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CLEARING THE PATH

While reading my textbook for Global Studies, something stood out to me that gave me a fresh perspective, and I thought it was worth sharing. I usually pray and ask what God’s will is for my life and the path He wants me to take. My textbook says, what we should be asking, is ‘how do I fit into the bigger picture of what God is already doing?’ He invites us to participate in His plan. Think about that for a minute. That is huge, yet such a simple concept. We are part of a much bigger purpose than just ourselves. Our story fits into God’s story.

As I was running that same morning, I encountered a low limb that blocked my way. I meant to go back with my cutters and trim it to clear the path for others because people travel through there each day. I thought about the guy on the bicycle I see going to work every morning, how it would impede his way, and I imagined him ducking to get through. I then thought about all the children walking to and from school. It will not only benefit me but will help others coming behind me. We are not on an isolated path by ourselves in this life. There is always a greater picture and others to consider.

Have you ever been the leader of a group walking on a trail through the woods and suddenly you encounter something and realize you have just walked through a spider web? You cleared the path for everyone else. Yuck, right!? Symbolically, the web can represent our past, like the spider web, some experiences are not so pleasant, but we can share those lessons learned with others. In a way we are clearing the path for those coming behind us. I did go back that afternoon with cutters in hand, but someone had already taken care of it. I am grateful for those who have gone before me and those that will come behind.

tHERE’S AN APP FOR THAT?

Recently, I saw an advertisement for an app that allowed family members to track each other so they could know their whereabouts at any time of day. I realize the purpose of this invention is that it is designed to provide safety for those who are outside the home on the busy roads, and the peace of mind to those at home, wondering if they are okay.

But the first thing I thought of was that, at one time in my life, I would not have wanted this technology to be a reality. Let me explain, before I became a Christ follower, just to put it plain and simple, I was living a double life. I would not have welcomed an app that allowed anyone to know my whereabouts, because no matter how much I tried to hide my secrets, by telling half truths, and going to the place I was ‘supposed’ to be for at least a few minutes, I also spent most of the time where I was not supposed to be, looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t seen.

In that regard, I can only imagine the reasons people are coming up with so that their family members will not use this app to know where they are. I can relate because at one time this would have instilled panic to my very core. I would have feared even seeing the commercial for it when my family was in the room. Do you know how miserable I was on the inside? I can’t tell you how many times I cried myself to sleep, cried all the way to work and back (an hour away), or paced the floor in anxious worry, and then put on a mask every time others were near.

The only reason I can share this with the world today, is because I am FREE!

The enemy has no stronghold on me anymore. The truth really does set us free, and God’s forgiveness and grace allows us to stay free. Once we are saved from our old selves, we can live like we are free (I Peter 2;16, ESV). As a servant of God, I am free from my old self and my old ways. There is much joy and relief in being free. God not only saved my life, rescued me from dangerous, abusive relationships, but He changed my perspective, my heart, and my character. I try to be mindful to thank Him for that every day. The day I fully surrendered, He took the weight I was carrying, and I never looked back.

A LOGICAL LIE

The thought crossed my mind one day that those who refuse to accept God’s word as absolute truth are believing a blatant lie. While this has some truth to it, I think God showed me how the deception can occur and that it may not always be their intention, simply because the untruth seems more logical.

I have been doing discussion board posts for over a year and I know I am supposed to reply to the other student’s original post, but somehow one day a couple of weeks ago, it seemed very logical to me to post my reply on another student’s reply to me, to carry on the conversation. Now, as my teacher pointed out and, by the way, knocked off several valuable points for not following directions, I was wrong. No matter how logical it seemed, it was not according to the instructions from my professor. She told me that the directions to follow are provided on the rubric. Now if I had taken time to re-read it and refresh my memory of this truth and her instructions, I could have avoided my error and saved myself some points.

Things can seem very logical, especially if most people around us are following a path of popular belief. It made me realize they are not always refusing to believe God’s truth, although some are, but rather are believing a lie based on what seems logical to them and those of influence around them. This is a deception the enemy loves. Maybe this deception occurs when we are not in the word enough to allow God to point out the misconception the world is selling. The enemy is subtle, he uses enough truth sprinkled over a lie to cover it up and make it taste better as it is digested. If we are not careful, we allow our desires and beliefs to override Scripture. This gives Satan a foothold in our life and can wreak havoc.

God says, “His thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are our ways His ways” (Isaiah 55:8). No matter how many times you hear, “follow your heart”, we cannot trust our own heart to steer us in the right direction (Jeremiah 17:9; Eph. 4:22). We need to pray for spiritual discernment and wisdom to guide us. This takes studying the Word and spending time listening and mediating on Scripture to learn the voice of God so we can properly test the spirits and our own thoughts through the help of the Holy Spirit.

In A Heart Ablaze John Bevere writes that we can sometimes create an idol in our lives without being conscious of it.

“If we still desire a worldly lifestyle, which is against the flow of God’s authority, we can have it by subconsciously serving “our Jesus,” whose will is in accordance with our own desires. Without realizing it we have a manageable deity! It is a subtle deception, not a blatant lie….we can filter God’s word and commands through our culturally influenced thinking.”

Don’t take my word for it, read the Scriptures, and pray for spiritual discernment. I don’t bring these messages as a form of judgement on anyone, I need to take heed as well, but only to warn others of the tactics of the enemy and challenge us all to be diligent about what we believe and in whom we entrust our truth. God’s authority or man? It is not enough to simply believe in Jesus Christ, but we must also take heed of His Word and live by it to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, only Christ is perfect. But we can look to Him as our example and role model and strive to be more like Him every day.

When is the last time you read the rubric?

THE GREAT RESCUE

I believe I have posted a message before about my dream when I was in an abusive relationship, but God brought it to my attention again recently, and is worth mentioning again.

At a time in my life when I was in a dark place, in an abusive relationship, I had a dream that I was sitting on the top row of bleachers with my abuser in an open field. I looked up and, in the distance, I saw three old planes coming into view and they flew on past over our heads. Next, I saw 3 newer fighter jets and they also flew over us. Then I saw black hawk helicopters and they too flew on past.

Lastly, I saw something white flying towards us, as they got closer, I could see that it was several solid white horses, but they didn’t fly on past. As they began to land in the distance, I could see the last few were in an array of pastel colors; blue, pink, and purple. They started to head my direction and as they approached, I saw they were majestic unicorns. They came straight up to me with great intention. I held out my hand and just as the first one got close enough to touch my hand, I woke up.

It is only in hindsight that I believe this was a message about my upcoming rescue. God was sending out all the forces of His army to come after this one lost sheep (Luke 15:4, ESV). The lyrics to Lauren Daigle’s song Rescue express this very well. He had a rescue plan so elaborate and incredible, some days I still cannot believe the lengths He went to, to bring me to Himself. My journey isn’t over, my story is still being written, but my life has changed forever, for the better, through God’s good graces. I am grateful every single day for His rescue and my adoption (Rom. 8:15-16).

It is not the first rescue mission God has been on and I am certain it will not be the last, but the ultimate rescue mission was the one where He sent His Son Jesus to die on that old rugged cross to save His people. He entered the world as a human and walked the earth, endured suffering and shame and died for our sins so we could be saved. A great rescue mission of a loving Father who is still coming after His lost sheep today.

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8).

oVershadowing joy

On one of the more delightful, enlightening mornings with the Spirit, my cup of joy was overwhelmingly full and seeping over the sides in a sweet little flow. Even though I had been awake since 1:30 a.m. dealing with an unruly contact that refused to come out before bedtime. It woke me up in the middle of the night ready to make its departure from my matted eye. But it didn’t comply easily. It caused me to get up and turn on the light, which temporarily blinded me as I sheltered my eyes. If I wasn’t awake before I sure was now. Once I had it out, I went back to bed but couldn’t return to the slumber I previously embarked upon for the last 4 hours.

Tired of fighting it and having my long list of prayers complete, I decided to get up and start my day, with my normal routine of quiet time, Bible reading and devotionals before heading out for my morning run.

As I said earlier, this particular morning was very enlightening and captivated my attention more than usual. My run serves as further contemplation and processing such matters. So, I know I was mostly focused on my thoughts and asking God to give me discernment on the divine revelation. I didn’t see the rocks that were piled in a heap in my path, until I stepped on them and turned my ankle. I am completely certain that anyone seeing this would have had quite the sight and probably a good laugh to watch me to do everything in my power to stop myself from falling. (Good thing nobody saw it.)

In the end, gravity won. I did manage to tuck and roll using my left shoulder as my cushion and my right hand to keep my face from plowing into the pavement. I twisted my foot and hit my knee but thankfully didn’t break yet another bone. I really can’t afford to do that. So, I limped and thanked God all the way home. I was done for the day. And the next couple of days since my ankle developed quite a painful reminder.

Despite all this, I still rejoiced all day. Our propensity usually likes to take over in these situations and cause us to in turn be in a bad mood or not so kind to others on a day that started out like this and let our lack of sleep drive our emotions. But my joy overshadowed anything the enemy tried to throw my way. His distractions and earthly circumstances of what could have easily been labeled a pretty bad day overall, didn’t deter the fact that I had spent quality time with the Holy Spirit who gave me a wonderful gift in return. Joy unspeakable. Our time spent with God is more precious and gives us more return on investment that anything of this world.

My spiritual joy overshadowed my fall and lack of sleep. No matter what earthly things are going on in our lives, we can still experience joy through the gifts of the Spirit. Our relationship with God makes all the difference.

This is not to say that I don’t have ‘bad days’ that are frustrating and harder to be joyful, it just means that we can choose joy. No matter what is going on. It just may be a little harder on some days, but God is still with us and that alone should make us smile.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! John 15:11

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again- rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

God-COnfidence

Realizing our weaknesses, gives us strength through God’s ability, not ours. Once we recognize our need to trust God with everything, we can relax and enjoy the journey set before us with God-confidence. That does not mean we don’t have to put an effort into doing the right things and making the right choices (which He helps us do). There is action on our part as we travel the path God sets before us, but it does mean we do not have to fear what is next or rely on our own abilities to see us through.

With God-confidence and determination we can conquer any mountain in front of us. I remember, a few years ago after a tragic car accident that broke my back, a few people told me I should change hobbies and not attempt to run again. I did not want to hear that. But it put a determination in me to prove them wrong; and maybe an ounce or two of stubbornness- which is not always a bad thing. Couple my determination (actions- not giving up), with my new relationship in Christ (that was emerging every day afterwards), that strengthened my faith and gave me the God-confidence I needed to get back out there and keep running. I remember telling God if He would allow me to run again, I would honor Him with it every day. That is exactly how I use the time. If I am not thanking Him almost every step of the way for everything – I am meditating and processing the messages He gives me. In fact, He gave me this very message on a run.

Today, I give God all the honor and glory for allowing me to run again and for allowing me to share messages with others, it is my hope and prayer that His love and my faith always shines through to give Him all the Glory. With the seasons changing and the mornings becoming less humid, with a hint of fall, the crisp fresh air has improved my pace as I am able to breathe easier. I just had my fastest pace in a very long time. It is only by the grace of God that is even possible. It was only God who had my doctor fight for the insurance company to use cadaver bone in my back instead of cement- which he assured me would not have allowed me to continue running.

It was only God who created me with the tenacity and determination (and stubbornness) to keep fighting as I recognize my deep dependence on Him. Every day is a gift that I am grateful for! It is only God that allowed me to live through that accident and gave me the treasured gift of writing that I am even able to share these God-given messages with you. I know on my own I am nothing. But with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26, ESV). My God-confidence comes from seeing what He has already done for me and knowing He will do it again. He always comes through. It is only through Jesus Christ that we have the freedom and grace to fuel our determination to make every day a God-honoring day.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. I am in awe of God. Every. Single. Day.

Innocence

Lotus: A beautiful bloom that emerges from the mud

I love God’s heart. For a lot of us our childhood memories come with a sense of innocence. I had a ton of great memories on our front porch. It brings back so many images to my mind. A place of firsts. Firsts certainly contain a load of innocence. First memory, first word, first step, laughter, singing, loss, tears, family and friends, music out the bedroom window, swinging, pets, long conversations, sleepy eyes, fireflies, hellos, and goodbyes.

First bike, first car, first crush, wedding day jitters, first house, first job, first baby, singing lullabies. I could go on and on. Even though our front porch saw a lot of these firsts, for me, it also was the place I first lost some of my innocence. But that one memory does not have to taint all the others. I was reminded that God restores our innocence. Through all the things we have done since our more innocent days of childhood; We can rest assured God has redeemed it all through His Son, Jesus.

Not only to our level of childlike memories, but to His superlative standards of innocence. That brings a new level of renewed hope and joy, as we travel the high road, looking to the Rock for our comfort and protection. God loves us that much. His heart is so full of love for us that He chose to save us and restore our innocence so we can be free.

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

I look up to the mountains- does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the nonday sun. Psalm 37:6

The Little Girl

Before I became a Christ follower, I didn’t know what it meant to put God first instead of myself or others in my life. I was not in a great place although I hid it well. It makes me realize that we never know what someone else is going through and the battles they are fighting internally.

One night, during this time, I dreamed I was driving down the road where I grew up. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a little girl sitting in the backseat. Just as we made eye contact, she stuck her tongue out at me. That little girl was me. She didn’t like me very much.

After becoming a Christ follower, I was sitting in prayer and quiet time with the Holy Spirit and was reminded of that dream.  Just as quickly as that scene appeared, I was whisked away to one of my fondest childhood memories. Swinging on the front porch with my mom on a summer night, singing I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me.

I heard a voice ask me, “What would you tell her?”

My first reaction was to tell her, “Don’t do it!”

But just as I finished thinking those words, I had another thought. If I hadn’t gone through those tough life experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today; at least I wouldn’t appreciate what Christ did for me as much as I do now. Being in the valley for so long made me appreciate the mountaintop that much more. I use those experiences to share my story and help others who are where I was at that time in my life.

So, I told her this, “You will make mistakes, there will be heartache and pain, but you will persevere. YOU WILL PERSEVERE!”

I heard a whisper in my heart, “She likes you now. She is proud of who you have become.”

What a beautiful and sweet message from my Heavenly Father. I try to be mindful of thanking God every day for saving my life and changing my character.

“Always have something beautiful in sight, even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!         (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me

Many of us, myself included, have plucked a daisy, in our youth, and innocently recalled the phrase, ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, allowing the random number of petals dictate if our crush of the day returned our affections. With God’s love, the number of petals doesn’t matter, and His love is never random. There is never a time when God does not love us. He takes the ‘not’ out of the equation altogether.

He may sometimes be displeased with us, but His love never changes. It may feel like it sometimes when we are going through trials, but that is the lie of the enemy. Sin makes us feel distant. That is why we need to be intentional to choose each day who we will serve (Joshua 24:15, ESV), at each waking moment, when our feet hit the floor, or better yet, when our knees hit the carpet. Our quest for joy is determined within this decision.

Don’t let the day dictate your joy, let your joy dictate the day.

God loves you fiercely and wants you to choose Him every day. He awaits your attention as soon as you open your eyes to the mercies of a new day. When our desire to please Him outweigh our desire to please others and ourselves we know we have made the right choice. Joy will follow no matter what each day brings.

“Give thanks to the God of Gods, for His steadfast love endures all day” (Ps. 52:1, ESV).

Did you know, besides the verse above, there are over 40 more verses in Psalm alone that tell us that God’s steadfast love endures forever? What an amazing reminder that our Heavenly Father wants to be close to us, and in relationship with us, and that we can do absolutely nothing to change that fact. Parents, we can relate this to our own children. We want the best for them, so when they make mistakes that could harm them, we are displeased, but we still love them with all our hearts. That is the reason we want them to obedient, because we know it is what is best for them. It is no different with God and us. We are His little children, whom He calls to be obedient, because He knows what is best for us and loves us dearly.

What Does God Say About That?

When you have something troubling you, do you take it to God and seek His word on the subject?

I would like to encourage you to do just that. Especially when it relates to a new teaching that you may not understand or it sounds too good to be true, or even the other side of that and it causes you to stress and worry or leaves you wondering what to believe.

Maybe with the things that you are dealing with in this season of life, you are grasping on to the wrong teachings for comfort and confirmation or this just added to your stress level.

I don’t know – but God does. I can speak from experience when I say this. If you want to know the truth, go to God’s word. Ask Him for knowledge, wisdom, and discernment and how to apply it and live it in your own life.

You may argue that this ‘new teaching’ isn’t anything ‘new’, it’s been around for years. But I believe God’s definition of ‘new teaching’ is anything that is not of the Bible or His word.

The things that sound too popular to be true, usually are. It’s like a popsicle – they sprinkle just enough truth, love, and affirmation to make it sweet to the taste. Then when they have you hooked, they begin to weave in the beliefs of the world and conform it to the behaviors that go against God and His word.

That only leaves the door wide open for the enemy to get a foothold in your life. He sends in doubt so that your faith is weakened. When you start to believe the new teachings, and the heat of the enemy is breathing down your neck, soon, all you are left with is the stick. That kind of teaching can’t hold up.

But God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His word is the foundation we can stand on against the enemy’s lies.

We can’t just apply the scriptures we like and dismiss the others because it doesn’t agree with the world’s views. In essence you are tearing out those pages and throwing them into the fire. Could you ever imagine yourself doing that? I would be too afraid to ever dare do such a thing to God’s word.

Ephesians 4:11-13 explains the gifts (not a comprehensive list) God gave to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. It goes on to say this will continue until we all come to a unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son, that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full standard of Christ.

In the notes of my study bible, it gives these definitions for the people/gifts mentioned in these verses.

Apostles: divinely commissioned missionary evangelists

Prophets: speak messages from God for His people

Evangelists: proclaim the Good News

Pastors (or shepherds): care for the people

Teachers: expound Scripture and God’s truths to the church

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever, they sound like truth. Ephesians 4:14 Notes: Mature Christians, with a well-grounded knowledge of the Good News and of Christ himself, will be able to discern and resist false teaching.

I challenge you to seek His word in your own life and ask yourself- “What does God say about that?” before you allow these new teachings to sink into your heart and mind.