While there’s a cry in every heart to be uniquely valued–to be loved, there’s a competing cry to blend in and not to draw attention to yourself (unless there’s something about yourself you think will give you attention you really want). High school & college students are a great example…in any gathering of students, hair, make-up and clothes will share many similarities. Individuality is within tight boundaries. Where do you think the desire to blend in & not be noticed comes from?
Does it come from God who created each person in a unique way…with unique responsibilities?
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
Or does it come from the enemy of our souls…the one who hates the handiwork of God?
But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14
Let’s go back to Ephesians 2:10 and consider that word ‘masterpiece’ the translators chose. The Oxford Dictionary gives us a couple insights. The first is that a masterpiece is something made by an acknowledged master. Consider the glories of sunrises, sunsets, meadows, oceans and mountains. The same God who made those made you. The second definition for masterpiece is a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship. Do you think of yourself that way often?
The Church–the Ekklesia –are the called out ones of the world. We are not meant to blend in! We are made to be different but we can only find our true identity when we get to know the Master Craftsman. We can’t know what we are to be like until we know what our Designer is like. The craziness of a society that thinks it can self-select gender is individuality gone far astray. Our design is only found in the character of the Designer. Then our uniqueness is a glory to behold–just like a sunset or an ocean!
Blending in is a great danger that lurks in the world we live in. It is purposeful danger planned by the enemy of our soul. It is danger designed to keep us from those purposes God created us for. It is danger that blends in with the world around us and bids us to do the same.
As Christians we’re called to stand out…to not be like the world around us. Just like the Copperhead in the picture, danger is both present and hidden all around us. What dangers do you welcome into your world?
Satan lays in wait, and we don’t know when he will strike. We don’t how often God protects us from his poison. This snapshot my son took after God protected him spoke volumes to me. The Copperhead on the right side of the log could have nailed him…he had just been standing straddle of it moments before this picture. But God protected him. This time. We live in enemy territory. Learning to watch for him and be alert is our responsibility. Sometimes we won’t see the enemy even though we think we are being careful…even though we think we know what to look for. Those times, we must trust in our Deliverer.
But what about the rest of the time?
Do your activities honor God?
Do your words help others know what God is like?
Does your spending point to the things God values?
Does your recreation point to the goodness of God or promote the temptations of the world?
Everything we do is a choice. Every choice we make takes us one step closer to who we are becoming. It is a matter of life and death.
The cost of freedom is responsibility.
Choosing to honor God with every choice is the only wise use of our free will. The only way to honor Him is to know what pleases Him. Honoring God brings good to us and the world we live in. When God is in His rightful place in our lives, we find our place in this life. We come to understand His glory and how we are made in that same image of glory.
Which cry of the heart will rule your life?
The cry to blend in that comes from the enemy who masquerades as good?
The cry to be loved that comes from your Creator who made you to stand out?
Confusion is a tool of the enemy. God is a God of order and peace. He says what He means, He means what He says…and He offers us a choice to believe it or not. Our choices have consequences.
We live in a confused and chaotic world because so many choose not to believe what the Word of God states. That truth is truth for believers and non-believers alike. For those of us in the Church, some of society’s confusion seems so extreme we are tempted to judge with condemnation and criticism instead of speaking with a clear, gentle voice of truth. The heart of God breaks for those confused about such a clarion issue as gender. The rejection of the clear Word of God, (Genesis 1:27, 5:2; Mark 10:6) creates chaos at many levels. There are more subtle rejections of the Word of God that create equal chaos.
Circumstances. Experiences. Opinions. Desires. Needs. The temptation to elevate any of those to ruling power in our lives often overcomes believers. We elevate those things–our selves–above the Word of God and allow our thoughts to be clouded. “I can’t…” is a phrase that is only accurate if it partnered with “I can’t do anything without Christ.” The mind–and the power to choose what we allow into our mind–is a transforming gift given by the Creator to humanity. Every circumstance, experience, opinion, desire and need offers us an opportunity to seek the will of God and step out in faith. This world is the proving ground for the glory of God…He loves to work in the fragile, imperfect, fallible clay vessels of humanity.
Choosing to believe His promises, HIS WORD, in the midst of life prevents divided living. The choice is for ALL of His Word–not just the pieces we like. God is not divided. He is love and He is wrath. His Holiness if complete…it does not include any unrighteousness. He cannot be impure and pure at the same time. Neither can we. We are to live wholly in the redemption of the Cross…wholly in the life of Christ that lived upon the Word of God.
Departing from the pure wholeness of the Scriptures creates divided lives of chaos and confusion. It prevents unity in the Body and clouds the glory of God. We are not called to create unity but to keep unity in the Spirit–and we do that as we walk in the Word.
It is the question we hate feeling: Do I matter? Does anyone care? We spend much of our lives seeking activities and relationships that give us an affirmative answer. There is only One who can answer that to our complete satisfaction. The only One who can answer it is the One who created us.
Animals are amazingly helpful in leading us to the Answer. You don’t need to come to an A.A.R.T. session to experience the power. Use your own pets…even observe on in the wild and ask yourself some questions. Come on an AART discovery with me!
ABCS of Safety, Security & Significance
In the Garden of Eden, the choice to reject God’s one command cut humanity off from the Need Meeter. When we seek to meet the needs that God built into us…instead of seeking Him…we sin & become captive to that sin. Restoring connection to the Father begins the process of healing…and fulfillment…and loving ourselves. From childhood to senior citizen, we must find how Christ is the answer we seek and understand how to apply that answer to diverse situations. It isn’t a ‘one and done’ process. Life gives us new challenges DAILY. Living fully means knowing IN THE MOMENT, every moment, who we are in the eyes of God.
Acceptance by Godrestores IDENTITY for individuals. It provides strength for life in a changing world. When roles or actions give a person identity, they never learn the unique design God gave them. “Who am I” is a necessary question because the answer gives stability.
How & when did you become a ‘pet parent?’
Are they conscious aware of your care & provision?
Does their awareness of your effort change your care for them?
What does God do for you that you may not have noticed?
How does awareness of His provision change your view of your worth?
Scriptures: Psalm 139:13-14
Belonging to Godrestores boundaries that provide safety and security. In the natural world, safety is an increasing concern from childhood to old age. Involvement with animals requires learning to be observant of body language and danger zones. It is easy to appreciate the value of fences, leashes and lead ropes. Let’s extend those truths to things we face daily: the internet, to strangers with candy or puppies and to individual choices.
What ways to do you protect your pet?
What happens when they break through those boundaries?
What ways does God ‘limit’ His children? Where do you feel limited TODAY?
How does He make us aware when we break through those boundaries?
Scriptures: Psalm 46:1
Calling of Godrestores purpose to lives. The Word tells us God has created us for good works…and for connection to Him. He treasures His children and cares for them. Using the natural needs of animals (nutrition, coat & hoof care, exercise), coaches draw parallels to caring for the body as the temple of God and caring for others.
What needs do you meet for your pets that you tend to neglect for yourself?
What do you expect from them?
Are your animals meeting a need for you that they are not designed to meet?
Christ died so we could take our needs to God: What needs do you take to God?
Are there things you know God desires for you that you do not press toward?
What need are you facing today that you are trying to meet on your own–or even with your animals?
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 Word 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, 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!
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
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.
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?
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
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 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
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.
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?
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.
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”