture tells us He grew in grace and knowledge; He learned obedience by suffering, and ultimately gave His life for us.  The fullness of the story takes us to the Cross and the Resurrection.  One day Jesus will reign as King of Kings–that is our joy!  In the meantime, we must nurture our souls and learn as He did.  We are to grow in obedience and surrender to His Lordship in our lives.

Joy to the World is a great song to guide us to the journey of faith we really seek.  Isaac Watts wrote this looking toward the ruling and reigning of Christ. The hymn is actually based on Psalm 98, and I love the guidelines it offers for planning our celebrations of joy!

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First, we must remember to receive the King!  Christmas celebrations need to help us open our hearts for the life of Christ.  We need to choose activities that encourage us to welcome the presence of divinity.  That will mean declining some invites and relaxing our demands for perfection–from decorations, from people and activities.  The stuff is extra; His presence, the necessity.  Our gatherings do not create unity in our family…God alone creates that.   We must welcome Him and let Him do His work!

Then, the song reminds us ‘Our Savior Reigns!’  Despite the morning news, this world is unfolding under His watchful eye.  The things that happen in our lives are filtered by our loving Father.  Just as we received Jesus into our lives, we are to receive the stuff of life with faith in our Deliverer!

Just as Jesus grew in grace and knowledge, we must too.  ‘No more let sins and sorrows grow’ rings out in the third verse.  We live in a broken world, a world affected by the curse of disobedience.  Learning to walk out the joy of Jesus brings a balm to our world.  Introduce others to the King by letting them see Him in you this Christmas!

And finally…enjoy the journey.  The wonders of His love are so amazing we need eternity to enjoy them.  Relax with your Christmas plans…the journey continues!

Green Valley Reflection

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