Red, White & BOOM

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As we celebrate this day of Independence of our great nation, with a spectacular display of fireworks cascading across the sky, it brings us a sense of great freedom.  But I can’t help but think about our dependence as well.  Our dependence of the scripture to help us carry life’s task out with great care and concern for others.  Our dependence on our Savior and the precious sacrifice he made for us.  A sacrifice that bought us freedom from the bondage of our sin and suffering.

We live in a world where so many speak of rights and privileges, checks and balances, the who’s who and the not so new, and the many ways to climb to the top.  Perhaps what we should be reflecting on are things that really matter such as character, integrity, harmony, servanthood, and love.  To stand out, having a true heart to do what is right at all cost and not conform to what the world tells us we should do.  Our focus should be on honoring that very dependence we have of our mighty Savior.  Let us not compromise integrity for a paycheck or pass up someone because we judged before we listened.  Let our actions and our character speak for Christ.

Having the fruit of the spirit may be a daily struggle for some.  We are, at times, pulled toward our most dominant thought and how many times are these thoughts selfish rather than selfless.  Over the years I have come to learn that we simply can NOT change others, but we CAN adjust our attitude and how we respond verses how we react.  Let’s be honest here, it can be exhausting at times.  In a way this statement bares truth to it.  But when we, in reality, live our lives vertically, such efforts are not an effort at all.  If anything, it comes with an ease.  A peace and a deep understanding that what we do should not be dependent on how others treat us, but rather how we want to be treated.  And above all else, how we are commanded to respond through God’s word…with LOVE. 

My dearest friend, let us live a life independent of the need of the approval of others, and let’s live a life totally dependent on a vertical relationship with Jesus Christ.  Stand out like a firework that shoots high across the sky, lighting it up with a BOOM that gets all the oohs and awes.  Stand out with character that exhibits the blood shed from Christ (Red), to the cleansing of our spirit (White), with an attitude towards others that displays His light within you (BOOM).

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Faith Beyond the Obstacles

Faith sees the outcome beyond the obstacles. It sees beyond the problems, the obstacles, those difficult circumstances. Walking in faith means being mindful of the naysayers and trusting in God with your own personal journey. It’s staying the course knowing that God is faithful and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. It’s finding strength in Him when we feel we can no longer press forward.

You must forge an atmosphere of faith. Especially in those moments when you find yourself surrounded by critical, judgmental, cynical people. It’s so easy for those very same characteristics to transfer over to you. But you must know the voice of the Holy Spirit. A voice that knows truth, love, and power. A voice that opposes the cynicism and judgments of others. Faith presses in! You must press into Jesus. Press into His promises. Draw closer to Him. The moment you do, your disappointments turn into hope. The spirit of faith steps in, and the goodness of the Lord becomes more evident in your life. The veil comes off and you can see all His goodness all around.

Let’s have a faith like Paul’s. In Acts 27:22 we read where Paul says, “But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” Verse 25 goes on to say, “So keep up your courage men, for I have faith in God that it WILL happen just as He told me.” Stand firm in your faith like Paul, believing and seeing the outcome beyond the obstacles. Paul didn’t focus on the storm or the negative outcome the crew saw. Paul saw through unveiled eyes. Eyes of faith that saw beyond their circumstances. Do not permit yourself to become overwhelmed by your present situation. Be like Paul and look beyond
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My dear friend walk in the word and live above your circumstances. Take the high road and walk in faith, courage and trust. “Trust in the Lord (He can be trusted for sure) with all your heart and lean not on your own (what you think and what you feel) understanding; in all your ways (behaviors, appearance, attitude, speech) acknowledge Him, and He SHALL direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) Remain confident knowing that God knows where you’re going before you take that next step. And He knows every word you will speak and how all this is going to turn out.

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LIVING IN THE MOMENT

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A couple weeks ago, I snapped this photo of my son.  In this very moment, all that mattered most was my son and motherhood.  Not over achieving in some grand gesture of life, pleasing another or prophetically pouring out.  Simply just being in the moment of what my son needed…treasured moments with me. 

There were days when social media and outside voices competed in my head for destiny and purpose.  What was my proper role?  When would I find that perfect balance?  Which is the best pathway to take in this season I’m in? 

One day it hit me.   I would have an answer for every question the moment I submitted myself to the process.  If I submitted myself to be a student of the word of God and His principles, I would know.  If I was off track, He would course correct my steps.  And I would listen!  I would make myself available for accountability.  I would power through and be fully committed to this journey…the growth…the process…the moments that matter the most.

It all sounds so simple, right?  But let’s be real for a moment.  Too many times we compare our life through others’ moments of media, while documenting our own. Then the comparison trap happens!  We get off track, losing our course by focusing on someone else’s moment.  We essentially stop seeing the value in our time, in our moments, while we compare with what others are doing in the now.

By living in the moment and savoring that time, we are creating those treasured moments and doing what matters most.  We are putting value into our time.  We are living in the moment and appreciating every bit of it, without comparison.  We are focused on the now in our lives.  Not questioning our role or our path.  Just living for what matters most.  Those treasured moments.

I have learned the simple art of LIVING IN THE MOMENT AND RECORDING THE MOMENT IN MY HEART’S BANK FOREVER!  My heart would ride on the rhythm of the now.  So, let’s focus on the now.  Let’s focus on living in the moment and recording those treasures in our heart’s bank forever!
 

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CRAVINGS OF THE SOUL

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When our focus is sharpened, it is then that we are able to press forward with an iron will.  Does this mean that our emotions are less important? Not at all. Does it mean that our situation does not require tending to?  Absolutely not. But what it does mean, is that we must change our perspective and redirect our focus. We must see the bigger picture and deal with the issues of the heart.  How we see the world. How we treat others. How we view ourselves, and so much more.

I can recall a time, on a cold wintry morning, when I woke up wanting nothing more than to pull the covers up over my head.  I sighed as my body ached while sleep continued calling my name. Yet, at the depth of my soul, my spirit was now alert and waking up to the fact that it needed to start the day with joy and love.  My spirit man was there reminding me to override the natural responses that governed my flesh. The word of God says, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41 - NIV) I realized that the longing of my heart was at a place that no man could ever fill.  No shopping trip could ever take its’ place. Not even a latte with one of my best girlfriends could compare to the deep desires of my heart.  But my flesh was tugging me in a different direction.

Have you ever felt a moment of utter despair?  Have you ever found yourself feeling misunderstood?  Longing for a deeper connection with God? I can remember answering yes to all of these questions, yet the heart of the matter was really obvious.  I felt stuck. Maybe you can identify with me and you too have answered yes to these very same questions. Know, my dear friend, that you are not alone.  I believe we must be wise and sensitive enough to pay close attention to the cravings and longings of our soul. And then, be honest enough to listen to what it’s really saying to us.

Our divine focus and intent should be that we have a deep longing to walk in the true love of God.  So much of God’s word is to continually study it and live by it repetitively. What I have found, if we truly fall in love with Jesus daily, is that our heart will be set on doing the right thing because of our love and desire to be more like Christ.

So I leave you with this.  Desiring, at all cost, to please the heart of the Father should be our focus.  Let us reflect on the life of Christ when we are faced with our own challenges, whether they are personal, financial, political, work related, etc.  I encourage you to take the pressure off and perhaps put the brakes on. Take a moment to pause and reflect. See what is really going on inside your heart.  Journal your thoughts and let flow what comes out of you. Then take a moment and revisit what you have written, asking God to begin shining the light on those areas.  Begin to get a revelation and insight on how to maintain your love walk and walk in freedom. It is the truth that we know that sets us free, and love rejoices in truth.    

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PURE WISDOM

 

According to the biblical book of James, genuine wisdom has seven characteristics, and the first of these characteristics is purity (see James 3:17). God’s wisdom is not contaminated with any other substance.

When we refer to “pure gold,” we are referring to the uncompromised element. The same is true of “pure silver” or “pure sugar.” God wants all of us to be pure. In other words, he wants us to be focused on him and his ways. He will never be content with a tainted heart that is partially committed to him yet polluted with other purposes and affections. He wants all of you. He wants all of me.

Jesus reminded us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV). God won’t share our hearts or our devotion. According to the Old Testament, he is “a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV). He broods over you with a godly jealousy, and he wants all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But the good news is that the pure in heart are blessed. They are blessed because “they will see God” (Matthew 5:8, NIV).

If the heart is pure, the mind is at ease. If the heart is pure, the soul is calm. If the heart is pure, the attitudes of the one who possesses that pure heart will always be positive and life will be more rewarding and less problematic. Seek pure wisdom.

 

THE VIRTUES OF WISDOM

With knowledge comes responsibility, and with responsibility we need wisdom. With wisdom comes success, and with success we achieve our goals, find purpose, and experience the happiness that God created us to know. Wisdom, therefore, is a proven pathway to joy. It is one of God’s most preferred mechanisms for elevating a person’s spirit and enhancing his or her self-worth.

In fact, wisdom is the most important quality for success in life. With it, all other virtues can be acquired. Without it, no other virtues really matter. According to the Bible, wisdom will “keep” you as long as you follow her instructions (Proverbs 4:6, ESV). She will “rebuke” you when you go astray (Proverbs 1:23). She will “enter your heart” when you need her the most (Proverbs 2:10). She will “save you” when troubles threaten (Proverbs 2:12). Wisdom will “prolong your life” (Proverbs 3:2), “bring you prosperity” (Proverbs 3:2), “win you favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:4), and “make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6, all references NIV).

Wisdom will increase your confidence and strengthen your resolve. Wisdom will undergird your life with focus and your relationships with substance. Wisdom will elevate your soul. Because wisdom fortifies every aspect of life and sets everything in life on a firm foundation, wisdom can definitely impact the quality of one’s life and the state of one’s mind. Wisdom can also give you patience when endurance is required and motivation when action is needed. Nothing is more valuable than wisdom.

When Life Stinks

When life hands you a pile of sour grapes, just do the following four things:

REST. Stop placing blame. Stop trying to pin your problems on God, on other people, or even on yourself. Stop finding fault. In fact, stop everything and ask God to show you how you should handle the problem from your end while he takes care of the things you can’t control.

REGROUP. Take time to breathe and think. Some problems need urgent attention. If you find a member of your family unconscious on the bathroom floor, you don’t need to pray about that situation. Just call an ambulance. But the vast majority of our problems should not be addressed with a knee jerk reaction. Instead, we should think and pray. We should ask God to systematically walk us through the problem one step at the time until the problem is resolved.

RELAX. Put your emotions on hold. The first response of the average person to any unforeseen challenge is almost always an emotional response. We are inclined, therefore, to make decisions that are based on internal chemical overloads rather than rational thinking or purposeful faith.

RETREAT. Before you do anything or say anything, find a solitary place where you can pray, and then seek the Lord regarding your problem. As you do, you will find that God will take these weighty things off you and take them upon himself. You also will find that God will start working right away to guide you through your dilemma.

GOD’S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

God allows his children to face obstacles so they can learn the reliability of his promises. Even in the midst of a challenge, God never abandons his children. He never forsakes them. And he eventually brings them through. In fact, he brings them through triumphantly. And along the way, he develops faith in their hearts and character in their souls. He makes us better people and better disciples by allowing us to navigate the storms of life.

If we become better as a result of our struggles, God moves us along to the next level of spiritual growth. But if we become bitter, we will be forced to repeat the class. If we become joyful even when things are difficult, God promotes us. But if we become angry, we must go back and repeat the grade. If we learn to forgive, we graduate with honors. But if we become sullen and vengeful, we will just have to get back on the bus and take part in that field trip one more time with the hope of finally learning the lesson we missed the first time around.

We are in this school of discipleship for life, and God is in no hurry. As long as it takes, he will keep teaching us, first through instruction and wisdom and then, if necessary, through the harsh experiences of life. It’s up to you and it’s up to me how we choose to complete the educational requirements that God has set before us.

Faith & Fear

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If you really think about it, faith and fear are similar. While faith is the inner confidence that good things are going to happen, fear is the inner confidence that bad things are going to happen. In reality, nothing has happened yet. But as you peer into the future and try to visualize the outcome of your current situation, you will either see a positive picture of your future (the result of faith) or you will see a negative picture of your future (the result of fear). So which picture do you see most often?

The Bible tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Well, I suggest that fear is the same thing. Why is it, then, that most people can believe for the negative outcome, but not for the positive outcome? When the last chapter of their situation has not yet been written, why do most people lay out a plot within their own minds that takes them to the worst possible conclusion to their story?

It is typical human behavior to anticipate the worst in our lives, and I must confess that I have often fallen victim to this universal mindset myself. But now that the Lord has taught me to place the circumstances of my life in his hands, fear and depression don’t control me the way they used to. And you can learn to enjoy this same freedom by submitting your challenges to God.

 

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Under The Circumstances

Our challenge as human beings is that we allow our emotions to rule us. We find it difficult sometimes to release things to the Lord. We find it difficult to trust him. He might mess up our plans or rewrite the script to our lives that we have spent years outlining in our own minds.

But God showed me some time ago that this kind of mental anguish is unnecessary. He showed me that he has a plan for my life. And as long as I don’t hinder God’s will for my life through my own rebellious actions, nothing is going to happen to me that is not approved by God or planned by God. And whether God causes those things to happen or simply allows them to happen, everything that happens inside me and around me is going to work to my benefit (see Romans 8:28).

So Christians should make use of their problems, not run away from them. In fact, I have found that seasons of testing can end up becoming some of the most positive seasons of life when our attitudes are right. For instance, if I choose to lay my problems at the feet of Jesus instead of despising those problems, rebuking them, or worrying about them, I get to see God’s love demonstrated in my life in a whole new way. I get to see what the Lord can do to change a bad situation and to accomplish his will in spite of challenging circumstances.

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Parting The Waters

When God parted the Red Sea, most of the people were in a state of panic. They looked in front of them, and there was the sea. They looked behind them, and there was the Egyptian army. They looked to the right and to the left, and there they found more Egyptian soldiers covering their escape routes. So they began to cry out and to blame Moses for their plight.

But Moses refused to panic. He just gave the problem to God, and God found a solution to the problem. And believe me! Even though there were probably more than 2 million Jews there that day and thousands of Egyptian soldiers, not one person anticipated what God was about to do. Nobody except Moses expected the waters to part.

How can you possibly know that God is able to part water until you have a problem in your life? Until you have a problem, you can never know his power, his love, or his level of commitment to you. So stop cursing your problems, and stop wilting in the presence of difficulties. Instead, accept life’s challenges as a natural consequence of living in an imperfect world. Give them to the Lord. Ask him to take care of those parts of the problem you cannot resolve, and ask him to help you take care of the parts that you can resolve. Also ask him to help you soak up all the benefits that the trial was devised to bring to your life when he approved it.