Life to everything, Light to everyone

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” ~Hebrews 4:12

I am going to try and not come off too “preachy” in this post, but I can’t make any promises. I feel so strongly about this topic that it will be hard for me not to “should” on you. I apologize, in advance if…wait – no, I don’t apologize. I am not sorry for being passionate about this topic. I was raised in the church. My daddy is a preacher. I have always owned a Bible. (Back in the day – it was straight up KJV…but now I own several different translations.) Since I found my own relationship with Christ I feel like I’m pretty good. (Kind of funny since it doesn’t really matter how good I am in God eyes, I don’t have to earn his love – but that’s another post.) I have listened to countless sermons that have to do with the Word of God and how it is his guidebook for us. It is divinely inspired. It has story after story that help us see how to live our lives. I even recently came to understand that some books of the Bible are prescriptive, while others are descriptive. (Thank you Matt Chandler for that lesson). But the biggest thing that I can say about the Bible, about this living document that speaks to us, is that is really “works” best if we spend time in it…DAILY. Notice, I did not just say it works if we “read” it daily. Or if we memorize verses from it daily. We have to spend time in it. Read, listen, pray, re-read, accept new ways to understand things we thought we already had figured out. Reading our Bibles should NOT feel like a chore that we have to check off our To-Do list every day so that we will make God happy. Spending time in God’s word is something we GET to do – with our heavenly Father. And if we really clear our minds and our hearts and set aside time to dive into it, it is amazing the things that God reveals to us. I can honestly say that since I began devoting time every day to dwell in the scriptures, my life has drastically changed. I’m not talking changed like some of the false-teachers (Uh-hmm – Joel Osteen) claim – like I will get a new house or my dream job because of what I do for God). I’m talking about real, inside, to the depths of my soul changed. Like, I can feel the Spirit moving and guiding me through the passages as I read and ponder them. Each day when I open up the word, it is precious time spent with the Lord, and each day I gain wisdom and understanding of how much He loves me. I am his beloved. So much so that he left me a living word to guide me and reassure me, and inspire me, and correct me, and speak to me, and teach me, and to give me hope! I have read verses over and over – and then one day – one of those same verses will take on new life for me – based on what God wants me to hear. If you are a Christian and you are not spending time in the word (not just checking off your daily reading plan) you are missing out on ALL that God has for you. I passionately urge you to pray about it and try and read the Bible with the idea that you are listening for the Spirit to speak through the pages. There is so much to be learned from this gift from God. I have been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now and have just now gotten around to putting my thoughts out here. In the meantime, I just heard a sermon three days ago about this very subject (that was my “nudge” to go ahead and post this). In the sermon the Pastor used the illustration of when Jesus was in the desert and the devil was tempting him. Now, this is a relatable story – even if you don’t think it is at first glance. We ALL face temptation every day of our lives. Some days it’s every hour of our lives. How did Jesus face his temptation? He drew upon his knowledge of the scripture to combat the evil. Each time he told the devil, “It is written…” One thing I never thought about – Jesus reading scripture. He learned from the teachers in the temple. He read and studied and memorized scripture. So – if Jesus did it – read his scriptures – shouldn’t that be a pretty good example for us?!? The other take away here is that we should respond to temptation like Jesus did…”It is written…” And if we are not spending time in the word – how do we even know WHAT is written. How often do you hear someone throw out a quote of some kind and claim its in the Bible? Do WE know what is written? When we face temptation do we use this powerful tool we have been given to run it off? I speak so passionately about this because I have seen the transformation in my own heart – from spending time with God in his word. I have seen it change my husband as he spends more and more time in the word. We are told in 1 John “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.”  We have to be IN the word in order to OBEY the word. This book gives light and life to me in my everyday walk with God. It is God’s wisdom and his love given to us.

The Word gave life to everything that was created , and his life brought light to everyone.” ~John 1:4

Advertisements

Two words

Life is hard. So many aspects of this existence are challenging. The day to day stuff of bills, stress at work, weeds, dishes, and laundry can all tend to weigh a person down. And then on top of all of the “little” stuff like that, there is the big stuff. Relationships, emotions, self-worth…the “Why am I here” sort of ideas that can overwhelm. It is a challenge to maintain sanity at times, much less a positive attitude and outlook.

As I sit here in the quiet if the morning, I have to be real honest with myself and face some of the messy, ugliness of life. And yet as I face it, I almost feel guilty. I feel bad for not being “stronger” of mind. I feel selfish for focusing on me and how I just don’t like some of the trials and the manner in which they inconvenience me. But if I’m going to be honest here (and really, what’s the point if I’m not) I’m really struggling with some of the “big” stuff. Some of the stuff for which I have no idea how to “solve.” But as I ponder and wrestle with them, even as I type, I already know the answer. God must be in it. God must be the source of my strength. I hear his gentle whisper…uttering the same words to me He has said often. “Let go. Let me take this from you.”

Do I really believe that He is in control? Or is that just something that sounds good when I have no solution? Am I truly convicted of the fact that there is NOTHING that my God can’t handle, fix, change, or resolve? Is it just a convenient tag line that I speak when I say “Where God guides, God provides,”?

If I really get honest, I DO trust and believe that God is in control. I do. And as I feel that comfort envelope me as I sit here this morning, I am relieved and peaceful. I don’t have to carry the burden. I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. God’s got this. He will get me through the darkness and guide my way. I have to let him. I have to accept the reality that I may not ever know the why’s of certain situations…but that God is in the how and when. My role in all of it is to trust and obey. Trust that God is guiding, and obey when He directs me. Let him speak, and listen.

Two words….Trust and Obey. Wow. It’s really that simple…Trust and Obey.

It’s about faith

Growing up, I was the type of kid who always followed the rules. I was never one to break a rule just for the sake of breaking it. Nor was I one to push the limits with authority. I think that part of the reason for my mentality was my birth order. I am a middle child. I am a people pleaser and most definitely the family peace maker. For this reason, I was a stickler for the rules. In addition to that personality make up…I was terrified of getting in trouble. I mean terrified. I never wanted to even think about facing the consequences of even the slightest infraction. I remember once, in the 5th grade I got into “trouble” and was devastated. Our beloved Mr. Vernot was out that day, leaving us with a sub…four of us were going down to change into our cheerleading uniforms for that day’s basketball game. We followed our normal routine of leaving just a few minutes early…but the sub was not exactly privy to this routine and was pretty upset (according to the note she left for our teacher). Upon his return, Mr. Vernot issued the four of us lunch detentions. Based on my reaction, one might have thought I had just been sentenced to the electric chair. I was devastated. I cried and sobbed and pouted right there in home room. Looking back, of course, my reaction was ridiculous, but to me at that moment in time it was perfectly normal. I simply hated the thought of being in trouble. I was terrified.

Somewhere, deeply buried in my personality is the strong need to please people. I do not like the thought at all of letting someone down. The idea that someone may be disappointed in me or my actions haunts me at times. As I grew from a young child to a teenager, this fear of disappointing people and fear of consequences shaped my early Christian life. In my youth group it seemed the focus was always on staying out of hell. (This was most likely not always the focus…most likely my hypersensitivity to the topic has affected my memory). I had grown up in church my whole life…I had heard the “Good News” but to me the message I got was how not to go to hell. I was so scared of making any mistake at all for fear that I would die and go straight to hell. It used to keep me awake at night. For me, at this impressionable age, living for God was about following the rules and staying out of hell.

As I have grown and matured in my walk with Christ, I praise God that I have also grown in my understanding of the magnitude of God’s love and His plans. It is one of my greatest comforts in life to know that I don’t have to follow every single “rule” to earn my stay of out hell card. I serve a God who wants my love and faithfulness and who sent His son to die for me. I can’t ever “earn” that sacrifice. Nothing I can do to try and please God would ever be enough to cover the price Jesus paid for me. In Galatians we are told “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” If serving God was all about keeping the law the there was no need for Christ to die for us. None of us could live up to all the “rules” in that none of us is perfect. But we don’t have to be slaves to the law…we are free based on our faith.

Romans 3:27-28 “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”

I still want to please God and live in a way that is acceptable in His sight…but that’s not what saves me! To a girl who has spent her whole life trying to “earn” acceptance and approval, this kind of love is amazing.

“I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

Making the decision to serve God and to seek His guidance in my life was the best decision in some many ways. God’s love has granted me freedom from past hurts, given me unconditional love, and peace beyond understanding. But most of all, God has shown the mind of mercy and grace that has allowed me to stop worrying about breaking the rules so that I can now focus on a life of faithfulness and service.