Faith and Pressing On

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining on to what is ahead: I press towards the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.

The English definition Press: to move or cause to move into a position of contact with something by exerting continuous physical force. However the Greek word used in this scripture is more like to pursue. It falls under the word which means to follow. The picture given in the race analogy in my thinking it means to “stay on the heels of”–follow closely to Jesus as He leads us. I am not a runner. I admit it. But God has put it in my heart “both to will and to do His will”, therefore I choose to pursue Him and His ways the best I can. Paul’s life was anything but easy. Reading through just the physical hardships, sufferings and persecution he endured is enough to make me tired! Add on the spiritual responsibilities he also carried as he discipled others, helped them establish and grow churches and just simply fulfill His assignment stirs and convicts my heart indeed.

However, I am not called to his walk. I am called to my own. Our Life Group last night discussed what are the things that stir our affections for Christ. What is it that we can do to keep our affections on Him and not let them get scattered to the world? One of our sweet sisters mentioned how when her brother and his wife shared Jesus with her for the first time she felt their passion for Him. We, too, can influence others by our passion for Him. The blessing of pursuing Him is getting to know Him. To receive His love, grace and mercy and as we do–we also get the opportunity to share Him with others. Let us not grow weary in well doing. Let us not decide that we know enough, care enough or love enough put let us press on to the fullness of Him until we finish our race. This scripture was my husband’s life verse and he truly ran his race until he could run no more. As a tribute to him on this Valentine’s Day I encourage us all to get our second, third or fortieth wind and choose to press on toward the HIGH Calling…not settling for anything less. Who knows what we will see, what testimonies we will have as we keep on running our race. Remember He is running that race right with us. We are not alone in the running. Be blessed today with the knowledge of His love for you. It is enough.

Faith and Taxes

The past couple of days I’ve been busy looking backwards to 2018–as I gathered all the info and looked at the paid bills laying on my table I began to thank the Lord for His faithfulness. It was an interesting “coincidence” that I read “give to Caesar that which is Caesar” scripture yesterday morning. Like most people, I do not enjoy figuring out all the numbers involved. My situation is a bit different than most because as a small non-profit ministry there are extra steps involved. I send my information to a reputable tax preparer who stays up on all the tax changes and I am so grateful for their expertise.

This year I found myself grateful for the opportunity to celebrate God’s supply and grateful for simply my needs being met. As I sorted through my bills–everything from my utilities, my property taxes, medical and prescription bills and all the house maintenance issues that were paid this year I was overwhelmed at His faithfulness. Everyone was paid! Everyone represented God meeting a need. I just couldn’t help but thank Him for His faithfulness.

It wasn’t just my needs getting met, but also the blessing in looking at the financial gifts I was able to give when I received the giving statement from the ministries I gave too. I am a faithful “tither” and offering giver as well…so to really look at the numbers and thank Him for the opportunity to give was also refreshing.

Our church theme for last year was to “live generously”. It is an on-going underlying theme for this year as well. What a joy to participate–not just in giving financially to and through our church, but also individually to others. Due to maintenance issues with my home, I faced extra challenges this year. It was humbling when the Lord put it on others hearts to give to help offset my need. Thank you to all of you who helped in so many different ways. But it also brought back to mind the opportunities I took this past year to live generously as well. None of those opportunities will show up as a tax deduction, but I know that as I sow in one area, I shall reap in another.

This is the first year that I can remember where I actually thanked the Lord for the opportunity to really look at His financial faithfulness! I normally muddle my way through it all and just being grateful it is done…instead I am grateful for the new perspective He gave me in simply “doing my taxes”. He is truly a good and faithful God!

Faith: Led or Driven Part 2

Condemnation, guilt or shame can cause us to try and prove our worth to the Lord which can often promote a sense of being driven or compelled to live up to a standard God has not set for us. It is a miserable place to be, and not God’s choice for his children. Only by applying His work on the cross will we come out of the condemnation, guilt and shame and into His marvelous light where we can be led by His wonderful Spirit.

So what does being led by the Spirit of God look like?

  1. People who are led by the Spirit of God will be led into His Truth, which results in freedom. This freedom is full of life and liberty. Walking in this freedom brings security, not tormenting fear. John 8:32 Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. Psalm 25.5 And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

2. The Spirit leads us besides still waters where our soul is restored. He leads me besides still waters; he restores my soul. Psalm 23:2,3 When was the last time you followed Him into stillness? A tattered soul is not a healthy soul. Take time to ask Him for His restoration. Follow Him to those places of healing. Do no be afraid of them.

3, The Spirit leads us in the paths which will glorify the Lord and causes us to walk uprightly and righteously. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23:3. It isn’t about us, but we are called to live them for “his name’s sake”. He leads us away from selfishness and sin.

4. The Spirit does not leads us into temptation. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger. Psalm 31:3 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13

5. We are led by His hand no matter where we may be. Again, we follow Him with the secure knowledge that He knows what the things that are on the path we encounter. If I take the wings of the dawn. If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea. Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. Psalm 139;10 Even if we go astray, He will rescue us.

6. His Spirit leads us in safety and confidence if we keep following Him. But God led his people out like sheep, and he guide them like a flock through the desert. He led them to safety so they had nothing to fear. Psalm 78:53 Some people had wandered in the desert lands. They found no city in which to live. They were hungry and thirsty, and they were discouraged. In their misery they cried out to the Lord, and he saved them from their troubles. He led them on a straight road to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:4-7

7. His Spirit will lead us to change our ways when they are not His ways. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? Romans 2:4

8. His Spirit will lead us to pick up our cross daily. Then He said to them all, “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 923 Remember it isn’t all about us, but about Him!

We must prepare our mind for action against this other counterfeit spirit who would seek to drives to attempt to do God’s will by our own strength and for impure or mixed motives. God’s Spirit has a plan and purpose for each of us in helping establish His Kingdom. He desires to use us in such a way the He is glorified. It is not that we will not be “busy about our Father’s business”, it is that his Spirit is operating within us, allowing us to rest in our busyness, to trust in His time table and to enjoy the journey along the way.

One last thought. Unfortunately, driven people, especially leaders have a tendency to drive others. It is most essential that we are honest with ourselves as well as Him if we have been influenced by this driving spirit.

Father, I ask that you impart to us the ability, by your grace and Spirit to help us discern the difference between being led and being driven. Lead them besides the still waters, restore our souls so that we can begin again following your leadership to accomplish your plan and purpose.. This is a needed lesson. Please help us be aware when the enemy is lying to us about these things, that we may turn a deaf hear to Him and listen only to your voice, We trust you, my Father.

Faith: Led or Driven

Standing in a Sunday service, the communion table set before us, the worship team wonderfully leading us into His Presence with beautiful words and music, friends all around–when my mind and spirit were assaulted by this overwhelming sense of failure, worthlessness and torment. Tormenting thoughts of why aren’t you ding more for the Kingdom began to swirl around my mind, making me feel so bad I wanted to run from the service. I began to fight these thoughts by praying in the Spirit, deliberately focusing my mind on Him and rebuking Satan. The struggle was quite real and the feeling of being a disappointment to our God was so strong. I began to cry out “help me, Lord”–as my mind began racing trying to defend myself through all the things I had “done” for Him while immediately counteracting it with “it’s not all about me” or solely about obedience and accomplishing His assignments for me life.

What was going on? Finally His Spirit cut through this mental chaos with the question “How much would you have to do for me each week to feel good about yourself? I immediately knew these tormenting thoughts were from Satan and are never satisfied. I said, “Lord you and I both know I am worthy only because of Your finished work on the Cross”. the siege lifted and I was able to truly enter into worship.

As I continued to pray, asking the Lord for further revelation, I began to understand that this was an extreme attack of something that can happen much more subtly and therefore is even much more insidious. The goal of these mental attacks is to move us form being led by the Spirit to begin driven to try and win approval, acceptance and appease and satisfy this god substitute.

This I not like our God. Yes, He does expect obedience and conformity to His Spirit. He does expect us to submit to His Lordship, but this all happens in the context of being led by His Spirit.

The definition of the word ‘driven” has a compulsive or urgent quality. The Bible refers to God driving out His enemies, or to Jesus driving out demons. Being driven compromises our peace. In an effort to “feel” values and worth a driven person often adds more busyness to their schedule. Since those things may be “good” things, but not God tings little or no fruit is born and the cycle intensifies. People who are driven instead of being led usually exhibit little or no joy in their activities. Driven people are driven back into the law, not into life.

Next week we will look at the blessing of being “led”! But in the meantime, take time to examine your life before the Lord, ask Him to show you any places you may be feeling “driven” and ask Him for His perspective.

(I wrote this article for Real Women, a newsletter published in 2008. I used it today due to a conversation that took place in our Life Group this week.)

Faith and “Stirring UP”

Stir up the gift of God which is in you” Paul wrote to his dear son, Timothy. (2 Timothy 1:6) Other translations exhort him to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God has given you.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. Somebody else needs you to use your gifts.

A few weeks ago my power went out. Fortunately I have an alternate heating source, a wood stove insert. I have been saving some wood for just this scenario, but I struggled in getting the fire going. Starting fires from scratch can be difficult. My paper source was limited so it took me quite awhile to get that fire going. I had tiny matches, which with the draft from the stove kept blowing out before I got to the paper! But, I was determined to get the fire going so I could have heat and a place to boil water for my coffee!

In our earlier married life, my husband and I lived in several places where we used wood heat as our primary heat source. The difference between then and now (besides the fact he was usually the fire starter) was we kept the fired “banked” at night. There were usually coals that with a little encouragement or “fanning” the fire would quickly catch the new logs on fire. Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in him” speaks strongly to us today. Have the circumstances of your life caused you to let your gifts go dormant? These gifts can range from all of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12, of course. The gifts of encouragement, exhortation, comfort are so needed these days.

Stirring and fanning are very deliberate actions. We, as individuals are to stir up or fan our own flames. How do we do that? First we must believe there is a good gift that needs to be stirred. If your “fire” has gone out or dwindled to almost nothing, please know your gifts are important to those around you. Take time to pray, asking the Lord to bring His truth to the situation is vital. Satan would love for your fire to go out completely. Your influence to be shut down and the help it brings to others to be thwarted. I say it again, your gift is important. Your words of encouragement and caring may be the very thing that spurs another on to stir up their gift. Natural fires go out if the logs are separated. Spiritual life also diminishes if we try to do life alone. Timothy needed Paul’s encouragement. We need to encourage others to keep burning bright. Stir up any dormant gifts you have been keeping in reserve. Activate them, see what God will do in and through you.

Faith and Release

Not only does the New Year afford us motivation time to get our bodies in shape, but some people also use it to start purging their homes of excess “stuff”. One of my daughter’s goals for the past few years with her friends is to get rid of 2019 unwanted or unnecessary things in her home. These items can be pieces of paper, out-grown children’s clothes or toys that the children have lost interest in. I admire them–not sure I have the patience to monitor the count of such an undertaking!

Bu this morning, the Lord reminded me of the need to do emotional and spiritual purging as well. Do we carry around in our hearts unneeded concerns that He asks us to release? Are we carrying around wrong attitudes about ourselves or others that crept in during difficult situations? Doing an inventory of our souls is not only helpful, but necessary.

Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.  This verse from Psalm 51:10, is a place to begin. Ask Him to sort through the recesses of your heart where un-forgiveness, disappointments or any roots of bitterness may be hiding. We do not have to fear His examines, because He already knows what’s there. Repentance is not a “bad” thing, it is a good thing. The more specific we can be about the situation, the clearer and cleaner we will feel.

We also need to examine our hearts and get rid of any fears that may have attached themselves along our life’s way. Recently, He showed me I was starting to “FEAR” getting older. The lies that were beginning to sound like truths to me were starting to take root. I renounced those thoughts and switched my mind to determining I wanted to walk into my more senior years like Caleb or Moses! Some health issues were part of the lies, but also had to admit the uncertainty that came from walking with my husband’s unexpected stroke event fueled some of the anxiety. I had to admit to the Lord that truth, and ask Him to bring more restoration to that area.

We also need to examine unnecessary burdens or concerns that may fill our souls. Concerns that we may need to pray and release back to Him. I wonder how hard it was for Abraham to watch Hagar and Ishmael walk off into the wilderness–trusting them to God’s promise? There is no indication that he saw Ishmael again. God told him to listen to Sarah and do her bidding on the situation. Not easy, I am sure. There are circumstances where we must believe and trust in our prayers because that is all we can do. Casting our burdens on the Lord, and remembering that He not only cares for you, but for the people involved makes it easier to release them into His care.

My mom always told us to “clean as you go” when we were cooking. To wash a pot when you finished with it as soon as possible. It made for smoother and easier clean up after the meal. She urged us to have a sink of warm soapy water available to at least start soaking the pan if we were to busy to wash it immediately. I believe that pattern does well with dealing with our soul issues as well. Bringing them to the Lord quickly helps prevent a longer restoration time in many cases. Simply crying, Help me Lord is a great place to begin!

Sometimes we need to include others in our purging sessions. Close safe people may have the clear eyes to see areas where we might have grown blind. If this seems overwhelming to you, ask the Lord for wisdom on who to ask for help. We need each other.

Father, teach us to walk in faith and show us how to release our cares and concerns to you in an more effective manner. Help us to rely on your truth and trust your love as you bring us into your freedoms that releasing our sins and our burdens brings about.

Faith, Gratitude and Adjustments

Yesterday I had the privilege of taking my four year old granddaughter to school. First day back after a very busy vacation for her family–so she was not in her normal “top” form. Her boots were off, but she did not want to put them on. For some reason they were not “right”. But that is what she had to wear. I ask her mom for help in getting her to wear them. My granddaughter said, “I need a motivation”! Her mom, replied, no you need to put your boots on!

We made it to the car. After all the booster seat buckling, the adjustment of all her things, I started driving. Before she could even think about grumbling I began to sing “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”. She quietly listened as she ate her cheerios and I watched her countenance change. Our contented little girl was back–the “attitude” switch was made and life was good for her once again.

As we begin this new year, I want to remind us that this day, and tomorrow and all the days of 2019 are the days that He has made. Days to enjoy, days to persevere, days to seek Him, days to enjoy His creation, even days of battle lie ahead. But as we walk toward them in faith and as Paul writes to the Ephesians in chapter 5.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

I want to urge us this year to begin with the whole armor of God securely in place in our lives. This is a year of productivity for His Kingdom, if we walk in faith, perseverance and His grace. We may need to shift our thinking through praise, worship and developing a grateful heart–and that is a good thing. Many of my friends had to say goodbye to their loved ones this past year, I am so sorry for their loss and grief. It serves to motivate me to live my life to Him, for Him and touch the lives He connects me with His grace and love. I confess, it is a learning process for me to get better at appreciating what everyday may hold, but it is my goal! How about you?