Discernment Part 2: How Will I Respond?

Last time we explored how important it is to utilize discernment when we see open doors / opportunities to pursue.  Today I want to look at how we are to respond to these open doors and why it is so important that we do so.

 

A lot of my readers may be a little too young to remember the game show called “Let’s Make A Deal”.  In the game there are doors to choose from, and behind each door is a prize.  All you need to do is decide which one you would like to open.  The operative here is that you get to choose.  Now apply that to this series and see how you would respond.  You have no idea what the door will reveal, or once it is revealed how to proceed further, yet you are curious to find out.  Do you take a leap of faith, catch your breath and then open the door and walk through or are you afraid of what may be behind the door?  It may require you to step outside of your comfort zone or put you into a situation in which you have no control.  It may ask more of you than you are willing to give.  How do you handle it and how do you respond?

 

First, I want to assure you that God will never send you to a place without equipping you with the ability to do His will.  He is a caring God and He has promised that He is always standing beside us and that He will always provide us with what we need.  We can look to Joshua 1:9 and see that God is always with us and then we can look at 2 Corinthians 9:8 to see that He always provides all our needs.  These are His promises and He keeps His word.

 

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I hold on to these promises and it provides me a peace of mind and it serves as a desire to continue to do His will without fear or doubt.  You might be saying that is all good, but I do not have the skillset needed to do this request.  Yes, you do!  He would never call you to do something and not give you the tools needed to do it.  All of us have special gifts that serve as our purpose to do His will.  We just need to realize what those gifts are and to use them the way that He intended us to use them.  Romans12:6-8 explains the gifts we have.

 

Romans 12:6-8 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:  if prophesy, let us prophesy in  proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

 

Once we can recognize our gifts we need to expound on them and use them to achieve whatever opportunity He provides.  Don’t doubt the gift nor refuse to use it for His will.  He can take a weak character trait and make it a strong tool in His hand for His purpose.  He is in control and it is His plan to follow, so submit and do so.  Hebrews 13:21, Ephesians 4:12 and Philippians 4:19 assures us that He will equip us for whatever purpose He has deemed for us.  Along with this are some great biblical examples of people who faced uncertainty or doubt when called by God. We learn in Exodus 4:10-12 God’s response to Moses’ fear, in Judges 6:15-16 He calmed Gideon’s doubts about his ability, and in Jeremiah 1:9 He calls the young and unsure prophet Jeremiah and proclaims how He will instill in him the words to do His will.

 

Hebrews 13:21 “Make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.”

Ephesians 4:12 “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply your need according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.”

Exodus 4:10-12 “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before or since You have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’  So, the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind?  Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’”

Judges 6:15-16 “’Pardon me my Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’  The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’”

Jeremiah 1:9 “Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’”

 

Once we realize our gifts, and we rely on the skills He provides us, our next step is to open the door and walk through it.  A new set of questions emerge though, don’t they?  What if I am not ready?  What if I make a commitment that would take up too much of my time or take me away from my comfortable life?  I asked to be used but don’t I get to decide what to do to serve you?  What if I do this and I fail or what if I open the wrong door?

 

We need to remember we are here to serve God’s will and not our own desires.  He presents the open door for a reason.  He knows what is best for you as stated in Jeremiah 29:11, so you should trust that.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  

 

We need to keep in mind that all we do is for His glory.  It doesn’t matter if it makes us uncomfortable, or if we need to change our priorities, and we do not get to choose or cherry pick what we are to do.  He is our Creator, our Sovereign Lord and this is His will.  We are to be obedient and just walk on faith.  Regarding the fear of failing, the only way we can fail is to refuse to do what He asks of us.  We must walk blindly and do whatever is presented to us.  We may never know the result or the impact that it made, but the mere act of obedience to Him is our success story.  It is out of love and reverence to Him that we respond and act on the task at hand.  Regarding the wrong door reasoning, once again we need to first use discernment and test the door to see if it matches with scripture, if it does then there is no wrong door.  The only time we enter wrong doors is when we just act on the opportunity and fait to take it to God first and see if it indeed came from Him.  The devil can tempt us with doors as well, so please do not forget that.

 

I understand that the first step is always the most nerve-wracking and the scariest, but once you are determined to be obedient and take that first step, the road becomes easier to continue to walk down.  Who knows where it will lead or who you may encounter, but isn’t it worth it to have the privilege of serving Him?  Toss the fear and the excuses aside and open the door (after confirmation from God) when it appears.  A true Christ follower will take this untraveled route and trust in Him even when we do not understand how it will all come together or work out.  Lean on Proverbs 3:5-6 throughout the journey.

 

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

 

Walk on in faith and stay on the path that He has laid out in front of you.  One day you will look back and count your blessings that He chose you to serve His purpose.  When we get to meet Him on that great day it will be just as foretold in Matthew 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant!”.  Oh, what joy it will be to hear those words and what joy that day will bring!  May God Bless you and your journey.

Discernment: How Will I Know? Part One

Have you ever wondered about the open doors or opportunities that present itself in your life?  Are you maybe looking back and thinking regretfully how you missed your chance at something?  Do you feel that you are a little unsure if you are reading the signs or getting the message correctly?  I have been there done that and yes, it is frustrating, but worth the challenge it presents in finding out what that opportunity is and where it can lead.

 

We all could benefit from a little discernment and having it makes things a little easier when making tough decisions to act on before we move forward.  The Bible has a lot to say about this matter as well and we will explore it in just a bit, but let’s get a better understanding of the word first.

 

Discernment is the ability to be able to grasp or comprehend something, or to gain a better understanding of a situation.  We use discernment to make wise decisions or choices to utilize better judgment. It is a keen perception that many fail to make the most of, and few take advantage of the benefits, that come from discernment.

 

Throughout the book of Proverbs, we are told about two different type of men:  the fool and the wise man.  The fool refuses to be discerning; thus, giving into his folly by his poor judgment.  The wise man uses perception to pause and think first before jumping into something he is ill-prepared to handle.  Where do you fall?  Let’s explore a few profound bible verses and see, shall we?  Proverbs has really impacted my life.  I have seen my portrait from it’s wisdom and I have found myself to be a fool more often than not.  But then again most of my foolishness happened before I started a relationship with Jesus.  I want to shed light on that so maybe you can be a step ahead of where I was and not make the poor decisions I did repeatedly.  Proverbs 15:21 aptly hits the nail on the head by stating how important it is to have common sense.

 

Proverbs 15:21  “Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight.” 

 

Let’s take a step back for a moment.  Why is discernment important and why is it part of the purpose of mankind?  Proverbs clearly defines that it is important for man to coexist and honor God by having a strong relationship with our Creator. Look at Proverbs 1:2-6 and see the purpose of our understanding God’s handbook on how to live; thus, addressing this for yourself.  Then take a further look and meditate on Proverbs 1:7 which instructs us on how to accomplish this purpose.

 

Proverbs 1:2-6 “ For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words and insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and letting the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

 

Proverbs 1:7  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

 

Man has an ego problem.  Man feels he has the wisdom to resolve any issue on his own.  Man believes he has mastered the necessary skill of understanding to navigate himself throughout life.  Man takes the credit for this, and does not acknowledge God; thus, he rebels.  When we can see God in and around us, we can lean in to Him and rely on His wisdom and understanding.  It will guide us.  It will help us see past the trees of sinful deceit and see the forest (sinful world) as it truly is.  We must submit to Him and His power, not the other way around.  In Proverbs 2:1-15 we learn about that there is an advantage when we seek wisdom and what we gain if we follow His instructions.

 

Proverbs 2:1-15  “My son,  if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.  Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—for every good path.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.  Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.”

 

When I read this passage, I get confirmation and feel great assurance that I am walking the way He wants me to walk.  I let my ego, my rebellious nature, fall by the wayside and I submit fully to Him. Is it easy?  No, but it is worth it.  Is it costly?  Yes, but most things of value are going to cost you one way or another.  In Proverbs 4:1-2 and 7, we learn wisdom must be sought no matter the cost, if we want to maintain His instructions for a godly life.  It all begins with wisdom.

 

Proverbs 4:1-2; 7  “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.  I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching…the beginning of wisdom is this:  Get wisdom.  Though it cost all that you have, get understanding.”

 

Wisdom and understanding (discernment) go hand in hand.  One needs to pursue the first to be able to obtain the second.  All we need to do is ask for it and then receive it as pointed out in James 1:5.

 

James 1:5  “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraidth not; and it shall be given him.” 

 

Proverbs tells us what discernment is and why it is important to obtain or gain it, but we now need to view discernment as an act of obedience and a requirement of serving God.  I want to support this further by showing how important this requirement is and how it demonstrates obedience and that placing all our trust in God is of the utmost highest priority.  Let’s look at the following verses:  Philippians 1:9-10, Hosea 14:9, Hebrews 5:14 and Hebrews 4:12.  All of these verses are connected to the theme of why discernment is needed and should be applied.

 

Philippians 1:9-10  “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”

 

Hosea 14:9  “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them for the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.”

 

Hebrews 5:14  “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

 

Hebrews 4:12  “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

When we can obtain wisdom and gain understanding, then we can apply it to the open doors or opportunities that appear in our lives at specific times.  We need to use discernment to test and see who is presenting this opportunity to us.  Is it God or is it Satan?  These last three verses are a litmus test for us to use to measure and determine where the opportunity is coming from. It will tell us whether we walk through the open door or walk past the open door.  Let’s look at the following verses in 1 John 4:1, Romans 12:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and see how to test these open doors.

 

1 John 4:1  “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

 

Romans 12:2  “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

1 Thessalonians 5:21  “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

 

Now that we know what discernment is, how important it is to obtain, and why we need to utilize it to progress further with our opportunities, we next will see how the application if used correctly, can bring and offer, many blessings into our lives and those we are meant to touch.  Part 2 will delve deeper into this.  I hope this helps someone get the clarity they seek. Have a great day and God bless!

Choose Love Every time

Have you ever been through a test and wonder if you failed or passed it?  Have you ever been pushed to the limit and wonder how to let it go so you can move on?   Have you ever been exasperated and feel the need to scream just to vent?  Well, I have been there and in fact, I am being tested in this area again.   Sometimes we must keep taking a test repeatedly because either we didn’t successfully pass it the first time, or an issue keeps arising that tests your strength in certain areas, so you can be refined.

 

There is an answer to passing this test.  The answer is to love no matter what the situation is or whomever is causing friction in your life.  However, this must be a conscious and deliberate choice.  Love should always be a continuous action regardless.  It should not be biased or applied to only family and close friends.  We are commanded to love everyone and treat them as we would like to be treated.

 

I get it.  It is hard.  It can be so frustrating to love someone who verbally attacks you when you offer to help, only to refuse that help because they are determined to stay in their current circumstances.  It is unbearable to be around someone who is a constant negative Nellie who after asking for advice, refuses to take it because it is not what they wanted to hear.  It is hard to love when someone loves to boast and sing God’s praises when things are going well, but as soon as the tide turns they become unwilling to submit to God, trust in Him, or give Him the respect He is owed.  However, despite all of this we see in Luke 6:27-31, 35 and Matthew 5:43-48, that Jesus commands us to live out love regardless.

 

Luke 6:27-31  “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to them the other also.  If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

 

Luke 6:35  “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

 

Matthew 5:43-48  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

 

We are offered guidance and wise wisdom in Romans 12:20-21 as we learn how to treat those who are our enemies or those who follow a different belief system.

 

Romans 12:20-21  “On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

 

Doing all of this can be hard to wrap your mind around.  It seems like we are rewarding those who hurt us, slander our name, or just plain do not like us, but we are not rewarding anyone.  We are being obedient to God’s command not to the world point of view.  We are asked to stand out and be the light Jesus wants us to be.  We cannot follow His example if we refuse to walk in His footsteps.

 

Instead we keep it all bottled up inside and let the hatred or anger fester.  It grows too quickly and if not tended to, can start to damage our viewpoint on our own life or life in general.  Hatred should never have a place in our lives.  It is futile, and it damages us the most, not the people who hate us or persecute us for offering to help or share our beliefs.  In Proverbs 10:12 we are fed much wisdom regarding hate and its remedy.

 

Proverbs 10:12  “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.” 

 

Hate breeds more hate.  We become discontent, we tend to argue more, we refuse to listen as a result and become more distant to others.  We pigeon-hole ourselves into a corner when we do this.  We become the very thing we previously tried to get others to let go of.

 

When we refuse to give in to hatred or anger we are setting a new standard.  Jesus never expressed hate and yet He was able to get His point across.  Why?  He used a gentle word and showed love and compassion to all of us whether in times of adversity or during our smallest to greatest trials.  He reached out in love and heard our pleas for help.  He stood (and still does) by us during the storm and long after it had passed.  His love was pure and unconditional.  It remained; thus, allowing us to gain strength by the power of that love.

 

Hold on to love and let everything else drop away.  Hear the cries of those calling out during their hardest hours, be patient and willing to listen without judgment.  Offer advice when needed knowing fully that it may not be received.  Be encouraging, yet do not be afraid to warn when another Christian brother or sister is backsliding.

 

Backsliding begins when a believer stops praying or reading The Word, stops being faithful/obedient to God, and decides to live in their sinful nature and go their own way instead.  They become discouraged and look to the world for answers instead of taking it all to God and submitting to His will.  Matthew 26:41 warns us how vital it is that we pray continuously to God and where failing to do so can lead us and Colossians 4:2 stresses the power of prayer.

 

Matthew 26:41  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”

 

Colossians 4:2  “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

 

Mankind does turn away from God and we become determined to resolve our own problems with human wisdom, not God’s wisdom.  Isaiah 59:12-13 and Jeremiah 2:19 state the consequences when we backslide and forgo God.

 

Isaiah 59:12-13  “For our offences are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us.  Our offences are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:  rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.”

 

Jeremiah 2:19  “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you.  Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me, declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.”

 

God can send us a storm to warn us of our straying and that we need to get back on track.  Jonah was swallowed by a whale, Israel suffered a plague and David lost a child when he slept with Bathsheba.  All of these are prime examples of how a storm can quickly rise if we choose to be disobedient.  What we need to keep in mind is to be thankful all the time.  When things are prosperous we become comfortable and overconfident; thus, tending to stray from God and go our own way.  However, we call on Him whenever we experience adversity.  God should be acknowledged all the time, do not dishonor Him or downplay His glory by coming to Him only during your roughest patches.  The good news is that God allows us the opportunity to repent when we backslide and promises to restore us if we do as He promises us in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Hosea 14:4.

 

2 Chronicles7:14  “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

 

Hosea 14:4  “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely:  for mine anger is turned away from him.” 

 

Sometimes the problem is not backsliding, but rather the person suffering through trials are not truly Christians.  They never repented or were never transformed by the Word.  They may lead themselves to believe they are, but if there is no change or any fruit of their works, then they may have never been saved.  In 1 John 1:9 we see how important it is to confess our sins and come to Him; whereas 1 John 3:8-9 shows us that our refusal to repent or to continue in our sin is not a characteristic trait of a true Christian.  A Christian who accepts God is born again and is affected by his sin – convicted by the Holy Spirit to repent and make it right with God.

 

1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

 

1 John 3:8-9 “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  No on born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

 

What I have learned from all of this is that we are to help one another and meet the needs of those in trouble. To try to warn Christians who have strayed, and then get them back on the right path once again.  We are to warn gently but firmly and not to enable them if they refuse to accept the wisdom offered.  Our job is to warn despite the risk of possibly losing a friendship or creating an irreparable distance with a loved one.  Their responsibility is to decide if they want to accept the advice given or refuse to change their behavior.  It is the foundation built on love that runs through all of this.  We want to treat every one the way we expect to be treated, but we need to be obedient to God and honest to those we are trying to help.  Never stop loving them and always keep them in prayer for the chance that their allotted time to come to Him happens and is not turned down when offered.  Salvation is a gift – a gift that through God’s grace we are offered.  We did not earn it, nor do we deserve it, yet there it is ready for us to accept.  Please let Him into your hearts today, submit fully to Him and place all your trust in Him.  Give Him your burdens, then let them go.  Live as He wanted us to live.  Be patient, show compassion, be hospitable, merciful and forgiving.  Love above all of this.  Together we can work it out, we can bear with one another and we can all reap the joy of having an Almighty God in our lives.  God bless!

A Little Bit Right and A Little Bit Wrong

I was watching a fight break out the other day and it was eye-opening, as well as, humbling.  Both sides were acting immature, fighting tooth and nail, and both sides were missing the point.

 

What they had in common was a self-imposed vision of who they thought they were and who they viewed the enemy to be.  However, neither side could see their own flaws, but could only focus on the flaws of the opposition.  A dangerous miscalculation!

 

So what side won? You may be asking this question at this very moment.  The answer is staring us right in the face – obviously neither side.  Yet, both sides would rather work against one another instead of learning how to work together.  I do not know about you, but this deeply saddens me.  We live in a society that tries to aim so high to be sophisticated, but never reaches that goal because we fail to get past the elementary stage of our lives.  In short, we refuse to let someone else win and we refuse to admit the opposition is making a valid point.  Our egos are getting in the way and neither side wants to move aside and welcome another viewpoint.

 

I am frustrated by this because we are working too hard to be divided and not hard enough to be united.  Peace may never come because of our inability to listen to our opposition, think clearly, speak slowly, and apply wisdom generously.  Because of our failure to do this, both sides are wrong in their actions and both sides make valid points.  In other words, both sides are wrong and both sides are right.  As I write this blog a song by the Monkees is playing in my mind called “I’m a Little Bit Wrong and You’re a Little Bit Right” that hits the nail on the proverbial head.

 

As Christians and as anyone who desires to live in peace with his or her fellow man, we need to outline a few things:  First, we are commanded in the great book of God’s Word to put God first.  I repeat:  first, not last and not off to the side.  Our next great commandment is well stated in John 13:34. Jesus instructs us when He states that “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  He did not tell us to love only those who share the same beliefs as we do, but to love everyone.  No one should be left out!

 

He further backs this up by repeating this in a more defining way.  He zeroes in on who to love in Luke 6:27-28.  “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  I believe this command fully covers everyone – no excuses!

 

It was God who taught us love not the other way around.  It was Jesus who told us in 1 Corinthians 16:14 that we must “do everything in love.”  As this command is often repeated throughout the New Testament, it should underline or stress how strongly God asks us to follow it.

 

However, love is a choice – an action.  Your obedience matters and your reluctance to obey (failure to act) this command is a choice as well.  In Romans 12:9-11 we learn what love looks like: “Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  After all we are called to act, to stand out and up for the right cause.  It is not just an honor but a blessing to do so as Matthew 5:9 points out.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

 

Love is the root that makes relationships grow.  It makes negotiations possible.  It allows both sides to reason an issue out and find the most beneficial and viable solution to the said problem.  It is a willingness to compromise and apply a “give and take” mentality to form an agreement.  I am not saying to bend God’s Word to fit your argument.  His word stands above man-made laws and we must honor His Word.  However, I am saying that we need to practice brotherly love as well.

 

Brotherly love is showing compassion toward one’s fellow man.  It is being concerned about your “brother” and helping him in his hour of need.  We are not to take advantage of his hardship or misfortune, but rather do what we can to look out for each other.  Our goal is to be honest and fair, compassionate to one’s trials, and to treat one another with honor and respect.  We are not to find joy in someone’s suffering, boast about our accomplishments, or offer false promises.  We should never utter words to hurt or maim, nor words ingenuously spoken to appear to placate someone until we can find a way for us to cunningly profit from another’s hardship.  Again, we are told to look out for one another.  It is a code of ethics we are to maintain.  Again, it all takes root in the command given to us.

 

Isaiah 56:1 shows us how to help and be there for our “brothers”.  “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”  Solomon, who was gifted by God with much wisdom, imparts the same message about being just in Proverbs 21:3. “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”   We should not feel compelled to do this, but we are to do this because of the love we hold for God and for each other.

 

Being just is a fine attribute, but we also need to respect one another and treat each other with honor.  Looking out for one another is an honor – a privilege – a fulfillment of a command or promise.  It demonstrates a high respect for one person to another.  How can we honor someone if we fail to respect their point of view or their side of a disagreement?  Were we ever listening or were we just using that time to come up with retorts, derisive language, or some sound rebuttal that would put the other side in “its” place?

 

I, for one, think we tend to build walls around ourselves to protect us from our opposition or serve our own personal needs, instead of making way for us to get together and collaborate as mature adults.  We are too quick to cut each other off just when they are beginning to state their point, and instead of “clearing the air” we are blocking each other’s view and widening the rift.

 

Robert Frost wrote a wonderful poem called Mending Wall.  It stresses how fences make good neighbors.  We have become too willing to go the distance to build walls to keep others out and to maintain them so we can prevent others from having an opportunity to get to know us.  We selfishly seek our own comfort, yet we love to confront the opposition because we are dead set on fighting to preserve the walls we built.    We refuse to back down because that would be a sign of weakness and we cannot show that side to anyone.   Our pride is the root cause of all of this.  It is choking the life out of the unity that we are striving to achieve.

 

When do we seek to find a way to tear the wall down?  We all must live together.  Isn’t it more profitable to be able to communicate effectively with one another instead of going for the jugular?  Shouldn’t we respect the rights of the individual by hearing them out?  I am not saying every cause is right.  I am saying that if two sides are willing to hear the issue out, and then together determine what the solution should be, both sides are fighting for the same cause:  resolution and unity.  To love one another, respect one another, hear the other side and iron out the differences when able.  Imagine a reality in which we work together for the common good!

 

Jesus calls us to put others first as stated in 1 Corinthians  13:4-7.  “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious.  Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.  It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful.  It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  Love is the foundation that we must build upon.  When we follow this simple, yet important, command, we can live in peace and both sides can work together for the right reason.  It is a choice and it is up to us if we want to work and live together.  I want to live in love.  I want to be a person of peace.  God Bless the peacemakers who serve and follow His commands!

 

The End of the Year

Do you feel the anticipation of something coming or maybe it is a little anxiety creeping up?  Do you hear the subtle ticking as if the clock is running out?  Is there an incessant tick that never seems to be satisfied no matter what you do?  My friend time is short and the end is indeed near.  The end of the year 2017 is winding down and will soon be over in just four more days.

 

How do you handle the news of an ending coming so quickly?  Are you in a party mode and anxious to get out there and celebrate the end of the year or do you prefer to sit back, relax with a warm beverage, a warm comforter and just reflect on all that happened this year?

 

Is this a time to make new resolutions and start a new beginning or are you resolved to keep things the way they are as long as there isn’t much thought involved?  Are you reduced to just living each day without ever looking forward to what may lie ahead?

 

Each year I like to take a moment to reflect on what happened during the year, how I responded to each challenge or moment of joy, and where I stand at the present time.  I used to waste so much time in my past by de-cluttering my apartment (at the last minute) and then planning every little detail for what I expected to happen in the New Year.  I lived for the planning stage, not for it to actually happen; I dreamed about it, not actively trying to bring it to fruition; thus in short I wasted time.  I lived in the here and now and kept an eye on what could happen, but stopped short in being prepared for when it did.  I simply suggest that you put away the planner and set aside the dreams for just a moment.  Instead let’s take a short journey together and explore a new way to get ready for the New Year.  Yes, let’s change it up a bit.

 

We all get a do-over – a chance to start again.  This is not determined by a date on the calendar, but rather by the grace given so richly to us from God.  Once we set our mind on searching for Him, we will find Him.  When we accept Him and receive Him, we are new again.  As pointed out in Romans 6:4 our very lives change when we come to Christ.  “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism.  And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.”  In short, our old lives fall away because we chose to accept Him and follow Him.  The old dies, but the new start – the new life begins when He takes over for us and we surrender who we once were to Him.

 

Some may be reading this and feel a little confused or some may be alarmed.  Let me try to explain it this way:  I am a sinner who lives in a sinful world.  I mostly have chosen to do what pleases me and for my benefit.  I focused on myself and not on others.  I was never satiated.  I always wanted more and sought it, yet deep down I was empty and not sure as to why.  One day I decided to search for more meaning.  I began to look for God and proof of His existence.  I read His Word, I searched and I found Him.  I believed His Word and I repented of my past sins.  I willingly chose God over everything else and I surrendered myself to Him.  When I accepted Him I received His Holy Spirit which indwells in those who are transformed by Him.  My old ways died and I was reborn.  To be reborn man dies (to his former ways) and asks Christ to live within him.  The old is gone and the new begins.  We all have free will and we all have a choice to make.  It is when we choose Christ that we have the new start.

 

A fresh or new start is freeing.  Once we accept Christ we have no need to go back to our old way of life.  It is useless to do so as pointed out in Luke 5:36-38 when Jesus explains the benefits of living anew as opposed to our former lifestyle.  “Then Jesus gave them this illustration:  ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment.  For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.’  ‘And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.  New wine must be stored in new wineskins.’”  When we find Jesus we need to press on and move forward with Him.  When we cling to our past and old ways and think that if we just alter them somehow, they will work fine, then we are fooling only ourselves.  We need to not resist change, look forward with eyes on Jesus and walk down a new path as a Christian who loves and serves Christ.  The old is useless and the new will bring life – a new start.

 

Making this choice offers us as a Christian hope.  Hope is something to trust in, to look forward to and to wait for.  The Bible shows us many examples of hope, but mainly the New Testament attests to the reason why we are hopeful.  In 1 Peter 1:3-6 we learn about a living hope.  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is by His great mercy that we have all been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.  So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”  Wow!  What a powerful image and a testament to what hope means for the Christian!  Our hope is the gift of eternal life through salvation.  It is a gift because man cannot earn it, does not deserve it, may long for it, but has to act on it by searching and finding God, willingly accept it and then receive it.  It is worth whatever trials we must go through (and each year the trials seem to appear more frequently and are more challenging), but His promise is that He will walk with us, get us through the trial and then gift us with eternal life.  Do you desire to sign up for a re-start and receive Jesus in your heart?

 

Once we make the decision to change and then receive the precious hope from our change, we then can find peace of mind that we can cling to throughout our daily lives.  Peace can come and live amongst us if we truly seek Him out.  Let me point out a few verses that will drive this home and make it clearer for you to understand.

 

To me peace of mind is living day to day without worry or fear.  Living in harmony with one another and loving everyone regardless.  It is not centered nor should be focused on judgment, but rather it is empathizing with one another during their struggles or challenges, and loving them.  We need to listen and hear each other as we speak.  Keep in mind though that honesty has to go hand in hand with this concept as well.  I, for one, cannot live peaceably with someone if I cannot be honest with them.  My hand is not to point a finger at or accuse, but rather in truth tell them what His Word says and love them no matter what.  I focus on honesty because your views and mine may differ, but I cannot alter His Word to give you some peace of mind on something His Word is not aligned with.  This is not a judgment call, but my view on the importance of His Word and how it is prioritized in my life.  Once again He commands us to love one another, but He also instructs us what He deems right or wrong in His Word and He is the only judge in that matter.  So why is peace so important?

 

First of all, we are called to peace as stated in Colossians 3:15.  “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.”  A Christian is meant to get along with one another, not to order the other about or sow discord, but to rely on that peace He has set in our hearts.

 

Peace is something we seek and pursue as stated in 1 Peter 3:11.  “Turn away from evil and do good.  Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”  It is a top priority and it is important to work on maintaining it once found.  We are called to it and we are instructed to preserve it once we find it.

 

It is important to God and it is one of the fruits of the Spirit we receive when we come to God.  Galatians 5:22 tells us this.  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.”  We never would have been gifted peace if we were never meant to live in it or extend it towards others.

 

Peace reaps its own reward as James 3:18 tells us.  “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”  God rewards the peacemakers for standing up and doing what is right in the name of peace.  How blessed are we?  Accept the gift of peace and as Romans 12:18 says:  Promote it.  “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  Sounds like good advice to me.

 

As this year starts to wind down, and before you jump into something without thinking, take a moment and assess where you are right now.  Are you happy, content or at peace?  Are you miserable, at war with someone, unable to rest and feel restored?  Do you have an emptiness or void deep down inside that just cannot be filled?  Ponder all of this and then open The Bible and see what our Wondrous Lord is instructing us, guiding us towards, and learn about the promises of fullness of His Word.  Search Him out, listen to Him, and really hear and apply the wisdom patiently offered, and then once you are “filled up” on His Word, ask Him into your life.  You do get a second (and sometimes a third) chance, so take it and start a new path today that will enlighten you, encourage you, shape you and free you from the bondage of our former selves.  He gives us all a new start, a reason to hope and a peace to carry on until He calls each of us home.  It is your call to make or to avoid.  I had to make the call for I needed a Savior and I wanted to live a life worth living:  A life serving Christ.   It changed my whole outlook on each year I have been blessed to enjoy and grow from.  2018 can be that year for you.  It can be the year you found Christ and started a new beginning.

An Important Due Date – A Glorious Gift

In a little over 4 days a celebration will take place.  The reason for the celebration is clear to the Christian.  It is the birth of our Savior.  It is the greatest love story ever written, it is the story of a living hope.  It is the lifeline God tosses to us, but we need to be able to not only listen to the story, we need to understand the need as to how the story came about in the first place.

 

A purpose has to be determined.  Why did God feel the need to send us a Savior?  After sin entered into the world, wickedness prospered and soon it was everywhere.  Man was disobedient and did not honor God as he was instructed to do.  Man not only was disobedient, but he also failed to live by the law.  In short, the law became unattainable and impossible to maintain – to follow.  God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that man was wicked and that they would always fall short of fully obeying His Word.  Man lived in a sinful world, and in his own selfish desires; thus being charged as a sinner.  Due to sin man now had a penalty to pay for their sin.  The penalty of sin is death.  All of this determined the need for a savior.  God, who wanted to reconcile Himself with man, and through His love, endless mercy and compassion, decided to send His son to save us.  I know many of us cannot comprehend a love so deep that would require a sacrifice to be made in order for us to live, that a lot of us choose not to believe it happened or that it could ever exist.  You would be wrong in that assessment and would miss out on the gift bestowed to all.

 

However, I am here to share that this is an opportunity for you to hear the news and accept the gift offered.  None of us are worthy of it and none of us can earn it.  It is through His grace alone that we are presented this opportunity.  Do not let it pass you by!

 

To understand this powerful birth of our Lord, we need to understand God’s deep love for us.  In John 3:16 we learn of God’s great love for mankind and the price that our Savior would pay for us to live and have eternal life.  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

 

We not only know the need for a savior, but we know from prophecy in Isaiah that the Messiah was coming.  We are promised a Messiah as Isaiah 9:6 points out:  For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.  And he will be called:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  It is here that we see God’s blueprint as how His Word would be fulfilled and the titles attached to Jesus.  All of these are titles befitting a king.

 

To fulfill prophecy God had to choose a vessel to use that would deliver Christ; thus bringing Him into the world.  He chose Mary as someone He highly favored, to carry our Savior.  This pointed to the sign that the Messiah was coming as stated in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.  All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” 

 

In order to understand fully this important due date let’s take a look at the history of that time and we can see how it all pieces together.  In the book of Luke we get the background story and the blueprint of the coming Lord.    The others gospels (Matthew, Mark and John) also mention the birth of Jesus, but I want to focus on Luke’s narrative for a reason.  Luke was not only trustworthy, but he was also a historian who was careful with details about the birth and he was known to be very accurate about the facts.

 

As we read the gospels we learn that there was a decree issued by Publius Sulpicious Quirinius the Roman Governor of Syria, who within the reign of Herod, called for a census to be taken of the people.  Each person was to go to their house (one of the twelve tribes) for the census.  Joseph, who was from the House of David, took himself and Mary to Bethlehem.  This is the where the setting for this love story begins.

 

Upon arriving, as pointed out in Luke 2:7, we find out there was no room for them at the inn, but a stable was available. This now becomes the chosen setting to deliver the baby who though born a King, came into the world in the most ordinary way. “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

 

A king, who, was born into this world without any royal fanfare, lay in a lowly manger, not a crib in a luxurious palace.  Here lay a king who came into this world without any pomp or circumstance.  There were no fancy announcements about his arrival.  Jesus arrived in an ordinary way to demonstrate that he would be the savior for all mankind, and not for just the rich or the prominent classes.  God had a purpose behind this setting.  He was making an announcement more profound than we could understand.  He sent forth angels singing and praising Jesus.  He sent three wise men, who upon seeing a Star of Wonder, followed it and found the baby who would become a future king.  Gifts were bestowed to Jesus – gifts fit for a King.  God had made it known not only who Jesus was, but what Jesus would become and represent to the world.

 

In this distance, down the road, the future would lead to a cross and the world would see a love so greatly given, so righteously and faithfully lived, and a greater prophecy fulfilled.  The child He sent would give up his life in order to save all of us.  This is a reason to celebrate and live a life with immense joy.  This gift once accepted cannot be taken away as pointed out in John 10:28.  “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  This is a promise from God to us.

 

So as you gather together to celebrate Christmas, take a moment to reflect on the true meaning, and then open this gift and accept Jesus.  Nothing will ever compare to its value.  Let Him in and watch how your life changes.  Wrap yourself with the warmth and glow of true love.  Merry Christmas to all and God bless!

Be an Andrea!

Have you ever thought about your name and what it means?  Have you ever wondered what it was that your mom and dad saw (or imagined for you) that made them choose the name you were given?  Have you ever been angry about your name and wanted to change it?  Is it important?

 

I surely do not have the answers, but I do have a different perspective if you will patiently allow me to explain.  I was born many years ago and given the name Jennifer.  I liked the name – the sound of the name and decided to keep it.  Nowadays it seems more and more people like to change their name and try a new one on for size.  I never had such a desire…until now.  However, I will get to that in a bit.

 

When I researched my name I found the following information:  it stems from Guinevere and it can mean the “white enchantress” (it is half-right I am white, but enchanting let’s not go there) or “the fair one”.  All of these years of looking into a mirror for one reason or another I can honestly say that I am not considered to be fair-looking.  Meh, yes.  Fair, no.  No illusion is being shattered in this blog.  All I had was a popular name, but no inclination to becoming popular which is okay.  It was my birth name and I lived with it regardless of what advantages or drawbacks resulted from this.  As I previously mentioned:  I had no reason to change it now.  Until it happened…

 

Quite a few weeks back my Sunday school class was going over a lesson and it centered on one of the disciples:  Andrew.  A quick back story on Andrew tells us that he is the brother of Simon Peter (yes, the same Peter who denied Christ three times).  Andrew was a fisherman who was called to become a disciple, as was his brother, by Jesus.  Andrew first was a disciple of John the Baptist and upon hearing the reveal that Jesus was the Messiah, he left John and went to follow Jesus.  He joyfully took this to heart and followed, but he also made the time to tell others (first he told his brother Peter) about Jesus.  His outreach was evident, faithfully administered, and respected today by all who also would like to share the good news of our Savior Jesus.

 

The class that day impacted me very strongly.  In fact so much so, that I wanted to become an Andrew.  I wanted to, without any hesitation, share the good news and plant abundant seeds that if nurtured and properly maintained, would lead someone – anyone to desire to search for Jesus.  We are commanded to do this as I will point out.

 

In Mark 16:15 we are given a powerful directive by Jesus himself.  “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’”  I definitely would say Andrew did just that.  But there is more!  In Psalms 96:3 we are given a purpose as to why we are to share the gospel, and that is for God’s glory to shine through.  “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the people.”

 

We have a directive and now a purpose, but how are we to share the good news?  In Romans 12:11 we see the main ingredient needed to share the gospel.  “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Don’t dread talking about it, but enthusiastically announce it to others.  The impact of sharing the Word hinges on the presentation of the Word.

 

I have boldly written about sharing the gospel in my blog.  I love to write and I love to serve my Lord.  I was never so good at speaking the Word outside of my memorization of some vital verses that impacted me.  I would start to lay the foundation for my presentation by getting the person to open up and then I would hone in on what was said and talk about Jesus.  Well eventually I would do it this way.  It seems that I sometimes had the misfortune of taking too long to get to the task at hand.  I believe I wanted to do this right, but I was afraid of the reaction I would receive.  It is easier to deal with acceptance than rejection.  It is easier to hide behind my written words than to be confronted face to face with rejection.  Was I strong enough?  Was I dedicated enough?  Why was there a “disconnect” and how was I going to fix it?

 

After much thought I decided to go full in – no holds barred, and change my name.  I wanted to be an Andrew, but I am a female, so I chose the next best alternative.  I became an Andrea – the female derivative of Andrew.  I was on a mission to share the word and my course had no boundaries.  I had a past bad habit of pointing my fingers the wrong way.  Well, not wrong, just not the direct way.  Allow me to explain.

 

I gladly discussed the Lord with others when I was comfortable, a little more knowledgeable, and better prepared.  I also led new Christians to women I felt were stronger role models who could guide and teach better than me.  I felt they had strong life experiences, more wisdom and a strong guiding hand to answer questions or address concerns.

 

They were better prepared, but I learned I could be as well.  When we start off as a new Christian we are like babies who need to learn to do more than eat, cry and poop.  We need to learn from trial and error, poor decisions and life experiences on how to grow.  There is no quick route to get there and you will inevitably be bruised from time to time.  You either are walking towards Him or walking away.  No in-betweens.  I was petrified of being hurt or burned or afraid to misinform someone.  The weight of giving wrong or misleading advice, or jumping to conclusions, is what weighs us down.  It stifled me.  I did not want to disappoint the Lord.

 

“Whoa – take a breath first,” was my natural instinct.  When I examined this further, it was here that I saw my human limitations and the chance of making errors was high and sure to happen.  Did that mean I should cower and give up?  No, Paul stresses many times to “press on” – persevere.  We need to listen to His advice and “Not Worry” or “Do not be Afraid” and just let it play out.  He equips us with what is needed; we boldly take the leap of faith and spread the word.  Shout it out, whisper it, write it, live it and whatever else falls in-between.  Just keep in mind that we as faithful followers like Andrew, need to enthusiastically share it.  Carry your bible with you and take a pocket bible along with you to offer them.  Be a risk-taker and invite someone to your church. In short, just live in the moment and see where He will lead you.  Our job is to plant the seed, only He will bring it to fruition.  We introduce His Word to others, He alone, saves them.  Let His power and glory shine.  Trust Him for He has this.  He already knows who is faithful, who will come to Him and who will put everything on the line to spread His Word.

 

I am an Andrea.  I am a follower of His.  I will share His Word and I will not look back.  Is it time for you to make a name change?  It can change your whole outlook on life.  He has changed this ordinary Jennifer and turned her into an enthusiastic Andrea who has never been happier.  God Bless!

Are You Naughty or Nice? A Lesson on How We Are to Speak

Thanksgiving is now over and everyone is stepping up to quickly decorate for the next big holiday:  Christmas.  Yes, most of us have Christmas on the mind and many have had it in the back of their mind since the first leaf fell in early Fall.  As I sip on my eggnog (a little early perhaps), I stop to mull this over for a moment or two.  After much thought, I ask each of you where you fall on the list?  Are you naughty or nice?

 

Me?  I have been going back and forth since my childhood and I would venture to say that during my childhood and early adulthood, I had landed mostly on the naughty side.  The culprit for this was my tongue.  Yes, I often paid the price by liberally using this powerful tool without reading the instructions.  I also have to admit this was a tool of which I had little or no control over even though I am the possessor.  I admit that even women, such as me, can become susceptible to not reading the instructions before operating such a tool as the tongue.  Yes, it is not only the men who fail to read the directions.  Sadly, I admit my guilt and irresponsibility.

 

The lesson I want to concentrate on today is that we all are equipped with a power tool that can range from 0-100 in a matter of seconds.  It is a tool that needs to be not only understood, but constantly maintained so as not to become “out of control”, but rather run smoothly, and steadfastly in obedience.

 

According to James 3 the determining factor of spiritual maturity is the ability to control our tongue.  He states this in James 3:2 when he says:  “All of us do many wrong things.  But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body.” Our tongues though small are very powerful and can cause much damage.  They are equipped to either build someone up or tear them down.  They can speak the truth or spread lies.  They can be used to humble ourselves or to brag about our supposed accomplishments.  Indeed the tongue is a power tool that needs constant attention whenever it is being used.  We will learn that it not only needs to be maintained but to be turned off when necessary; thus used more efficiently.

 

Our instruction manual which is the Holy Bible tells us how to use this power tool.  Many fail to read the manual and become acquainted with the proper instructions, and as a result, many lose control over this tool and damage is caused.  Unfortunately that damage is usually irreversible and may be irreparable.  This is why it is so important to always read the instructions or directions and then follow them.

 

In James 3:6 we get a better description and are warned what the tongue is capable of:  “The tongue is like a spark.  It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a person’s entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself.” One of the smallest parts of our body can actually destroy the whole body if this tool is used ineffectively or foolishly.

 

Warnings are issued and meant to be heeded.  They are the flashing yellow lights we see that tell us to slow down and proceed carefully.  Some people obey and do so, but many feel they can run through this light since it is not considered strictly forbidden and they justify using it whenever they feel necessary regardless of the warning issued.  When we gloss over the directions, decide not to apply such knowledge or take such good advice, we then are responsible for whatever comes out of that poor decision.  It is here that we lack wisdom and that is sad because we so desperately need wisdom in order to navigate throughout this life.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but my biggest mistakes happened when I assumed I knew what I was doing or when I refused to listen to good sound advice.

 

How many times have we spoken thoughtlessly and without care about issues in general?  Or when we talk about others or even ourselves?  How about when we speak out of turn and fail to hear what the other side is saying?  We rush in impulsively and speak up without ceasing to hesitate and take a moment to let whatever information we received filter in, digest it, and register.  How many relationships with family and friends and even strangers have escalated or crossed the line because we failed to control our tongue?  How many disputes have started because we jumped to conclusions before getting all of the facts?  How many wars were started because someone’s two cents were tossed in and good counsel was ignored?  Too many to count.

 

No one wants to invest the time to read this manual and follow its wisdom.  However, we need to open this book. He has taken the time to tell us what He views as important and crucial by putting these warnings in His book.  They are not meant to be overlooked or quickly glossed over, but rather read and studied and then applied.  He knows our tongues and all that they are capable of doing as further pointed out in James 3:13-18.  “Are any of you wise or sensible?  Then show it by living right and being humble and wise in everything you do.  But if your heart is full of bitter jealously and selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth.  That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above.  It is earthy and selfish and comes from the devil himself.  Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.  But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere.  When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.”

 

It is plain to see when we follow His instruction we know how to curb and rein in our tongue.  We can use this tool to do good not to spread evil.  We can sow peace and bring in a harvest.  I understand that we all have free will and the ability to either listen or act on our own volition as to whether we want to obey His commands or not.  You need to decide where you want to stand and then firmly plant your feet in that camp.  You can be a blessing to many by speaking well of others, and being kind and compassionate.  You can encourage, lift up, be honest and fair, and treat your fellow brother and sister with respect and love, or you can forgo sensibility by over-reacting and speaking in angry, vile language, geared to harm, condescend, dishonor and to deceive others.

 

Again this is your choice; however, keep this in mind before you speak.  In order to follow Him and do His will and in order to be a Christian, we need to control the negative and speak in the positive towards our fellow man.  Do not muddy the water and go back and forth between the two sides.  God does not have a negative derogatory side.  He is pure and will always remain in love and kindness. Hate does not dwell in God.

 

When we follow His advice and take His warnings to heart, we will stay on that proverbial nice list and we will be generously rewarded by our being faithful to Him, and observant of His commands.  We will gladly reach out to others in kindness, honesty and love.  Our tongues will be in check and used as necessary as we strive to reach out to others and live in peace.  We will think before we speak and we will seek to speak without anger or hate.  I suggest that we all read the book, make a list of where we are now and where we, as a Christian, should be.  Make that list and check it twice.  Keep it as a daily routine to constantly examine and maintain and then gauge if it is where He wants us to be.  Only then can you definitively know where you stand with Him.  It is more than our being naughty or nice; it is a matter of love and respect to the one who gave us life :  Our Creator.  It is our duty to be obedient and faithful to Him.  God bless everyone.

This Brick Wall Speaks; How I Learned to Not Run Away From, but Run Towards Life

Can you hear it?  It starts as a small sound and then as you get closer, the sound grows louder and more evident.  You look around and wonder where it is coming from.  And then it finds its voice and begins to speak and you take notice of it.  What is it?  It is the proverbial brick wall that was too stubborn to listen and take good counsel, but now as a crack emerges; it is forced to reveal its shame and secrets. How do I know?  Well, let’s just say that I am that brick wall and I am not only listening, but finally able to speak out on its behalf.

 

Lady, what are you on?  This may be the thought of the reader as the blog is being read.  First of all, I am free of any substance that may alter my train of thought.  I am using symbolism here to express my point.  Keep up with me my friend.

 

So what is it exactly that caused me to believe I was a “brick wall”?  The mere fact that over the years I have been offered much needed advice, but have stubbornly refused to follow it.  I could see the eyes of those speaking to me getting bigger and the look of exasperation on both of our faces increasing more frequently.  One side wanted to smack me upside the head, and my side was silently saying, “Thanks, but no thanks” and the communication lines broke and neither side could speak to the other.  A bit of the dramatics, but you get the gist.

 

Something had to change (re: someone) or ties would be severed forever and people that loved one another would walk away and give up.  I had to take a deep look at myself and see how I played into this communication breakdown and how I could seek a speedy and peaceful resolution, so as to preserve friendships.  It wasn’t easy and often I would get so upset because I felt I was misunderstood and that the other side could not see my point of view.  Yes, a part of me wallowed in this game of self-pity sprinkled with bouts of anger.

 

What came out of it was a different perspective of who I am and how I choose to be blinded by a false security message that the world constantly sends out, but it also ran deeper than that.  I was set in my ways and did not want to change.  I wasn’t misunderstood, but rather I chose to be blind to the issue at hand.  I prevented the change and I suffered because of that.

 

My last blog dealt with how to eat a healthy diet in order to maintain my weight and my diabetes.  That began the wall to start forming cracks and set it on the path of tumbling down.  I was starting to admit my problem and now I needed to address another key component:  the need to exercise.

 

I have never been keen on exercising, unless of course, it was pain-free and quickly producing results.  Yes, I am a commitment-phobe when it comes to exercising.  Oh, don’t let me fool you.  I can plan the routines with the best of them, I can buy the needed tools (clothes, gadgets and the like), but acting on all of this?  Count me out!  I could resort to my box of excuses (File cabinets could not hold the amount of excuses that I would have to avoid doing something!); I could feign a pulled hamstring, grab the remote and plop down on the sofa without any hesitation.  I would literally watch The Biggest Loser, cheer them on, sob when the moment hit me, and shovel pop, ice cream and whatever I ordered out, into my system.  It was a good thing that I had 911 programmed on my phone.  I was on the verge of a major catastrophe, but at that moment nothing seemed to scare me.

 

Common sense and I never really understood one another.  My friends and family, God bless them, offered sage advice, and as usual I avoided it again (thus the brick wall scenario).  I was good at running (not the sport) away, but never confronting the issue within myself.  That is until my health took a nosedive and the rough roads became too much to bear.  I have been in the hospital over the past 28 years around 14 times.  That is sad, but some of these times, were due to my lack of discipline towards my weight and health; basically I suffered the consequences of poor health management and lack of being proactive.

 

Well no more!  I am just plain tired and I need to walk down a new road; a road of self-discovery and awareness.  I need help and cried out to Jesus for answers.  I firmly decided if I was going to eat better, then I was going to go the full route and get into a healthy exercise plan.

 

I mentioned last time that once we receive the Holy Spirit, He indwells within us.  I also mentioned that we are told in 1 Corinthians 6:19   the following:  “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives.  The Spirit is in you and a gift from God.  You are no longer your own.”  Now if I am eating better to preserve my body, it only makes sense that I exercise to maintain my weight or whittle down my weight.  It takes hard work, but the higher priority is to be obedient and respectful to Him; thus bringing glory to His name. The answer hit me in the face and I choose to lose this weight.  Yes, I can eat healthier, but what good will it do me if I just stop there and fail to press on further to better health by toning up?

 

In order to put things into a better perspective I need to set up an outline to make me accountable for my actions or lack thereof.  I mentioned that God is first; thus we are obligated to take care of our temple (body).  I started the process by eating healthier and maintaining the proper nutrients to stay healthy and be proactive.

 

The next step I believe we are called for is to implement discipline into our lives.  We take a weak area and through His guidance, we learn that discipline is crucial and much needed in our daily lives and walk.  We see that our weaknesses can be molded and shaped into an area of strength.  In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul makes the following statement:  “I keep my body under control and make it my slave, so I won’t lose out after telling the good news to others.”  In order to stay aligned with God, we need to have discipline; otherwise we would fall apart and fail to commit to the cause – His cause. We are obedient when we recognize that our bodies are a temple and we then seek discipline to preserve this temple.

 

Discipline is not an easy trait to acquire.  We, being weak and somewhat rebellious, need to be strengthened by Him in order for us to learn discipline.  I prayed for discipline when I began this new journey towards health.  I need to continue on fervently and faithfully for this next phase of the journey, exercise.

 

In order to draw strength by prayer, I must also keep in mind that I have a guarantee from the Lord as told in Philippians 4:13 when it was revealed that:  “Christ gives me the strength to face anything.”  We have been taught that with God nothing is impossible, and by taking that to heart, and applying this verse to our lives, we can do this and we can succeed.  Hold on to all of His promises and you will never be left alone or let down!

 

Changing your lifestyle is a battle and in a battle, one has to be prepared or one will fail miserably.  I have had enough failure in my time and I need, rather desire, more successes.  Again we learn in 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 the game plan for battle:  “I don’t run without a goal.  And I don’t box by beating my fists in the air.  I keep my body under control, and make it my slave, so I won’t lose out after telling the good news to others.”  In order to win the battle we need to have a goal, we need to be committed to that goal, and we need to take action.  Don’t just talk about it, do it, make it happen.

 

So what have I learned from all of this?  I learned that promises made by God are true and carry me through whatever dark valley I walk into.  His word provides strength and that is a powerful tool as Isaiah 40:29-31 points out:  “The Lord gives strength to those who are weary.  Even young people get tired, they stumble and fall.  But those who trust the Lord will find new strength.  They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.”  I cannot speak for you, but these words push me to go further, accept challenges and seek out opportunities that normally I would avoid.  I take His word to heart and though the path may be long and scattered obstacles may be right around the corner, I will risk falling (because I know He will catch me when I fall); thus, gladly encounter this, for Him.  I am, after all, indebted to Him for my life.

 

Brick by brick I am tearing down this wall for good.  I am taking chances for the right reasons and living in my faith that He has my back.  I will be obedient (and I am sure sore) and go wherever He leads me.  And I know just as 2 Timothy 4:7 promises, one day I will hear my Lord and He will tell me that:  “ I have fought well.  I have finished the race, and I have been faithful.”  I will have endured whatever the hardship and my reward will be seeing Him and living forever with Him and the grace He provided to me.  Pick up your challenge, look it over and set a goal, take it to Him in prayer.  Ask for guidance and strength, and believe with all of your heart that He will supply and meet all of your needs.  Then live it out and show Him what a good and faithful servant should act like.  I have spent a lot of time talking and now I need to do something and get moving.  Who would like to take the challenge and join in on this opportunity?  All are welcome.  God bless everyone.

How to Turn Your Health Around

A few of you have recently asked me how to get my sugar levels either lowered or how to keep my A1C results in the normal range.  I am going to address this as best as I can.

 

I begin with the following three facts:

  1. I have struggled with my health for the past 31 years and most of these years, I have been out of control and my diabetes has been unmanageable. I know your struggle.
  2. I have made excuses for cheating on so-called diets that in all honesty last for short periods of time. They do not work and yes, you can lose weight, but more often than not you will gain it all back (with additional weight).  Diets will never work, nor will they sustain you permanently.  Our bodies do not respond effectively with this.
  3. This is a lifestyle change and must be looked at as such. Temporary changes lead back to future failures and a very vicious cycle that will eventually kill you.

 

I am going to be brutally honest here, for that is what finally sunk in for me and out of respect for others, I am prepared to present this the same way.  It will be honest and very harsh.  You may get angry with the advice, or get angry enough to make these changes.  I can only lead you to the solution, but I cannot make you follow the advice.  You have to do this.

 

I state it this way because I, for so long, have refused to listen, thought I knew more than the doctor, and was painfully oblivious at playing a fool.

 

Ask yourself this question:  How important is food in your life?  Follow up with this question:  What is your highest priority?  Is it following a fleshly desire (pleasure) or is it being obedient to God?

 

Take a moment and absorb what I just asked and then make a decision.  When these questions were posed to me, I was frankly, taken aback.  However, it really woke me up.  I draw my strength from Him and from there I try to live as a humble, good servant for Him.  I was moved to tears by this because when confronted about my addiction (and yes, for me, this is an addiction), I was placing food ahead of what I claimed to be – a Christian.

 

I have been in the hospital fourteen times in the past 28 years.  Every year something new would happen and I would need medical attention for multiple conditions.  One-half of my lifespan thus far, was being in the hospital and this last time I knew that I was at a crossroads.  I also knew that if I didn’t make a change now, I would not get another chance.  Believe me when I say I take this issue very seriously.

 

After much thought, and a reshuffling of my priorities, I made a change to fight for my health.  I chose God first, and food had to be modified and in some cases, given up.

 

My first step was to get off of all pop (diet and regular).  I was averaging 2 liters a day of regular pop.  Was I insane?  I am a diabetic after all.  So as of this past 4th of July, I gave up pop and have not had one taste of it since then.  On November 5th  I will be 4 months pop-free.

 

It just wasn’t pop kiddos!  I had all sort of goodies that I cajoled myself into buying and gorging on.  The person who shed light on this change for me told me to toss anything that was bad for me.  I tossed all sugary foods, chips, and highly saturated fat products.  I did give some away, but the doughnuts etc., I decided to toss in the garbage right away.

 

As I was setting new priorities in my life I had to take a long hard look at my actions.  First of all, was I a glutton?  Yes, I was.  I chose to feed off of self-love, comfort food, and demanded to be in control over what I ate and how much I ate.  No one would tell me what to eat!  That was my former train of thought.

 

In order to clean my house and refocus my attention on God, I had to admit this was an idol in my life.  I had built everything around food:  meeting friends, all get-togethers, and entertainment revolved around food.  I was very good at controlling my environment and management of my time, but “so clueless” as to how “not in control” I actually was.

 

I decided to build a strong defense, so I turned to Scripture to do this.  I know how to defend myself and how to cover my bases, as well as, justify my actions.  But 1 Corinthian 6:12 gave me quite the perspective on this whole matter:  “Some of you say, ‘We can do anything we want to.’  But I tell you that not everything is good for us.  So I refuse to let anything have power over me.”  It is true, we think we can do any and everything, but not all is beneficial for us, so I needed to relinquish whatever power I thought I had.  I had to make a sacrifice.

 

Once I learned to lean on this wisdom, I also came across 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 in which we have to take a deeper look at ourselves once we invite the Lord into our lives and heart:  “You surely know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives.  The Spirit is in you and is a gift from God.  You are no longer your own.  God paid a great price for you.  So use your body to honor God.”  Wow!  That verse hit me hard.  My disrespecting myself is one thing, but if God means anything to me, then I do not have a right to disrespect the very tent He gave me.  It served as righteous motivation to stay on this path toward my new perspective on health.

 

Philippians 3:19 warns us about our obsessing over, abuse of our fleshly desires (such as gluttony) when it states:  “They are headed for hell!  They worship their stomachs and brag about the disgusting things they do.  All they can think about are the things of this world.”  Face it, my mind was on food 24/7.  I lived, ate and dreamt about food.  I had to change my behavior in order to succeed.  Food was no longer going to monopolize my time.  I wanted and needed more out of my life than just food and the next meal.

 

In order to be faithful and to encourage me to press on, I cling to the following verse in Romans 13:14.  “Let the Lord Jesus Christ be as near to you as the clothes you wear.  Then you won’t try to satisfy your selfish desires.”    Remember He promised to get you through the storm as He states in 1 Corinthians 10:13 when the temptation arises:  “You are tempted in the same way that everyone is tempted.  But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and He will show you how to escape from your temptations.”  He does provide a way!

 

My greatest weakness is my lack of discipline; thus lack of self-control.  Once I decided to change my eating habits and patterns, I prayed on it.  I asked Him to remove the “delicious taste” I held for certain foods:  pizza, chips, pop and chocolate.  I prayed to enjoy other foods instead:  kale, all vegetables, and yes, even tofu.

 

I knew in order to be successful at this, I first had to pray on it and wait for things to kick in, so to speak.  However, I needed to make smart choices in what to purchase, how to prepare healthy dishes, and how to measure my progress.  I chose to buy healthy foods and would not purchase any “junk” food.  I bought the necessary tools (cooking pans, measuring cups, and whatever would aid me in this new journey – all the way down to lunch bags for storage), researched the proper diet nutrients, and tested out my theories.

 

A good friend made the suggestion of a documentary that I looked into.  It was called Forks over Knives (on Netflix) and I highly recommend it to all who want to make a change.  I cannot speak about how this will impact you, yourself, but as for me, it moved me to go ever further into researching alternatives for healthier eating regimens.  I have perused over 15-20 documentaries and did some trial and error experimentation.    I charted my sugars every day, the calories and fat content of my meals, and logged all that I ate.  I said all – you have to be willing to be brutally honest and faithful to this or it will never work.

 

After all of this research, I was led to my desire to become a vegetarian.  Believe me when I say I was shocked.  I used to love all meat (okay not liver)!  Once I changed my eating patterns and included most vegetables and fruit I decided to cut back on meat (it was a process not an overnight accomplishment) until I eliminated all red meat, pork and poultry.  At this time I am eating some fish a few times a month, but mostly existing on nuts, fruit and vegetables.  I eat a wide variety of vegetables to get the proper nutrients and I am loving it!  I do not desire pizza or pop and I refuse to eat foods I consider to be a gateway food that would lead me back to my old habits.

 

You need to decide where you want to stand, and then make a decision to not look back and keep on moving.  I now am full on much less food, healthy food that I actually crave, and I do not desire the food that was literally killing me.  High processed food does so much damage and you need to read the labels very carefully.  Sugar is in everything and after much research I found that there are 61 different names for sugar that is put into processed food.  Foods can be labeled low-fat or low sugar, but sugar can be hidden in the ingredients under another name.  Also you need to dispel the myth that sugar causes diabetes.  High fat content foods, processed foods cause obesity and diabetes, sugar in and of itself, does not.  It does however, cause issues for you once you become a diabetic.

 

In short, do your research, decide if you desire to change, plan everything out (progress/measurement charts, meals, exercise), and hold on to the Word as your foundation and support, and then take a leap of faith.  Since March of 2017, I have lost over 81+ pounds, my sugars are low enough in the morning that I do not have to take my sliding scale insulin, and my recent blood work shows I went from a 12 point A1C down to a 5.9 A1C.  It does work, but you have to work it as well.

 

So grab a tissue and cry over the spilled milk one last time, set your mind on a new perspective, and be determined to do this.  Please think this over and once you’ve made the decision, stick to it.  You will not regret it.  I do suggest that you have a strong support system:  God, family, friends (in that order).  Best wishes and God bless.

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