July 4, 2014

The Voices: How We Can Resist

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about the voices we all hear on a daily basis.  A week later, I followed that up with a post about why those voices are so loud.  Then, over the last week or so, I have been itching to write a post about how we can resist the voices that want to dominate and destroy us.  The impetus for this post comes from the theme verses for our Bible school that is happening this and next week, Ephesians 6:10-18.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The Lord has equipped us to resist the devil and his schemes!

Teaching through the pieces of armor with the Kindergartners this week, plus a conversation with friends at Bible study about how amazing it is that kids just "get" God's love so much better than adults, has reminded me not to make being a Christian so complicated.  Sure, we can study theology and learn and grow.  In fact, we should.  But those endeavors should never, ever, never draw us away from the central truths of what it means to be a "kid of the kingdom."

What do we find in Paul's words that can keep us close to the basics?

  • We can be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.  God's people are the people God empowers to resist the enemy.  The Christian has access to the Lord and His power.  Boy, I sure act like a wimp when I'm tempted by habitual sins or wavering about doing what is right!  What a reminder: be strong in the Lord and His mighty power; put on the full armor of God.
  • Our battle is more spiritual and physical.  We are not putting on armor to go into physical battle; we are dressing to fight against darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  It is easy to forget that there is "more than meets the eye" going on in the world, which causes us to look for temporal solutions rather than summoning the power of the Alpha and Omega.  We can't fight this kind of battle alone, nor have we been asked to.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.

  • God has equipped us with what we need to stand firm, and it is armor of remarkable strength.  Mere metal and leather will not protect us from the evil schemes satan has prepared for those who love God.  Oh no, we need armor of a different sort.  That is precisely what the Lord provides, should we choose to don ourselves daily with truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word.  That list is somethin' else, right?  How could we forget who we are and how God has provided protection for us if each morning we thought to ourselves, I am wrapped in God's truth, clothed in His righteousness, a bearer of Good News for the world, a receiver of faith, saved, and have access to the Word of God!
  • Pray.  I am often humbled when I'm sharing a concern or doubt and someone says, "Hey, why don't we pray about that?"  Duh!  That should be our first option, not our last opportunity.  (I heard someone say that on the radio once.)  WE NEED TO BE PEOPLE WHO PRAY.  Paul goes so far as to say we should pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  God wants us to pray to Him about everything!

I'd love to explore each of the pieces of armor more thoroughly, but now duty calls and I must to the family to celebrate this holiday!  Keep your eyes peeled for more words on the subject in coming weeks.  For the time being, don't make your faith complicated and confusing.  Trust in the Lord and His mighty power, remember the spiritual realm is as much part of life as the physical, put on your armor each day, and pray.  This is a good way to resist the devil and flee from Him.  Thank the Lord He knows what we need and so generously provides.

Have a great weekend!

June 26, 2014

The Voices: Why They Are So Loud

Last week I mentioned that in our You Are Loved Bible study, the week's focus was on the enemy who wants to distract, derail, and destroy us.  Throughout our days we hear very loud but lying refrains in our minds: You are worthless; You are a failure; You are not enough.  The enemy is always at work.  Thankfully, our Lord never slumbers or sleeps and no one can snatch His own away from Him.  No matter how loud the voices may be, the Truth is always Truth.  We have to tune our hearts and minds to it, saturate our days with Scripture, and ask the Lord to transform our ways of thinking.  As children of His kingdom, we also always have to right to tell satan where to go.  We may live where he still reigns, but we do NOT belong to Him.

As I have been pondering these things, I got to wondering why the voices are so loud.  How can such lies dominate us?  When we were sharing in our meeting last week, it was funny how someone would say the "main" voice they hear and the rest of us would think, Really?  She thinks that?  I just think she's amazing and wonderful and such a good example to me.  What a blessing to sit in that room, share our hearts, and be reminded that what satan is trying to feed us is poppycock!  And also to be reminded of the deep love God has for us in Christ and the freedom in which we can walk because of that.

But man, it sure is frustrating that the voices are so loud!  Why, why, why can't they just go away?!

The focus of this Bible study has led me to these conclusions, which I will chase with a word of hope before signing off for the day.  First, the reasons these voices are so loud:

1. Satan is the ruler here - We have been rescued from sin and death by the blood of Jesus; it is such good news!  But we are (clearly) not in heaven yet.  This verse from our readings really struck me: We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.  (I John 5:19)  John goes on to say how Jesus came and give us understanding so we can know God, which we need, because satan still controls the world.  No wonder his voice seems so loud!

2. Our hearts are still prone to sin - We have been rescued from sin and death by the blood of Jesus; it is such good news!  But we are not yet fully sanctified.  It's coming!  So for now, we war against our ever-present pride, lack of self-control, anger, sloth, etc., or should I say, they war against us.  And when we look at our sins, away from Christ, their voices get louder and louder, until we're defining ourselves only by our failures and not our family relationship to God in Christ.

3. No Culture is out to honor God, but man - We have been rescued from sin and death by the blood of Jesus; it is such good news!  But we still live in the world, a world which does not want to honor God.  So we watch the news, read articles, browse magazine covers, and go to school and work, seeing and hearing mainly messages that pull our eyes from the Lord and His work and promises to ourselves and the evil at work in the world.  The culture (no matter which one we're in) screams at us, This is what you need to do to be accepted and loved.  Sure most of them contradict one another and leave you confused, angry, and sad, but just keep trying to be what you think people want you to be!  You can do it if you just exert enough will power!  The culture wants us to conform to ever-changing standards.  The voices are loud.  loud.  LOUD.

To summarize, this side of heaven we have three things against us: the devil, the flesh, and the world.  Not too hopeful, huh?  Until we open up the Bible and read about the mighty God who spoke everything into being, who had a because-I-love-you rescue plan for His sinful creatures, who has never yet abandoned the world to His adversary, who puts the same power in us that rose Christ from the dead to believe in Him, who says over and over that He is slow to anger and abounding in love for His children.  Then we look from the Word to our lives and see His fingerprints here and there, sometimes light touches of love, other times deep imprints of compassion or direction.

God is great.  God keeps his promises.

He is also meticulous about timing.

I do not know what He's waiting for in the whole "hurling down of satan" thing, but I do know that He is trustworthy.  For now, then, as the Spirit enables us - one day at at time - let's remind the voices (and ourselves!) that the Good Shepherd is our master and keep following hard after Him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  ~Romans 12:1-2

June 20, 2014

The Voices vs. The Lord: Choose Your Own Adventure

The Bible study, You Are Loved, that is being hosted this summer by Good Morning Girls has given me so much to think about, give thanks for, and write about, except that I have not had the time to write!  This fine Friday afternoon, on the heels of a pontoon boat ride on the lake at the local state park, with all the kids resting upstairs and a short urgent-to-do list, time has offered herself to me for writing.  Hurrah!

Now the trouble is deciding a topic out of the knotted yarn ball that is the thoughts in my head.  We'll see how on track I can stay!  I will begin by sharing with you this week's topic: our rival who wants to destroy us.

The memory verse for the week was

Another translation beings, Be alert and self-controlled ...

I have it hanging on the wall in our kitchen and one afternoon Elizabeth, my ten year old, said to me, "Mommy, that verse is a little scary."  She's right, if we look at the enemy and not at Christ.  I was so thankful to be able to share with her that memorizing that verse this week was not meant to scare us, but to  remind us to take seriously the fact that the devil is our enemy and he wants to distract, derail, and destroy us.  Couched in a Bible study about God's love, Peter's words serve as a warning but not a scare tactic.  He reminds us that we need to be aware that not all the voices that we hear in our head are true and good; our enemy will consistently endeavor to keep the people of God from pursuing Him.

Do you hear the accusations ringing between your ears all day?  You are not enough.  You will never measure up.  You are a failure.  You are so stupid.  You don't belong; if people only knew.

Do you remember there is an enemy, an active adversary, prowling around looking for someone to devour and he's probably the one fanning the flames of these untrue accusations?

Then, do you remember there is a Lover of your soul, a Good Shepherd, and a Holy Spirit, who have adopted you into their family and kingdom?  And your identity in them means you are enough, measuring up is a thing of the past, and you do belong, all thanks to the work of Christ?

Do you remember these realities?

If you do, then are you exercising your right as a daughter or son of the King of kings to claim your place in his family when the volume of the enemy's accusations is rising in your heart and the bass is thumping in your mind?  Are you saying to him, "Excuse me, sir, but the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.  You are sin and death, once I belonged to you, but I do no longer.  So, get outta here!"?

You can exercise that right and you should!

The voices do not define you.  They suck the life out of you and leave you to die.

The Lord does define you.  He breathes life into you and leaves you to thrive.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

June 4, 2014

Does He Really Feel Affection For Me?

This week in the 'You Are Loved' study, we've been asked to memorize Zephaniah 3:17.

I have it hanging on my kitchen wall, next to my painting of a man frozen in perpetual prayer over his soup and bread.  Already, the words are etched on my mind and beginning to affect the way I think.  I woke up this morning - really early again, thanks jet lag - with the word AFFECTION ringing in my head.

AFFECTION - tender attachment, fondness, love, devotion

Does God really feel AFFECTION for me?!

If so, that's a game changer.


What a difference it would make in my life if I chewed on and swallowed the truth that the God of all creation, the master of all galaxies and universes, has AFFECTION for me!

Yes, yes, I want to believe that with ever fiber of my being, because it is true and it would make a difference in my life.

He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Be still my heart!

As I lay in bed trying to fall back asleep, my thoughts raced from the word affection to how I'd like to be more expressive in my affection for my husband and kids.  Which then led to this: If I want to show affection for those I love simply because I love them, I'll bet God shows affection for me and I need to look out for it.

So, here's a challenge for today, beloved child of God.  Ask God to open up your eyes to see the ways that He is showing His affection for YOU today.

A lover can hardly control his/her expressions of affection for the beloved.  The verses above convince me that the Lord does not feel the need to control His expressions for love for us, but we miss them by taking our eyes off of Him, the Lover of our souls.

Join me.  Take the challenge.  Enjoy the affection of the Lord today, beloved!

June 3, 2014

Summer Bible Study Opportunity!

Hi all!  I wanted to share about this Bible study with you that started yesterday.  Since we were away and I wasn't on the computer much, I'm a little behind.  BUT, it's not too late to jump in.  Sally Clarkson and Angela Perritt have written a book and Bible study guide called You Are Loved.  On the Good Morning Girls blog, they will be working through it for the next eight weeks.  You can get your copy of the book, print or Kindle, from amazon.
I've got a little email list going, so we can have a little group to encourage one another along in the study.  Some of the folks are local to me, several are not.  If you'd like to join us specifically, please let me know to add your email address to the list.
You belong to God.  You are His precious daughter.  YOU.  ARE.  LOVED!
*     *     *
Here's the first blog post from Good Morning Girls:
Week 1
I am so glad you are joining us this summer as we read You Are Loved and dig into God’s Word together.
Before we get started I just have to say….I believe God has BIG plans for us these next 8 weeks…and beyond.
Did you know we have OVER 10,000 women from around the WORLD participating in our summer study? Not to mention all the other groups who are doing previous GMG studies like Luke 1-8: Living Like JesusColossians or Intentionally Focused.
I have to be honest and say that it gets me super excited to think of what God can do through 10,000 women’s lives who are learning about how much God loves them by digging into His Word and our book this summer.
I believe these next 8 weeks are going to be exciting, challenging and life changing. I encourage you to be lovingly real in your groups. It’s okay to admit you don’t have it all together and struggle sometimes knowing if you are loved by God.  If this describes you, then you are in good company. Love on each other, encourage each other and pray for each other. We are in this together.
If you don’t have a group and are doing the summer study solo, I invite you to join us here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and share with us what God is doing in your life. We would LOVE to hear!
Today I’m excited to introduce you to my very special friend and mentor, Sally Clarkson! Sally is one of those women who after spending any time with her, makes you crave to know Jesus the way she does. Wisdom flows from her and I can’t wait to share her with you!

May 22, 2014

For When You're on the Brink (a guest post at itakejoy.com)

During lent I read daily from the Gospels, working my way through Matthew and Mark.  The book of Mark reads quickly, stories tumbling one after another on the page.  There are crowds, crowds, CROWDS coming constantly to Jesus, following Him everywhere, needing Him – His words and His touch.  There are Pharisees and teachers of the law coming constantly to Him, questioning His every move, suspecting Him – His motive and His means.  The way Mark recounts the events it appears Jesus is always on the brink of being suddenly and completely consumed by His adorers and attackers.
Yet He wasn’t; He fulfilled His mission and ministered powerfully during the time God set for Him here.
I want to learn from Him.
I want to learn from Him, because often I feel like I’m on the brink of being consumed: my family needing me on one side, day-to-day responsibilities mocking me from the other.  I am the taut rope in the tug of war, about to break. 
Keep reading at http://www.itakejoy.com/for-when-youre-on-the-brink/#sthash.u30ZdYL2.dpuf

May 14, 2014

Hope Made Real

Hi!  We're leaving for a pretty major international trip in about twenty minutes so, of course, I need to write a blost.  It has been too long, especially after a month of daily writing, but at least you know what's been keeping me busy during the beginning of May!  We are headed to Rwanda to visit my parents, thanks to their generosity.  We leave tonight and will arrive there about a day after leaving.  That's a lot of travel hours with small people, especially the smallest one.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I am immensely excited about this trip.  I'm glad departure day is finally here, we're all vaccinated, and that we're going to see an hitherto unknown (to us) corner of the world.  I am thrilled!  I am also glad to hang with my folks, but they were just here in the states, so it won't feel like quite the reunion it would if it had been since Christmas that we'd seen them.  The whole family is looking forward to hanging out as a whole family.  Colin just wrapped up his first year as a professor yesterday.  It was a good, but grueling, year.  It will be delightful to all be together for so long AND away from most responsibilities.  Don't worry, we'll still feed and clothe the kids!

I am eagerly anticipating the joy all of those above mentioned things will bring.  But what has me most thrilled is getting to finally see and visit the Urukundo Children's Home about whilch my parents have talked so much and of which we have seen so many photos.  I'm curious to experience a day there, looking forward to meeting the kids, and itching to hold the new little guy they took in last week, just a couple of days old. Ah!  It will be so amazing.

Would you like to know more about them?  I will share more once I get back, but for now, please check out their website to learn more.  It is beautiful how the Lord is using this little haven to breathe life and hope into the lives of so many children.  Be sure to click the link on the right about the founder and director, Mama Arlene!