Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Thievery

My daughter fell victim to a thief yesterday.  Someone broke the window of her car and stole from her.  This happened outside my apartment in just the few short minutes she had come in to pick up her daughter.  Quite disturbing.

She noticed someone watching her as she headed to my door, but it wasn’t glaringly obvious that he could be a thief.  Arriving at the apartment complex, it was impossible to notice a strange vehicle following her in, as all the vehicles except mine would be unfamiliar.  With a plan to run in, pick up her child, and be on about her business, she left valuables in the car.  What could happen in just a few minutes?

I’ve done the same thing way too many times out of sheer laziness.  I don’t want to put out that little extra effort to carry one more thing….   I’ve been careless to leave valuable things unattended, unguarded, open to any unscrupulous individual who may want to damage my property.  I have at times unintentionally set the stage for someone to steal from me.

This thief had no opportunity to do more than steal, as he followed her into an area where she would be surrounded by others who could come to her aid if he had intentions to do bodily harm.  There is no way to know what his full intentions were, and while saddened for the difficulty this loss causes her, I am thankful for the protection of God over her life.  It could have been much worse.

There is a thief that is watching us.  He’s waiting for an opportunity to steal from us.  If he can, he will do much more than just steal.  He will try to kill and destroy us.  He operates in a way that isn’t glaringly obvious.  If we don’t know about him, he follows us undetected.  He strikes quickly and stealthily, and before we know it he’s taken something valuable.  He stalks, hoping to attack when there is no one to help.  He laughs at the damage left in his wake.

He is familiar with our patterns and knows our weaknesses.  He watches and waits for us to get lazy.  He is a master of deception and presents himself as something good.  Often we ignore that funny feeling that something is not exactly right, and we invite him in and entertain him.  We get comfortable with him and begin to believe that he means no harm.  But he’s still a thief, and just when we least expect it, he takes from us again while trying to make us believe it was God’s fault that something bad happened.  There’s always a price to be paid when we give him access.

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy.”  John 10:10

Jesus has given us insight into the strategies of this thief and made a way for us to recognize him, avoid allowing him access, and to defeat him!  But we can’t be lazy about it.  We have to pay attention.

“Leave no room or foothold for the devil – give no opportunity to him.”  Ephesians 4:27

Ephesians 4:22-26 tells some of the ways we can guard ourselves:

  • Strip yourselves of your former nature  – put off and discard your old unrenewed self – which characterized our previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion;
  • Be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind – having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude,
  • Put on the new nature – the regenerate self – created in God’s image, in true righteousness and holiness
  • Reject all falsity, and being done with it, let everyone express the truth…
  • When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath last until the sun goes down

We think we can hold on to the old things, our own way of doing things, or our pet sins, and still have this wonderful, blessed life we read about and pray for.  We delude ourselves.  There is always a price to pay when we allow the thief access.  There’s always damage.   The image of freedom that he paints is a lie.  It is really bondage.  There is no peace with him.

I think of the subtle, crafty way he led me into very selfish choices that hurt my family.  I was deceived into thinking that I could entertain doubt and fear, reason things out in my own mind, have my own way, and everything would be all right.  It wasn’t.

There’s still grace and mercy and healing and hope when we fall, when we’ve entertained the enemy and gotten hurt and damaged.  But wouldn’t it be so much better if we lived our lives proactively closing the door to the enemy before he got a shot at us??

Jesus paid a phenomenal price to make a way for us to live in victory, to be overcomers in this life!!  He exhorted us to not neglect time with other believers because He knew we would be able to help each other.  He promised to lead us into a blessed life, a life of peace and ultimate freedom.

“I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved, he will come in and he will go out freely, and will find pasture…..I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His own life for the sheep.”  John 10:9, 11

It’s not about living a life of paranoia, fearful and afraid of the enemy’s attacks.  It’s about paying attention to the Good Shepherd, following and obeying Him, trusting that He is able to take care of us.  This is where we find true peace and freedom.

Public service announcement:  Pay attention when you leave the bank.  The officer that responded to the incident made us aware that it is not uncommon for thieves to be watching at a bank for those who leave, and follow them home.  My daughter had just come from the bank. 

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

“You did that on purpose!!!”

It’s Wednesday of spring break week and I’ve already lost count as to the number of times I’ve heard that exclamation.  It’s a cry most often heard following the occurrence of some grave offense, such as being touched without an invitation to do so, or arriving at and sitting in the chair first when someone else has “called” it.  With two children in closer than normal living space, I am so very thankful to God for sunshine and mild temperatures, and a grandmother that wanted her grandchildren for the day.

I wonder what life would be like if we used this expression every time someone put forth the effort to do something good for us!

“You loved me on purpose!”

“You took care of me on purpose!”

“You comforted me on purpose!”

“You gave me food on purpose!”

“You spent time with me on purpose!”

What would our family members say about us?  What would those outside the walls of our homes and churches say?  Is it noticeable to others that we are living our lives on purpose?

“Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise, sensible, intelligent people…”  Ephesians 5:15 

I looked up the definition for witless:  1.  destitute of wit or understanding   2.  mentally deranged  (this made me laugh)   If we don’t pay attention to how we live our lives, we are without understanding, and quite possibly can appear mentally deranged. Just ask my family.

Living purposeful lives is intentional.  We’ve got to shake off the complacency the enemy so easily lulls us into and make the effort to act.  I believe tonight when the hubby and kids are back home, I’m going to intentionally love and give, and will respond to all the positive actions they take with “You did that on purpose!!!”            🙂

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Distraction free

I’ve just discovered the “distraction free” writing mode.  With one click I can remove everything on the page except for the words I am typing.   It’s just me and the blank page.  Nothing else.  It makes me uncomfortable.

The tools are only a click away, but their absence from my view exposes an insecurity.  I rely heavily on the tools provided to help me accomplish my goal, and the idea of removing them from view is to allow total focus.  No distractions.  But I’ve become very comfortable with the distractions.

I know that this is a better format to compose my thoughts into the relevant content I desire, but it will take time to acclimate.  It will be tempting to go back to what is most comfortable. If I do, I will miss the better way.

Have you become comfortable with distractions?

“Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away from all that will distract to Jesus…”   Hebrews 12:1-2

It’s easy to see how sin is a distraction, and we must be quick to deal with those sins that want to cling to us.  But many of the distractions that take our focus off Jesus aren’t sinful things.  We can get so busy with our families, our work, our activities, that Jesus gets very little attention, much less devoted focus.  We miss the better way.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just click and all the distractions of life would be hidden!   However, it takes discipline and effort to keep focused on Jesus in our busy world.  It takes commitment and planning to ensure that we have time alone with Him. When we protect that time, we can be alone with Jesus.  Nothing else.  It can make us uncomfortable.

God uses the people and circumstances in our lives as a way to work out His plans in and for us.  However, often we become so dependent on these people and circumstances that, if we are not careful, they become our security .  When He calls us away from those things it is for the purpose of focusing on Him, making Him the center of our lives.

Push through whatever discomfort arises when you sit still before Him.  Talk, and more importantly, listen.  Distractions pale in their attraction or demands when He is the center of our lives.

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Mistaken identity

Several years ago on a very busy day, I stopped by the nail salon I had frequented for several years.  I did not have time to get my nails done on this particular day, but planned to schedule an appointment while there.  I had a list of things to do before attending a lunch meeting, so when I arrived at the salon I had no plans to linger.

The precious ladies at the salon were all Vietnamese, with only a couple who could communicate well in English.  The girl who normally did my nails was not at her station, so I approached the girl standing in the back.  I began by asking to purchase gift certificates for my daughters.  As we walked to the front counter, she was still trying to understand what I wanted.  After several attempts to communicate more effectively, she finally understood and proceeded to complete the forms.  Asking for a receipt extended this labored conversation and my concerns began to rise over my ability to arrive at my meeting on time.

Gift certificates and receipt finally in hand, I am ready to schedule my appointment.  Given the challenges already experienced, I very distinctly say…

“I would like an appointment for tomorrow and I would like for Kim to do my nails.”

The girl behind the counter replies…

“I do your nails.  What time?”

I graciously respond, with a brief hand motion in the direction of my regular girl’s station…

“No thank you.  Kim has been doing my nails for a long time and I would like her to do them tomorrow.”

As if she hasn’t heard me, she says…

“I do your nails.  What time?”

Again I respond…

“Really, thank you so much, but just schedule me with Kim.”

And again…

“I do your nails.  What time??

I am now very frustrated with this delay, and the fact that our conversation is going in circles.   Patience and grace have left me and with exaggerated hand motions, I turn and point to Kim’s station, saying…

“Kim (point).  The girl who sits here (point).  I want her (point dramatically) to do my nails.  Tomorrow.”

And with largely exaggerated arm motions, the girl points to herself repeatedly, saying…

“THAT ME !  I KIM !!”

I had no words.  Not until that exact moment did I recognized that I had indeed been talking to the very same girl who had been doing my nails for over a year!  Having only myself on my mind, when I went to the back of the salon to the person standing in the corner, I mistook her for the other woman who is normally in that station.  I was so embarrassed.

I fumble through an apology…

“I am so sorry….I don’t know why….”

She very sweetly looks at me and says….

“But you look beautiful today!”

Great.  I’m a total moron, but I look good.  Her gracious behavior only served to make me feel more ashamed.  How could I be so focused on me as to not recognize who was right there with me??  I almost didn’t go back for the appointment the next day.

I would like to suggest to you today that many of us often mistake identities.  Our own.  Perhaps you’ve said things to yourself, about yourself, without recognizing the Spirit of God within….

“I wish I were strong and confident…”

“I am!  I live in you and I make you strong and confident.”

“I can’t handle the pressures coming against me…”

 “I can!  I abide with you, making you able to bear these things and be victorious.”

“If someone would just love me, I would be complete…”

 “I do!  I have lavished My love on you.  You are complete in Me .”  

When we came to Christ, He came to us.  He took up permanent residence in us, never to leave us or forsake us.  Yet we so often look at our mistakes and failures and identify more with them than Him.  He gave us a new identity:

” It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  Galatians 2:20

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…”  Ephesians 2:10

“…made us alive together with Christ…”  Ephesians 2:5

“you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…”  1 Peter 2:9

Just in the first two chapters of Ephesians we are described as loved, blameless, forgiven, holy, redeemed, saints and chosen by God.  That passage also says we’ve already been given grace, peace, His favor, every spiritual blessing, wisdom, understanding, power and numerous other things.

It’s time we take this identity!! God no longer sees us as lost sinners who are unable to please Him.  He has adopted us as His children and sealed this deal with His Spirit coming to inhabit us.  We really have been made new creatures!

We take this new identity by faith:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

Our transformation starts with faith – believing what God says about us no matter how we see ourselves.

For it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you – energizing and creating in you the power and desire – both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.”  Philippians 2:13

“Now may the God of peace…strengthen and make you what you ought to be….”  Hebrews 13:20-21

The new you, the real you, has been right there with you from the moment you met Christ!

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Make believe

As children, our imaginations took us into many an adventure within the bounds of our home and yard.  There were no computers or hand-held technical devices for our entertainment, and television viewing was limited by the fact that there only three channels from which to choose.  We were allowed Saturday mornings for cartoons before the television was turned off and we were whisked outside to play.

My younger sister and I often took our dolls outside as we pretended to be mothers.  I’m not sure why, but running from tornadoes with our children in our arms seemed to be a common theme….I suppose we needed a little drama from time to time.  We played house and when our little brother wanted to play with us, we made him be the baby that had to take a nap.  Every time.  We danced as ballerinas and floated like angels.  We made up stories and games.  We squabbled and cried, made up and started over.

My older brother and I were fans of the original Mission Impossible television series and would pretend we were the special agents sent to accomplish the impossible, secret assignments.  This was made even more fun by the fact that a cousin in another city would send reel-to-reel tapes to my brother, and once we had received the instructions for our mission, we pretended the tape would disintegrate, just as it did in each episode on TV.   There were days we were riding with the Lone Ranger or hunting with Daniel Boone. We fought battles against invading enemies using sticks for guns.  We raced and chased and played as long as we could before nightfall.

We would leave our imaginary worlds and come inside for supper, baths, and a little television time with Daddy before bed.  I enjoyed this time of my childhood very much.  It was such fun to pretend.  But once inside for the nightly routine, I didn’t keep pretending I was someone or something else.  Playtime was over, it was time to just be me.

Yesterday I wrote about being an imitator, copying the life of Jesus as a pattern for our own.  This is very different from pretending to be like Him.  When we imitate Jesus, or his faithful followers in the Bible, we do it through a heart effort to change our behavior, to become more like Him.  And because of the power of His word, we know that we can be changed by looking at Him and doing what He did.  Imitating Him is an act of faith – believing in Romans 12:2.

Pretending to be something you’re not is very different.  Pretense:  an act or appearance that looks real but is false.  My older sister uses the word authentic in writing about her own pursuit to no longer be a pretender*.  We’ve all been grown-up pretenders at some time or another.  Sometimes we pretend we agree with others just by our lack of comment or action.  Sometimes we pretend to love those in the congregation with us when we really don’t care at all.  Sometimes we pretend to worship God when our minds and hearts are far from Him.  Pretending to be someone or something you are not is deception, and is actually a lack of faith!

Imitator or pretender?  I’ve been both.  It’s a matter of the heart.

“Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all else that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.”  Proverbs 4:23

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  1 Peter 5:8

Really coming to the knowledge that God loves me unconditionally, all the time, never to end, is what sets me free to stop pretending.  Jesus calls us to a “vital union” with Him – it’s the only thing that can keep us real.

*www.judywebb.net

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Imitation

Last night I had a salad with imitation crab meat.  Why, you may ask?  Because my husband purchases it from time to time (I never do) and I suppose I hold out hope that one day it will actually taste like genuine crab meat.  I don’t dislike the flavor of the copycat, but it’s just not the same as the real thing.  And while I really like the real thing, it is not an affordable item with the current budget. Even with a much greater income, I expect I would always consider the purchase of real crab meat for special occasions only!

We live in a world full of imitations.  There are imitation designer clothes and handbags, imitation diamonds, imitation perfume, and a vast multitude of  food choices.  Personal preference normally determines if we find an imitation product acceptable or not.  My short list of acceptable or unacceptable?

  • Diamonds:  real
  • Perfume:  real
  • Clothes/Handbags:  real or imitation, I don’t care, if the price is right     🙂
  • Food:   real (duh), but with some products imitating others, such as my veggie “meats”

Just because something is an imitation doesn’t mean it is unacceptable.  We get to choose.  Sometimes the copies are perfectly acceptable.  And the more attention the manufacturer gives to improving the product, the better it gets.  (So, there is hope for the imitation crab!)

The Apostle Paul was a very confident man.  His conversion on the road to Damascus was dramatically life-changing, and when he was teaching the new converts, he wrote:

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  1 Corinthians 11:1

“I urge you, then, be imitators of me.”  1 Corinthians 4:16

He was so confident in the way he lived his life before God that he told them to imitate him!  That sounds a bit arrogant, doesn’t it? But I believe he wrote from a pure heart, because he was instructing them to do what he had done:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Ephesians 5:1

“But we do desire for each of you to show the same diligence and sincerity in realizing and enjoying the full assurance and development of your faith until the end, in order that you may not grow disinterested and become spiritual sluggards, but imitators, behaving as do those who through faith and by practice of patient endurance and waiting are inheriting the promises.”  Hebrews 6:11-12

Are we mindful to be imitators of God?  Do we look at the men and women of faith in the Bible and pattern our lives after their behavior of patient endurance with an expectation of receiving what God has promised??  Would we have the boldness to tell others to imitate our lives, being confident that it would lead them closer to God?

“And all of us, as with unveiled face, continue to behold in the Word of God as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever-increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another…”  2 Corinthians 3:18

Let’s each be an imitation of Jesus – a copy that “looks”, sounds, and acts like Him.  The more we yield to the Creator, the more opportunity He has to “improve” us, to make us more and more like Him.  And one day when we enter heaven, this imitation will be an exact likeness of Him!

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Jesus, Spiritual, Uncategorized

The right ingredients

Two weeks ago today was my husband’s birthday.  I rarely bake but decided to make him a birthday cake.  Betty Crocker I’m not, so I decided to go with something simple – pound cake to be served with strawberries and whipped cream.  My mom makes the best pound cake ever, so I called to get the recipe.  I planned my trip to the grocery store to purchase all the ingredients and was looking forward to my afternoon in birthday preparations.

Once home from the store, I began to organize everything I would need.  I had all the right ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, bowls and the beaters for the mixer.  No mixer.  I checked every cabinet only to discover that it had not managed to make the move with us.  It’s somewhere in storage.  Bummer.  Now, I realize that it is possible to make a cake without a mixer.  I personally have never attempted this and quite honestly, have no desire to.  This was supposed to be simple.  Disappointed, I put away the ingredients and utensils and made a quick call on Sara Lee to save the day.   Thank you, Jesus, for Sara Lee.

No matter that I had all the right ingredients, without mixing them together there would be no beautiful pound cake resulting.  It was just easier to go to someone else who had already done the work.

Hmmmm….

“For indeed we have had the glad tidings (Gospel of God) proclaimed to us just as truly as they (the Israelites of old did when the good news of deliverance from bondage came to them); but the message they heard did not benefit them, because it was not mixed with faith by those who heard it.”  Hebrews 4:2

How many messages have we heard that have had no effect in our lives, even when we believed the words were true?  How many times have we read our daily devotional or selected a passage out of the Bible, read it, mentally accepted it as truth, but never gained a benefit from it because we didn’t mix it with faith?

Are we pleading with God, waiting for answers to prayers, but not really believing?  It is impossible to please God without faith. Hebrews 11:6  Faith is what gets His attention!  Faith in Who He is and in what He says He can and will do!

And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just easier to rely on someone else’s faith.  We go to those we know have strong faith, those who have invested the time and work to develop their faith.   We ask them to pray for us because we don’t feel our prayers are good enough to move God in our situation.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should go to others to ask for prayer.   And when someone of strong faith prays with us and for us, it can help our faith grow.  But if that’s the only effort we make to develop our faith, we remain babies and never grow to maturity.  Compare it to physical fitness – if you had a personal trainer that taught you how to exercise properly, but the only time you exercised was when you met with them once a week, your results would be minimal.  It’s the same concept.  We have to exercise our faith.

Faith is the assurance of the things we hope for, the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality.”  Hebrews 11:1 

How do we exercise faith?  Believe.  Whatever God says, choose to believe it and refuse any other option.  When we are being tested, we must continually confess what the word of God says to stay focused on it.   It is believing that God is faithful to His word and will do what He says He will do.  When we need answers, we must go to the word of God and find out what He says about the situation.  We take His word and mix it with faith.  We choose to believe Him no matter what our circumstances may look like.

My husband did not come home to the wonderful aroma of a freshly baked cake that day.  But the evening wasn’t really about the cake, it was about him, celebrating his life.

Our life on this earth should be lived as a celebration of Who He is and all that He has done for us.  Because of Jesus, we are the wonderful aroma wafting up to God…

“For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ unto God….”  2 Corinthians 2:15