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Archive for April, 2015

In the book of Genesis, between chapters 37 and 50, God has allowed the story of Joseph’s life to unfold. Joseph was the son of Jacob, whom God had renamed Israel, and Joseph was loved by Israel more than any of the other sons because he was the son of his old age. (Gen. 37:3) There was a great jealousy that existed because of Jacob’s favoritism to Joseph in relation to his brothers. They wanted Joseph out of the picture. So as the story goes, they plotted to kill him, with the exception of his brother Reuben who wanted to save him. In continuation, Joseph is not killed but sold into slavery by his own flesh and blood. They meant him to be gone forever, to not be heard of again, to suffer the loss of everything; but God had another plan! What they meant for a mess, God allowed for His masterpiece plan! Within the time period of Joseph’s slavery he went from being the overseer of Potiphar’s home, (an officer of Pharaoh, and the captain of the guard), to a confined prisoner, to a prisoner in charge of all the prisoner’s to whom no one questioned because the LORD was with him. Joseph became a respected man in the eyes of those who had enslaved him. There were many instances that occurred during the time of Joseph’s imprisonment. God used Joseph in many ways. In the end of the story, one of the most profound ways was that he faced his brothers during a famine when they were pleading for help. Joseph was not recognized by his brothers, and instead of being revengeful toward them Joseph showed mercy and grace. Instead of anger he displayed love. Joseph was not their mess, he was God’s Masterpiece! What a story of Divine intervention! Have you ever seen God make a masterpiece…or something marvelous, or just plain triumphant out of an awful heartless mess? I have. Me. He took a girl with a broken heart, a girl who had been reckless, a woman who had been abused, a woman who never thought she was good enough, a woman who just could not understand how to love someone she could not see (Jesus) and allowed HIS light to shine through the cracks in her life. He put deep in my heart how to repent and spoke His tenderness of grace, His blessings of mercy, and brought me from a selfish, scared, prideful individual to a woman of integrity who chooses to live her life to allow the light of Jesus to shine through every single crack made by this ugly thing called pride and the folly that accompanied it! If HE can do that with me, HE can do that with anyone! I ask him repeatedly to create in me a new heart, and I know HE is because it is for HIM! Many Blessings…Let HIM Shine…your Spirit will rejoice!

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Editor’s Note:  We love sharing “Our Stories” on this blog…stories of how God weaves His Touch into our daily lives, whether in the simple routine things of life or the complex, and in the positive or the challenging circumstances faced by Real Women doing Real Life.  We hope you are encouraged by today’s story of faith from one of our Given the Time friends.

There are many words that bring faith to mind: Prayer, Grace, Love, Forgiveness, Hope and Trust in the Lord. All of these bring me a peaceful reassuring feeling. Just as those words bring me comfort, there are circumstances that arise where negativity, doubt, fear or hopelessness overwhelms me and my faith feels shaky and unstable.

My first memory of faith was memorizing a simple children’s prayer that was framed on my bedroom wall;

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I die before I wake,
I pray for Lord my soul to take.
If I should live another day
I pray the Lord to guide my way.
Amen”

This simple prayer on the wall resonated in my heart; just as I trusted my mothers wisdom, I trusted in our Lord Jesus, that he was real and in heaven; I didn’t understand fully, but in my heart, I did not doubt His existence…A tiny seed of faith was planted.

In Luke 17, Jesus talks to his disciples about forgiveness and faith. They were concerned that they did not have enough faith for such radical forgiveness and asked Jesus to increase their faith! He replied:

“if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you.” (vs 6)

My family occasionally would attend church for the usual family and friend special events:  weddings, baptisms and occasional holiday services. One year my paternal grandmother (who was a practicing Catholic), gave me a beautiful cross necklace as a gift for Easter. It had a tiny window on the backside which contained The Lords Prayer… Another seed of faith planted in my heart.

There were many people and events that God brought into my life that directed me on my journey of Faith, which eventually led me to fully place my trust in Him.

I have learned that it is not the amount of faith that is important, but rather it is what Jesus can do with small seeds of faith that are planted.  He increases the faith we have and turns into a genuine faith in our all powerful God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)NIV

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Addict to Free

John 8:36 (NIV) “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

I am addicted to food. A former drug-addict friend sympathized that while she could walk away from her addiction because she didn’t need it to exist, she recognized that I had a much more difficult time with my addiction because I couldn’t just quit eating. My response, at the time, was that I certainly could stop eating and live for a very long time, since I weighed over 300 lbs. We both laughed, and continued eating our rich dessert. But what she said stuck in my mind. She made so much sense. I did need to find a solution to my weight and my addiction to unhealthy eating choices, but I couldn’t just quit eating forever. I had to figure out how to find the strength to make better choices in my eating and to manage and take control over my addiction; the real me was trapped inside a really unhealthy body.

 

John 8:36, became my cry, “Lord, you say you have set me free, help me find that freedom!”

But what did freedom look like? What did it feel like? How did I find the freedom Christ offered? How did I ask Him to set me free? And, how would I know I was being freed?

 

My path to freedom, improved health and fully gaining the emotional and spiritual freedom Jesus Christ offers was through the discovery that I needed to make decisions against myself. Huh? What? Yes, I had to make decisions that were against my ego and natural self-interest. I had to answer the question Jesus Christ asked Peter in John 21:15-19, do I love Him more than my addiction? Do I love Him more than “these”—in my case, “these” consisted of desserts, high carb goods, rich buttery sauces, etc. I will always face those as temptations, but giving in to those temptations means I love them more than God’s best for me, which is to live whole and healthy so that He can give me experiences I could never enjoy fully by being unhealthy. What do I mean by that? Self-control, one aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) is simply making decisions against what my natural inclination is—counter-intuitive decisions as Jesus guides us through so much of His teachings, as in Matt 5-7 (The Beatitudes).

 

Unhealthy, addicted, living to eat, meant that I couldn’t have played basketball with my grandson, as I did recently, because I was trapped in a pain-filled world and living with extremely restricted mobility. Choosing to feed my addiction meant travel to some of the beautiful parts of this world would have been too burdensome rather than being fully enjoyed. One example—in 1992, trapped in that restrictive world, I could only roll a wheelchair to the edge of Bryce Canyon and yell down to my daughter to walk to certain areas I vicariously wanted to enjoy through her. Allowing Christ to fully set me free from my addiction has meant that I was able to travel and experience hiking glaciers and walking uneven terrine of Denali National Park assisting my 86 year-old mother, rather than her assisting me. Freedom! Experienced only because I found I loved Christ more than my addiction. 10 years ago I chose that I no longer wanted my addiction to control every decision and activity in my life. The freedom I have experienced daily is beyond anything I could have asked for or imagined (Eph 3:20), and has brought a depth of appreciation for the freedom offered in St. Paul’s words:

 

Romans 6:12-14, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (NIV)

 

Today may each of us grab the heartfelt prayer of St. Paul, and experience the richness of the freedom found in Christ:

 

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by His Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly in love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you can ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:14-21 (MSG)

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Faithful or Failure

I am a woman. A wife. A mother. A daughter.

I am a woman. A friend. A neighbor. A colleague. A church member. A believer.

You are likely the same. You may fit one or more, if not all, of these descriptions. You are likely as hard on yourself as I when you fall short in any of these roles.

You likely hear the same small voice that I hear too. The one that whispers ever so furtively that you didn’t do enough, you could do more or be more, you failed…

His whispers may be quiet, but the lies are powerful enough to plunge you into feelings of guilt, shame, regret, or failure.

“Your feeble prayer life makes me wonder if you are really a child of God…”

“What kind of mom allows her child to behave in such a manner out in public?”

“Well, you lost your temper again. You sure can’t seem to get anything right.”

He knows your weakness and preys on it.

But, praise God, there is One whose voice is stronger, whose power is greater, whose Word can break the cycle with Truth. His name is Jesus and in His name you are set free.

“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2, HCSB).

The condemnation you experience from the father of lies does not exist in Him. He died to set you free. His perfect, sinless life and sacrifice has covered you and God sees you as beautiful and faithful because of Him.

Maybe like me, you keep trying to get it right… to succeed… to be seen as faithful. I could keep trying, striving, pushing for this ideal, but the reality is that the only faithfulness that I will ever encounter on the forefront of my life will be His faithfulness in me. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: “Faithful is He Who is calling you [to Himself] and utterly trustworthy, and He will also do it [fulfill His call by hallowing and keeping you]” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, Amplified Version).

I am a woman. A woman whose only hope to be seen as faithful rests solely in the One who resides within her. A woman who must commit her ways, her children, her path to Him and trust. A woman whose communion with the God of Truth defeats the voice of the evil one.

“Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5, HCSB).

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Editor’s Note:  Our new series is called Labels, and speaks to how God has shown up in our lives, taking us from just seeing our perspective to seeing His better perspective!  None of the writers have “arrived” in what they will be writing about in the coming weeks, we are still in the midst of our journeys, but we hope you will be encouraged!

In today’s world, the label of shy is often replaced with the more technical label of social anxiety. It is a funny thing…whether I think of myself as that shy girl or choose to identify my fears in the latest terminology, my mind still registers one word. AFRAID!

I avoid meeting new people. I send my husband in to the crowded room/restaurant/store first so I have a place to hide, a bit of a barrier. Head down, avoid eye contact…at church, in the store, at the party, at work. As anxiety builds, I find it is easier to just stay home. AFRAID!

The interesting thing is that most people I come in contact with have no clue I deal with this degree of social fear. There are many who suffer more intensely than I, and in more obvious ways. But there are also a large number of us out there with milder forms of social anxiety who through the years have learned to struggle through the stresses that social engagement bring out in us.  We know how to suppress those fears and paste on a smile, we have set phrases we use to navigate through conversations, and we have our plan in place for quick and easy exits before we even arrive at a gathering. Because of our coping skills, imperfect though they may be, it is hard for others to realize that we deal with fear on the inside and that we often feel inadequate to interact in healthy ways. We have pinned to our heart a label that says AFRAID.

One of the most life changing concepts that I have learned through the years has been the Truth that the Bible teaches me regarding my fears: I can choose to replace that old label with a new word that is more accurate to what God wants for me. I can choose to be COURAGEOUS!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I often will meditate on the following verses from Psalm 91:1,4:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty… He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge, His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

While I may never completely be free of my social anxiety, I have found that I don’t have to succumb to my fear in social situations. I can instead embrace courage, because God is with me and He is faithful! I am His child through salvation in Jesus Christ, and He has a purpose for me as long as I draw breath: to love Him and to love others. I will choose to live my life in the shelter of the Most High God and unafraid. Those social stresses that loom before me and make my stomach hurt and tempt me to run and hide? I don’t walk through them alone. I can choose to delete the word “afraid” from my vocabulary and I will replace it with “courageous” because God is with me and He is faithful!

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I am the resurrection and the life.

The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.

John 11:25

The Christian world will celebrate Easter today remembering that Jesus Christ rolled back the stone and walked out of the tomb on the third day following the crucifixion. But there was another occasion when Jesus revealed His resurrection power.

Four days after the death of his dear friend, Lazarus, Jesus stood at the tomb and wept. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, while sorrowful, conveyed their confidence in Jesus Christ.  “Lord…if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22)

“Even now.”  In the face of death (whether physical, emotional, etc.) is my faith able to say, “even now?”

When Jesus stated that He was the resurrection, He asked her, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26) Do I believe that Jesus Christ can resurrect my dreams? Do I believe that resurrection faith is not just something that we celebrate once a year, but should be celebrated every day?

When Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, our enemy Satan cheered and celebrated. But God had the final victory when Christ rose from the grave. Jesus Christ established for ever that the word impossible should no longer be in our vocabulary, but all things are possible with Him (Phil 4:13). Jesus Christ can resurrect those lost relationships. Jesus Christ can resurrect your purpose. Jesus Christ will give you a chance at all of His best, if you give Him a chance by asking Him to be Lord of your life.

Even now, if you believe this, Jesus Christ will make the impossible possible.

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The father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:22-24 (NIV)

This Biblical passage is often shared in Sunday Schools as the parable of the Prodigal Son, but that is somewhat of a misnomer because “prodigal” is defined as having or giving something on a lavish scale.” The father in this passage is the central figure and represents our Heavenly Father God. God is the true prodigal! He loves lavishly. Jesus shared this parable to give us a picture of God’s extravagant, forgiving love, while He was still on earth. This weekend we celebrate that lavish love at its most extreme example, when Jesus Christ, God’s Son, went to the cross for pay the price of sin for each of us. Jesus Christ lay down His life as our friend, so we would not have to suffer the eternal consequences for our rebellion and mistakes.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay own his life for his friends. John 15:13

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

“When God Ran”

by Philips, Craig, and Dean

 

Almighty God, The Great I Am,
Immovable Rock, Omnipotent, Powerful,
Awesome Lord.
Victorious Warrior, Commanding King of Kings,
Mighty Conqueror and the only time,
The only time I ever saw him run,
Was when…

He ran to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to His chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice He said
“Son, do you know I still love You?”

He caught me By surprise, When God ran…

The day I left home,
I knew I’d broken His heart.
And I wondered then, if things could ever be the same.
Then one night,
I remembered His love for me.
And down that dusty road, ahead I could see,
It was the only time,
It was the only time I ever saw Him run.
And then…

He caught me by surprise.
And He brought me to my knees.
When God ran… I saw Him run to me.

I was so ashamed, all alone, and so far away.
But now I know, that He’s been waiting for this day…

I saw Him run to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to his chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice
I felt his love for me again.
He ran to me,
He took me in His arms,
Held my head to his chest,
Said “My son’s come home again!”
Lifted my face,
Wiped the tears from my eyes,
With forgiveness in His voice
He said “Son”
He called me Son.
He said “Son, do you know I still love You?”
He ran to me
I saw Him run to me
And then I ran to Him
When God ran

 

Run into His loving waiting arms today.

Thank you, Lord God, for Your extravagant Love. Thank you for not giving up on me. While I was yet living a life focused on my selfish desires and living in sin, You sent Your son to the cross to pay the price with a criminal’s death. Then You reached out with Your lavish love to draw me to Yourself so that I might go out to empower others with Your love and grace. Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, may I live today soaking in Your love so that tomorrow in light of that love I go out to serve and pass that love on to others in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen

 

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