Category Archives: Transforming Tough Times into Treasures

One of the four over-arching purposes of this site.

Knowing God. Discipleship – Building Lives. Transforming Tough Times into Treasures. Sharing our Stories.

Dove Notes – Wounded by the Enemy

Do you have any wounds from the battle of life…maybe a battle scar or two?  Life is hard and hurts unavoidable.  Today, my doves offer us some new insights on wounds.

A couple weeks ago, I came home to three wounded doves.  There were slashes on their necks and at the top of their wings.  I was puzzled…in three years, there had been no coop conflicts. I pulled out the oldest male and put him in a separate cage to let him recover—and hopefully restore order.

I thought about my husband, Craig’s recent warning that a hawk had been eyeing the dove cage.  My reply at the time still made sense to me. ‘That’s no problem.  The cage is predator proof; he can’t hurt them.”  But I wondered if the hawk had increased the tension in some way. There was nothing to do but see if ‘normal’ would return.

My doves were about to fulfill the purpose I bought them for:  teaching me spiritual truths.

The next day, Craig came home to find the hawk attacking the cage–talons extended through the wire. Even then, the hawk would have been as harmless as the doves, except…the elder doves came to the front of the cage to fight him off.  The cause of the slashes was clearly exposed.

I found the whole situation mind boggling–from both the dove and the hawk vantage point.  The doves could easily have stayed outside the reach of their enemy.  The hawk could easily have found an easier meal.

The parallels to Christian life leaped out to me.

  • Like my doves, I am safe in the fortress of Christ.
  • Like the hawk, Satan seeks to destroy me.
  • Like my doves, I often engage with the enemy un-necessarily.  There are times I should simply ‘be still and know He is God’ instead of stepping up to take on the enemy.
  • Like the hawk, Satan cannot have me – even if he takes my life.

But there were more dove lessons for me to learn.

The next day, I draped a curtain over the front of the dove cage hoping that ‘out of sight’ would mean ‘ought of mind’ for Sir Hawk.  It did not. Craig returned home to find the hawk perched on top of the dove cage claiming it as his own.  More wounds were visible on the older doves. Puffing his wings out, the hawk warned Craig to stay away from his impossible dream feast.

Mr. Hawk failed to understand he had taken on more than a cage of doves. He met his end that day.  It took several days before the doves returned to their conversational selves.  Their wounds are healing.

Spiritually, I see a new beauty in my dove’s ‘foolish’ engagement of the enemy.  Had those older doves not entered into battle with the enemy, his threat would have remained.  We would not have acted to eliminate him. Their wounds produced a deeper, more real peace.

That encouraged me…and I hope you too!  Like that foolish hawk, Satan does attack Christians.  He acts like he owns us…but he is mistaken.  We have a Protector who will act on our behalf.

Sometimes the safety at the back of the cage is where we will be.  Sometimes we’ll be on the front-line and our battles will become a cry to the Father. Then, He will take the enemy out.

We may not always know where we should be, but we will be okay. We can celebrate the wounds of life that we entrust to our Protector. They offer protection, hope and healing to those not ready for battle.

We are safe and on the winning team!  Sing your Heartsong!

Lessons From A Large Love

Have you been entrusted with a ‘large love’ in your life?  A love that is equal parts gift, privilege, responsibility and vulnerability?  I believe those loves are to give us a glimpse of the love God has for each and every person.  Learning to steward such a love takes a lifetime!  It requires embracing the love and then living the legacy it creates.

This piece is a stewarding of a love our family enjoyed–and it is offered to help you steward the loves God has given you.  It is offered to turn your eyes to the love of God that is the greatest love of all.  Love transforms when we allow it.  Let’s love well.

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The large love that captivated our whole family entered our home just six years ago.  Scout arrived as a 16th birthday gift for our daughter.  He loved his ways into everyone of our hearts.

He was 10272773_10207170337528839_2400701400572314300_onever a demanding dog–he never needed to be.  His gentle presence lulled you into giving him most anything he wanted.  Even at 90 pounds, he lived as a lap dog.

He simply loved and taught us how to do the same.

The Bible is the place to go for the best definition of love.  1 Corinthians 13 is the ‘love chapter’ and I know it well…but head-to-heart learning has to be lived.  This precious dog reminded me of truths about love too beautiful not to share.

Love it patient and kind…It does not demand its own way.

It’s wonderful to be around love, but it’s an even greater joy TO LOVE.  The nature of this 46897238_10215414416865670_8701322365503537152_n (1)gentle giant wooed everyone.  His size made it common for him to 46514110_2120609104669020_1511515110198214656_nget his way–but he never demanded it.  He was a quiet giant who loved cats, bunnies and doves…and his nature was such that they loved him too!    The love of Scout was felt by the tiny animals he adored–and they quietly loved him back.

 

Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of wrongs.

Like most dogs, Scout lived in the moment.  Any wrongs were forgotten and love always his offering.  Miraculously, the nature of this precious boy led us to emulate the same beautiful characteristics.  90 pounds of dogs takes up a lot of space, creates a lot of mess and eats a lot of food.  It never mattered–until he wasn’t here and then the absence of those things just proclaimed his love more intensely.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,

and endures through every circumstance.

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The same soulful eyes that talked to us daily, pleaded with us as the pain set in and his heart grew weaker.  The love he taught still pleads with us to not give up on love.  It is worth the grief to have loved well–and to have been loved.

But all of this is truly for a deeper purpose than the love of a great pet. For you see, love is from God.  We thought Scout was a birthday gift, but really he was a gift from God to us as a family.  The gift of Scout was to remind us what real love looks and feels like.  It was to remind us each what love accomplishes–and how to love better.  Scout was to remind us how God loves us and what that love will do if we will really live in the ‘large love’ of God.  Real love transforms!  Have you let Him transform you?

 

 

Winning in Life!

Ever fight a war with an enemy caused by an enemy you cannot see?  We all have—and do.  My current battle is a minor but aggravating one:  chigger bites.  Creatures so tiny, the head of a pin can hold two or three but their poison so vile it literally dissolves skin tissue.  At first, they aren’t too noticeable but within a day or so, the itch is impossible to ignore.  Prevention is the wisest course.

My recent encounter did not catch me unaware.  I went to the woods prepared.  Long pants, boots and my favorite non-chemical bug oil (Avon Skin-so-Soft!).  My preparations kept every bug at bay except the chigger.  Tree Oil has been my battle partner for the last couple days.  Preparations that put trust in an ineffective solution do not accomplish much.  The rest of the crew who trooped into the forest used a traditional bug spray and left the adventure without chigger bites.  Trusting in myself has brought me to more battles than I can count.  Can you relate?     

As believers in Christ, we have all of the provisions we need to live well in this world.  We have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1); Christ came that we would have abundant lives (John 10) and He provides all we need for life & godliness (2 Peter 1).  Too often, we trust in ourselves, our plans or our perspective to produce what God has already provided. 

white sheep on farm
Photo by kailash kumar on Pexels.com

Psalm 23 offers us a natural world look at how the Good Shepherd cares for us!  The entire Psalm is abeautiful picture of resting in the care of the Shepherd but one line has captivated my thoughts as I apply healing oil to my chigger battle wounds.

“…You anoint my head with oil.”

I’ve always read that as blessings given from God, and while that’s not wrong, it’s not the whole story!  In the sheep field, there are flies that attack the sheep.  They enter the ears, lay their eggs and even burrow into the brain.  On their own, the sheep cannot rid themselves of the flies—nor can they heal the damage the flies do.  In fact, the flies create such discomfort, the sheep become frantic; they damage their own selves as trying to fix the problem.  Prevention is what the shepherd focuses on; shepherds ‘anoint’ their sheep with oil!

The Good Shepherd longs to do the same for us.  There are many destructive pestilences in this world—some we can see, some we are aware of, some we can manage—but only some.  Relying on ourselves is a losing proposition in the eternal economy.  We need the Good Shepherd.  He wants us to live abundant, peaceful, healthy lives.  He provides all we need to do just that.  The choice is ours. 

Will we receive what He longs to give?

beige sheep on green grass field under gray sky
Photo by Magnus Martinsen on Pexels.com

 

Courage for Life!

Life is hard.  Suicide is NOT the answer.

There are no easy answers and no short cuts to the clichéd idea of ‘a life worth living.’  The spate of suicides we’ve seen among the rich & famous scream out the emptiness of fame and fortune.  The devastating statistics on addiction declare a dead-end for escaping through mind-altering drugs. LIFE is worth living!

There is only one path to full, abundant living:  Jesus Christ.  He understood–and understands–the difficulties of life and made a way where it seemed there was no way.

John 16 33

ALL life is a gift from the God of the Bible…the One who spoke the world into being and created from nothing.  There is but One God.  He doesn’t want life to be hard…but He uses the ‘hardness’ to draw us to Himself.  He wants us to bring the hard things to Him, trusting His plans for us are good–and His power to accomplish those plans sufficient!

omins

The courage we need to face life is found only in the character of God.  We must know who He is and live in that awareness.  What our mind knows that our heart can’t feel is useless to us.  It isn’t being able to state the ‘omni’s’ of God; it is being able to rest in those truths.

As difficult things come to us, we need to rest on the Truths of God’s identity–and our own.  We who believe in Jesus Christ–in the truth that we are lost/doomed to a dark eternity without the Saving work of Christ–are God’s beloved children; His chosen.  Those who do not have that kind of faith in God seek to make their own way to peace.  It is a hard road with a harder ending.

If you have faith but not victory, this short video from Kirk Cameron might give some insights on enjoying the benefits of relationship that aren’t found in religion.  If you do not have any faith, my prayer is that this same video will give you hope and this one offer clarity.

The essence of ‘salvation’ – of believing that Jesus is our personal need – is a reality we must live moment by moment.  Salvation is a one-time decision; living its truth is a daily necessity.  The Bible IS a light for our path.  We need to mine it daily to find the Truths that will transform even the hardest things into treasures from the King Himself.  God meets us right where we are if we will turn to Him.

God’s children can know that He is present in every difficulty.  Any challenge is a Father-filtered reality and His love surrounds it.  There is nothing that happens in our lives that takes Him by surprise or derails the good plans He has for us.  His power is unlimited.  What He purposes will take place.  He promises guidance.

Our task in life is simply this:  seek God’s face in all things.  In His presence is purpose and peace…abundant life for us and those around us.  He wants us to be connected to each other, loving each other and spreading His glory as we live.

How can I pray for you?

Comment below or send an email to:

billiejoyoumans@heartsongministry.net

 

When Honoring is Hard

For many, it is the most ‘sentimental’ day of the year.  It can be a day of joy or a day of despair or even resentment.  Not all feel blessed by their birth families—not all are blessed.  Many have lost their parents and grieve what was and what might have been.  We live in a broken world.  Pain is part of it.  Honor transcends it!

Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) are great times to celebrate the legacy we each can live.

In honesty, it’s taken me decades to deeply enjoy these days set aside for honor.   The superficiality of Hallmark ‘moments’ don’t blend with the depths of reality I find.  The challenges of close relationships, the pain of loss and the joys of loving are beautiful because of their imperfections.   Maturity allows me to receive both as gifts from God for me to do with as He wills. When I do as He wills, blessings abound!

Shallow sentimentality has nothing to do with the history or reality of honoring our parents.  In less than two decades after Mother’s Day became a holiday Anna Jarvis, the lady who campaigned for the day to be recognized, became so appalled with the commercialization, she begged to have the day removed from the calendar.  Yet, she created a tradition that loves what God loves and longs for us to love too.  Awareness of the shallows may be just the door we need to enter into the depths of honoring the gift of our parents.

Children, and by default, parents, are chosen for us by God.  They are gifts, a heritage—just as we are the Lord’s heritage.  God is so passionate that we recognize our families as such, He included honoring parents in the Law given to Moses and repeated it throughout Scripture.  In fact, it is a law that brings either blessings or curses.  We choose by whether we obey the command to honor–or not.

The Word honor includes the concepts of ‘weight,’ glory, reverence and respect.  In both the New and the Old Testament, it is given as a command that includes the promise of long life.  Honoring our parents is the key to living legacies!  If we want our lives to matter—and I believe everyone does—we must learn to honor our past.

Without honor, the broken-ness of generations simply gets passed down to the next generation.  Those things in our family heritage that do not align with God’s plan are ours to change.  We touch the future when we cover the broken-ness with the blood of Jesus Christ.

Despite the Hallmark view of parenthood, none of us are the superman or woman characterized for Father’s or Mother’s Day.  Neither were the parents of Scripture that God commanded to be honored.  There are no perfect people (except Jesus) to be found in the Scriptures.  The parents we see in the Word had flaws–just like us and just like our parents.  We honor our parents as gifts given by God.  Each of us has the glorious privilege of receiving the good, noble parts of our heritage and giving God thanks.  We have the even greater privilege of receiving the less noble, committing it to the redemption of Christ and rejoicing more deeply at His goodness and transforming power.

IF YOU STRUGGLE to honor a parent who has betrayed you, believe that God does work all things together for the good of those called according to His purposes.  Receiving the imperfections and failures of our parents and covering them with the forgiveness Christ offers is the greatest honor we can give.

Do you remember how Noah’s one son mocked his father’s failures and received a curse?  The other sons averted their eyes and covered their father with a blanket.  Parents err.  As adults we must choose not to gaze on the failures but on the covering of Christ who makes all things new.

Embrace your legacy and pass it on with even more blessings!

Find Peace by uniting body, mind & spirit

It astounded me to read a poster on the wall of the Lowe’s Family YMCA in North Carolina that stated their purpose as helping to bring unity to body, mind and spirit.  The poster had Christ’s words from His prayer in John 17.  Most non-profits began with Christian ideology…few retain those principles.  As I reflected on the ‘rightness’ of their purpose, the evidence of lives not in unity pierced my own heart.  Even secular studies confirm that as much as 90% of illness comes from wrong thinking and failure to give our physical bodies what they need.  We have authority in this world over our own minds and our own bodies.  We exercise that authority by placing ourselves under the authority of the God of the Bible.

 

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  John 17:21

Unity.  We do want it…but we usually want it on our terms which immediately puts unity out of reach.  Unity can’t happen until we welcome Jesus into the details disrupting our 15747529_1799284616976374_5369443153573163066_npeace.  Problems aren’t our problem.  Jesus already overcame the world.  Our problem is not allowing Him to be the way to Peace.

That sounds sort of good…and sort of judgmental, doesn’t it?  I promise you, it is all good.  Jesus has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves:  open the way to abundant life.  He is the way, and if we examine His life, we realize the way is not easy.  It is ‘simple’ but incredibly difficult and requires embracing suffering.

Embracing suffering is NOT being a martyr.  Martyr’s choose where they will suffer based on their own preferences and for personal reasons:  meeting their own needs in the name of sacrifice.  Christ did not do that.  He sacrificed Himself to restore us to the Father–because that is what the Father wanted!

Unity comes when we are as passionate for the desires of the Father as Jesus is!

While Jesus willingly did what we cannot, He will not do what we can do!  We have responsibility for our earthly lives.  Our minds and our bodies are ours to surrender.  We must choose thoughts that line up with God’s…and activities in line with His laws.  When we don’t, we don’t have peace.  We don’t have health.  Our bodies will break down and our emotions run amok.  Check out this definition of amok…it astounded me in its accuracy and the fact that is in the DSM as a psychiatric disorder.

Running amok, sometimes referred to as simply amok or gone amok,[1] also spelled amuk, from the Malay language,[2] is “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior”.[3] The syndrome of “Amok” is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR).[4] The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy (e.g., a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be termed as “running amok”.)

God is passionate for unity.  He not only allows our lives to press us toward Him…press us toward life…He designed us to need Him.  He is unity and peace and life.  If your world feels like it has run amok, ask Him where His priorities have been set aside for your own.   Choose God’s priorities and He will do the work, you will find the rest you seek.  If you choose your own priorities, you will suffer and struggle as you try to do what you feel is right and good.

Where is your mind or body running amok?  What do you need to change:  your view, your actions?  Ask God…ask a friend for ‘truth in love’ and accountability.  Peace is possible.

Difficulties Guaranteed. Choose Outcome: Weariness or Worship.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Difficulties and disappointments are guaranteed to come to every life.  The outcome of every situation is our choice.  We can follow the path of the Overcomer, or we can choose to blaze our own way.  Following Jesus will lead us to worship and the fulfilling presence of God.  Going our own way will lead to greater devastation and paralyzing weariness.

The choice seems easy; who doesn’t want victory?!  The reality is the path to victory demands stepping out in faith.  That path demands knowing the Promises and ways of God…and walking in them even when they seem impossible.  On the other hand, the weary path seems wise at first.  We trust the knowledge we’ve accumulated; we rely on our natural abilities and intellect.  It feels safer.  It is a deception.

The passages that precede Jesus’ words above lead us toward the desire of God–intimate fellowship with Himself.  Jesus explains the necessity of abiding in the vine–living in His love.  We love the concept and in quiet times, our mental agreement feels adequate.  But the power of the passage comes when we live it out in the dusty days of life.  Living in the love of God gives strength when the people around us are unreasonable and unkind.  Staying in the vine gives us nourishment when life is draining us with failures and insurmountable problems.

As Christians, we are on a mission to take the glory of God to the hurts of the world.  We can’t idolize the quiet spots; they are to be enjoyed but we have work to do!

So, what do we do with those heartaches that come into our lives?  First, we must remember that what we see is incomplete and in part, an illusion.  We are to live the G Morel flickr.comWord in the midst of the difficulties and enjoy the presence of God through intercessory prayer.

Intercession is so much more than taking God a to do list.  He knows the burdens that weigh upon us.  What He asks of us is to bring those burdens to Him and seek His view.  God has a good purpose and plan in all things; He has the power to produce what He desires.

From the earthly perspective,3241925633_310c42121a_z our problems loom large and feel impossible.  We often beg God to take them away.  In those times, we are carrying loads here that He wants us to bring into His presence.

Intercessory prayer becomes worship as we see inside the Father’s heart and feel His powerful presence reassuring us.  From the eternal perspective, problems relate to aweseom purposes we rejoice in when we seek His understanding.

The Truth of the Word is to be transformational–not tiresome.  Just as intercessory prayer is not a ‘to do list’ for God, neither is obedience to God.  Obedience is doing the will of God with a heart that trusts in His goodness in every situation.  A heart that trusts in Him enjoys His presence so much, lists of sin are unnecessary–because sin separates from Him.  Living Truth in the dust and difficulties of our days is not about getting everything right.  It is about being transformed by the Truth of Love so we can rise victorious over every circumstance.

Weariness comes when our list of ‘do and do nots’ consumes us more than His beauty.  “Love your enemy” is a burden until I see my enemy from God’s view.  “Do not covet” is impossible unless I see the generosity of God who meets my every need.  External measures of life tire us out; a heart resting in Him exceeds any ‘list’ and fills us with energizing life.

When we are growing weary, we are to take that as a reminder to WORSHIP!

Wounded by Friends

Caring about others makes you vulnerable in many ways.  The hurts our friends receive hurt us too.  We rise to their defense.  Those are hurts that can accomplish good.  They make us love harder and share one anothers’ burdens. We grow in strength together.

There are other shared hurts that can be deadly.  Our friends’ weaknesses can partner with our own and pull us both into deeper troubles.

But there’s an even greater vulnerability of friendship.  Sometimes friends directly hurt us…they betray us, accuse us of wrong, deceive us or abandon us.  The one we stood by leaves us high and dry.  The one we defended attacks us.

Those wounds are deep.   Does it seem odd that the wisdom of Proverbs says it is good?

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are lavish and deceitful.  Proverbs 27:6

All hurts have the potential to open our heart to new depths of Christ’s healing love.  Every wound has the possibility that Joseph declared in Genesis:  ‘You meant it for evil but God meant it for good…for the saving of many lives.’  When we take our wounds to the Healer, new legacies are born…eternal promises unfold.

One wound we all share is the grief when a loved one dies.  As I write this, my own heart aches at the loss of a precious 21 year old.  A young man with a gentle and kind heart who had a smile for everyone he met.  A young man who fell into the bondage of addiction; a young man whose life was stolen away.  He left behind many wounded, crying hearts. My hope-filled prayer is that his chains will open the way for many to experience the truth of his favorite song.

At first glance, the song is a cruel irony.  This young man loved Jesus, yet his chains were not broken.  Some might think Jesus was not a faithful friend or that the devil and drugs had more power.  Those are lies.  The devil is a defeated foe; an earthly life was taken, but seeds for eternal life were sown.  The unbroken chains of my young friend (whose own heart was broken by his own captivity) are piercing hearts that Jesus longs to heal.

Will we who know the Healer speak clearly about Jesus?

There is a desperate need in our world for loving, confident voices of hope.  In Psalm 51, David–the man after God’s own heart–cried out in sorrow over his own sin but confidence in God’s kindness, “…a broken heart you will not despise” he says to God.

David understood that the walk of faith is not based on sinless perfection or the right actions of others.  He also understood the pain of honest confession and the humility needed to receive God’s plan.  The kindness of God does not create a sugar-coated, life of ease on earth.

The kindness of God brings about purposes of eternal good–and untangling our sins often creates heartaches.  Faith does not always know ‘why’ but it understands heartache prepares ground for the good purposes of God!

God does what it takes to draw hearts to Him.  Horribly hard consequences came from the sin David wept over.  God forgave him but warned him a sword would slash through his family.  The consequences, though, didn’t wipe out the promises made to David decades before::

“…the LORD himself will establish a house for you…I will raise up your offspring…and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father, he will be my son….My love will never be taken away from him…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever…”  2 Samuel 7:12-17

 

God is faithful to His promises; we can reap the rewards of David’s promises too.  Centuries after David died our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ entered his family.  At least a dozen times, Scriptures refers to Jesus as the Son of David.  God was faithful to His promise.  The Messiah, Immanuel – God with Us – breaks legacies of sin when broken hearts are brought to Him for healing.

Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil and give us abundant life.  He died for our sins…and the hurts caused by sin.  We are never more unfaithful to Jesus than when we fail to receive healing for our wounds.

The wounds of life have purpose and beautiful potential when we place them in the loving hands of Jesus.

When we hold on the hurts, our voices are silenced.  We are like the addict, self-absorbed with meeting our own needs.  We never mean to hurt another.  We simply feel hopelessly trapped in our own hurt, clouded by our own questions.  The lies of the enemy loom so large that we can’t see Jesus.  We can’t give hope to others because we have not received it for our self!  The life Jesus died to give us is silenced.  We dishonor His work on our behalf; we are faithless friends.

Jesus shows us how to deal with unfaithful friends…with friends who use us, reject us, neglect us, abandon us.  Jesus died for friends like that.  He surrendered to the will of the Father; He lived out love to the end.  We are not separated from His love by the heartaches of life IF we give them to Him.  Then He plants His own life, and we become fields where hope blooms.

Do you have hard spots in your heart…spots that throb with anger, resentment and hurt…spots that have hurt so long numbness is all you feel?  Do you have habits you can’t break, relationships you can’t heal?  Let Jesus break your heart wide open.   He is the faithful friend who will heal every hurt.  Then receive the Living Word, let it take root and share it with the hurting world around you.  

Choosing to Change

The Christian life is all about transformation…redemption that frees captive souls.  The Cross is the dividing line.  Jesus completed the Work and says, “It is finished.”  Our choice is this:

Do we live on the earthly side..choosing to take responsibility for making ‘it’ happen

OR

Do we live on the eternal side…choosing to live in Christ knowing it is done?

The steps will often look the same.  We walk out faith in the earthly realm…but the substance of life is actually unseen.  The experience will be amazingly different…and the results worlds apart.  That sounds like you are about to read a simple 1,2,3 process, doesn’t it.  I wish.

Do you know the old saying:  Those who can do and those who can’t, teach?

Folks often tell me that God designed me to be a teacher…and in light of the above phrase, I agree.  I’d rather teach this than live it.  I believe it is Truth straight from the Word of God…and I will show you that.  The earthly Truth is that taking this from Head to Feet involves struggle, muscle building–possibly some muscle tears and real tears.  The choices that lead to change are hard work.  I don’t do it perfectly; knowing it is easier than living it.  Faith is what pleases our awesome God, so let’s press in!

BUT FIRST:  This is much longer than I typically post. If there is too much as you begin to read through and you would like to receive this in PDF, comment below before you leave the page :).

GOALS & OBJECTIVES

Unless you are grant writer, you probably think goals and objectives are synonymous.  Let’s split them up, though.  Think of Goals as the BIG THINGS and Objectives as the map to arrive at the goal.  As a Christian, the GOALS our lives are orchestrated to accomplish are the GOALS GOD sets.  We often set objectives and confuse them with goals.  That is one source of great unrest and clouds of confusion.  God’s goals aim at connecting us to Him and giving us abundant life.  When we live amiss from His goals, He lets the consequences of our choices drive us back to Him.

CHOOSING CHRIST

When we accept Christ as our Redeemer, we also accept Him as Lord–even though we don’t understand all that that means.  God knows and guides us through life to achieve understanding and know Him more.  He will design our circumstances to accomplish His will (often in spite of us).  God has designed each of us in a unique way and prepared good works for us to do in Christ (Ephesians 2:10), and those purposes will be accomplished wherever we are and whatever we do as WE CHOOSE to do them in Christ.  When we don’t choose well, He will hem us in with the consequences until we do.

A myriad of books exist that guide us on how to live in Christ.  We know many of the verses that point us to this goal.

‘The old is passed, the new is come…’

 ‘Such were some of you…but I say live by the Spirit…’  

My church uses a saying that pierces my heart:  “Dead men don’t feel the knife.”  I still feel the knife sometimes…there are places in my life that I still live in the flesh.  Praise God, He will not leave me there.  He will bring me to a point of choice…and He will love me through to making the right choice.

Recently, God led me to an old-fashioned filter for my choices that I will share with you.  You already know it:  the 10 Commandments.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.  He is the pure, living embodiment of the commandments.  To live IN CHRIST, I must make choices based on the Law.  So here’s what that looks like in my mind.

Worship God.  Seek to see and slay all competitors.  Honor the character of God:  His loving authority & power.  THEN, in the earthly realm:  Honor life and the family heritage you received and build AND the heritage of others.  Speak truth (with words & actions).  Contentedly rejoice in His presence.

The challenge with that filter is that we can easily rationalize our choices to fit…but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.  Rationalizations are in the head.  Faith is evidenced in our feet and in our heart.  If the sweet fruit of the Spirit is not filling our heart, the journey from head to heart is still underway.  Do you remember the fruit?

fruit-of-spirit-tree

CHOOSING GOD’S GOALS

When I allow the LAW — or Jesus Christ — to filter my choices, I move toward God’s GOALS.  1 Peter Chapter 1 outlines the awesome inheritance we have received but 2 Peter Chapter 1 helps us grow into that inheritance:

Fruitful Growth in the Faith

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

The fruitful growth of our faith IS God’s goal.  Digging into this passage unveils the journey our right choices take us upon.  Diligence is doing.  Faith is a free gift but there is work to be done on earth.  We must act upon our faith.  Understanding does not come until we act in faith.  Do you recall the priests who carried the Ark into the Promised Land?  They had to cross the river Jordan when it was at flood stage.  Fruitful faith requires us to step into the waters that exceed our ability–and threaten what we love.

That type of active faith requires that our mind be under the control of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us we have the Mind of Christ…but we must surrender to it.  Our ‘self’ must be under control and not driving our life.  That takes us back to the ‘dead men don’t feel the knife’ truth.  We often believe we have given God control…life reveals where we have been deceived!

Allowing the Spirit to control our lives demands patience.  The definition of the Greek Word for patience reveals why we all struggle with it:  willingness to suffer long.  The demand for immediate gratification is the hallmark of immaturity.  Patience is a fruit of the spirit; we don’t drum it up or push out the fruit from our natural self.  It is a by-product of God’s nature within us.

And then we reach the beautiful awareness of God Himself.  God is the goal of our lives…knowing Him IS life.  Only then do we move onto phileo love–caring about the concerns of others.  We often think we care about others naturally…but our love is impure until it flows from the love of God Himself.  The pinnacle of our faith is true unity with the Father in agape love.  It is not an easy journey.  Jesus opens the door but walking out faith in the dusty roads of life isn’t reclining on a beach or having everything go your way.  The life of Christ readily reveals that view was not His reality…and it is not ours.

This beautiful progression of fruitful growth has a distorted mirror image.  There is a chilling truth spoken by those who worship Satan.  The phrase ‘As above, so below’ is part of their belief.  Romans 1 shows the horrific reflection created by choosing against Christ.

 

CHOICES FOR GOD (2 Peter 1) CHOICES AGAINST GOD (Romans 1)
Doing – God’s way w/diligence that leads to freedom Doing – my way w/diligence that leads to captivity
Understanding what God is aiming to achieve Refusing to think on what God wants
Self under control Self-controlled
Patience – willing to endure suffering Prideful darkened heart pushing for self
Life giving knowledge of God Life sucking demands of idols
Phileo love – concern for others Consumed by lust of flesh
Agape love – union with God Wrath of God – separation from life; death

 

Satan is a deceptive angel.  He is powerful.  Each step away from Choosing God creates greater captivity.  The work of walking in faith increases…but Jesus overcame the world.  He offers victory.  No one is separated from the love of God without hope.  Change is possible.

Beth Canupp Butterfly
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:2

TOOLS FOR CHANGE

The opening verses of the 2 Peter passage give the hope that is needed:

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3

Jesus provides all we need but we have to work out what He has put within.  Part of being designed by God as a teacher is being designed as a learner.  I love to learn and have identified some things I need to truly grab hold of new concepts and allow them to become part of my very being.  Before I share these with you, one of the most powerful truths I know about transformational change comes from Romans 13:14:  “…make no provision for the flesh…”  Knowing our weaknesses and acting accordingly is wise.  Beyond that some of the things I need for change are:

I need a reason, a motivation to move beyond where I am at.

I need a vision of where God is going or what He is desiring to accomplish.

I need role models who show me what that vision looks like in this world.

I need focus that exceeds the distractions sure to come and that requires discipline.

I need time … to see, understand and practice.

I need lots of practice!

I need encouragement and tools to help me until my strength develops into the change.

I need to share with others because that is the greatest tool for growing stronger.

So, what do you need to change?  How can we pray with you through to transformation?

Seeing God’s Glory in Parkinson’s Disease

Reprint of a column from the Baptist Voice in honor of the birthday of this saint who shows us the way of Christ!  It was our joy to see Dave & Terri on our NY trip this year.  They both press on in the face of Parkinsons–bringing great glory to God.  Love to you both, my friends!  Thank you for helping me grow in grace & knowledge simply by being yourselves!

Parkinson’s disease is relentless and destructive. It attacks the body in a myriad of ways: hand tremors, walking impairments, speech, and even involuntary movements such as blinking. Seldom is Parkinson’s linked to the concept of a blessing. Our victory report today, though, is somehow who sees eternal victories in this earthly curse.   God’s glory is present even in Parkinson’s…

Perhaps you have unknowingly enjoyed some of the victory yourself through attendance at one of the Southern Gospel concerts at First Baptist Church of Port Crane. Dave Samson, the concert organizer, is God’s victorious soldier of today’s column. His victory report is not without the reality of damage inflicted through Parkinson’s. The loss of his job and its income; increased difficulties with basic and necessary daily tasks: speaking, writing, typing, buttoning a shirt, driving, walking; impairment of his carpentry hobby; and greater burdens on his wife and family are all part of Dave’s battlefield losses. Nevertheless, Dave also sees a field of sowing and harvesting created by the Parkinson’s because it narrowed his options and increased his focus!

Dave had long enjoyed listening to Southern Gospel Concerts. He and his wife, Terri traveled to area performances as their schedules permitted, but never dreamed of organizing local events. As Dave’s disease progressed, his sales career in Christian resources became difficult to the point of danger. His driving ability impacted by the disease, Dave accepted the need to apply for disability. The debilitation to Dave’s overall motor function sped the disability process along and financial worries were somewhat eased. However, Dave officially became ‘disabled’ rather rapidly, and he felt at loose ends. Though all of his movements had slowed, he still wanted to live fully!

Much to his frustration, the diagnosis generated such sympathy from those who cared that others often restrained him from doing even what he could. In fact, the kind intentions began to make him feel not like an invalid but as if he were simply in-valid—of no apparent use anymore. Fortunately, Dave believed (and believes) that when God allows one door to close, it is so He can clear the path to a better doorway. Such was the case in this situation.

It began when Dave agreed to the simple task of making a phone call to find out about the availability of a gospel group. It has grown to a Southern Gospel concert ministry with hundreds who attend at a tiny country church in rural New York. Every concert touches hearts for Jesus; many times, there are professions of salvation or rededication.

Dave willingly pays the physical costs for this labor of love. He says his illness has given him time; the ministry provides him purpose. He sees victories that are eternal because he accepts the disease as filtered through by the loving hand of the Sovereign Father. Is there something in your life that needs a new perspective? Ask God to show you how He can transform your roadblock into a doorway to blessing!

Jeremiah 29:11