There Is More To It Than You Think

Crevices of heartWhen I take a test I look like a scared, wet cat clinging to a tree branch. The anxiety causes my stomach to knot up, my eyes to bug out, and I become paralyzed. Talking myself down, I imagine scooching over in my chair, and having Jesus sit beside me so He can see my exam. I take deep breaths asking Him for help. I am a realtor, which requires continuing education courses from time to time. Well, it was time! After finishing my course exam, I took another deep breath and faxed it to my instructor. I felt good about the answers I submitted. Then, the phone rang.  My instructor called to tell me I had failed the test! Confusion, doubt, and low self-esteem crept back into the crevices of my heart.  I would have to take the test again! The following four days, I rehearsed what I might have answered incorrectly. I drudged up self-talks I promised myself I would never listen to again.

Can you relate? You know the ones? Self-talk that convinces us to grab a shovel, dig a hole, and bury ourselves with lies. Lies validating our insecurities and incompetence. Lies convincing us failure will always be our companion.

In those four days, I found myself engaged in a different kind of test.

A heart test … the kind God gives.

“The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, but the LORD test hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3)

Silver and gold are refined through a purification process extracting impurities, which are then scraped away. The process is repeated until what is left shines in its purest form.

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When God test hearts, impurities are exposed, as well.

Such as:

  • Control
  • Motives
  • Perfectionism
  • Lust
  • Codependency
  • Idols
  • Covetousness
  • Comparison
  • Jealousy

Why does God test hearts?

  • To purify us that we might walk in His ways.
    • God tested Abraham with his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1)
    • God left King Hezekiah alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:31)
    • God tested the Israelite’s as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
    • You have today declared the Lord to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. ” (Deuteronomy 26:17)

 

  • To teach us to love Him with all of our heart.

…You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

  • To shape us to the image of Christ.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… (Romans 8:28-29)

  • To prepare us to be light in a dark world.

To quote Lysa Terkeurst, “God often meets with us in the quiet darkness of adversity just before taking us out into the light. He must strengthen the light in us before the spotlight is placed on us.”

You may not believe what I am about to share with you, but it really happened. On the fourth day, I received a second phone call from my instructor. With an electric excitement, he explained that there was a printing error on my exam and I had actually passed!

I told you that it’s hard to believe! 🙂

All of the anxiety, negative self-talk, confusion… was not wasted. God tested my heart and exposed what did not belong.

He loves us too much to leave our hearts tainted with impurities. The pressures and afflictions of life not only expose the hidden crevices, they strengthen our walk with God, and allow us the opportunity to be light in a dark world.

Can you remember the last time you were tested by God?

Did it purify your walk with Him?

Did God teach you to love Him with all of your heart?

Did God reshape you to reflect His image?

Let’s put down the shovel and not bury ourselves in lies any longer. Let’s allow God to use our trials to refine us … becoming the people He designed us to be.

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What Is Holding You Back?

Hold BackI made a heart connection with a precious little boy at church. He is four-years-old and full of love, joy, and life. When he recognizes me on Sunday mornings I know he is about to bring in a hug that knocks me down, so I brace myself. He does not know how much my heart explodes from his act of love. So, my heart melted one day when he hesitated to hug me. I was meeting his family across town and when he saw me, he did not recognize me! I was puzzled until I realized that at church I always wear my hair down, but during the week I often pull it back into a ponytail.

My experience got me thinking about how a simple rubber band, holding my hair back, affected how my little friend perceived me. We think, “It’s just a rubber band,” but it represents much more than that. It is anything in your life that is holding you back from living, loving and walking freely with Jesus Sunday through Saturday. Which leads me to this question:

What is holding you back from being recognized as a Christ follower?

Do you struggle with looking one way at church and another apart from it? In other words, are you loving and walking with Jesus only on Sundays, and loving the world Monday through Saturday?

Could the device holding us back be things such as sin, void, or pressure?

Sin-even what we think is simple or small is big from God’s perspective. Big enough for His Son to die on the cross for us.

Void-maybe we have a shallow relationship with God.  Maybe time spent with Him is limited to Sundays so we are left empty throughout the week.

Pressure-maybe we have a circle of influence at home or work that says, “If you start looking like Jesus, then you do not belong”. Maybe you want to please God, but want to please man more.

The battle is real y’all!

God is available to help us have victory over what holds us back! When we turn to Him, He breaks our darkness with light and breaks our chains, setting us free… Psalm 107.

BUT, He finds being lukewarm detestable. We are neither hot nor cold when we choose to be inconsistent. It makes us lukewarm.

I do not know about you, but I do not want to be detestable before God. I want to be hot and on fire for Him every day.

We have a choice. Serve God or serve your devices.

Let’s not find ourselves calling out “Lord, Lord!” and have Him reply that He never knew us.

Don’t let the devices and temptations of this world hold you back from living a life of love, joy, happiness, and fulfillment.

Instead, choose to break the bands, that device that holds us back, and be all in with the Lord. Make sure you are recognized as a disciple of Jesus Sunday through Saturday.

Live free from what holds you back, and be a light for all to see! Luke 11:33

By the way, the little boy that hesitated to hug me, looked into my eyes, with a big grin, and said, “I thought that was you, Ms. Jodi,” and in came the hug. This gal’s heart is full!

*As a reminder to help you walk free of those devices, place a rubber band around your wrist. The next time you are tempted to let a familiar device hold you back, look at the band and remember that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.

 

It’s not easy but it’s for His Glory and Our Good.

Bike“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Growing up I loved riding my pink bike with tassels dangling off each side of the handlebar. Back then the banana seat was a perfect fit, though I’m not sure I could sit on it today!

Just downhill from my home neighborhood kids made a bike ramp. I watched as they took turns jumping the ramp with their bikes.  They made it look easy and so much fun. I decided I needed to join them. So I sat on my bike, at the top of the hill, rolling it back and forth trying to muster the courage to go for it. I finally raced down the hill as fast as I could while keeping my eyes squarely on the ramp. I rolled up the ramp and soared in the air! My body hit the ground hard thrusting the air out of my lungs as my bike continued down the hill! I thought that because the other kids made it look easy it would be easy for me also. Not so much!

Sometimes we roll upon scripture thinking it should be an easy application until we fail at it.

For instance, look at our key verse:

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

After my complete failure at the bike ramp, I am certain I did not feel love for my neighbors right then.

Maybe you too have blown applying this command. Before you say no, let’s explore who our neighbor is.

According to “Baker Encyclopedia of the bible” your neighbor is a concept apparently limited in the Old Testament period…and extended by Jesus to include anyone encountered in life.

Anyone encountered in life? Yes! That means the cashier you blamed for breaking your eggs, the coworker that spread a rumor about you, the friend that said something hurtful, your spouse, your parents, and anyone else you encounter.

This command is not easy to apply every day. But neither is being in God’s will in general.  We must strive to have confidence in God when He leads us to such difficult commands.  It’s not easy but it’s for His glory and our good.

The more we approach scripture with heart motives to look more like Christ, the more we are challenged.  Although the bike ramp failure proved to be a challenge, it did not mean I should give up.  It meant that I needed to practice, practice, practice until it became more natural.  The same applies with our key verse. We must practice loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Though we may stumble with such love at times, God is faithful and just to forgive us.

Be encouraged by Proverbs 24:16 The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.

 

 

 

Don’t Sweep it Under the Rug!

Design from Swag

Have you ever heard the saying, “Sweep it under the rug”? This phrase communicates the effort to hide, ignore, or keep something secret, instead of dealing with it directly.  We convince ourselves that if it is “out of sight”, then it will be “out of mind.” I used to think like this when someone hurt my heart.  Thinking that time could heal all wounds, I would ignore the hurt. However, I have found on several occasions that a “trigger” can come and bring these feelings back to the surface. These “triggers” are unavoidable and can be different for everyone.  For me, a trigger can be a smell, sound, place, conversation, or picture that causes me to flash back to another time and place. When I have a flashback, I feel as if these past events are happening in the present.

Can you relate?

The harsh truth is that we are forced to continue dealing with pain we have tried so hard to ignore. In reality, when we sweep things under the rug, we are creating bigger obstacles in our life—obstacles we WILL have to navigate later.

Do you have any obstacles in your life?

  • Maybe you struggle trusting others because someone has betrayed you in the past.
  • Maybe you find it hard to reveal your true identity to others because you have experienced the pain of rejection.
  • Maybe you cling to relationships out of fear of being abandoned again.
  • Maybe you wrestle with self -esteem because others have left you feeling unworthy.
  • Maybe you wear yourself thin trying to please others because you have never received affirmation from someone important to you.

Nothing good comes from sweeping your hurt under the rug.  Ignoring it only causes more pain in the present or future.

Hurt knows no boundaries. It happens in ministry, friendships, parenting, marriages, families, work, and school…

So, how do we deal with our hurts?

  1. We acknowledge the past hurts in our lives and recognize the consequences of sweeping them under the rug. These consequences become obstacles such as: bitterness, loss of identity, fear, poor self-worth, jealousy, stress… All of these things are not of God.
  1. We deal with one hurt at a time. Dealing with hurts can look different for everyone.  It may be in the best interest for some to seek professional Christian counseling. The important thing is to deal with them appropriately to find healing.  I love to journal and pour out my soul before God.  Often He brings a scripture to mind that speaks a truth I need to apply to my circumstance.  Sometimes, I am led to share with a friend that I trust is walking close with the Lord and can offer wisdom and a fresh perspective.  Sometimes, it is a process to get healing from a deeper hurt. (Think of peeling an onion one layer at time.  Getting to the core is a process.)  It does not feel good peeling layers of hurts away, but getting to the core of why we hurt is the healthiest thing we can do. It is healthy because that is where God steps in and does a deeper healing in our lives. (Allowing God to get to the core of my pain has set me free from a bondage that held me prisoner for too many years.) No matter how long it takes, it is worth dealing with one hurt at a time.
  1. As we move forward, change the way we approach new hurts. We should be quick to acknowledge when we get hurt. Stop! Take it to the Lord, and seek resolve before we move on. Ask what God’s word says about how you should handle it.  You may find that you need to forgive someone, either within your heart privately before God, or face to face with the one that hurt you. Maybe with love, talk it through with the one that hurt you. Whatever you do, do your best to not let the sun go down before making amends. I really like how the “Message” elaborates on Ephesians 4:26-27, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

God never promised us that we would be free from experiencing pain.  But, He did guarantee us that we would have trials. (James 1:2) He desires that we cast our cares on Him because He cares about us. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Friend, our hurts can crush our spirit, and we can feel alone in them but…

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

God can handle what you feel, and He desires to break you free from the stronghold that it has on you.

The beautiful thing about healing is that the triggers that once brought pain now bring peace.  God has not only healed my heart, but he has healed my mind.

Let’s not sweep our hurts under the rug any longer. Let’s roll up our rug and toss it out for good.RUG

 

 

She Was No Angel!

blonde-angelI had a jaw dropping experience at a Christmas parade! The atmosphere was electric with screams of excitement, blaring music, Christmas lights illuminating the sky. Just under one hundred parade floats were slowly making their way through the spectators.  Children were lifted onto shoulders to get a better view of the celebration of Christmas.  (Insert screeching halt here!) Celebration of Christmas? Not so much.  It was nearly void of any celebration of Christ’s birth.  Even the traditional Santa appearance wasn’t the focus of the parade. So, when the float of Angels wearing their wings representing the meaning of Christmas came along, I was excited! Then it happened! One of the Angels tossed beads to the crowd, but someone from the crowd hurled them back at her! Caught off guard, she intently searched for the perpetrator.  When her eye caught the guilty one she turned three shades of red and, if I read her lips correctly, “she was no Angel!”  She nearly came off the float to retaliate!

Have you been caught off guard this season in a way that hurt you? Maybe someone shared unexpected news, something from the past was thrown in your face, or a longstanding Christmas tradition changed unexpectedly…

Whatever it is that caught you off guard did not catch God off guard.  He knew what you were about to experience and He is waiting for you to turn to Him for guidance and peace.  If you react impulsively without considering how God wants you to react, you may end up more like the Angel I mentioned than a representative of Christ this season.

Is that who you really want to look like?  If not…


       
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” (Proverbs 10:19-21)

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

If the angel held her tongue and focused on being the light of Christ, how different would her reaction be? Would she forgive the one who hurt her? Would she have held onto her joy? Would she have shown grace?

Maybe you need to forgive someone.  My friend, bitterness can hold you in prison of your own design and steal your joy. But, if you choose forgiveness, you can be free!

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

Let’s keep our focus on the reason for the season, Christ’s birth, where you will find hope, peace, and love.

Prayer: Lord, I can be so bitter sometimes.  When ______ caught me off guard, I responded in the flesh.  Forgive me and help me forgive ______. I desire peace and contentment as I work through the things that catch me off guard. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Puppy Love

Puppy Love Picture

Puppy love is officially known as a “temporary love of an adolescent.”  My definition of puppy love, however, has to do with how I feel about certain furry animals. Growing up, my family had a dog named Prissy.  Every year she would have a playful litter of puppies. Each time, I watched her labor and give birth with great anticipation of cuddling every one of them.   As a young girl I have to admit that the process was both disgusting and breathtaking at the same time.  Her labor made me wince as I watched and cheered her on.  On the other side of her pain offered a remarkable thing for me.  It was good. It was a special kind of “puppy love.”

As an adult I often reflect on Prissy and her puppies.  These were my happy thoughts.  These were thoughts that reminded me that good can come out of pain.

Sometimes we are in a painful situation and cannot even dream that it may result in good. I suppose we become so consumed with the pain that we lose hope and cannot see beyond it. One such occasion from several years ago affected me in this way. In the mid-1990s, I had an allergic reaction to a prescribed medication.  The reaction caused my lungs to partially deflate and close up (atelectasis).  It was painfully difficult to breath and every deep breath resulted in coughing that was reminiscent of a “dog barking.”  The prescribed treatment for my condition…breathe deeply (in spite of the pain) in order to reopen my lungs. Should I choose to not face the pain…they told me I could anticipate living with an oxygen tank for the rest of my life.

At first I could not see any good that could come of this, but then I noticed the following:

  • It was bringing my family together and my friends together around a common desire.
  • I was grasping what genuine trust in the Lord looked like.
  • It was causing me to lean on God and allowing Him to be in control.
  • It was an opportunity to share my faith.
  • It caused me to see that the very breath I am given is a gift that cannot be taken for granted.

Good was rising up out of a difficult situation.

With Gods help my lungs were restored and I was delighted to not sound like a “barking dog” with every cough.

While I would not have chosen this condition for myself, I grew from it, was matured by it, and saw God move in it.

 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I pray that whatever pain you are experiencing at this time, that you would take a deep breath (in spite of the pain) and ask God to show you the “good” He intends “through it.” You may never know the reason for the pain, but God is faithful to see you through it and to strengthen you by it.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t always understand what you are doing, but I choose to trust You no matter what comes my way.  Help me see good in my pain and help me accept Your way even when it does not make sense to me.  I pray for peace in the midst of the storm. In Jesus Name. Amen

Don’t Jump Ship!

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Commit your way to the Lord… Psalm 37:5A NIV

I struggle with committing my way to the Lord at times.  I may be alone in this but I don’t think so. I know what I ought to do, but too often find myself doing things my own way.

I ask myself the question, “If I am a devoted follower of Christ and am to commit my ways to Him, why then do I breach that commitment at times?”

Maybe it is a rebellious spirit.

The story of Jonah comes to mind.  Jonah was a follower of God and yet when God directed him to go to Nineveh, he refused! Rather than choosing the “good” that God had planned, he “jumped ship” and was swallowed by a “BIG” fish. He chose to suffer earthly consequences over turning back to God. Afterwards, God used Jonah to bring many to salvation, but boy… he could have saved himself from being “fish bait” if he had only stayed true to “committing his way to the Lord.”

Like Jonah, I do not always like what God is doing. I sometimes rebel and breach my commitment to Him. I choose to “jump ship” and suffer the earthly consequences of my rebellious spirit.

For example…just this year I chose three different times not to be faithful in devoting my way to the Lord. One of those times is when we helped to load up our son and daughter-in-law for their move to Texas. My “mama heart” was in a vise and the life was being wrenched out of it! God tried to comfort me and I rebelled against what He was doing. I knew His action was good, but it was affecting me emotionally and I did not like it. In trying not to become an emotional “basket case,” I kept God at “arm’s length.” I did the same with my husband and my close friends. I convinced myself that if I did not let them get too close, I could “stand strong” and not end up in the fetal position blubbering like a baby.

Did I succeed in being strong? Sure I did…in my eyes. In reality, what I really accomplished was a couple of newly “strained” relationships. I was in a “crazy cycle” of my own creation and could not seem to get a grip on reality.  Choosing to go my way in my flesh ALWAYS produces less than God’s way and the “fruit” in my life becomes bruised. Thank God for His everlasting patience that is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). When I turn back to God, He shows me abundant grace by restoring relationships and taking them to new depths.

Today I CHOOSE to devote my way to the Lord, no matter how uncomfortable it may be (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 37:4). I CHOOSE to draw near to Him so that He will draw near to me (James 4:8) and even if I do end up an “emotional basket case,” God will bring me through it (Psalm 23:4,6). I would much rather live a life of heavenly rewards over earthly consequences. This is a DAILY choice and today I CHOOSE.

Are you doing things in your own way?  How is that working out for you? Don’t jump ship! Ask God to forgive you for your rebellious spirit and commit your way to the Lord.  He is faithful to forgive and start you on your path again, refreshed in Him. (1 John 1:9).