Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Freedom or Bondage?

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1 (NASB) It seems that everything I've been reading in Scripture the past three or four days has been about our freedom. It makes me wonder if God might be trying to tell me something! I have had to stop and look at my life. Christ has set me free, but do I live in that freedom? In all honesty, no. I let myself be caught up in bondage so frequently. Sometimes it is to things like people pleasing, a schedule that I just have to follow, or the oppression of perfectionism. Other times it is to rebellion against what is expected of me. Other times it is to my frustration and irritation when things are not going my way either at home, at church, or in the world. Then there are the addictions that I struggle with - food, the computer, some project, etc. Some of the things I have mentioned are downright sinfulness. Other things can be used as tools in my endeavor to honor and glorify my Lord in all I do, but I turn them into idols instead. Whatever the case may be, I allow myself to be in bondage to them. Christ died that I may live in His freedom. Will I be like the Galatians and allow myself to be enslaved again, or will I truly walk in His freedom?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Doing it His Way

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Gal 5:16 (NASB) It's such a simple statement...it makes it all seem so easy. So, why is it that all too often the yuk of Gal 5:20-21 is evident in my life rather than the beauty of the fruit of the Spirit found in Gal 5:22-23? I am told to walk by the Spirit, abide in Christ (John 15:4), and show love for Him by obeying His commandments (John 14:15). I am so far from that, but He loves me immensely anyway. He welcomes me with open arms even on my worst days, of which there are many - those days when Gal 5:20-32 describes me so much better than does Gal 5:22-23. But the more I know His love - the more I am welcomed into His presence - the more I am passionately driven to walk by His Spirit. Oh how I want to do things His way today, this hour, this moment.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's About Him

Nearly two months ago, I was greatly comforted, encouraged, and challenged by Psalm 143. I committed to memorize the Psalm as I sought to apply its message to my heart. I confess I still don't have it 100% memorized because I've done more studying and reading of it than actively committing it to memory. But, I have read it nearly every day since May 4, and I have learned so much, sometimes through individual verses and sometimes through the psalm as a whole. Today it was through the Psalm as a whole. I was struck by how many times it was all about God. I went through and made a list of everything that was about Him - even where David said "I" and "my" it always seemed to turn around and point back to God! I seem to make a lot of things in life about me. In truth, nothing is about me. So, why do I live that way? This day, this life, this very existence is all about Him. It's all for His glory. It's about His righteousness, His justice, His lovingkindness, His works, His way, His protection, His ability to rescue, seeing His face. I want to live that way - not only losing focus on myself, but acknowledging that everything, without fail, comes back to Him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Brief absence

I just wanted to note on here that I haven't abandoned the challenge blog. It has just been hard lately to get these posted. So, although I might get one or two posted this week while we're traveling, I'm not going to make any promises. I look forward to being back full force next week!
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conversations with Fools

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Prov 18:2 ESV) I've been exposed to several people like this lately. They start a discussion, and then refuse to hear anyone's input but their own. They have to be right, and they cannot learn from anyone else. I have been like that before. I have been caught up in a discussion where I was so entrenched in my statements that even when I knew I was wrong, I couldn't back down. Oh how I hate being prideful! There are two things I want to watch for...1) I do not want to be the fool. I do not have to always be right, and I want to be willing to listen to the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others rather than blindly bucking against them. 2) I do not want to argue with the fool. He won't be listening to me anyway, so it will only serve to make me look like a fool as well. I'm praying for wisdom and discernment to know when to walk away.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

He Searches

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. (Prov 16:2 ESV) I tend to be wordy, and I've tried to apply my wordiness to this verse. I've tried to type out the depth of what I was thinking as I read it. But, it really comes down to a very simple question - the question that popped into my mind when I read this verse; the question I wrote in my journal immediately after I thought it. Am I willing to ask God to let me see myself through His eyes? There are days when I exult in the way He's working in me and growing me. Then something happens that reminds me how far I have to go. 1 Chron 28:9 reminds me how deeply the Lord searches my heart. He knows so much more about me than I know about myself. He alone truly knows where I am versus where I need to be. So, here I am, challenged to not trust in my own perspective of where I am. I am challenged instead to completely follow His leadership as He grows me. It may seem like a "no-brainer" challenge, but living it out on a daily basis can be elusive for me. Lord, I don't want to see myself through Your eyes. I just want to see You. And I want to be like You. Thank You that Your Holy Spirit within me makes that possible. Please teach me Your ways that I may allow Him more free reign in my life with every passing day. Thank You, Lord!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Praying in the Spirit

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints Eph 6:18 (NASB) I don't know about you, but there are times when the prayer just flows, and I know that the thoughts and petitions are being guided by the Holy Spirit. Many people disagree on what it means to pray in the Spirit, but I can testify beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are many, many times when the Spirit has very clearly directed my pryaers, both in specific and concentrated times of prayer and in entire days of heightened sensitivity to the prodding of the Spirit. The thing that nagged at me this morning, though, was the realization that I am not always that sensitive to the Spirit's leading. In fact, I'm more frequently not. Too often my prayers are based on a list, not on His promptings. Eph 6:18 specifically says "pray at all times in the Spirit." Downhere has a song entitled "The Real Jesus." As they sing through characteristics of who Jesus is, they make the statement, "Jesus prays a lot." It's such a simple, direct statement, but it packs quite the punch, maybe because it is so simple. It always leads me to chuckle a bit and think, "Now that's an understatement!" Scripture tells me to pray in the Spirit, and He is strongly challenging me to remember that today. Oh, how much more effective those prayers will be when I surrender my will and just do it!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not a Checklist

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Gal 3:2-3 (NASB) Do you ever just need a reminder of things that you've known for what seems like forever? I do. These verses were just that reminder. You see, I like to have a checklist. I like to know that once I've checked everything off the list, my task will be accomplished. I know that I can't grow in Christ that way, but there are times when I get sidetracked and try to do it that way anyway. But it doesn't work that way. Yes, I must practice obedience, but the obedience in and of itself does not draw me closer to Christ and perfection in Him. The thing that brings me closer to Christ is the relationship behind the obedience. Thank You, Father, for that reminder.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.' For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.' Isaiah 41:8-10, 13 (NASB) Sometimes I forget...sometimes I fear. When I feel pressed in upon, I don't let myself remember that I have been chosen! If God has chosen me, He is not going to reject me. I am His eternally. Period. I have been handpicked to be His child, and the promises He has made in His Word apply to me! So, today, I am challenged to remember. And then I am challenged to live like I remember - live with no fear; live in His strength. For, He is the Lord my God who upholds my right hand!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

No Babbling

The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. (Prov 10:8 ESV) I love words. I like to talk. I always enjoy adding in my thoughts and opinion in a discussion. It's not that I'm argumentative - I don't necessarily like a debate or argument. I do, however, like a discussion that helps me think and grow thoughts and ideas. I like to write. There's nothing quite like tapping out my thoughts. Long before I began blogging, I would type up some of my thoughts from Scripture or life and save them in a journaling file. I had no idea how I would ever share those thoughts, but I typed them anyway. When I started blogging I had a nice set of writings ready to be published. The thing about loving words, though, is that I can always come up with something to type or speak. But am I really saying anything? Am I just blogging because I want to make sure there is something on the blog, or am I writing because I truly have something to share? Do I participate in a conversation just to be a part of it, or because I believe I truly have something to add? This verse really made me stop and think. I don't want to be a babbler. If I just babble, I miss hearing what the Lord is really saying to me. Meanwhile, my readers and listeners waste their time reading or listening to my babble. I want to be sure that I write or speak because the Lord has given me something to say. Otherwise, I want to learn to keep my mouth closed and my hands still.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Glorifying God

I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they were glorifying God because of me. Gal 1:22-24 (NASB) I think today's post will the culmination of several days of challenge, which works since I didn't have the chance to post through the course of the weekend! As I have been working through the first two chapters of Galatians for Sunday school, I've been reminded of the beauty of Paul's testimony. It is not necessarily the actual conversion experience that is so powerful to me, but the effort and attention put into learning after his conversion. But, the biggest thing that stood out to me over the weekend was his reputation. Even before he began the depth of the missions ministries for which he is most famous, people who had never before seen his face were praising God because of what he was doing. What do people think of me? I'm not talking about the people who know me personally. I mean the ones who only know me by reputation. What do they see? What is my reputation? And, what is their response when they hear of me? I definitely want to have a good reputation, but I also am realizing that I want to be careful even with that reputation because I want the right things to flow from it. I want my good reputation to cause people to glorify God because of me. That is my goal. I still have much to learn in regards to making that goal a reality, but that is what I am striving for. Lord, please let them see Your hand and Your work in my life, not accomplishments of my own. Please use my life for Your glory!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fertile Ground

Then He will give you rain for the seed which you will sow in the ground, and bread from the yield of the ground, and it will be rich and plenteous ; on that day your livestock will graze in a roomy pasture. Isaiah 30:23 (NASB) This morning, this verse melted my heart. When I think of my soul and what I want to pour forth from it, this is probably the best mental image I could ever have. I can just see His rain pouring into my soul, watering the seed of life within me. I can picture the harvest - an incredible growth in Him and outpouring of His rich and plenteous harvest in the world around me because He's able to grow His Spirit within me. When I back up to Is 30:18-19, I see a beautiful picture of how much God longs to be near to me. He longs to do these things in my life. How do I respond? Do I allow His Spirit to pour through my life like a nurturing spring rain? Or do I allow the "stuff" I hang on to in my life to knit together like a shield of weeds that blocks out the nutrients? Oh, how I desire to grow! How I desire to get rid of the things that continue to stunt that growth. How I long to be completely usable by Him! I let so much get in the way. My challenge is to intentionally allow Him to whittle those things away from my life until I am completely usable to Him.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Get Wisdom!

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (Prov 4:7 ESV) This verse has always made me chuckle a bit. Then, Doug read it out loud this morning - and both of us read it in ESV - and I had to chuckle again. The ESV just puts it so, well, bluntly! But, there is also a lot to it. I want this to be my goal - to seek wisdom from whatever source God wishes to bring it to me. And, as I go along, to pray that the Lord gives me the discernment and insight to know what is wisdom and what is folly. How I long to be wise! Lord, please help me get wisdom with your guidance, that it may be true wisdom. And, may I have the insight necessary to utilize that wisdom appropriately!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's All Him!

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. Prov 3:7-8 (NASB) Sometimes we all feel like we deserve a pat on the back for something we've said, done, or succeeded in. That's all well and good, but the glory still must go to the Lord. It is only through His wisdom, guidance, and power that we're able to succeed in anything at all! I've seen Him work in me and in my home this week. He's shown His hand in many ways, and it's only Wednesday! There is the tendency in it all to say, "Yes! We've succeeded! We've made it this far, and things are looking better!" But, the truth is that the only reason I've seen any success is because He keeps reminding me of His Word and His instructions to me! I've only succeeded because He has strengthened me. I've only succeeded because of the Holy Spirit moving within me. My challenge is to continually acknowledge that. If I do, He will continue to work. If I don't, He just might let me see how "successful" I am on my own - just a little reminder of where the success really comes from!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 1 Peter 3:1-6 (NASB) When God is trying to teach me something, the lessons are everywhere. No matter where I turn, He seems to illuminate the same message out of almost every Scripture passage I read. His Word is alive! Right now His lesson to me seems to be my behavior, especially toward my family. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Phil 4:2-9. It talks greatly about behavior and attitude, and verse five says, "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near." Meanwhile, I'm studying gentleness for my fruit of the Spirit Bible study this evening. All in all, God is pointing out to me the ways I am so very far from the gentleness that He is calling me to exhibit. The passage in 1 Peter stood out so greatly because it reminded me that it does not matter how I make myself up - either physically or otherwise - to the people around me. If I don't live out this attitude in my home, any beauty I try to portray is false. There is no true beauty in me if I do not have the right attitude here at home. This week is shaping up to be a very intentional week for changing my attitude, especially in the area of gentleness. I ask for prayer and accountability in this. And I pray that the changes in my home will be tangible as the Lord works in and through me in this way.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wise Behavior

To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel Prov 1:2-5 (NASB) There are times when it is very hard for my mind to wrap around the truth that God, the almighty Creator and Ruler of the entire universe, desires to teach me. He loves it when I receive His teaching and knowledge. And, to be honest, I really love to learn. There is nothing as exciting as receiving illumination from Him. But, I have realized that all to often I soak up the learning but then neglect the application. Learning is not just for the sake of increasing in knowledge. It must result in "wise behavior" if it is to truly be effective and useful. My challenge is to be more active in the application of what the Lord is teaching me, especially here in my home. I so passionately long to be like my Savior and I have so far to go! But, each step adds up - I'll never get there if I don't actually take those steps!