Posted in Faith

Thoughts on the New Year

open door

Well, we’ve officially moved into a new year. 2016 is here! Maybe it’s my age showing, but I’m amazed at how each year seems to go by faster than the one before. And as I look around, I see there is always more money to make, less time to spend and many unhappy people.

With the new year comes time for New Year’s resolutions. Since 2010, I’ve stopped making resolutions because I don’t like the feeling that I’ve failed. Setting the bar and not meeting it means I didn’t succeed, so why put that unnecessary pressure on myself? But lately, I am feeling the opposite. Since I have given my life to Christ, it doesn’t matter if I set the bar and fail, because He gives opportunity after opportunity without deadline.

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve run ahead of God and how He’s been extremely gracious in my hustle and bustle. In the past, I have loved the frantic, crazy pace of getting things done and having the feeling of accomplishment. I’m not ashamed of it because it’s part of my make up, however as I get older, I’m realizing God is asking me to sllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww dooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnn.

Being a woman, it’s natural to just take over certain tasks, keep everyone in line, make sure things get done, and go to bed depleted. Checking boxes makes everyone happy, especially when the bottom line is saving money and time. But in all of the busyness of life, I’ve even recently noticed how Christian biblical women authors are encouraging women to listen to the voice of the Lord and slow down. And I believe God is speaking through them.

Lysa Terkeurst has released

the best yes
,

Susie Larson wrote

your sacred yes
and

Karen Ehman shares how to

let it go
.
I’m seeing a recurring theme from women who have “been there, done that” and have learned the rhythm of the Lord is in patiently waiting and not rushing. What a crazy concept in our fast-paced society! We don’t like to read these books that make us admit that we’re so goal-focused and check box driven, especially when it means something in our behavior pattern will have to change. Yet realizing EXACTLY THAT will save us much heartache and unnecessary rebuke.

What is it that sends us to the task driven life? In social circles, what is it that we are afraid of, if we don’t DO something? Each woman (or man) who reads this can answer the questions themselves. Honestly, I believe the questions should be mulled over, and prayed over, with time to hear back from God before replying. When we can recognize WHY we jump to do something, and whether or not it’s something the Lord is truly asking of us, we can answer with confidence and not hesitation.

fasting

Our church is currently in a new sermon series about spending time with Jesus. As part of that study, we are learning to fast and actually spend quality time with God. Doing so requires discipline to follow the suggested regimen, not eating physical food, but depending on the Word of God and what He is speaking to us. It’s a common practice done in the Bible by Jesus, for getting closer to God, and seeking His will. I’ve done it once, as a teenager, when raising money for the 30 hour famine. I’ve never done it longer, and I’ve never done it with the intent of getting specific answers from God. I believe it is not a manipulation tool, because God cannot be manipulated. But it is a practice worth doing, to have my physical body completely depend on God during my quiet time, and to exchange my hunger for food, to hunger for Him.

I have much to pray about specifically at this time in my life: I have many unsaved friends and neighbors, stepchildren with concerns about their futures, family members who have broken relationships, a job that is inconsistent at times, clarity for a dream/passion of mine to come to fruition. All of these things need to be placed in the loving hands of the Father and LEFT THERE. I needn’t pick them up again. I can trust Him and I believe that my quiet time with Him will be beneficial, as He will provide what is best for me.

fervent

Now my issue is that I’ve listed my specific prayer needs/wants, but I’ve left out the ones that the Lord has for me. How will I know them if I don’t ask Him what He has planned or what He is asking me to do? I fall into the trap of thinking that prayer is simply telling God everything that I want Him to accomplish and then waiting for it to happen. Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that? They just talk at you and walk away, and you feel as if you didn’t have a chance to share your viewpoint on anything? It’s one-sided, unfair, and is one thing I’m resolving this year. I’m going to take the time to wait for His response. Who am I to make demands? I know I am His daughter, but if anyone deserves respect and ultimate praise, it’s God. I need to be reminded of how I walk into His presence.

And something else that is heavy on my heart, is the gift that the Lord has bestowed on my husband and me. We love spontaneity, whether it be something we do together solely as a couple, or whether it involve other people who need us in a time of need. We have been obedient in listening to the Lord for those opportunities and then just “going”. And we’ve seen the fruit of that obedience. A dear friend of ours recently said Kevin’s and my greatest gift is our presence. That we stop what we are doing, and just show up. And I think that will be something I pray about specifically again this year. Where do you need us to be, in what way, and what should we bring, if anything? Giving of time has become such a wonderful way for me to see how the Lord can use me, instead of me having an agenda, or a place to rush off to. Time really is the most precious gift.

Have you ever done the OneWord movement for the New Year? I’ve come up with mine and it will be something I pray over and specifically focus on for 2016. My word is #abide. God has been speaking into my heart for some time now about spending time with Him (which is why I’m so jazzed about our sermon series at church), but also because I have been convicted by James 4:7. I need to be drawing near to God and resisting the devil. So much time in my past has been given to him, out of fear or insecurity, and I’m reclaiming my value this year. I’m going to spend more time with the Lord, actual QUALITY TIME, and immediately relinquish all thoughts that aren’t from Him.

post it

calendar

tast list

Finally, I have a challenge for you, a very simple one. If you trust your life in the capable hands of God, do you believe He has everything under His control? Do you know that He hears the prayers of His children and filters them through His ultimate purposes and wisdom?

A girlfriend of mine told me a few years ago that when she is in prayer about the future, or something that she is uncertain that she’s supposed to be doing, she takes the task, calendar, or a sticky note with the option written on it, and puts it on the floor. Then she prays over it, and waits to hear back from the Lord regarding it. She doesn’t say YES until she knows it is what He is asking her to do.

I’m going to be doing this challenge. I’ve said yes so many times in the past, without knowing whether or not something was correct, and I’ve become overwhelmed and burnt out. So instead of struggling to find my way, I’m going to give everything to Him and wait for Him to interrupt my plans, intercede with a better idea, and speak to my heart in a way that only I know.

Praying a special prayer for each reader, that your year would be one of surrender, hope, trust, love, grace and forgiveness. God is trustworthy and faithful to His promises.

Posted in Faith

New Year…New perspective (again)…

Image

HAPPY NEW YEAR, dear ones!  God’s richest blessings to all of you.

Typically each new year, I would try to think of a resolution (or more than one) to work on throughout the year.  Last year, I wrote about not letting what others think about me, affect me.  I’m sad to say that I failed miserably.  If I look back over the past year, I can pinpoint certain areas where God was trying to get my attention, and yet, I was too busy pointing fingers at others, so I missed many of His teaching opportunities and glorified myself instead…ugh…

For future notice, however, I’m changing the course.  This year, I’m not going to list things I’d like to change.  Instead, I’m going to meditate on a passage of Scripture that caught my eye, has resonated in my heart, and has become this year’s newest desire…to follow the one command, and it’s one that I’m pretty sure I can’t screw up…

Second Corinthians 13:5 states the following:

 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

This statement is clearly a command; to test oneself, and check our genuine faith in Christ.  It’s a statement (for those who claim to be Christians) to be aware that it’s very easy to fall back into old ways of thinking and acting.  Notice there’s not one hint of comparing oneself to someone else or judging others.  We are to simply test ourselves to be sure we haven’t been swayed, that our actions follow His.  It’s a self-evaluation of our hearts.  That’s it.  And honestly, it’s simple.  

In the book of Galatians, beginning at chapter five, Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Galatia, mainly to the Gentiles there who were being swayed by others who were pushing legalism.  His goal for the letter was to bring the gospel message forefront once again.

St-Paul-Preaching-in-Athens
Paul preaching in Athens

At verse 13, Paul addresses the church’s issues with legalism and explains how all believers are free, however freedom isn’t meant to be used for fleshly purposes.  Paul wanted the church to understand that the freedom given by Christ was meant to serve each other in the Spirit, not continue to be led by the law.

If you, dear reader, are new to the concept of being a Christian, flesh is defined as human nature and the parts of ourselves that are still vulnerable to Satan and his advances (natural instincts, sinful tendencies, anything that gratifies US literally and emotionally).  In the context of Scripture, the flesh is always fighting with the Holy Spirit who comes upon believers at the moment they surrender their lives to Christ.

The Bible says only one of them wins.

If the flesh wins, we give into sin and selfish desires that separate us from God.  

If the Holy Spirit wins, flesh is left at the base of the cross, as Christ was crucified, and we give God Lordship of our lives.

The two can coexist, but they are constantly at war.

The command to test ourselves means that we need to constantly be checking our behaviors and attitudes, thoughts and desires, to make sure that they are in line with the Holy Spirit whom we represent.  This means DAILY.  Here are the differences.

Galatians 5:19-21 states the FLESH problems: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

not Kingdom worthy
not Kingdom worthy

Clearly the things listed here are direct, listed for our attention and should not be skipped over.  Any one of these things is in direct contrast to the will of God in our lives, and separates us from Him.  The warning at the end solidifies the destination of those who partake of these behaviors.

On the contrary, the rest of the passage defines the FRUIT of the SPIRIT: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Spirit-producing
Spirit-producing

At any time, if we don’t see “fruit” being produced in our own lives by the items listed above, we can be sure that there is a “glitch in the Matrix” so-to-speak, and we need to realign ourselves through repentance and connection with God.  It’s that simple.

The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity of God.  He is GOD dwelt in us.  Believers, though surrendered, are still vulnerable to sin.  Because of the blood of Jesus, however, the Holy Spirit comes to rest in us and helps to transform us into the image of Christ.  Each day will present new opportunities to follow the legalistic rule of the world, to point fingers and judge, to fulfill a narcissistic way of thinking that glorifies ourselves, but that is not the mark of those who walk with Christ.  Only those who have surrendered their lives and are being led by the Holy Spirit will have fruit that is visible to the world around us.

not physical fruit, but our actions that lead the hurting world to Jesus
not physical fruit, but our actions that can lead the hurting world to Jesus

The life of a believer is constantly yielding to the direction of the One who is in us, who is in the process of creating, transforming, changing, revealing and perfecting.  We will not be perfect here, but we can learn to be less of ourselves, for the glory of the Lord.  We can’t even boast that it’s because of ourselves, because apart from God, we all go back to our old ways.

So, instead of trying to keep a list of things I need to change and trying to work on them this year, I’m going to instead focus on testing myself (yes, just myself).

Am I showing love to everyone, even those who hurt me?  Am I aware of the consequences if certain words pass my lips?  Do I put others before myself?  Am I patient?  Do I hold grudges?  Am I not listening?  All of these things, as small as they might seem, become a slow fade into old Grace, and that’s not who I am any longer.  I am redeemed and capable of producing fruit for the glory of God.  My new year’s prayer is that you too can walk with the Holy Spirit and shed the flesh that holds you back from being all that you are meant to be in Christ.

This year, instead of focusing on how I’ll fail by February, I’m going to focus on the presence of God in my life.  I’m going to self-evaluate my behavior, actions, thoughts, and stay in constant communication with God.  I know that He is walking with me daily, and that through my obedience and surrender, He is able to produce fruit that shines into a dark world.  To Him be all glory.