Me…an expression of God?

Our story begins as a creative work of God…and unfolds in the same way.  Just like the first humans, we are made in the image of God.  Pause and think on that just for a moment:  YOU are created in the image of God.  Every morning as you awake, let that truth settle into your heart and mind before you bound into the day.  Everyone you encounter has an opportunity to glimpse God in you!  Are you ready for that privilege…for that responsibility?!  Only in Christ can we ever embrace our divine purpose.

The image of God in man was marred in Paradise…and each one of us, every day, mars it more.  We are frail, fallible folks–clay jars indeed.  We make muddy messes; we have cracks and jagged edges.  God knew all that and took care of our lacks before He ever uttered the first word of creation!  (1 Peter 1:20)  So, as you prepare to go into your day as an expression of God, remember to celebrate the love that saw every sin that would mess up His plans–and made a Way in spite of the sin!  That is the God we are called to be the image of!

Finally, before you enter into your day, remember the ‘Work’ is complete. God does not ask us to do what we can never do.  Our ‘ability’ rests on this:  believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Jesus stated our daily work very clearly:

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (John 6:29)

It is His work that restores us to our intended divine purpose:  being an expression of God.  God began that work–and His Spirit continues it.  Knowing God is key to knowing the image we are made in.  Studying His Names is one great way to know Him more.  The Prayer Today website has many resources for studying His Names; here is one.  Glory Glimpses on this blog offer you some devotions on the same topic; click here to consider God as the Morning Star.  Simply know that God loves you and wants you to know Him personally and share Him with the world around us gives great cause for rejoicing!

Are you hungry for more on the subject of ‘your job?’  Numerous scriptures encourage us to know we can be fully equipped for the good work God plans for us to do:  2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 1:6 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are some good starting points.

So:  spend some time knowing this great God you are created in the image of…and let someone see Him in you!

Victory and Glory in YOUR Story!

Scripture tells us that we overcome the enemy through the power of Christ’s blood and our ‘testimony.’  Sometimes testimony seems like such a ‘churchy’ word…does story work better for you?  We are living stories to tell about the glory of God.  That was the topic of a recent piece I shared on another site.  Here’s an excerpt:

We were created for love; when we learn to walk in His love, we enter His purposes.  Too often, we insist on writing our own story, doing things our way.  We see those examples around us every day; sometimes we are those examples.  The pharisees and lawyers are the biblical example, and the Word says, “They rejected the purposes of God.”  Ouch!  We never mean to do that; God loves it when we finally see what we are doing.  He isn’t mad!  He says, ‘Come on into my story!’

If you are interested in the ‘rest of the story’ visit that page, here: The Power of a Story.

From Fingerpainting to Artistry

“So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art.  Grow up in Christ.”
Hebrews 6, The Message
That’s the message, the Lord placed on my heart overnight and through my morning devotions.  Faith, confident hope, in Jesus alone is the inheritance we want.  Being a child of God is sweet…and He loves the fingerpaintings.  But there is more for us!
It is so tempting to settle for less…for good things that ‘fit’ our earthly design.  But not a one of the good things (ie love, 
fingerpaintinghusbands, children, fulfilling work) are enough to fill the space intended for the Spirit of God.  Longings that make our hearts ache are hard–but not bad.  Perhaps the hardest thing is watching our loved ones ache.
God knows what that is like.  He watched the Israelites wander in the desert–and miss the path.  The Message translation records God’s heart as this:  ‘They’ll never get keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road…They’ll never get where they’re going; never be able to sit down and rest.”
It breaks God’s heart when we miss His path and ‘eat’ of things that do not satisfy.  And He loves us too much to encourage us to feast on what will not satisfy.  I tend to get frustrated when the results I expect do not materialize.  Worse is when I watch those I care about try so hard, do the ‘right’ things’ and still ache. I want to fix things.  I’m learning to accept though that the fix is Jesus.  It is seeking first His Kingdom.  It is delighting in Him so that my heart desires come from Him.  Then the food on my path will fulfill!
Paul, throughout Hebrews, struggles to convey faith to his hearers.  The plea from the Lord remains the same:    Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear.  He says be careful that the lies of sin–the lies of those things that promise fulfillment but fall short of Jesus–do not harden your heart.  Let the hurt soften you up to receive Jesus; let the empty pursuits of your loved ones hurt them enough that they receive Jesus.
Don’t fill up the manger of your heart with empty foods…keep it always ready for Savior!
Growing up in our faith is exciting.  More tips are found in the Projects section of this website.  Growing strength through Diligence is a great place to start.

Blessing the Battlefield

“But you are holy, O you that inhabit the praises of Israel.”  Psalm 22:3

It is often said that in this life, one is either in a battle, just coming out of one or soon to be in one.  Battles are part of life.  We have a powerful weapon for victory that is often forgotten.  Praise.  No matter what we face, God has not abandon us to face it alone!  In the presence of God, victory is assured.  Praise puts us in his presence!  Why not read this aloud and let the Spirit minister to your spirit.

Exodus 14:13-14 And Moses said to the people, Do not be afraid. Take your stand and see the salvation of Jehovah, which He will prepare for you today. For as you see the Egyptians today, you shall not continue to see them again forever. (14) Jehovah will fight for you, and you be silent.

Father, let these words be blessing builders in our lives.  We rejoice that you grant us confidence that brings peace:  You are present in our battles…you are working out our victories.  Bless us, Lord, with hearts that can not fear because they are captivated by You.  Might our eyes clearly see you removing enemies and delivering us; might our ears hear your voice telling us to move here, move there, do this, do that.  From tiny things to huge things, Father, let our steps of obedience keep us in the perfect position to see your work.

Father, grant us confidence that every battlefield we encounter is under your direction.  Fill us with peace that any battlefield Gloryholds the potential for great glory for you.  Every situation is managed by you; you will provide all that is needed for total victory.  We praise you for blessing us with faith that pleases you.  We rejoice that walking in faith gives strength to others.

Bless us with eyes that see you intervening, freeing us from difficult circumstance…eyes that see you removing enemies supernaturally.  We praise you for that and rejoice in the opportunity to bring your presence to this tangled world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

For more on reaping the harvest hidden in the fields of trouble, check out Battles Become Blessings.

Chosen Parents

You are the parent God chose for your child. Isn’t that a puzzling, sometimes overwhelming concept? As we begin walking the labyrinth of parenting, the paths ahead are blessedly shrouded. The parenting journey includes delights beyond imagination and thorny passages which instill fear and frustration. God’s Word tells us the Creator Himself shepherds those with young and guides them on the paths; yet, it doesn’t always feel that way. At times the complexities of parenthood give the illusion that God stepped off the throne as challenges were assigned or that perhaps He confused us with a wiser, more loving and experienced parent. The reality is more incredible than we can begin to grasp. In His infinite love and wisdom, God chose each parent and each child as unique, perfect gifts for one another. The blessings are mutualthe plan perfect.

God uses the tool of parenthood to craft His family likeness into earthly moms and dads. He longs for His glory to be revealed in the parenting privilege. Nearly a decade and a half ago, we brought our baby home from the N-ICU with overwhelming joy, awe, fear and a numbing sense of inadequacy. Thchild parent hande ability of a five-pound baby to bring a prideful heart to its knees is powerful! God continues to use the University of Motherhood to draw me unto Himself, to unveil the reality that His strength is revealed in my weaknessesand what a superb reality! My pride had rejoiced in meeting the challenges of life head-on. The magnitude of the responsibility for nurturing this precious life shattered every competency I had ever relied upon. Parenthood has taught me I do not need to be in control and managing every detail perfectly. It has taught me that struggling is okay! It is not a sign of defeat to be engaged in a battle. Struggles simply strip away the deceits which have hidden the doorway to God’s strength. The inequities and burdens of life create opportunities for God to transform parents and to begin drawing our beloved children to Him. Struggles are to help us embrace His presence in our lives with confident hopewith certaintythat His plans and purposes are perfect. As we hold fast to that hope, the very image of God begins to shine forth in our liveschanging us, lighting our children’s paths and touching all those around us!

Beyond the challenges of parenthood lie mountains which dot the landscape of our children’s future–mountains woven into the design of our children’s lives by their loving, heavenly Father. His love for our children is greater and more perfect than ours. God would never allow a mountain for which He has not provided provisions for conquering. Parents are a key part of those provisions. The parent God chooses for a child has the strengthsand the weaknessesto guide their children to the Shepherd Himself. God longs to take the hands of our children and guide them in life. Leading our children to the One who provides abundantly is the key task of our parenting assignment. Treasure the challenges on your parenting journey as the doorways to Christ. There is a splendor possible through embracing God’s presence in the trials of life which will produce faith that perseveres and moves mountains aside.

Do you have a Glimpse of Glory in your family life?  I’d love to hear it.  Or maybe you are in the midst of a battle that has you baffled.  Check out turning Battles into Blessings.

For Further Study
Being chosen as a parent is a life-transforming gift from a loving God. We have been chosen to receive another precious gift from Godeternal life. God longs for each of us to embrace His plan for us to become His childto be made perfect through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. Becoming His child is the key to becoming the parent your child needs. If you do not have a loving relationship with the heavenly Father, choose to change that today!

SCRIPTURES: Psalm 127:3; Jeremiah 29:11-14; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 10:35; 2 Corinthians 3:18; James 1; Matthew 17:28

This piece was originally written for and published by Handivangelism, PIP Ministry.

Weaving Legacies into Our Own Lives

Focusing on the blessings that flow from individuals in our lives gives honor and meaning on many levels.  It honors the people who have been a part of our lives.  It allows us to celebrate the positive, to make it part of our own self…it helps use weave the ones we’ve loved deep into our being that we might pass on their legacy.  It is a healing endeavor that remindspieces of the quilt us no one is lost from our lives when we deliberately treasure the deposits made. Finally, it glorifies the God who created them–and us–and placed our lives together.

Every life story is different…and each life writes many stories.  This week I have worked with someone whose mother is in a final battle with cancer.  He wanted to put words to the letters of his mother’s name to capture who she is…what a beautiful way to treasure this time they have together .  As I worked on that, I referred back to my own tributes to those whom I’ve loved.  So this morning, I share with you this story that gives the legacy of my mom.  May it be a tool for you to create a story of one who has shaped your life.

Every life leaves a legacy…and when we have loved someone we have the chance to weave their legacies into our own.

I’d be delighted to help you weave your story.    

I’m thankful God allowed me to be Evelyn’s daughter—to have her legacy so closely entwined with my own.  

Evelyn – mom—was born in 1929 at the start of the depression and was the baby of her family.   No doubt, the financially tough times and her firm upbringing influenced the strong, courageous individual she became.   Mom could easily have been Nike’s spokesperson for “Just Do It.”  She never wasted time wondering ‘what if’ or ‘if only.’  She simply took what life presented and did her very best with it.  She lived with courage, tenaciousness and principles of right and wrong.

First and foremost, mom had a ‘can-do- attitude.’ She was always willing to launch into a new venture.   When the funeral director asked mom’s occupation I didn’t really know how to respond.   Mom simply did whatever happened to be most practical at the moment.  As a child, she learned to work by walking from Colesville to Binghamton to sell eggs.  She married at 16 and soon went to work as a maid/child caretaker for a man who would later become her second husband.  The laundry room at the Psych Center must have been a great place because she still kept in touch with friends from then—almost 50 years ago.  The businesses she and dad launched were even more varied:  an auction house, a catering business, three different restaurants, a pig farm, pony rides and for a few years artificial inseminators at area farms.  Mom also baby-sat for some children over the years—loved one enough to make him my brother and loved others enough that their families still keep in touch.  Even though she had no interest in make-up, mom even sold Avon for a few years and received dozens of awards for her work.  She always did her best at whatever was before her.mom

A necessary follow-up to the ‘can-do’ attitude was her ‘get- on- with-it-attitude.’   Sometimes mom could seem harsh or emotion-less but the truth was she had a very soft heart.  She showed that early in her life when she took bread to the home of a family with scarlet fever.  Her parents had firmly told her to stay away from that home and she was beat with a shingle for her disobedience.  That soft heart for the sufferings of others continued throughout her life.  When dad, Carl Walls, battled cancer, mom was stoically by his side.  She worried after his death that he never knew how much she loved him.  It was never in doubt in anyone’s eyes but hers.  A couple years ago our family (Craig and the kids and I) were sick with the flu on Christmas Day.  It was mom—at 78—who braved the flu virus to bring a fully cooked dinner to us.  Although she couldn’t often say words of love, she did her best to show her love through actions.  The honor of being the Chenango County Volunteer of the Year this past August was a fitting tribute for her caring acts over the years.

No tribute would be complete without mentioning the many animals mom welcomed into her life as well.  She didn’t really care for animals being in the house but she never turned away an animal in need either.  The animal menagerie that was our home for many years often had babies that needed round-the-clock feedings or special care…mom always rose to the occasion.  Wild animals entered every so often…the baby deer on the collage boards was one of those creatures.  Only the snakes never received any compassion…they were chased down with hoes or lawnmowers or whatever was handy.

Despite mom’s soft heart, she lived in a ‘no-whining-zone’ for her own emotions.  When our home burned down before Christmas one year, there was no time for mourning.  Plans were made and blessings celebrated.  The kindness of friends, the overwhelming generosity of our community…those were the things mom & dad focused on.   Even when her finger was cut off in the clean-up after the fire, mom refused to shed a tear.  Many nights she was awake with pain but never complained.  After dad’s death, she could never acknowledge her own grief…it just didn’t fit with how she survived.  She simply did her best to move forward.  Mom’s courage was evident throughout her battle with cancer.  From the very first diagnosis, through the surgery & recovery and even after the final diagnosis where she learned the cancer had spread, mom maintained a stoicism.  She simply said she hoped she could finish her days with grace and peace.  She did just that.

The greatest tribute for mom would be to weave those legacies into our own…be courageous, stand strong for what you believe in, be committed to doing the right thing and live holding nothing back.

Family Life: New Parents

Beautiful homes are not built from the roof down or from the outside in.  Neither are lives.  Leaving a legacy…being left a legacy begins in infancy.

 The heart is the source of life.  The heartwork of parenting is truly hardwork!  Make it a goal to identify attitudes and not be distracted by actions. Heart work is also eternal work and worthy of focused, faithful effort.

3020719712_a10dd80a2b_qProverbs 24:3,4 tells us a home is built with wisdom, established with understanding and furnished with knowledge.  The lives of our children require the same building plan.  The greatest goal of our parenting effort is to prepare our children for their work of building their hearts into temples of the Holy Spirit.

God does not have grandchildren.  Just as David provided his son, Solomon, with the building plan and resources for the Temple, we must parent to provide our children with knowledge of God’s design and precious, durable materials for building their lives.

 

 

What knowledge or discipline will you impart to your children today to help them build their spiritual house?

Would you like to read more on parenting with a plan?  Here’s a place to get started.

Faith Stories: From Suicidal Despair to Living for a Legacy

Every life has a story, and every life has impact on others.  Walk with my friend as he found his way from despair to hope–and seeks to help others do the same!

Proverbs tells us that without vision, the people perish: God used some interesting lenses to focus the eyes of Tim…lenses one might expect to give a bleaker picture. A long harsh winter, the financial stress of unemployment, a deadening lack of purpose and funerals were some of God’s magnifiers. As his own hope dwindled and he contemplated suicide, God pierced Tim’s heart through the deaths of friends.  Attending the wakes, Tim saw a sharp contrast between the hopelessness of those who lived only for this life and the life-honoring celebrations of home-going saints. The common end of all focused his eyes on his own responsibility to live well—to leave a legacy of life and hope for those who would come behind.

With that desire in place, Tim was again ready and able to feel the love of God. After one funeral, Tim stopped by his brother’s home and mentioned that it had been some time since he had made it a point to go to a church for any reason. His brother replied ‘it’s been 14 years’, and then went on to tell Tim he had been praying all that time for Tim to return to God. It was a prayer heard by God and now received in Tim’s own heart. Shortly after, some Christian friends sought Tim’s help with some home repair projects. Their lives were their testimony: the true concern they had for Tim broke through the hard defenses he had built. Their genuine concern had a profound effect. God’s love was having its way.

During a walk with his dogs one morning, the Spirit broke through and called Tim to humble himself before God, agree with God about his mistakes and turn back to the Father’s love that had never stopped. The beauty and blessing of Tim’s obedience is best in his own words:

“The words were hard—not because of confessing, but because I was weeping uncontrollably. Weeping and thanking God for more than one chance; weeping for the years lost and behind me for the waste they had been…when the prayer was finished, the burden lifted. It was a relief I hadn’t had in years…not just figuratively or spiritually but physically as well.”

Today Tim is a beloved part of a local church…actively living and loving in Jesus’ name.

God’s promises are real. Forgiveness and cleansing restore us. Our prayers and our love for others matter. Sit at the feet of Jesus and soak in His goodness…let us join Tim in embracing the blessing of confession and rejoicing in God’s gracious presence!

Faith Stories: Glimpsing God in the Garden

Not every life story is about a challenge.  Part of our legacy flows from the things we love!  Look for God in the things you love.  For example, I love to garden: bringing order and beauty to a plot of dirt reminds me of the blessings of cultivating spiritual life. A healthy, vibrant garden–earthly or spiritual–requires persistent effort: cultivating, sowing, weeding, pruning.

Our home gardens are a testimony to the blessings God has used to decorate our lives. We use flowers and colors our parents loved along side perennials from friends, family and previous homes. Before new gardens are created, we ’redeem’ the plot from its previous purpose…usually lawn. The intertwined roots of lawn grasses and buried rocks make cultivation difficult. That work reminds me of the persistent love of God which reaches out to every soul piercing the barriers life creates. Decisions instantly change destinies but the transformation takes place in daily details.

The perpetual growth of weeds reminds me of two ever-present dangers to my spiritual garden: endless activity and plain old sin. Both are capable of overshadowing any vision of God’s touch on my life. The busyness of life joins with natural sin tendencies creating disorder and waylaying the purposes of God. It is my privilege and responsibility to pluck out sin and pointless activity so that the view of God in my life is unobstructed.

Some of the weeds in my gardens produce tiny flowers; their deceptive attraction sometimes persuades me to let them stay. Inevitably, they overtake my intentional plantings. Similarly, sometimes I hold fast to habitual sins that I perceive as adding to my life. Their produce, though, is more deadly than my garden weeds for the fruit of every sin is always death. The only results of my natural tendencies–let alone my sins–are earthly and temporary. Eternally beautiful life gardens require intentional cultivation of the life of Christ within.

Also in my garden are some extremely productive perennials. As much as I like them, pruning their fruitfulness protects other blessings of God from being crowded out. These prolific beauties remind me of the truth that too much of a good thing is still too much. God has granted me passions and interests–but serving those passions will leave my life unbalanced and His purposes for me stunted.

Finally, both of our dads loved ’bulb’ flowers. Our tulips and irises do most of their growing out of sight, but attentively nurturing the bulbs produces results as well. Likewise, not all of our spiritual life is visible, but the Holy Spirit produces great growth as He searches our depths, convicting us and calling us to fellowship with God.

The purpose of life is to know God: His greatness and His goodness. He provides the nourishment and care we need because of His love; our right response to that love is to seek Him and obey Him. The presence and participation of others in our life gardens is part of His design. We are to be both blessed and a blessing as we journey through life. May each of our lives be a garden that reflects His glory for all to enjoy.

Faith Story: Seeing His Glory In a Shattered Home

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalms 37:5

The devil specializes in sneak attacks. A deacon, a Sunday school teacher and husband to a faithful women’s leader, Jim never saw the battle line forming. In fact, his plans included only rejoicing and celebrating. Having renewed their vows at a recent anniversary celebration, marriage woes seemed the last of his worries. Returning from a spiritually uplifting Men’s Retreat, Jim thought the weekend only held a celebration of his birthday. Instead, it marked the beginning of a very fierce, painful battle.

Years of unresolved heart issues exploded for Jim’s wife; she left their marriage to begin a new life with a friend of Jim. Devastation, depression and desperate confusion marked Jim’s days. Victory in the early days of the battle was simply mustering the courage to face a new day. The promises of God seemed distant, but they were his lifeline. Jim says of that time, “I clung to the promise in Psalms 37 that if I committed my way to God, He would act. He has; but not in the ways I wanted Him to and not at the speed I wanted. I would never have chosen this, but without it, I would never have known God as I do. He has kept His promises.”

His wife’s decision irrevocably altered the structure of Jim’s life. An empty home, strained family relations and gatherings, difficulty with continually encountering the co-worker and disruption in the church family all followed her choice. Jim stepped down from leadership in the church and eventually sought a job that kept him from the loneliness of home more consistently. The scriptures he had taught for so long sometimes seemed to mock him…the promises felt empty and the heartache overwhelming. Yet, he faithfully sought biblical counsel from pastors, family and friends’ and pressed on. Time passed bringing new understandings, but not the deeply desired restoration of the marriage. Throughout the battle, Jim sought and shared glimpses of God’s hand; he was a faithful, albeit broken, witness for God.

lonely

In marriage, Jim had been controlling; the concept of forgiving infidelity beyond the scope of his world. Yet in his heartache, he came face-to-face with the reality of the pain of love willing to forgive. He felt, too, the pain of that willingness rejected. Gradually he began to see the glory of Jesus Christ in an entirely new dimension. Recognizing the cost of forgiveness and the pain of rejection, he could not help but be awed at the marvelous, perseverant love of God. His heart bowed in humble victory before God’s incredible love.

Understanding in such a personal way is a suffering that Jim does not wish on anyone, but grasping the preciousness of Christ is a privilege he does not dismiss. His victory did not look like he expected; he thought that his initial commitment to God would be the key to restoring his marriage. Instead, it was the key to expanding his experience of God.

The victories in our Christian life do not transform us into picture-perfect Normal Rockwell prints. Sin, broken-ness and rejection wound souls…both those who hurt and those who are hurt suffer. Healing in Christ is one person at a time, one life at a time. We cannot be healed for another but we can encourage another to seek healing. Victory stories are not about perfect people; they are about our perfect God. Give Him the glory, great things He has done and will do!

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