A higher calling …

I am in awe of Jesus!  I am truly in awe!  Recently, He has impressed upon me to study holiness.  Truthfully, this is a revisit for me.  But this is the wonderful thing about God, He knows our understanding, He knows our circumstances, He knows why we make a particular decision too.  He knows us!  The cool part is that He takes us where we are at and will open our understanding along the way based off our own lives.  In the Good News Version of the Bible Isaiah 28:10 tells us, “He is trying to teach us letter by letter, line by line, lesson by lesson.”

As I was studying, I recalled some of the things that had been taught from the past, but this time, there was something that changed my understanding to what I was researching.  The thing that changed my understanding was … my own experiences of trying to walk with God.

As I studied the word holiness, I recalled how I’ve acted and responded over the past several years since I’ve known God.  While my intention is always to do right by God, truth-be-told, I have failed over and over again.  Not always, but certainly enough times to make me realize that I’m kind of, well … a mess.  The place that He’s called me to work most is in my home, with my own family members.  This is the very place where it seems that I am the messiest.  We tend to put our walls down and let everyone see the ‘real’ us at home, don’t we?

Anyway, as I was studied this, I recalled distinct moments where I knew how I should respond, but I didn’t ‘feel’ like responding the appropriate way.  Maybe I was mad or hurt and perhaps even justifiably so.  In those moments where I felt justified, I have to admit that I was hell-bent on doing what was right for God; using my circumstances to justify my sour response as taking a stand for Christ.  Thankfully, God’s grace covered me through all of this because my heart was truly in the right place of doing what was right for God.  However, it was time to open my understanding because ultimately, God does expect us to grow and change and produce fruits of peace and gentleness, humility and love, to name a few.

I have certainly felt those things a time or two through the trials I’ve experienced, but not quite as often as I would have hoped.  This study helped me understand that something was missing in my equation.  I was trying to accomplish something for Christ, but I’ve been doing it all on my own.  I’ve been working hard, really hard, and it’s resulted in me feeling run down, wore out, and wondering when the peace is going to get here.  I’ve been a slave for Christ.

At this point, I can’t help but recalling a sermon in which a woman stood on stage and shared that, ‘she chooses to be lovely for Him.’  I realize, that this is what it means to walk in ‘holiness.’  It encompasses our thoughts, our actions, our words, our clothing, and especially how we respond when things are difficult … everything!  I thought I understood this before, but I thought simply living my life for Christ meant that He would accept me the way I am and correct me along the way.  After all, He knows me and created me.  And you know what, He has.  However, He’s now calling me to something higher .. He’s wanting to deepen my relationship with Him.

Walking in holiness encompasses taking an active position of making changes He reveals to me.  It’s taking the understandings He’s giving me and acting on them.  It’s taking the work out of relationship and making it an act of love instead of merely an act of obedience.  I love Him and I choose to do my best to paint a picture of loveliness for Him.  Certainly there are times when it’s harder than others.  Certainly at times, it goes against what I want or feel like responding.  Certainly there are times when I know I appear to be hypocritical.  And certainly, I will fail and not produce the picture of loveliness that I wanted to paint for Him.

But that’s the beauty of holiness.  It’s a process.  I’m certain there are things that He has yet to reveal to me regarding my understanding even now.

The beauty of holiness is that out of love, I want to be pleasing to Him.  I want to be lovely … for Him.

After all, Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a slave.  🙂

The risk of investing everything

The other day, I made a comment to a young lady telling her that her boyfriend was worth the investment.  I didn’t put a lot of thought to the comment, it just came out because I believed it.  After I said it though, it really made me think about relationships between a man and a woman.

The young man I was referring to is someone very near and dear to me and someone whom I have always seen great potential in.  From the very start, I have seen the man who God wants him to be.

Of course, this is a young couple who are both growing and maturing, figuring out who they are in relation to themselves, each other, and I would venture to say, even God.  As I watch and pray for them, I can’t help but see the importance of investing in the person we are with .. not just the relationship.

I’m amazed as I watch this young man grow and see him maturing.  I have watched him grow from almost indifferent towards his girlfriend to being just that .. invested.  No longer is it just a relationship for the sake of relationship.  It’s something more.  It’s a realization that the other person has taken hold of a place in your heart that no one else can or ever will fill.

What a hopeful thing to see!  When we are invested, we are willing to go through a thing or two.  When we are invested, we have something to fight for.  When we are invested, we allow God to show us the person we love through His eyes instead of our own.  When we are invested, we are willing to bear our hearts, even when it hurts.

I believe this is one of the key factors to really good marriages.  Marriages shouldn’t be just a matter of convenience or filling financial and physical needs because it’s some sort of contract.  Marriage should be an investment in a person that God chose for me.

Unfortunately, I’ve been through divorce and didn’t realize these things in my previous marriage.  I fell into the trap of believing that marriage was about our individual happiness.  Mostly, I didn’t have God focused eyes to help me see the things I could not see.

While I’m not proud to say I’m divorced, I am thankful the situation ultimately led God to open my spiritual eyes.  I’m also thankful that God had someone in mind for me because, being the gracious God He is, He would give me a second shot at marriage.  God would teach me the importance of not just being committed to a marriage, but being invested in the man He has chosen for me.  What a difference investing in the man versus the marriage makes.

Why?  Because now that I invest in my husband versus my marriage, I’ve been given a glimpse of the bond that God truly intends between a man and woman .. and I realize just how valuable that bond truly is!  It is something to desire and strive for.  It’s beautiful and it’s worth every bit of effort and ugly thing you have to go through to get it.

When you are truly invested, you have everything to lose .. yes.  But on the other hand, when God is the one leading the investment, you have something that is priceless to gain … a type of love that only God can create.

I love my husband.

 

 

Predetermined, predestined, or pre-planned?

When I started my spiritual quest 5 years ago yesterday, one of the questions I remember discussing with my brother is the fact that God had things planned out already.

Perhaps this was something I just heard or maybe it’s biblical, but I had this thought that God has already dictated what was going to happen in our lives.  As in, we are playing out pre-determined roles.  Truthfully, this has always bothered me.

I remember telling my brother, ‘What’s the point in living if it’s already pre-determined?’  I recall thinking that every move, every word, every action was already foretold.  I didn’t like that thought.

I’d like to believe that maybe God has a direction that He’d like us to go, and that He’s given us gifts to be the best Us we can be, but that He hasn’t laid out every inch of our lives already.  I don’t know about you, but that just makes me feel like my part wouldn’t matter at all.  I’m just filling a role that anyone could have filled?

I want to know that my walk here on this Earth was more than just filling a role anyone could have filled.  I’d like to believe that my life wasn’t already planned out.  That maybe I had some say in my own direction .. that I wasn’t just some prophecy being played out.  I’d like to know that my relationship with Christ meant something to Him.

The past few years, I have really looked at prophecy and the fulfillment of it.  Especially with all the election buzz.  In Jesus’ time, many of the dots didn’t get connected until AFTER He had ascended back to heaven.  We know this because we have the New Testament in which we see Paul connecting those dots for us.

Today, we still do the same.  Although we know things are still to be played out, we do our best to guesstimate not only what has happened in relation to biblical prophecy, but what will happen.  There are literally hundreds of sites that will tell you that ‘such and such’ is the play out of a particular prophecy in the Bible.

What’s interesting is that our Bible isn’t the only thing that makes predictions.  The Quran does, so does the Book of Mormon, and I’m certain other religious texts.  I say this because there are some that claim 9/11 was a prophecy fulfillment from the Quran and did you know that a Mormon in the White House is predicted in the Book of Mormon?  Huh … interesting.  Looks like it almost came true.

Personally, when I catch myself falling prey to the ‘signs’ of the time, I recall the scripture that says, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,’ Matt 16:4.  I also think about when Jesus said, ‘My yolk is easy and my burden is light,’ Matt 11:30.

I’m learning not to fret about biblical prophecy or my role in this whole thing.  So maybe something I say or do was predetermined or known in advance and perhaps even revealed to someone else along the way.  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with that because 1.  I’ve given God permission to lead my thoughts, words, and actions.  Sometimes that means I’m going to say or do things that I know are dictated by Him.

2.  My relationship with Him is solid.  I love Jesus and I trust Him.  I trust that His intention is to save not only me, but my loved ones, and in fact, the whole world.  I’m willing to be used by Him to get us there.  After all, as a member of His ‘bride church,’ I believe it’s important for me to submit to His will.

3.  Until I know for certain which actions He directs vs. what I direct, I’ll take responsibility for my actions.  I try not to get too caught up in the signs because that scripture warns me doing so can lead me astray.  Instead, taking responsibility always leads me back to the cross which lets me know … I’m still on track.

So are our lives predetermined, predestined, and already planned out?  Umm .. I’m still not quite sure.  Maybe, maybe not … but it doesn’t matter because I haven’t played my role and I don’t have a script to read from, so I figure I must get a say in the matter after all!

What’s funny is that I really think that one of the things that kept me from coming to Christ sooner was that I didn’t want to have my life already dictated out.  Ha!  Little did I realize that whether I wanted to play a part or not, I was part of the plan all along.

So glad knowing Jesus is more than just playing a role in His big show though.  I’m thankful today that I really do matter to Him.  🙂

Awake not love until it so desires …

As a woman, I can say that I’ve had a good look at how the world expects us women to act.  This, of course, was before I knew Christ.

In the world, society teaches us that we are to dress a certain way … typically as eye candy to ‘please a man.’  We are to act a certain way … typically a bit on the ‘seductive’ side with flirtatious demeanor.  And in today’s world, as women, we are to even be the ‘huntress’ … typically we are expected to be the ones to lure men.

This is what society teaches our girls from a very young age.  This thought process, in my opinion, is one of the major factors that leads to teen pregnancy, broken hearts, broken relationships, and ultimately a society full of divorce.  Our girls are being taught that love is all physical, from how you look to getting a man to touch you.  And our boys are being taught that they have their pick of the litter, devaluing the real beauty of what a woman has to offer.  Every where you look there are love-sick souls seeking a love that just doesn’t really seem to be attainable.  Wounded hearts .. warped minds .. and laden with all kinds of physical and emotional diseases in the aftermath.

But the Bible teaches a different kind of love.

In the Song of Solomon, it’s a beautiful book of love and passion … romance.  It speaks even of sexuality .. embracing, kissing, and of physical intimacy through caressing using language that made me blush the first time I read it!  After all, it is the Bible.  But this is not a book about sex.  It’s a book about love and desire.  The biggest message I hear is … awake not love until it so desires.

In our society, desire drives us.  We ‘long’ to be loved and ‘crave’ it so much that we find ourselves, both men and women, doing silly and hurtful things to ourselves to find it.  Yet the Bible tells us to wait for it.

When we take time to allow it to happen and not rush it, we allow God to open the door to passion on His timing.  In our ‘NOW’ driven society, it’s hard for us to imagine waiting, but when we do, we allow God to create something that we could only know because we waited for Him.

I was reminded this morning of Christ’s love towards me.  After a short but heartfelt prayer inviting Christ in to my heart today, I felt Him draw near just a short time later.  I could feel Him embracing me.  As I continued on in my day, tears came to my eyes as something caught my attention that only He could know I had been thinking about.  I knew that He had been paying attention and listening to me.  I knew that He cared.  Honestly, I can say that I am blessed because I have those moments with God.  I have experienced an intimacy that I know others have not.  I have spent time getting to know Him and waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me.  But to me, that’s the easy part.  After all, He’s God.  He can read my thoughts and His spirit is in me.  However, I know that His desire is not just that we would have this great thing with Him, but that His church, His bride, His children .. would understand that He desires for us to experience that same level of love towards one another.

So I’m not really quite sure exactly how to do that.  Truthfully, I’m still figuring it out myself.  I sometimes want to rush into the ‘feel good’ moments with people because I too, am still in this world.  But one thing I do know is that it involves waiting.  I’m thankful that I have a close relationship with Christ because when I get impatient and want to rush, He somehow gives me a gentle look and I’m compelled to continue to wait for His timing.  When I feel I’ve done all I can do with no results and want to move on to something else, He gently puts His arm around me and somehow, waiting doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Awake not love until it so desires …

I’m fairly certain that Jesus has big things in store for those who wait.  I’m fairly certain it involves that love that seems to be so unattainable in this world.  As a matter of a fact, I’m certain of it because He’s given me glimpses of it .. and not just with Him .. but with my beloved husband, my children, and even an occasional fellow Christian or two that I’ve encountered in my walk.

When you wait for love instead of forcing it … it’s so much more than what the world has to offer …. it’s absolutely … breathless!

 

 

 

 

What it looks like at our house

I don’t know what being a follower of Christ looks like at your house, but let me give you a glimpse of what it looks like at ours.  I came home from work the other day to a very excited husband!  About a year ago, he enlisted my help in redoing his 1965 Chevelle.  He took the engine out, then put me to work sand blasting the rust.  Yesterday, after many hours of work, my husband finally got the engine compartment, frame, and wheels painted!

He was proud as a peach and you would have thought he just did a major marathon.  He was talking a mile a minute about his task.  It looked fabulous!  Knowing what a tedious job it was to sand blast, I appreciated what it must have been to paint it.  He was telling me how the special thick paint that we had gotten was getting stuck in the spray can and he says, excitedly, ‘I was like … ohhh Jesus! Please help me!’  He continued to share how he kept appealing to Jesus to help him get the task done.  And with Jesus’ help, complete it he did!

Of course, it doesn’t always look as fun, and sometimes we struggle because we know we may not have hit the mark.  Sometimes, when I’ve been a bit cranky, my husband will ask me, ‘Have you prayed today?’  Jesus is always there in the really tough moments, but maybe in those moments, we lose sight of Him until after the dust has settled.  But once the dust settles, we spend time asking for forgiveness .. not just to Jesus, but to each other.

Sometimes following Jesus at our house is just lying in bed, listening to my husband at 4 in the morning because he can’t sleep.  I hear him softly whispering prayers to Jesus.  Sometimes it’s listening to my hubby sing the good ole’ Jesus songs that speak of the Cross and the power of Jesus’ blood.

I guess at our house, we figure that following Jesus means including Him in on the little things in our life just as much as the big things when we really need Him.

 

I never knew you

Does Jesus know you?  In Matthew 7:23, Jesus gets pretty bold when telling of a parable of a man who didn’t make it in the kingdom of heaven because he was never ‘known.’  Despite that the ‘signs’ were all there, the man was not known of God.

So what does that mean?  If I see the power of God working through me, doesn’t that mean He knows me?  If I am able to administer His gifts using the powerful ‘name of Jesus,’ doesn’t that mean He knows me?  But the signs are all there!  Doesn’t that mean He knows me?  I went to church!  I walked with the brethren!  I preached about Him!  I gave to the poor!  I tithed and gave alms!  I went through crap for Him and dealt with all kinds of garbage for Him!  Doesn’t that mean He knows me?

The answer is … emphatically .. no!

So if it has nothing to do with signs and the works I did, what does Jesus ‘knowing’ you mean?

My guess, it has to do with spending time with Him.  Not just talking to Him and asking Him for this and that, but the word ‘know’ used in this context denotes intimacy.  Thinking about marriage, we know our spouses not just because we were sexually intimate, but because we let our walls down.  We shared our intimate selves  .. our fears, our anger, our hurts, our joys, all of the things that we allow only that one special someone to see.

So I do believe it is possible to do all the things I’ve listed above and still, Jesus might not know us.  It’s like the man in the marriage who couldn’t understand why his marriage had fallen apart.  Wasn’t he doing all that he was supposed to do?  Wasn’t he kind, courteous, respectful, helpful around the house, a good provider?  But if he was all those things, why did his wife leave him?  Because he never took time to let his wife know who he really was behind the facade of being ‘that perfect husband.’

I think this is what Jesus expects of us.  Not to put on a facade and show just what a perfect ‘bride’ we would be for Him.  But that we took time to put our own walls down and let Him know us.  It’s then that He can wrap His arms around us and be our everything.  He desires intimacy just as much as we do.  After all, we were made in His image.

The Great Outdoors

Since I’ve started hunting, I’ve enjoyed being outdoors, however, I have discovered that there is a lot of idle time where not much is happening.  Truthfully, my passion lies more in ministry than it does hunting.  Spending so much time in the woods recently, I’ve discovered a great way to connect with God in the outdoors .. it’s looking for the analogy to ministry.

This weekend, after several hours in the woods .. God gave me a revelation.  The bible talks about the harvest being full, but that we are to pray for more workers.  I haven’t found anyplace where the Bible speaks of people being deer, but I had the thought today that hunting for the ‘big buck’ could be like trying to find workers for the harvest.

To clarify, I believe it’s less of what we do and all of what God’s doing that involves others.  I believe it really is a partnership with God where He uses and involves us in His work and I figure I’d rather have it be fun and enjoyable.  I had the revelation today that there are many similarities to hunting.

For instance, I like my husband’s idea of management hunting.  In this, you don’t shoot a buck unless its rack is beyond it’s ears.  Doing so allows the buck to live longer, produce more, and of course, put a nicer size rack on your wall.  It not only adds to the challenge of the hunt, but personally, it just seems that deer should be allowed to live longer than just their first year or two.  There’s a few other rules that apply, but for the purpose of this particular blog, my focus is on the big buck.

I had the epiphany that the big buck is like finding that one person that once converted, jumps in right away to do the work of the Lord .. like a Paul or a Peter.  See, these men didn’t suddenly develop all the skills to be successful in ministry, they developed them in the world and had an awesome conversion experience.  Then they jumped in full force .. ready to do the ministry.  These men are like the big buck that skilled hunters work towards.

Like ministry, hunting takes time.  Most of the time is in preparation and then, it’s wait on the Lord.  Just like in ministry.  We spend a lot of time preparing .. we study the Word, we listen to preachers, we may even attend classes .. but ultimately, it’s up to God to put people in your path that are ready to be discipled.  Just like hunting.  There’s all kinds of cool gadgets to get, things to learn, tracking to do, and on and on, however, it’s really up to God to bring those deer in your path.  Certainly you can plan the perfect stand with the perfect wind, plant fields of soy beans, create paths for the deer, attempt to call them in with grunt calls and rattling, but still … it’s a waiting on the Lord to do His part .. that ultimately brings that buck in your path.

Seeing the big buck takes much time and patience .. then there’s shooting it.  These big guys are smart!  They have been around the block a time or two and can smell a hunter from miles away!  The Paul’s and Peter’s of the world are just like that.  Paul, before his conversion, was killing Christians.  It literally took an act of God to open his eyes!  Think about the people that we see out in the world, we can recognize a big buck from miles away!  The ones who have the skills and gifts that were originally designed to propel God’s Kingdom forward.  However, it’s as if instinctively, they know someone’s trying to ‘get’ them .. so they avert spiritual places or people until one day, at the perfect timing … God positions the perfect scenario and then … BANG!  It’s instant conversion.

Regarding the shoot .. my husband taught me that it’s really best to focus on the pin and let the target or deer get a little fuzzy in your vision.  This is a bit frightening, but somehow, it really does give a better shot.  Just like getting that big conversion.  Ultimately, it’s God who guides the shot.  My brother ‘got me’ if you will but he didn’t even realize he was aiming!  His gun happened to be a 4 minute You Tube video that he felt compelled to send me and little did he realize at the time, but all stars were in alignment and his shot was perfect!  BANG!  Instant conversion!

From there where the analogy goes, I’m not sure yet.  I figure I have plenty of hours in the woods for God to reveal things to me.

See?  Having a relationship with God doesn’t always have to be about the ‘churchy’ things and it’s certainly NOT boring!  He’ll reveal Himself in ALL things if you ask Him!  Prov 3:5-6

Man I love Him!  🙂