Friday, March 30, 2012

What about the cross?

Often in my life when things are not going quite right, or I am experiencing some sort of turmoil, I get upset with God for not doing something for me to get me in a better, easier place.  Last year, when I felt like I was in a pit, I kept asking God, really telling Him that He needed to get me out of the pit NOW! I would get angry with Him at times because I felt that because I was doing my best to seek Him with all my heart, He should rescue me. Even though, I can look back over my life and see many things God has done for me, when I was in those moments, all I could see was that He wasn't doing "enough" for me then.  One day when I was struggling with this, I heard this phrase in my heart "What about the cross? Isn't that enough?"  I realized that even if God never did another single thing for me, what He did for me on the cross was more than enough, more than I deserved. Psalm 86:13 says "For great is your mercy toward me, and you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol."  God loves me, and He loves you so much that He took our sin and our shame on Himself and died the death we should receive.  In doing this, He delivered my soul from a horrific place.  Because of what He did on the cross, I will one day live in a place that is so magnificent that I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like.  I will behold the face of Jesus, my Savior!  God has blessed me greatly on this earth and I know He will continue to bless me because He loves me.  But I hope that I can always live with the truth that THE CROSS IS ENOUGH!

Too quiet

In my last post, I talked about how our enemy tells us lies about ourselves to distract us from God's work.  There are many that I have believed, but there is one that has had a great impact on me in the area of friendships.  Growing up, I was painfully shy.  I have never been that great at communicating, but as a young child, I never had problems making friends or feeling like I wasn't good enough for their friendships. But as I got into my teenage years, whenever I would meet or hang out with new people, I would almost inevitably hear the words "You're too quiet".  When people said this to me, what I heard was "You're too boring to hang out with", "You don't have anything to offer to a friendship with me", "You're not good enough".  I can look back and see that as the years went by I became more withdrawn, and it became harder for me to make new friends, to open up my heart and be vulnerable with anyone.  This is what I believed and still struggle with a lot today, although I now see them as lies from Satan that I need to combat with the Truth.  As an adult, I have tended to isolate myself, to avoid reaching out to others, and to keep everyone at arm's length.  Often, when I would meet new people, I would think, "they have plenty of friends, certainly they don't need me", and I would avoid pursuing a close friendship.  I realize that I have probably missed out on some great friendships and even let some good friendships go because I have believed these lies.  Because of my personality, I know I will always struggle to some degree with meeting new people and making new friends, but I am choosing now to walk in the truth that "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) and that I am made in God's image (Genesis 1:27).
I have known for years that what I was told in my past has greatly affected how I have viewed myself, but it has been more recently that I realized that I was actually being deceived by Satan.  Another thought that occured to me this week is that shyness, although part of my innate personality, is a weakness.  We all have them and that is one of mine.  But we don't have to let our weaknesses keep us from doing what God wants us to do.  2 Corinthians 12:9 says "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  If we didn't have weaknesses, it would be much harder to see God's power. In fact, if we didn't have weaknesses, we wouldn't need God.
God has also shown me that shyness and quietness are not the same.  Quietness can actually be a strength. We have to be quiet and still to hear God.  We have to be quiet so that we can listen to others and really hear what they are saying.  James 1:19 says "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Is War

The last year has been a reminder to me that living for Christ means we are in a constant war...a spiritual war. We can easily forget as we go about our daily lives that we have an enemy whose main goal is to "kill, steal, and destroy." This enemy will do everything in his power to inhibit and destroy the kingdom of God. As Christians we know and he knows that he cannot take away our salvation. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are assured eternal life with Him. However, Satan can keep us from bringing others into the kingdom of God.

The Bible tells us that Satan is the "father of lies", and I believe one of the biggest ways Satan inhibits the Kingdom from growing is by telling Christians little lies that distract us from the work God has for us. For women, especially, he whispers to us lies about ourselves. If we listen to these lies and start to believe them, we can easily begin to focus on what is wrong with us.  This keeps us distracted from walking in and sharing God's truth with others. The only way we can combat these lies is with the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 2:3-5 says, " for though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience if Christ." We have to know what God says about us if we are going to "cast down" the lies Satan tells us about ourselves.  If we know, believe, and speak the truth when Satan attacks, his chances of pulling us down and away from God are gone.  I have found that it can be very difficult to overcome the lies Satan tells us.  He starts with something small and believable, and as we begin to believe those small lies, he continues feeding us more and bigger lies until we realize that what we are believing about ourselves is not even close to how the Bible says God sees us. This is what happened in my own life, and I have found it to be a long process of learning to meditate on the truth daily. 

I wasn't really sure where I was going with this post when I first started writing, but I did feel that we needed to be reminded that we do have a real enemy, and we are surrounded by constant spiritual war. God's Word is our weapon in this war.  Let me also remind you that Jesus says in John 16 :33 says "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." We will have trouble, and we will face battles, but Jesus has already overcome the world, and if we call Him our Savior, we will one day live with Him in perfect peace.  That is exciting to me!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Importance of Listening to God

As Christians, we know we are supposed to do what God wants us to do. A lot of what God wants us to do He tells us in the Bible. But there are often times when we need to make a decision and there are no clear directions for that particular decision in the Bible. These are usually the times when I have to rely on what I feel God is telling me to do. Many times, I will seek God for an answer but come to the point that I realize God is not going to give me a clear answer. I just have to make a decision based on what I think is best for me and my family. There have been a few times, though, when I have clearly heard or felt the Lord telling me to do or not do something, and there were clear consequences for not listening to Him and clear blessings when I did listen. I'd like to share about two times when I felt the Lord leading me a certain way. In one case I listened and was blessed, and in another case I ignored God, and suffered the consequences.

I'll start with the time I ignored God. I love to read, and usually stick with Christian authors because I feel like I can be pretty certain that I won't be reading anything inappropriate. However, at the beginning of last year I started hearing a lot of people talk about a series and decided to give it a try. As soon as I started reading the first book, I had the feeling that I shouldn't read iy. But I ignored the feeling because so many other Christians were reading it and it didn't seem to affect them in a negative way. I read the first two books in the series, and without going into details, they were quite violent. I had started on the third book, when I had a horriffic dream involving one of my kids. The dream was clearly related to the events of the book. About a week after I had the dream, a friend of mine was murdered by her own husband. After several days of dealing with that in my mind, the images from my dream invaded my mind in such a way that I couldn't think of anything else. For several weeks I lived in complete fear. I became deeply depressed. I did everything I could to not be alone, especially with my kids. There were times during those weeks I really just wanted to die. I sought God and read scripture and meditated on it. I sought counseling and talked about my fears and my feelings. This helped tremendously, but it really took months for me to really let go of the fear and the images that at times I felt tortured by. Still, to this day, that fear crops up and I have to remember to give it to God so that I don't become consumed by it again. I really believe that if I had not ignored that prompting from God to not read that book, I would not have had to experience this immense fear and depression. At the same time, I believe the scripture in Romans that says God works everything to the good for those who love Him. Even though, I messed up and suffered the consequences, I can see how over the last year God has brought me to a new level of relationship with Him. He has given me a deeper desire to know Him. I can see where I became a complacent Christian, and became satisfied with just getting by. Now, I truly want to live the victorious life that he wants me to live.

Now, for the story in which I followed God's leading. For many years, Brian and I suffered from infertility. We sought fertility doctors, and began doing fertility treatments. For 2 or 3 years, off and on, we tried various fertility treatments with no success. Finally, our doctor wanted us to do in vitro. He felt like we were good candidates and was confident that it would be successful. Initially, we said we wanted to try it, but we would have to wait until we could save some money because it was quite expensive. I started to research the process and found that there were things that could possibly be involved that would cause me to face a moral dilemma. For example, sometimes patients have extra embryos left over. When this happens, there are several options: dispose of them(basically throw them out), donate them (there are embryo adoption programs), or over the years, have them transferred back to my womb until they are gone. Because I believe every embryo is a human life, disposing of them was definitely not an option. Donating them could have been an option, but one I knew I would struggle with if it came to that. Using them all up myself could have resulted in us having more kids than we could handle( it would't have been likely, but possible.) I prayed about it and talked with Brian about it, and I really just felt like the Lord was saying that in vitro wasn't the path to parenthood that He wanted us to take. Shortly after, we started getting serious about adoption. We started the process and two years later, Isabella was placed in our arms by a young mom who loved her, but didn't feel she could give her the life she wanted for her. Less than a year later, we were pleasantly surprised to find that after more than seven years of infertility I was pregnant. 9 months later, Isaiah entered our family. I believe because we chose to follow God's leading, He gave us the greatest blessings of our lives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Choosing Holiness

"The world is not full of lost people because the devil is so strong. The world is full of lost people because the church is so weak. My friend, the church is weak because the people who profess to know Christ as Lord are not serious about serving His cause. We would rather eat the royal food than take a stand that tells the world, 'We refuse to defile our bodies with the extravagant diet you have to offer.'" I read this this afternoon in a book I am reading about spiritual warfare, and it challenged me. It made me think about what the choices I make tell the world about the God I serve. 1 Peter 1:15 says, "But as He who called you is Holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written 'be holy, for I am holy.'" In my search for the meaning of the word "holy" I found that it means separated or set apart. As Christians, God has set us apart from the world and from sin to fulfill His purposes.

One of the areas that I have felt God calling me to make "holy" choices is in the area of entertainment, specifically books, tv shows, and movies. A couple years ago, as I was watching a popular tv show, I began to feel very convicted about the fact that I was watching a show full of sin. I had been watching shows like this and become desensitized to the fact that I was choosing to fill my mind with sinful images ( sex, violence, cursing, etc.) I had gotten to the point that I didn't even think about it as sinful anymore. I realized that this was one choice I had made that would tell the world I am no different, and that I condone or tolerate the sinful actions that I was watching. In addition to what I was telling others by my choices, I was filling my mind with images and ideas that Satan could later use to bring me down. I think there are probably many others, who like me, have become desensitized and even tolerant of sin because we see it everywhere. Jesus died a horrible death for us to separate us from these sins, and I almost feel as if we mock Him when we make the choice to watch it. This brings me back to the quote at the beginning of this blog. By choosing to stand against the entertainment that is offered to us today in movies, tv, books, etc. we tell the world that we refuse to defile our minds with the images and ideas it offers. We tell them that God's way is different and better!

Philippians 4:8 says "Finally brethren, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report,if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." We tend to think about or meditate on the things we see and hear. Shouldn't we make sure the things we see and hear are noble, just, pure, and lovely?