New Year New Focus

Yes, I realize it’s January 19th so this post is a couple of weeks late but hey, at least it’s still the first month of the year!

God has put on my heart 2 different issues I need to work on. In a word or two… JOY and SIN. The world would say that there’s no such thing as sin and that joy is the same as happiness. Can I challenge you to look at joy and sin in a biblical context?

So, the bad news… Sin is real and believe it or not you are a sinner! Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Before, there was no death or pain or sin but Eve listened to the serpent and decided it looked too delicious to pass it up. Genesis 3:6-7 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

From that point on sin was in the world. Genesis 4:7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and it’s desire is for you, but you must master it. I think we can all agree that sin is real… right? If it wasn’t why would Jesus have to die such a terrible death to save us?

For me, I believe without a doubt that sin is real and I commit it just about everyday. What I want to focus on this year is living a righteous life. No, not perfect… only Jesus lived a perfect life. I want to take my sin seriously. I don’t want to just confess and repent (or appear to repent) just because I know God is watching… that isn’t true repentance and it reeks of the attitude of… well God forgives so I screwed up and I’ll do better next time. NO! I want to truly be sorry for my sin and actually take steps and make an effort not to do that I again. There are too many people in the world who call themselves Christian yet don’t take their sin seriously. Join me in coming to the foot of the cross, confessing our sin, turning away from it and living a righteous life. Not perfect… but with sincere effort… not just words. Remember, God knows our heart and our thoughts.

Now onto joy. I believe there is a difference between joy and happiness. Webster’s dictionary defines joy as 1) the emotion evoked by well- being, 2) a state of happiness or felicity, 3) a source or cause of delight. Webster’s also lists well-being and felicity in its definition of happiness. For me, I believe that joy truly comes from the Lord and if we are seeking Him continuously He will give us joy whether or not our circumstances would declare joy.

I love what God says in Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I love that the JOY of the LORD in my strength!

Psalms 5:11 But let all who take refuge in You be glad, Let them, ever sing for joy; And may You shelter them, That those who love Your name may exult in You.

There are so many verses is just the Psalms that talk about joy. I want that joy no matter how good or bad my day is going. And even more important is that I want my family to see my joy no matter the circumstances. Fortunately, our children have a father that is much better then I at showing joy no matter the situation. He inspires me to seek our God and rest in God’s joy no matter what. I’m reminded of Paul in prison. When he and Silas were in prison they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. To me that is a steadfast joy that can only come from God.

So, my spiritual goals for 2018… take my sin seriously and make sincere efforts to turn away from sin and live a holy life. I believe living this kind of life is a journey that takes your whole life to perfect. This is what sanctification is all about. Our lives are to be continuously pointing towards and living up to His standards. And to find joy in all my circumstances.

Will you join me?

Psalms 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.

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Merry Christmas!

Yes, I realize we are past December 25th but since Jesus wasn’t truly born on December 25th I figured it would be ok to say Merry Christmas on December 28th!

Anyway, below is a link to a fantastic blog post about God’s promises to us by Michelle Lesley. She has quickly become my favorite female Christian writer on discernment and the importance of being in God’s Word.

Please click on this link and take 5 minutes to read about God’s promises… you will be encouraged!

Romans 5:8 but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Merry Christmas!

Gaylene

Youth Groups… Why our family steers clear

Many years ago I had a close Christian friend tell me that her and her family (mom, dad, 2 sons) were looking for a new church and one of their goals was to join a church that did not have a youth group.  Of course, this wasn’t their only requirement (doctrinally sound, etc were requirements) but it had become very important to her.  Honestly, I thought she was nuts!  Her boys were about to be pre-teen… or do they call them tweens these days… anyway, I was thinking her kids are going to need friends when they become the dreaded teenagers (this was back when I thought teenagers had to behave the way the world says teenager have to behave) and what better friends then to have as part of the youth group?

Fast forward a couple year later and we had moved across town and were going to a different church.  I started paying attention to their youth group as my conversation with my friend was always in the back of my mind.  As I watched our youth group (no, I didn’t have any kids of that age yet) it became glaringly obvious that our youth looked no different than the youth of the world.  They dressed the same, they talked the same, they had the same attitude.  We, as Christians, are called to be set apart.

The church was having a potluck one day after the service.  As I was standing in line to get my kids their plates of food I overheard a conversation between our youth minister and a 16 year old girl who were standing right in front of me.  As I listened to their discussion I was, quite frankly, appalled by what I heard and envisioned Natasha having this same conversation in a few years.  Instead of the youth minister kindly but firmly pointing this girl to have this discussion with her parents he engaged her about boyfriends and how important they can be in a girls life, etc.  I realize, to the world this is a completely normal conversation but to someone who desires, more then anything, to raise her children in the admonition of the Lord I was sickened.  There are so many biblical teachings this youth minister could have said to this young girl but instead played into what the world has taught her.

Anyway, I came across the video below that explains better then I can why our family doesn’t attend a church with a youth group.  The video is about 39 minutes long but SO worth it!  He talks about how Sunday school and youth groups started here in America.  Watch to the end when Voddie gives a simple message to fathers and another simple messages to pastors.

 

 

Seeking The Things Above

A couple of weeks ago a news story came out that was heartbreaking and sadly, a statement of our current society.  A young couple seeking fame and instead faced death.

Please read this blog post by Pastor Gabe.  His perspective is spot on.

Colossians 3:1-4  Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Colossians 3 describes the believer’s position in Christ.  If you call yourself a Christian you should be seeking the things above, not things on this earth.  I know this is something I struggle to remember but putting on the armor of God everyday by reading His Word and praying I can continue to seek things above more and earthly things less.

Gaylene

 

 

Fountains of Blessings

I love the book My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  If you haven’t read this book you should!  It has short daily devotionals for every day of the year.  Today’s devotional focused on John 4:14 The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.  This is the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well and Him revealing to her who He really is and that He can offer everlasting water.  By springing up I believe Jesus is talking about abundant life.

That’s the life I want.  Not abundant in material things or money but abundant in being a blessing to others, serving others, praying for others.  As a sinful human I can so easily get caught up in what I want, what I desire, what I need (or think I need) and yet no where in the Bible does Jesus say to focus on what I want.

In his book Oswald says “We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as ‘rivers of living water’ in blessing to everyone.”  He compares that to people who are like the Dead Sea… always receiving and never giving because their relationship is not right with the Lord.  My favorite quote from today’s devotion is “Stay at the Source, closely guarding your faith in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow into the lives of others with no dryness or deadness whatsoever.”  So incredibly powerful!

I see so many people get hung up on different things of the Bible and I just don’t understand.  There are many things in the Bible that are beyond my comprehension… and I’m ok with that!  I have a finite mind, not God’s mind so not understanding everything in the Bible every time I read it is not a problem for me.  I choose to believe the ENTIRE Bible and trust God with my life.  I’m certainly not perfect at it but I don’t want to be a luke warm Christian and only read my Bible on Sunday or go to church when it’s convenient or a major holiday.  He calls us to be in His word EVERY DAY, to worship, pray and serve others.  Satan loves nothing more then someone who calls herself a Christian yet does not live a Christian life.

Romans 13:12  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Ephesians 6:11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 

Walk worthy in the Light of Christ!  If you call yourself a Christian, understand that everything you say and do is a reflection or a witness of Christ to those around you.

Book Study – God Up Close Chapter 2

What do you think of when you hear the word meditation?  According to the Webster Dictionary meditation is discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation.  I don’t know about you but that definition is not very helpful.  Often in today’s world when you hear the word meditation you think of a new age type focus or eastern meditation.  However, I believe meditation started WAY before any new age movement.

Psalm 64:1  Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

Psalm 64 is a psalm about being oppressed by the wicked but still rejoicing in the Lord.  In verse 1 David talks about meditating on God and calling on God to hear his voice.

Psalm 119:48  My hands also I will lift up to your commandments, which I love, and I meditate on your statutes.

Here is a table that contrasts between Biblical Meditation and Eastern Meditation.

Eastern Meditation                              Biblical Meditation

Mental Focus                      Empties the mind.                                 Fills the mind with God’s Word.

Content Focus                    Asks participants to repeat                  Asks participants to focus on vital
a single word – a mantra.                      content – God’s Word.

Goal                                     Aids in self-fulfillment.                         Aids in honoring God.

Method                               Visualizes what you desire.                  Prays to God, who controls the universe.

Resources                           The ultimate resources is                     The ultimate resource and power is God.
within the person.

I studied this table for a long while because I see such truth in it.  Truth not just in meditation but truth in the sins of this fallen world!  The world tries to empty the mind rather then deal with stress, job problems, money problems, marriage problems, parent-child relationship problems.  We are taught by our secular society that we are the resource to fix everything.  It’s all within us which is absolutely absurd!  Think of the disappointment when you visualize yourself in that new position at work.  And you visualize and visualize and visualize yet it doesn’t happen.  You become bitter, resentful.  The goals in the table really struck me…. I don’t want to aid myself in self-fulfillment.  My fulfillment comes from the Lord, not my husband (although I have to say my husband ROCKS!  Thank you Lord!), not my children (I’m blessed here too!), not my job, not even my church.  My GOD is what fulfills me!  The goal of biblical meditation is to help me to honor God.

I’m loving this study.  I’m seeing the importance of getting in the Word EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Not just on Sundays.  God’s word is our armor in such a fallen land.  Ephesians 6:1  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

If the Word is not influencing you SOMETHING is – I promise!

God Bless!

 

 

Book Study: God Up Close – Chapter 1

“Oh, how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.”  Psalm 119:97

A few months ago a dear friend of mine said while meeting with her Pastor’s wife, the wife asked who in my friend’s life she looked up to spiritually.  I was blown away when my friend said I was the first one she thought of!  Me??  I have so much to learn and so many ways to grow spiritually.  I remember thinking ‘I need to earn that title.’  So, when I was recently invited to take part in a book study with another friend of mine I immediately jumped at the chance as doing bible studies with this sister in Christ is very encouraging, convicting and refreshing.  She loves the Lord with all her heart and even more, loves to share the Gospel.  She is passionate about her family and ministering to other moms.  She truly is a light in such a dark world.

She came across a book titled God Up Close: How to Meditate on His word by Doug McIntosh.  The book is no longer in print (because, I believe, that it does not tickle the itching ears of the average church in America today) but I was able to buy a used copy on Amazon.  There are about 11 ladies in the group ranging in age from 38 to 86 with many different life experiences and biblical knowledge to share.  Course… being the introvert… I don’t share much!  I’d rather listen!  I’m determined to share next week though!

I’ve read the first 3 chapters twice already and have really been convicted on what are my priorities.  The author, Mr. McIntosh, makes several good points of what we value and love we make time for yet many many Christians do no read their bible and pray every day… many barely once a week.  This book addresses the phenomenon that being a Christian just means being a good person or believing in God.  That’s it… that’s all you have to do…. hmmm.  If you actually read the bible that’s not the truth.

I love this quote in chapter 1: “Meditation is the adoring believer’s interaction with the God of the Bible by means of the Bible.”  I want to be the adoring believer!  Here are the 3 steps Mr. McIntosh uses to meditate on God’s word:

  1. Realizing the truth of God as it is contained in the Scriptures.  This realization comes from reading and study.
  2. Reflecting upon that truth, considering its implications for me personally and for the world.
  3. Responding to God in thanksgiving, worship, and obedience because of that truth.

The author makes a point; if your first question when deciding if you should meditate on God’s word is ‘how long will this take’ then you can’t afford it.  Truly, if I could spend at least an hour every day pouring over my bible and journaling I would!  I love being in God’s word and I love my children being in God’s word.  I can’t expect them to do it if I do not make it a priority.  He also points out that many obstacles present themselves when someone makes a decision to meditate on God’s word.  Satan is not happy about a Christian actually reading her bible and makes every attempt to sabotage her efforts.  Facebook, movies, TV (which is 98% crap anyway), video games all take time away from God; not to mention the effect on our families.

Ok, I’m getting on a rant… I’ll get off my soapbox for now.

Some of the last words of Moses were “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall commend your children to be careful to observe – all the words of this law.  For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life.” Deuteronomy 32:46-47

Meditation calls for honesty and reflection.  Express your concerns and stresses of this life to God, always with reverence and He will listen.  He’s knows your heart anyway but wants to walk with you through this life.  Reflect on how God has shown His kindness to you or to others.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

Another favorite quote from chapter 1 – “Meditation is not a casual activity.  Only those who esteem (delight in) the Word will spend the time and energy required to mine it’s treasures.”

I’ll end with this praise from David from 2 Samuel 22:1-4

Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  And he said: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;  The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;  My shield and the horn of my salvation,  My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.  I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised:  So shall I be saved from my enemies.