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Trials Equals Growth

As much as I wish it wasn’t true, God never promised us a trouble free life. Due to the sin in the world, life can get messy.

So what do we do when life throws us challenges? James the half- brother of Jesus gives us an answer.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NTL)

OR

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” (MSG)

I have never thought of trials as gifts never mind joyful, until recently.

One day, in exasperation, I told my husband I can not continue to fight “fear”.

His response, “That’s why you need to memorize scripture.”

“I do. When I start feeling afraid I recite the verse sometimes two or three times and nothing happens.”

“You need to meditate on it.”

“That’s my issue. I’m not meditating on the Word.”

Little did I know the opportunity to learn about meditating was coming sooner than I thought.

Two weeks later I found myself in the ER with a wild heart rate. Scratching their heads, the nurses looked at my heart rate then the test results, “You’re staying over night.”

I felt fear creep in. Immediately a verse entered my mind and I prayed:

“Father You said in Your word do not be anxious for anything, well right now, I am anxious. You also said to bring prayers and petitions to You. Well I am. You know the answers. I need Your peace.” (Philippians 4:8)

The peace that came over me surprised me, it shouldn’t have but it did.

With several tests scheduled over the following weeks, the doctors released me the next day. During one of those tests, I panicked, on what I thought was a problem.

Once more, I turned to praying scripture.

Again peace came over me so much so, I could have fallen asleep on the examination bed.

How can we find in joy in trials? James puts it this way:

“For you know that when your faith is tested, you endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” vs 1:3-4 (NLT)

When, my faith is tested, I have the opportunity to grow.

How did I grow?

1. I learned what meditating on the Word meant, and how it worked in my life.
2. I also exercised more dependence on God.

Was it worth it? Yes. Would I go through it again? Yes, because I grew more mature. Will I fail again, of course, I’m human.

How about you? Are you going through a trial right now and wondering where the peace is? Ask God for scripture to meditate on, and what lessons He wants you learn.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. do not waiver…” James 1:5-6a (NLT)

Choose This Day

If we were sitting face to face and I asked, “What do you think God considers idols?” My guess is that you would say things like cars, money, work, and hobbies.

You would be correct, what about affirmation, worry, significance, perfection, or children? Each one of these can take their place above God.

When I become anxious, I am putting the situation above God. In a sense, I’m telling Him “You can’t deal with this situation; if I worry enough the result will turn out better”.

I believe that many people have facebook accounts to gain as many friends as possible in order to feel popular. They check hundreds of times a day to see how many “likes” they get on a picture or comment.

How do I know? I am one, and it’s not just facebook.
Two years ago, God impressed on my heart to write a blog. Without my knowing, it too, turned into an idol

One day I checked the stats of my blog and saw there were only 1,034 hits in two years.

Depressed I called a friend.

“I guess I need to chuck it all in. Good bloggers and writers have thousands of hits monthly, not a thousand in two years.” I stated, “I know the numbers shouldn’t matter, but I guess people don’t like it, and I’m not being an encouragement to anyone except the same people over and over again.”

She responded, “Why does it matter so much to you that people like it or not?”

“Because, it’s the a way I know I’m doing what God wants of me.”

“Why?”

“Because when people like it, I know I’m loved by God.”

“Christine,” she paused, “Go deeper. Why do you have to have people’s approval more than God’s approval?”

I couldn’t answer right away. “Well, because when people affirm, to me it’s God’s way of affirming me.”

“Why?”

“I’ll have to think and pray about it.”

I pictured her grinning on the other end of phone line.

That Sunday we started a new series in our Sunday school god’s at War by Kyle Idleman. Coincidence?

Kyle’s definition of an idol:

“Anything or anyone I live for other than God is an idol.”*

So the deeper was revealed.  Subconsciously, I was saying, “God you aren’t good enough or big enough to meet these desires or needs.”

These aren’t the only things in my life that I was placing above God. My middle daughter, anxiety, and worry were all placed ahead of God. These are about situations out of my control and were taking the place of God. I trusted myself to control situations, when trust needed to be placed in the more capable hands of God.

The next morning during my devotional time, the realization of the idols in my life overwhelmed like a tidal wave crashing on shore and the tears flowed. Now that I knew the deeper issue, I desired change. I had to:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served…” Joshua 24:15 (NIV1984)

It’s a moment by moment, situation by situation choice. I’m not going to be perfect; eventually, I will worry again. The journey to change will be long and hard.

What about you? Here are seven questions Kyle asked in his video:

1. What disappoints you? Ex: not having spouses/bosses respect.
2. What do you sacrifice money and time to?
3. What worries you? Ex: children, finances.
4. Where do you go when you need comfort? God or man?
5. What makes you angry? Ex: when someone embarrasses you.
6. What are your dreams?*

The final question he presented this way:

“God is a jealous God and will put Himself in direct competition with that idol and say to you ’_______ (insert your name) you have a choice between me or _______ (insert your idol), who do you choose?’”*

I can’t tell you how many times the last question has popped into my head during a day. I never realized how automatic it has been to go straight to the idols of affirmation or worry.

What is getting in the way of your relationship with God? Like a husband who loves his wife so much he doesn’t want another man to come between them, so God loves us so much and wants to be our one and only.

Who do you choose?

Two years ago, the day after Thanksgiving, I lay in hospital fearing I may have had a heart attack. Laying there that night, I realized that I needed to be more diligent in caring for the “temple” God has given me. In the Old Testament the priests were not only assigned to perform the sacrifices, and incense offerings but their duties included caring for the temple.    Read more

The Comparison Trap

I have an issue. I get caught in the comparison trap much too often.  This problem isn’t “Oh I’m better than that person.” I get caught in the trap of evaluating myself to others who I think are better than me.

 

I find myself thinking; Wow, when am I going to be able to run everyday her?  Or why can’t I write like them?  Why can’t I lose the weight or eat like they do?  It’s a ferocious cycle.

 

My spiritual life is no different.  The thoughts in my head go like this, Why can’t I have faith like my husbands?  Why can’t I study the Bible like her? Or He is such prayer warrior.  My prayer life stinks.  That friend is so together and has a strong walk. I’m inconsistent, struggle and don’t seem to have a thirst for God like they do, what’s wrong with me?  I must not be good enough for God.

 

A guest speaker at the church I attend had this to say about comparison, “It will take you down one of two paths – pride or depression.”  For me, 95 percent of the time relating my life to another leads to depression and discouragement. He went on to say our standard should not be those around us, but God is to be our standard.  That makes me feel so much better. Yeah, right. How about you?

 

The truth is we are to be “perfect as our Heavenly is perfect” Matthew 4:28 (NIV 1984).  However, here are on earth it’s not possible because we are in our human, sinful bodies.  But we are to strive toward the goal, by reading the Word, prayer, and through the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

There is another thought I need to consider in reference to measuring up to others.  I am a unique person.  You just have to look at my DNA and finger prints to know that.  Therefore, it stands to reason that I will not be like another runner, writer, or home decorator.  I won’t be the same as another mother, wife, or woman.  And most importantly my spiritual walk will not mirror any other person.

 

My prayer life and quiet times will be different.  But it doesn’t mean the way I do things is wrong.  God works differently in my life because I am unique and so are the details of the situations in my life.

 

What about the other things?  My body can’t handle running everyday.  The writing I do comes from a totally different perspective then others and I’m not called to write like others either.  And the spiritual life?  I have to ask myself these questions:

 

Am I growing?

  1. Is my desire to do the things God wants?
  2. Do I read, and talk to God?
  3. Do I desire to improve?

 

The answers to these are a definitely yes.

 

How about you? Do you find that you compare yourself to others, especially in your spiritual walk?  Stop it.  Talk to the Heavenly Father; ask him to show you what pleases Him about your walk.  Pray He’ll give you the strength to change the things that need changing and to stop comparing yourself with others.

 

You are unique, loved and the apple of the Father’s eye.  Celebrate the fact that there is no one like you.

 

Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, with out comparing himself to somebody else.”

Galatians 6:4

Glorious Easter

Easter is the holiday that ushers in a new season.  Spring marks the end of the bitter cold, snow, and ice. The sun replaces the dreary gray skies with the bright blue horizon. Trees are turning green, bunnies are hopping out of their burrows, ducklings waddle down to the ponds with their mothers and the sounds and smells of new life are every where.

 

However, Easter is more than nature coming out of a winter’s nap.  It’s also an amazing  celebration of the new life we are offered through Christ Jesus.  Because of His willingness and the Father’s plan, He went to the cross to pay the debt that our sin deserves; death and eternal separation from God.  Then three days later He rose from the dead.

 

I know, there are those who say there are many ways to God, like there are several paths to reach the mountain’s summit.  Some of the paths are just harder than others.  I would love for there to many ways to God. That would mean more people wouldn’t go to hell due to their sins, but Jesus Himself told us the complete opposite.

 

 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”

John 14:6  (NIV 1984)

 

The key word is “the”.  He is not a way, but the way.  He is not a truth, but the truth.  He is not a life, but the life.  What a comfort this is.  There is nothing we can do for an eternal relationship with God.  Nothing.  Why?  My good may outweigh the bad but that isn’t good enough.  The requirement is perfection.  Jesus was the only one who fit that description.  In the end it doesn’t matter how we see ourselves.

 

Jesus also gave us this hope;

 

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies (*physically); and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (*spiritually)…”

John 11:25-26a

 

Anyone who is spiritually dead due to their sin and choose to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord, will be given a new life, and a abundant life in Him.  That choice also gives us a hope for the future even when we look around and see the mess our lives and the world are in.  God sits on His throne, and a day will come when this world will become new.

 

Friend if you have all ready accepted the free gift that Jesus has extended to you, praise God and celebrate this Easter.  If not, I would encourage you to visit the tab at the top “An Invitation”, which walks you step by step in what it means to be one of His children.  The Heavenly Father desires that all come to Him and be adopted into His family.  Jesus asks one more question:

 

“Do you believe this?”

John 11:26b

 

 *emphasis added.

Desire be Gone

I’ll admit it, I’m an addict.  Chocolate and sweets are one of my struggles that have plagued me over the past few years.  Many times I have asked God to take away the desire for them.  Yet here I am, still struggling with the cravings.

 

My morning quiet times have been focused on the attributes of my Heavenly Father.  The ones that have really have made an impact on me so far are, His sufficiency and sovereignty.

 

God is sufficient within Himself, so therefore He needs no one.  I am not.  God created all things which makes Him the only rightful ruler over all.  He knows me inside and out and the choices I will make, yet He does not force Himself or His ways on me.

 

It dawned on me one morning why He doesn’t magically take the desire away. The reason goes back to the attributes above.  His desire for me is to depend on Him to battle the cravings for me.

 

He also allows me to make the decision to walk away or not.  He has a will and I am created in His image therefore I have a will.    He gave me the ability to make the decisions because they are right and I because I love Him.   He did not create me like a robot to be controlled, and to program every chose I make.

 

I’ve noticed, when I am faced with a temptation there is that still small voice of the Holy Spirit that impresses on my heart to go the other direction.  Many times I give in to my wants but other times it seems easy to go the other way.

 

The times when I could be easily swayed by the fleshy desires are times that I should immediately pray, quote scripture (Christ’s example), or if I’m home, go to Word or on my knees to pray for help.

 

Of course this doesn’t just apply to my chocolate situation but all temptations, habits and hang ups in my life.  I’ve also noticed that if I start gaining ground in one area, another sneaks in to take its place.

 

I have to be vigilant in keeping my mind focused on the Word, and depending on the all sufficient and sovereign God.  If I do, I will make the right choices.

 

How about you?  Are there things in your life that have a hold on you?  Maybe for you it’s exercise,  texting, facebook, hobbie or ___________ ? You fill in the blank.  Give it over to the One who knows you best, allow Him to work in you and help you conquer whatever your blank is.

 

I would also encourage you that there are Christian counselors and groups such as Celebrate Recovery that are available for extra support.  Ask your pastor or google for local support groups.

 

 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

“My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV 1984) If you have gone to church for any length of time, you have probably heard this statement at least once, maybe more.  Recently, my understanding of this verse grew.

I had just finished a book project entitled The Father’s Study last year.  It was a set of forty parables about the relationship between the Heavenly Father and His child.   My thought was, now I can work on this other project The Rose of Calaria a Christian fantasy/suspense novel.  This was the second time I started writing this novel.

Three years prior, I had deleted the whole manuscript, based on the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Now I thought it was okay to start once again, since the Father’s Study was complete.  For seven months I worked on it and wrote about ten chapters,  However, there was a problem.   I wanted God’s blessing as I wrote it.

The more I wrote the more the Holy Spirit nudged me to stop.  I wouldn’t listen.  The prodding was so strong, but my disobedience bordered on and then turned into rebellion. My quiet times were hindered, and I would push the Bible and the study workbook away.

I argued with God about it for a few days.  “Why can’t I write this?”  The answer He impressed on my heart was that it not only interfered with our relationship but it interfered with what He had for me.  It became an idol.

When I finally gave up the story, a desire to take the The Father’s Study in a new direction welled up within me.  Immediately I responded, “I can’t do that.  I don’t have a theology degree, so who would listen?”

Then as if I the light bulb over my head turned on, this thought came to mind, “Precisely.  You can’t, but I can through you.  You can write the fantasy piece but those were your ideas, thoughts, and desires – not mine.  If I allow you to write it, you would definitely take the glory. However if you do what I ask, you can do it because I will give you the ability to do it.”

Isn’t that an awesome thought?  How many times do we not do what God asks us to, because it means getting out of our comfort zones, or beyond our talents? Or better yet doing something we have no skill in.

He wants us to rely on Him.  Take Gideon, for example.  The angel of the Lord came to him and told him he would defeat the Midian army.  He addressed Gideon as a “mighty warrior”.  Gideon was a farmer – not a soldier.  However, through him, God was glorified.

What about the novel?  I wiped it out completely – hard copies and all.  Although, taking that step was difficult, I had peace.

How about you?  Is there something God has called you to do, and you have not obeyed due to insecurity?  Oh loved one, take the risk and step out of the comfort zone you have set up.  Let God show Himself to you and work through you.  You will be amazed and even surprised at the results.

 

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having

 all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

 

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