Who do you live for?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, Uncategorized

photo by philipwagner.com

Who do you live for? Maybe a better way to ask is this: When you make a decision, who’s best interest is in play?

Or who are you trying to please? It may be yourself, a loved one, people you don’t know but want to impress, or maybe your Creator.

Reading the opening line of Galatians 1, once again I am impressed by Paul’s strong declaration about himself:

Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father….(emphasis mine)

You gotta love Paul! He was a zealous murderer and persecutor of Christians….then he becomes a Christian, is radically changed by God, and goes on to write bold introductions like the one in Galatians 1.

Not only that, he goes on to ask the harsh question in verse 10:

Am I  now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Ouch. Let’s be honest, no matter how much you love God, this is a human dilemma that we all deal with sometimes. The reality is that sometimes we want to please ourselves, or even people that we don’t know. I think that’s kind of normal to feel sometimes. But our feelings shouldn’t rule us. Furthermore, the more we know and love God, the more we are zealous for pleasing Him.

I know this is kind of rough news. Sort of like the reality that if we want to lose weight, we have to eat right and exercise. Ask anyone who’s lost & maintained weight in a healthy way and maintained it. Yep, same annoying answer. Or, if you’re a runner, and you want to improve your time, how do you improve your time and run faster? You guessed it, by running faster.

The answer to getting off of the treadmill of please me, pleasing others, and the insatiable demands of insecurity that surrounds pleasing others is this: Know God more. Spend time with Him. Read His word. Believe what He says. In doing so, we start to believe the truth about who we are and who God is, and that frees us from caring so much about what others think and pleasing our own flesh.

So, pour a hot cup of coffee, and sit back for little bit this morning with your Bible and your Maker. Maybe you’ll think a little differently today.

Think about it

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, joy, Multiple Sclerosis

Think about what you are thinking about. Is it worry, or fear? I heard it put this way recently: Worry is telling God that you think He can’t handle things correctly.

Fear is crippling and will consume us if not proactively fought. We must think about what we are thinking about. I am learning that peace and freedom from fear are my choice….what are you choosing to think on and meditate on? If we are not intentional, fear will be like a roller coaster that we didn’t mean to get on. It will strap us in and take us wherever it wants us to go.

We choose whether or not to get on the roller coaster of fear. If we aren’t proactive about our thoughts, they’ll take us for a ride we may not want to go on…

Check out this song by Hillsong, Forever Reign. It helps to focus my thoughts on Jesus when I am struggling with fear:

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling addresses this beautifully:

Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace.

Isaiah 12:2; Romans 8:6

Tired of being afraid? I am. After a few months of absolute freedom from fear, it came back fiercely lately since undergoing medical tests to diagnose some neurological issues. Fear & worry seem to be the things I struggle with the most.  The past six months have been up and down and I have struggled with fear and the unknown during lots of tests for multiple sclerosis. So far the tests are inconclusive, as MS is very difficult to diagnose or completely rule out. In the moments of peace that I experience, I have joy and peace that it really doesn’t matter whether I have MS or not…my life is not my own and it belongs to Christ who gives me life. In my worst moments, I run with my imagination and fear the unknown and worst debilitating scenarios that MS can cause. What goes on in our thoughts is our choice. You and I must choose to think on truth; if we don’t, fear and worry can take us for a ride.

Walking through uncertainty

Christianity, fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, spirituality, Uncategorized

Are you waiting on something in your life? Maybe you are waiting to hear an answer or praying for change. It could be a loved one that you are praying for and waiting for the miraculous, because that’s what it’s going to take for real change. Maybe it’s a diagnosis or maybe you’re seeking God’s direction and you have been waiting, eager to hear from Him.

If you are walking through uncertainty, and waiting for an answer in some area of your life, then you may enjoy this. Today’s reading for the devotional, Jesus Calling, really nails what we need to be thinking on when waiting. As you read, picture God saying these truths to you:

I want to be Central in your entire being. When your focus is firmly on Me, My Peace displaces fears and worries. They will encircle you, seeking entrance, so you must stay alert. Let trust and thankfulness stand guard, turning back fear before it can gain a foothold. There is no fear in My Love, which shines on you continually. Sit quietly in My Love-Light, while I bless you with radiant Peace. Turn your whole being to trusting and loving Me.

2 Thessalonians 3:16; 1 John 4:18

photo by christianbook.com

This little devotional book has been a great source for me lately. Do you ever have those days when you want to sit down with your cup of coffee and read the Bible, but you don’t really know where to dive in? This book has one paragraph reading each day. As I’ve been waiting for answers in several areas of my life lately, this devotional give me a great starting point with truths from the Bible, worded as if Jesus Himself is speaking them. It gives additional Scripture references that help you to dig further. Check it out!

What if we really believed what God says?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, love, new creation, religion

Have you believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That He died for your sins and mine, that He was raised from the dead, conquering death and sin? If so, we can walk in a glorious reality. So often we don’t, though. Do you find yourself just shuffling through life, or maybe racing through it? Same old stuff, different day…it shouldn’t be so!

What if we really believed what God says? What if we not only believed it, but knew it, deep down in our soul?

If you and I believed and knew God’s lavish love for us, then we would act and feel differently.

What if we really knew and believed that we are made new when we are in Christ; how would we think and what would we spend our time doing?

What if we were truly free from caring about what others think, and only concerned ourselves with what God thinks about us?

Maybe our lives would be more compelling and maybe we’d walk in the freedom and abundant life that Jesus promised us.

The apostle Paul illustrates this in a tangible way that is challenging. Remember that before he was Paul, he was Saul of Tarsus, murderer and zealous persecutor of Christians. Imagine that there must have been times that he would reflect on some of the horrible deaths that he had been party to. Surely that would invoke guilt or shame from anyone. Instead, Paul had a radical change of heart and behavior. He went on to be a missionary and wrote a large portion of the New Testament, including many letters to other believers. What’s really mind-blowing is the way Paul describes himself in the introductions that he gives in these letters. I think if I were Paul, I probably would have started my letters awkwardly, something like this: You probably remember me, I used to be a murderer. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to kill you or anything, I just want to talk to you about Jesus.

Instead, it seems like Paul was able to grasp the reality that God had made him into a completely new and different person. Paul didn’t define himself by his past, as significant as it was. Check out the first few verses of Romans and how it seems that Paul knew and believed God.

Here is how Paul describes himself:

a servant of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and

set apart for the gospel of God—

He goes on to describe Jesus in his introduction:

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Don’t you love that Paul is firm in his belief of who he is in this introduction, and then he introduces Jesus? Powerful! So I want to believe and walk in this truth, that I am a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, may you believe it too!

God, help me believe you. Help me know you more.

LOL. Is there any other way?

Christianity, depression, freedom in Christ, joy, new creation

People say I have a distinct laugh. Which means it’s really obnoxious and loud. I have really tried to tone it down or make it more lady-like, but it still seems to come out as a sudden, loud, burst of unrestrained laughter. This means that my “distinct laugh” is really more of a guffaw. I also have the world’s gummiest smile. You can see most of my teeth and gums…and I just can’t help it! Yesterday in church they played a beautiful song, Restoration, by David Brymer. The lyrics are repetitive and also profound. This is what got me to thinking about my boisterous laugh.

Although I have had a real relationship with Jesus for the last fourteen years or so, I have continued to struggle with depression off and on. Sometimes I wonder if depression is even worse as a Christian. That sounds weird, but here’s why I say this: Being a Christ-follower can bring a whole new dimension of guilt. For example, when you aren’t able to pull yourself out of a dark place or season of life, you reason that Jesus is enough and if you only had enough faith in Him, you would be free from this. There’s a real tension here, because it’s true that Jesus IS enough. He is all-sufficient, He is healer and powerful to overcome death, depression, or any sickness. So what do we do with the reality that sometimes these maladies remain, in spite of the truth that we know about God and His ability to take it away or heal?

There’s not a clear-cut answer for this question, at least in my experience. All I know to do in these times is to cling to God’s truth, and cry out to Him, being honest about how I am feeling. It helps to read the Psalms aloud. They are authentic and raw, and no matter what season of life you are in, there is always a Psalm that can articulate our complex feelings. This song that was played yesterday echoes Psalm 30 and reminds me of what a joy it is that I laugh too loud and have a cheesy smile that I can’t seem to tone down. It’s because Jesus has held on to me when I have felt too weak to hold on to Him. He brings restoration and healing to our souls.

Here are the lyrics:

You bring restoration
You bring restoration
You bring restoration
to my soul

You’ve taken my pain
called me by a new name
You’ve taken my shame
and in its place, You give me joy

You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take weeping and turn it into laughing
You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take my sadness and turn it into joy

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
You make all things new, all things new

You’ve taken my pain

This video is about 10 minutes long, but if you only listen for a minute or two, you’ll hear the powerful lyrics that echo the greatness and power of God to bring restoration.

Freedom from fear

fear, freedom in Christ, Jesus, mission, spirituality

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with fear. As a believer and Christ-follower, there has been little exception. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing a loved one, fear of going to sleep, fear of what others think….the list goes on and on. Even when I was a teenager, I remember having a sudden onset of fear. Often times this heavy cloud of fear would settle over me out of nowhere, causing me such strong emotion, that I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. Since becoming a Christian 13 years ago, the fears that have plagued me have been more subtle, sometimes masquerading as concerns or worldly wisdom. Sometimes fear will come cunningly, beginning as a subtle feeling of dread that will grow when I don’t actively squash it.

Fear or dread of something bad happening. Has it plagued you?

We are planning a mission overseas later this spring. I was tentative about it at first, even fearful. I talked to my husband, Herschel about it. His advice was surprising but good. He told me that he prays nothing bad would happen. BUT, if it does, he can’t think of a better way to go, than to be obedient to God’s call on your life. This was underscored as I’ve gone through some medical tests over the past month. The results have been inconclusive so far, but the idea that I could have a debilitating disease has caused a surprising response from deep within me! Normally, medical tests like these would paralyze me with fear and dread of the unknown. I would mentally obsess on what might happen. How I might suffer, what if my family suffers, etc. Instead, something wonderful has happened.

Instead of anxiety and fear of something terrible happening, it has freed me! I decided that I can spend the next several months and years with a looming fear of a bad diagnosis. If the bad report never comes, I will have wasted precious time that I can never get back. Instead, it has pushed me to a place of freedom. Freedom to take risks and live life to the fullest!  I want my life to count. When my last breath comes, I want to leave a legacy of freedom and crazy, outrageous faith in Jesus Christ. I want there to be a string of people who have been pulled toward God because of the life I lived. I want my children to have a mom who loved Jesus with abandon. Fear could keep me from that. Comfort has been one of my biggest enemies. I am choosing to get out of my boring comfort zone with walls that have been erected by fear. I’ve decided that to be obedient to Jesus’ calling, I’m going to take His words seriously and not figuratively:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:24-26  

Not that I will take stupid risks because I am not looking to be a martyr. I only want to live a life of freedom from fear, and full of love for my Savior. Interestingly, Jesus says almost the same thing earlier in gospel of Matthew, chapter 10. Maybe he said it twice so we’d hear it.