Fit Faith: Soul Training for His Glory

Eternal life is the free gift of God.  The walk of faith is demanding! The life of faith requires a solid foundation.  Fit Faith looks at the components of a healthy faith life and provides tools for disciples to utilize.  The Four Sessions of Fit Faith include the life basics of Prayer, Bible Study, Service/ministry and Fasting.

Prayer as Worshipful Conversation:  Developing a prayer life that is exciting and rich.

Bible Time as friendship w/the Living Word:  Establishing roots in His Word that bear fruit.

Serving and Fellowship:  Finding the reality of being HIS hands and feet.

Living in Wonder & Awe:  Fasting as a discipline for fulfillment.

 The workshop can be provided at your location or in a web-based format.

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RELATED BIBLE STUDY BOOK

In our family, animals have been part of God’s training package for us!    Soul Training in the Barn is a Bible Study paralleling the training of horses with discipleship.  It has been said that life is the gift God gives us; what we do with our life is our gift to Him.  My passion is to live to please the One who gives me all, so discipleship matters deeply too me.

Also, check out our Activity-based learning, which helps move head truth to the heart & the heels!

Choices Empowering Change

If you missed the first two segments, you may wish to begin with Real Relationships Are Messy and Healing Relationships.

Continuing our look at relationships, leads us to consider how choices and change relate to our connections.  God did not make a mistake with providing choice in the Garden of Eden.  It was and is part of the grand design for healthy relationships…and you’ll remember that was His purpose from the beginning.

One choice, though, changed the dynamics of this powerful privilege.  Choosing what God prohibited separated humanity from the source of life.  God’s response was not to remove the privilege of choice but to narrow the options, change the environment and use choices to guide His precious creation back to Him!  All of life is designed to help us make choices that lead us back to relationship with God.  Unfortunately,  in every area of life, there is a way that seems right to man but leads to death.

The first choice to reject the words of God and choose what He prohibited actually removed the privilege of choice.  It enslaved humanity to the natural world.  The freedom of choice does not come until freedom in Christ is found. Without Christ, we are slaves to self, vulnerable to the Enemy and condemned to seemingly good choices that lead to death!

Scripture is abundantly clear that fallen humanity cannot choose life or return to God without Christ.  The only living choice natural man has is the choice to receive Jesus Christ or not.  It is the most critical choice of our earthly lives; it determines our eternal destination and opens the door to abundant living in this land.

Warning:  Not to decide is to decide…choose Jesus.   

With Jesus in our lives, the privilege of choice in earthly matters provides power and provision for vibrant relationships and abundant life.  The Poverty Bible defines impoverished as those without choice.  That’s a thought-provoking definition!  The matter of choice (versus slavery) affects every aspect of life, not just relationship with others.  Pursuing knowledge of God, His purposes for us and His ways empowers us to choose well.  God neither enables us nor overpowers us.  He guides us well and understanding His ways helps us with our earthly relationships.

Choice is like mercy; it is something we like to have but often don’t like to give to others.  The tendency to want to control others is almost universal.  Our intentions are often good; we want the best for another but lack the fortitude to endure until the other person learns to choose well.  There is no alternative, though!  Relationships are destroyed and individual growth hampered when we seek to control others.  God’s design is perfect and empowering others to make good choices for change is His way.

Healthy, mature individuals must take responsibility for choices that create balance in every realm of their life:  relational, physical, mental, moral and spiritual.  In an unhealthy relationship one person takes responsibility for making choices for another.  Sometimes they take that responsibility by enabling the person to continue making poor choices.  Other times, one will bully another into making the right choice with threats and punishments.  Empowering someone requires allowing natural consequences to create pressures that move a person toward better decisions.

God designed the world so that every realm of life would point us back to Him.  Pressure points us to the correct path.  Relationships often falter because inappropriate amounts of pressure are employed.  How much is enough?

As little as possible.  As much as needed.

Seek the wisdom of God as you allow the pressures from choices to create change in the lives of others.  The responsibility to pursue balanced relationships in the relational, physical, mental, moral and spiritual realms cannot be abdicated or usurped.  It is personal and individual.  Along the way, trust God to bring the perfect amount of pressure to bear to catch attention and draw to Himself.  Don’t get in way; simply seek His face and walk faithfully toward Him…and pray for others to do the same.

A great ‘rule of thumb’ for every choice is this:

Will this bring honor to my Savior? 

Choose well.  He is worthy!

Do you have someone you need to empower?  What steps will you take to do that?  Follow this website or like the Facebook Page to receive notice when the next piece of this series publishes:  “Setting Goals”

 

Healing Relationships

Messy relationships are part of life and…

Loving others is our spiritual service as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)!

Continuing with our focus that Relationships Matter,  let’s begin with exploring how to expose roots of bitterness to the light of love so we can have healthy relationships!

The heart of man reflects a man…that is why it is critical to understand and utilize our emotions.  The pure in heart see God; if I am seeing ‘yuck,’ my heart needs some purifying!  God seeks relationship with all of us at all times.  He looks to who we were created to be, not who we are at the moment.  My relationships with others are a tool He uses to transform me because they expose my heart!

Living from emotions as if they were truth is a deadly practice.  Learn to listen to emotions not as ‘truth’ but as indicators of heart issues.  Emotions come before actions and words, but they follow thoughts.  We are not at the mercy of our thoughts; in fact, we are commanded to manage them.  Thoughts can be true or false; we are responsible to know the difference and choose Truth!  Freedom to choose responses instead of being enslaved to reactions requires digging through the dirt and building your life on Truth.  The work is worth it; here’s a tool that helped me!

Resentment, anger and rejection are common relationship issues.  Understanding the Truth Roots of each is a powerful shield against destructive reactions.

Resentment often flows from expectations that have not been met.  We establish a standard that we live by for ‘right actions’ and expect others to accept our definition.  Our standard may be ‘right’ but imposing our expectations on another is not right. Other times our expectations are unrealistic, sometimes faulty—and often even unspoken.  Regardless, our expectations are ours.  Any problem arising from our expectations means we need to take them  to the Lord.

Journaling helps me in this process.  If I find resentment blocking me from the presence of God, I immediately stop and ask for clarity on what I am resenting.  The Holy Spirit is a real presence who helps us!  (John 14:26)  Simply writing down my resentment often improves my perspective.  Other times I have to ask God to heal a hurt from a loved one.  The wounds of our friends are precious; we need not fear the pain.  Our Savior is acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53) and our faithful healer.  Taking my resentments to God is part of His plan for purifying my heart.  His healing love is a priceless treasure.

Relationship struggles remind us that our hope is in God alone.  It is He who works in others, setting the expectations for them (as well as us).  It is He who grants us favor with others (or not!).  He orchestrates all!  We can trust His standards and His work in us and others.

Please note: expectations are not boundaries.  Boundaries are healthy and necessary in every relationship.  Asking something of another is part of every relationship.  What we ask will always be for the good of both participants in the relationship…and it will always be an ask not a demand.  Asking allows for a no that does not generate rejection or bullying.  The softness of our heart—and our reactions to wounds from another—should not be sharp or edgy when our ‘ask’ is refused.  Unconditional love has boundaries, but that love is not given based on whether the boundaries are honored or ignored.  The love remains despite the actions of the other.  

Anger develops from unmet expectations that grow into rights.  The perceived violation of those rights generate anger.  In anger, two pathways emerge: one masquerades as strength, the other as weakness.  Both are deceptive paths of destruction—personal and relational.  The path of pride produces presumption—arrogance and disrespect for others (and God).  The other path offers despair and hopelessness.  It cries victim and weakness…and often manifests as depression.

Rejection—both the feeling and the act—brings death to the relationship and decay to the individuals.  Separating from another person may give an illusion of relief but does nothing to resolve the underlying issues.  Resentment and anger continue developing roots in the soul.  They are the ‘bitter roots that defile many.’  Rejection is not the way of God; not His desire for us or others.  The roots of rejection must be eradicated; the love of God is the only power capable of victory!

To know the love of God

is to be filled with the

FULLNESS OF GOD!

Loving others requires that we first be loved by God.  All of life has the potential to guide us into greater knowledge of God, but all of life seeks to draw us away from Him too!  The choice is ours to make when we know Jesus Christ.  In the next entry, we will explore choices and living with intention!  Don’t miss out:   Follow this website or like the Facebook Page to receive notice of the next entry.

 

 

Real Relationships are Messy

Love.  Family.  Friends.  There is nothing like the holiday season to expose the imperfections of relationships.  Our ideals are so high; our desires grand.  The television commercials and social media shares leave us thinking everyone else has more love and better relationships than we do.  Take heart!  Real relationships don’t always look beautiful…and sometimes they don’t feel lovely either.  The truth is:

Real relationships are messy!

I believe they are meant to be…and God wants to transform the mess into a beautiful message of real love and real relationship.

Our lives are meant to be full of relationships. God, who is love, created humanity in His image for connection.  His image is marred in each of us but His loving pursuit of us is unfailing.  The vast difference between ourselves and the heart of God is revealed when we are in relationship with others.  Relationships show us where we are not like our Creator and inspire us to know Him more—and be more like Him.

God is the author of relationships, and the only source for success in relationships.    He is Creator and Sustainer.  His fervent, faithful love for each of us reveals our need for Him and shows us what it looks like to love others like He loves.

Committed, connected relationships don’t just happen.  Connection with others inevitably leads to hurt feelings and difficulties.  Relationships require attention, intention, effort and even sacrifice.  That is as it should be!  When relationships cause us distress—as every relationship will—there is a beautiful opportunity unfolding.

Do you recall how Jesus’ response to the accusers of the adulterous woman transformed the lives of all involved?  He simply wrote in the dirt.  As we walk through life, we must let Jesus write in our lives…whether we are the accuser or the accused.  Nothing anyone has done to me is greater than what I have done to the Lord of Lords.  In fact, when we sin against another, the sin pierces God first.   In relationship with others, we must train our eyes to look at Jesus first.  When we come to Jesus with our relationship issues, whether anger or hurt, He will reveal something within us that still needs transformation!

Rather than look to Jesus, our natural response to relationship problems is to lash back, make accusations, or hide in shame or self-protection.  Hurt people hurt people but healthy people help people.  The law of sowing and reaping is a vital relationship principle, but it is one that Jesus can alter!  In the natural realm, seeds of resentment produce a crop of resentments.  Anger breeds anger.  Seeds sown from the flesh and unholy spirits destroy lives and relationships.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil — and taking offense is a bait straight from Satan!  Refuse the bait and partner with Jesus to destroy the devil’s plans.

Scripture tells us that vision and understanding give us restraint.  Restraint is a powerful tool to employ in relationships.  Those tv commercials and Facebook posts are an idealistic vision.  Real vision comes from the Word.  Even in this godless age, many know John 3:16…

”For God so loved the world, He sent his only Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Father loved that Son whom He sent…that’s a bit harder look at love to embrace.  We like love that rescues.  We shirk love that sacrifices in such a profound way.  Even those who are willing to receive hurts to themselves resist allowing their loved ones to suffer.

We want loving relationships that give us only sweetness, and that is neither realistic nor beneficial.  Sincere love for another involves sacrifice and suffering on both sides FOR eternally good purposes!

Loving others is the spiritual service of a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Relationships matter!  As 2016 comes to a close and a new year dawns, let’s spend some time looking at God’s plans and purposes for the relationships we enjoy in our lives.  We’ll begin with exploring how to expose roots of bitterness to the light of love!  Follow this website or like the Facebook Page to receive notice of the next entry.

You Can Have a Christ-less Christmas

I’m not very trendy.  Politically correct speech, trite talk and insincere platitudes irritate me.  Common cultural controversies seldom speak my heart or compel me to take a stand.

With that stated, you might not be surprised that hearing Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays doesn’t offend me.  In fact, if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World, those greetings make sense and I’d rather you say them.  You should say what is in your heart because pretense and lies are destructive.

For the very same reason, you will hear from me, “Merry Christmas.”  Seasons come and seasons go.  If that is all I want to say, ‘hi’ or ‘hey’ should suffice.  And to me, happy holy-days are an oxymoron.  Happiness is circumstantial. Holy Days–if they are truly of a holy nature–transcend circumstances.  So, that leaves me with Merry Christmas.  Merriness is a wish for joy and life…and Christmas is Christ’s mass or the feast of Christ.  Indeed, my wish for everyone is Merry Christmas.

The heart-breaking truth, though is that …

…many do have a Christ-less Christmas.

Some folks know that is their reality…and others live in a deadly deception. That is why I hold fast to my words:  Merry Christmas.  Words matter and Scripture says we will have to give account for every word that proceeds from our mouths.  I’m not responsible for your words, nor are you responsible for mine.  But we each must say–and live out what we say–with integrity.

The world still needs the good news proclaimed by the angels at the birth of Christ.  It is the privilege and responsibility of every Christian. Love came down at Christmas time the songs say.  It is that which we celebrate at Christmas.  God loved us too much to leave us in the mess we created…in the messes we create.    He came to save us.  Christmas celebrates the arrival of hope; but Easter is the culmination.  The entirety of the picture brings abundance to our Christmas celebrations.

Check out this “Look at the Book” from John Piper on WHY Jesus chose to leave heaven and be born in a stable to a young girl.

It is the Gospel that creates an awareness of need in hearts.  The Gospel is
this:  man is lost without Jesus Christ.  There is no other explanation for why God would become man, suffer as He did and endure the Cross.  Jesus came because it was the only way for man and God to be reconciled. The same Gospel that creates awareness of need produces fulfillment.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, said in the Magnificat (Luke 1:53), God fills the hungry with good things. Too often, we fill ourselves with 12246761_10153603543295673_5486678576712313541_nthe stuff of this world and our souls fail to magnify God.  We lust but we seldom hunger…and we miss out on the Goodness of God.  That produces a Christ-less Christmas…a Christ-less life…a travesty.   The words that come from our mouths must match the lives we live.  Let folks say Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays, but you, believer live with joy in the celebration of Christ!

How do you make sure your Christmas is Christ-full?

Who wants a Partridge in a Pear Tree?

It seems to be a rather odd song, doesn’t it?  What could assorted birds, maids ‘a-milking,’ drummers and dancers have to do with Christmas?  You might be surprised.  Before we start exploring the story, though, why not download a free coloring book to go with it at the DLTK site?  Then listen to the song as you read along:

This Christmas carol was published in England in the early 1800s but is believed to be of French origin.   While there is some dispute about the symbolism intended in the carol, several believe that it was a tool for Christians to memorize and share their faith.  Examining the gifts of each day provides a foundation to understand the awesome generosity of our God…and the abundance in the Christian faith.

If you really don’t enjoy reading but want to know the story, I recorded a video to tell the story but below you will find the story and the Scripture references to deepen your study. Traditions and history confound things a bit, so you may find those who celebrate the 12 Days before Christmas.  Most, though, consider Christmas Day the First day (honoring the birth of Christ) and January 5th (Epiphany) the 12th Day (which celebrates the Gifts of the Magi).  But tradition and religion are not the essence of our faith…this song gives us some unchanging Truth to feast upon.  Let’s go!

FIRST DAY                         Jesus Christ                           Luke 1:35 & 1 John 4:9

The celebration begins with the arrival of the Messiah!  God with us, Immanuel!

SECOND DAY                   Old & New Testament         John 20:31

Jesus is the Word in living, human form.  The Scriptures, old & new, speak of Him.

THIRD DAY                       Faith, Hope & Love               1 Corinthians 13:13

Paul said, ‘…these three remain…and the greatest of these is love.’  The heart of the Word is revealed in the three french hens.

FOURTH DAY                    Gospels                                   Matt., Mark, Luke & John

The good news that God continues to seek us…and will do whatever it takes to allow us to choose to be connected with Him is a priceless gift.

FIFTH DAY                         Books of Moses/Law           Genesis – Deuteronomy

Those books of the Law are not dry in any sense.  Though Christians do not live under the Law, we live IN IT – for Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law.

SIXTH DAY                         Six Days of Creation            Genesis 1

Everything was created by God…and entrusted to humanity, His crowning creation.  Made in His image with purposes grander than we conceive!

SEVENTH DAY                  Perfect Gifts

The gifts of the 7th Day exceed our ability to explore them in this lifetime.  Praise Him for the very first one:  eternal covenant!  He is the beginning and the end and everything in between!  ENJOY HIM.

Everlasting Covenant –  Isaiah 56:4-5

Spiritual Knowledge – Jeremiah 24:7

New Heart – Ezekiel 11:19

Spiritual Rest – Matthew 11:28

Holy Spirit – Luke 11:13

Eternal Life – John 10:28

Spiritual Crowns – Revelation 2:10

      EIGHTH DAY                     Beatitudes                                     Matthew 5:3-10

The Beatitudes reveal Kingdom Life–which is pretty much opposite of what we typically experience.  We are to be in the world but not of it so that others can see a distinction.  The beatitudes create a beautiful life.

Humility – Matthew 5:3

Repentance – Matthew 5:4

Meekness – Matthew 5:5

Spiritual Hunger – Matthew 5:6

Mercy – Matthew 5:7

Pure Hearts – Matthew 5:8

Peacemaking – Matthew 5:9

Suffering for Christ – Matthew 5:10

NINTH DAY                            Fruit of the Spirit                         Galatians 5:22-23

This fruit is singular; it is HIS fruit, not ours.  The flavor of our life will be rich and sweet when He is its essence:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness & self-control.  This is not a list to achieve but a spirit to receive.

TENTH DAY                            Ten Commandments                   Exodus 20:1-17

The commandments are all about relationship…first with the Father, then with others.

ELEVENTH DAY                     Faithful Disciples                          Matthew 10:2

We know there were 12; we want to be counted among the faithful.  Judas chose his own way and it was the way of death.

TWELFTH DAY                       Apostles Creed

1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:

3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:

4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:

5. The third day he rose again from the dead:

6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:

9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

10. The forgiveness of sins:

1l. The resurrection of the body:

12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

PHEW!  Who knew?  Are you astounded by the richness of that carol?

Be blessed and have a Merry Christmas.

 

Too Much Love to Leave Us in Our Mess!

Years ago I read a story of a little boy who defiantly responded to his punishment with,

“I’m sitting in time out but my heart is standing up!”

There is profound truth in that—and it is the reality of many adults (especially those in Church).  Obedience is not the same as being engaged in a connected relationship.  In our faith walk, God’s goal is never simple obedience.  External action without heart engagement is a sham that God will press through.

I love to watch my daughter work with her horse, Scooby.  He is a high-spirited horse…rebel-scoobyand she is a high-spirited girl.  His attitude does not intimidate her.  The dynamics of their relationship reveal the physics law of equal and opposite reaction.  In their interaction, I see a picture of how God works with His kids.  Riesa does not object to Scooby’s personality; she embraces him even when he is a ‘hot mess.’  She meets his enthusiasm (and even his rebellion) with the force needed to achieve what she asked in the beginning.

God has standards, plans and purposes for everyone—the moral standards are the same, the plans and purposes are for the good of all.  Yet, He crafted every one of us uniquely.  Our personalities, life experiences, and cultures assure unique expressions of God from our lives.  Until we surrender our personal control, the only thing we express is our self—and without God that is an expression of death.   The moment we release our ‘self’ focus, God supernaturally blesses in both the natural and spiritual realms!

When Scooby lets go of his own agenda, he and Riesa become a team.  Their personalities blend into a unique, abundant expression of life.  In the natural realm, they are just a ‘girl 13118959_1133635346699739_8904573366461875584_nand her horse.’  New skills, greater partnership and fun in the field become realities.  In the spiritual realm, growth in understanding and insights into deeper truths evolve as well—bearing seeds of eternal hope in many lives.  It has been and will continue to be a journey, just as the life of faith is a journey.  God loves us right where we are at…but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at!

Genesis 21 and Galatians 4 give us insights on this Truth.  In Genesis, we read how Abram and Sarai sought to bring about the promises of God with their own best efforts.  Their intentions were good; they were not rebelling against God.  Neither were they trusting in Him.  His promise seemed to distant; they decided 15 years was long enough…must be they needed to help Him out.  Paul goes to the heart of the matter in Galatians:  law or grace.  Law focuses on my performance; grace trusts God’s performance.  The Christian life is to be Christ’s life…not what I can drum up on my own.  But in the magnificent creativity and power of God, He empowers me to give unique expression to the life of Christ.

The Father loves each of us and wants to see how we will walk out relationship with Him.  He doesn’t want to see our best effort at ‘being good.’  Our best imitation of obedience is nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Like the little boy who sat in timeout with a heart that stood up, many appear to serve God 14076958807_fcee53117d_zand walk in obedience.  The service produces things they want:  acceptance, belonging, praise, freedom from the hassles outright sin creates.  Many of these folks sincerely believe they are serving God in the process…blind to the reality that they actually serve the god of self.  It is an empty sham that God will press into.

Here is where the glory of God shines through in a magnificent way.  In the face of what is actually rebellion, self-glorification and rejection, He looks with love.  He maintains His call to come to Him.  He uses whatever pressure is necessary to move individuals out of their dark deception and into His light!  It’s a journey worth embarking on and one surrounded by love.

Will you let His light pierce your dark places

and lead you to Himself?