Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit I recently made several dramatic changes to my lifestyle (1 Cor. 6:12-13, 19-20). I’ve found, through the implementation of these new habits, many “bad” habits came to light I was unaware of. As I mediated on such things I discovered three sources of influence over my choices:

#1-Parents

Some of the things I’ve done my whole life are a direct result of how I was raised (this is not a ding against my parents but merely a fact-see Proverbs 22:6). It’s extremely difficult to replace habits practiced for more than twenty years-but it can be done. The Holy Spirit has strengthened and enabled me to follow His will for my life today. (Phil. 4:13)

#2-Media

If I spend too much time reading/viewing secular media, I find it tempting to become overwhelmed with a wide variety of opinions (Rom. 12:1-2).  One week something is bad for you and the next week that same thing is good for you. If I choose to believe everything I read without seeking the will of God through His word and prayer, I will be on a constant roller-coaster of frustration.

#3-Christians

Many well-meaning Christians have a variety of opinions based on their interpretation of Scripture and their own experiences in life (often relating to how they were raised-something we all do). More often than not, I have experienced a great deal of criticism within Christianity regarding lifestyle choices, especially anything that contradicts what someone else is doing. Everyone has an opinion, interpretation, and a judgment. (Matt. 7:1-5) The only way I can really know what is best for me is to spend time in the word and prayer. (Phil. 4:6-7)

This isn’t the first time I’ve received negative feedback regarding a personal choice, but I do believe I am following God’s will for my life (recognizing this is not His specific calling for every believer). I’ve done research and made, what I believe to be, an informed decision based on that research and my relationship with God. I am the one who will answer for my choices; it is imperative I do whatever it takes to maintain a clear conscience before God. (James 4:17)

I’m now questioning every choice I make under this light: is it God’s word and Spirit guiding me or the habits and opinions of others?

Balancing Act II

“Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous.” Psalm 119:137-138 NIV

Balancing Act II

As important as it is to stay balanced through our studies in the word of God, it is also important to stay balanced in our everyday life. When we are unbalanced with our nutrition we become vitamin deficient. When we have an unbalanced activity level our muscles atrophy. If we have two vehicles and we only focus on maintaining one of them, the other one will fail to work properly. If we play too much and refuse to work, the bills won’t get paid. Balance is necessary everywhere.

I wanted to get more specific with this issue of balance. I have a confession to make; I raise my hand in guilt. I become easily side-tracked, like a cat with cat-nip. Throw me a toy (said theological debate) and I chase like a cat rabid for a fix. Come back to me a few days later and I’m tired, cranky, drained, emotional, and no better off than when it started. God whispers to my heart, balance, you’ve lost your balance child.

Sigh

Yes, I’ve done it again. Next time I will keep my mouth shut, live peaceably with all people…and all that good stuff.

Oh look, is that cat-nip?! Chases toy….

We all have our hang ups, our vices, our debates or truths we hold dear and defend. God help those who get in the way! We can be ravenous about our beliefs. Give a group of believers some tricky subjects and watch the blood flow:

Tongues

Prophecies

Tribulation/End Times

Sports

Politics

Ding! Let’s get ready to rumble folks!

It’s downright ugly what we do to each other over such issues. God is righteous, or just. His word is right. Why do we act like unrighteous heathens quarreling like rabid animals over things that cause strife and divisions? Is it edifying, does it build up the church, does it draw us to love and good works? Is this how we are communicating with each other?

Balance

How easy it is to lose focus!

My Pastor said something in his sermon today that clarified the issue for me.

Just because it’s important, doesn’t mean we need to focus on it.

Think about that for a minute. Example: Should I devote my life to figuring out what day Jesus will return? Well, it is important isn’t it? Yes, but is it our focus to try to figure out the exact date? No. It’s our greater focus to live for him now, while there is still time, and live in anticipation for his return, whenever that may be.

God’s righteous word is full of important issues. All of them worthy of our attention, but are we to lose sight of the big picture and focus on one particular item alone? Who’s to say which subject is more important than the next? Isn’t that more or less up to the individual preference? One person loves all things Old Testament, another loves all things end times….both important, but neither to be weighed as more important than the other.

Is it ok to discuss these issues? Of course! Argue, fight, get hurt feelings, lose relationships, and attack people over them? No!

When engaging in discussion, we should always consider:

Does it edify the brethren?

Does it honor God?

Am I speaking truth as best as I understand it as laid out in God’s word?

Usually the best option is to agree to disagree and move on. It really is the spiritually mature choice. Our faith is best lived out, not blared out through verbal attacks.

“Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace -joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servants must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a servant who keeps cool…” 2 Timothy 2:23-24 MSG

As we balance out our daily Bible study, let us also balance out our daily communication with our sisters and brothers in Christ. The next time that hot debate topic comes up, whether it is about religion or politics, food, television, books, or sports, why don’t you consider the Psalmists view of Gods character first and how you can be a reflection of that in your conversation.  Are we displaying a balanced mature faith by living righteously?

We live righteously by following a righteous word.

Balance

Prayer

Thank you for your righteousness, for being a just and holy God. Thank you for being perfectly balanced, and for walking on this earth in human form, demonstrating what it means to be perfect. I know I fall so short of that standard, but I want you to continue to change my heart and make it clean. I want to be balanced in my words and actions, as well as my prayer and Bible study. Jesus, continue to purge the bad habits from my life! Before I sleep tonight, reveal to me any unbalanced ways that need healing, and restore them. Let this truth be on my heart as I sleep tonight, your statutes are righteous! I want to be righteous like you!

Balancing Act

“Let my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.” Psalm 119:172 NLT

Balancing Act

I have been wearing corrective lenses since I was in kindergarten. I remember the first time I wore them to school I was miserably teased. Throughout my growing up years I would continue to be teased for things such as my weight, glasses, and acne. I basically grew up with a distorted view of myself. God said one thing in his word, but I saw myself in a completely different way, based on the experiences my life had taught me. My focus was blurred.

Once I got to my early teens I recognized the need to lose weight or be condemned to a life as an outcast (in my mind that was my reality). What started off as diet and exercise developed into bulimia and self-mutilation; even attempted suicide. It took years of struggling with insecurity and doubt before I finally began to grasp how God made me truly was wonderful. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have accepted my physical appearance and weight. I spent many hours in Psalm 139 pouring over passages about being fearfully and wonderfully made, but it never sank into my heart, it was a truth that remained in my head. As long as my focus remained on myself and my imperfections, I remained out of balance.

In much the same way we easily become out of balance when we approach the word of God. We often focus on our favorite passages and stay there. For some it’s Isaiah, some it’s Psalms, some it’s the Gospels. It’s easy to become out of balance when we don’t take in the word as a whole, how it was intended to be taken in. How many times have you seen a random verse be taken and used to support an idea you know to be contrary to the word of God as a whole?

Balance! We need balance!

I have been immersed in Psalm 119 for almost a year now, and surely over a year by the time this project is complete, and throughout this time I have not remained solely in this chapter or even this book. I have kept myself growing and learning through the resources of several other studies in other books of the Bible. God’s word was intended to be read as a whole, taken in as a whole, absorbed as a whole, and we often get confused when we take bits and pieces and build ideas and philosophies off of them. Let’s face it; there wouldn’t be dozens, if not hundreds of different religious denominations if there weren’t people interpreting Scriptures differently, with different focuses.

Psalm 119 is clear about one thing. Our focus should always be the word, not a chapter, or a verse, or even a book. Obviously we cannot read all of scripture at once, and sometimes “reading through the Bible in a year” type plans can be a little dry and aren’t necessarily for everyone (though I recommend doing it at least once), but we can certainly stay balanced in our studies by not focusing solely on one passage over and over in our personal time. Doing so is like allowing our spiritual lenses to become blurry and distorted.

The Psalmist declares “…all your commands are right.”

”All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…” 2 Timothy 3:16

The word is right, the word is just, all the word profits, and the best way to stay balanced as a believer and continue to mature is to keep searching and learning and exploring passages new and fresh. Ask the Spirit to lead us to uncharted territory, books we’ve never read (Hezekiah anyone?!) or doctrines we’ve never studied. If nothing else, we can understand why we believe what we do even better, but as we search deeper into the word of God we will only be scratching the surface. We will discover the clever ways he has tied in his Old Testament prophecies, illustrations and stories with the coming of Jesus; we will see treasures never before uncovered due to apathy of what we didn’t know or fear of what we might not understand. There is enough in the righteous word of God to study for a lifetime! You might spend 30 days in this Psalm 119 devotional, and then move on to a Gospel, or perhaps an obscure Old Testament prophet! Be daring and try something new! You’ll be simply amazed at the intricacies of his word, and compelled to worship even more when you see every infinite detail! Truly you will want to let your tongue sing about the word!

Prayer

Lord, I ask that you keep me balanced as I spend time in your word. Keep me in your truth, guide me in your righteous word, and lead me in the studies you want me to participate in. Show me where I have been unbalanced in my spiritual life, perhaps focusing too much on one thing while neglecting something else. As I continue to walk in your ways today, convict me of any area that needs the corrective lens of your Holy Spirit to redirect my focus.

Calculated

“Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.” Psalm 119:72 NLT

Calculated

How interesting. I find myself sitting to write and here I am talking about wealth and riches and what really matters in life when my husband has barely worked for the past two weeks. I just finished a prayer, “Jesus, I am trusting You to get us through this, and I know whatever you have in store will be great. I thank you for it in advance,” then I opened my notes and laughed, “Yes, Jesus, Your word IS more valuable than gold!”

Sometimes you need to have your material securities stripped down in order to figure that out.

It’s not always so cut and dry. God isn’t necessarily waiting to take all that you love away from you to teach you some sort of lesson on valuing his word more, or setting your sights on eternity more. Sometimes it is just life. Will we accept pleasantries from God and not the uncomfortable? We must accept it if we truly trust him, because with trust comes understanding that all things work for our greatest good.

Brokenness

Financial Ruin

Sickness

Losses

Pain

God is up to something, he is calculating our every circumstance to work out in our best interest. Unfortunately for us, we cannot see the big picture.

God does.

The Psalmist learned his most valuable possession was the knowledge of God’s character, and that was found in his word. What else brings us peace, joy, and the greatest gift of all, salvation? The word of God! This is the “good news”, this is the “greatest news”!

Sometimes it seems easier to say the Bible is valuable when we sit in relative financial obscurity. Certainly it is valuable, for it is all some of us have! But the Psalmist, he was a man of wealth, worldly wealth and riches, and of all people most uniquely qualified to give a value to the word of God.

He put a price tag on it: priceless.

All of our lives we will suffer losses. We will go through ups and downs, times of gains and decreases, but one thing remains sure, and that is the precious, priceless word of God.

Taking a risk and investing your life in knowing the character of God is a calculated move that will pay off over the course of your entire life as you learn who he is; you will learn to trust him and live a more joyous life in him. There are so many unknowns in this world, but the word of God is a sure thing. Invest in it, and have an eternal treasure you can take to the grave (and beyond!) Knowing the heart of God is something you will not regret.

Have you experienced something today that you don’t understand? Is not fair? Confuses you? Are you tired of wondering why it is so “easy” for some to “cast their cares upon God” while you’re struggling to get what is going on in your daily life? God doesn’t promise us understanding, but he does promise us wealth beyond comprehension. That wealth is in knowing him. Sound too easy? Open the word, find out who God is, where he is, what he is up to, and find out for yourself if that peace he offers isn’t more priceless than millions of silver and gold. I can tell you from my own experience it most definitely IS.

When the money is gone, when the health is gone, when the job is gone, when the niceness of your coworkers (or family) is gone, you will have the entirety of God’s promises in your heart and at your lips.

It truly is a wealth of choice.

Prayer

Jesus, as I bring to you my cares, worries, anxieties, and doubts today, I trade them for the riches you offer me freely. Peace, joy, contentment, purpose, mercy, and everlasting life to name just a few! Thank you for what you are working out in my life, for the things I understand and the things I don’t understand. I choose to trust you in every situation knowing you are in control. Change my heart that I may love you more every day; consume me with the wealth of your word!

Cravings

“How sweet your words taste to me, they are sweeter than honey.” Psalm 119:130 NLT

Cravings

What is the first thing you crave in the morning, your normal breakfast food fair? Do you crave cereal, toast, cinnamon rolls, donuts, or are you like me, stumbling and fumbling around hopelessly in search for your coffee?

When you see the word “craving”, you may think of a woman who is pregnant. The stereotypical ideal is that this woman craves pickles and ice cream at crazy hours of the night. (Not my experience, but who am I to judge?) Or perhaps we think of the dieter trying to avoid carbs and sugar at all costs. That poor soul, all they can think about is what they cannot have, which is everywhere on every street corner!

Sometimes you don’t realize you have a craving until the smell hits you. I know this has happened to me many times. I don’t even feel hungry until I step outside and someone somewhere is barbequing.

Mm mm

Now all of a sudden I am starving! In fact, I am fairly certain at this point I may come into physical harm and/or discomfort unless I fix my craving.

Can you imagine loving and craving the Word of God like you do your favorite food? It’s really sad that I even had to type that. The fact is we spend time and consume our lives in what we love. We seek these things out, we prioritize them. When we wake up in the morning, that thing is on our minds.

Work

Kids

Meetings

Ministries

Duties

People

Pleasures

Hobbies

Is God’s word the first thing we crave as we take our waking breath in the morning? Is his sustenance what we crave as the day unfolds before us? When we are bewildered and befuddled are we craving a word from our Savior, or a word from another person who can say what we want to hear but not necessarily what is best for us?

People get so fixated on their craving they may lack total self-control when it comes to food. Often times it is sweets, chocolate, candy and sugars that are the greatest downfalls. Yet the psalmist describes the Bible as being the sweetest thing he has ever tasted! So sweet he craved it over and over, he loved it, he was obsessed with every word of it, he couldn’t get enough of it, he couldn’t wait to dig into it, he couldn’t wait to discover more treasures in it. Now that is the healthiest craving a person could ever hope to have!

Feast on the sweetest sugar of all, the word of God, but never gain weight! His word is always perfect for us, satisfying, never too much, never more than enough. It is just right. There is no such thing as too much of this sweetness! Indulge yourself! You need not ever diet when you’re feasting on this truth!

Wake up, have your breakfast of truth, the real breakfast of champions. And make sure to balance that out with several “meals” throughout the day. You don’t want your spiritual metabolism getting too slow.

“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come; buy wine and milk with no money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor for what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and you will delight in the richest fare.” Isaiah 55:1-2 TNIV

Prayer

Jesus, as I start the day you have so mercifully blessed me with, I ask that you give me a new desire for your word. Plant in me a deep craving for the only bread that doesn’t cost money yet satisfies the deepest longing of my heart like no other. Every day I eat food to satisfy my physical needs, I eat consistent meals to stay healthy, yet I neglect to stay consistent in your word. Give me consistency and balance throughout the day, so my spiritual life will be healthy and radiate your truth.

A Simple Joy

“Christianity isn’t true because we believe it; it’s true and we believe it. Our faith is anchored to the absolute truth of Scripture and the resurrection of Jesus. So when we approach God, we do so with confident assurance that what the Bible teaches is true.”- Lee Strobel

When our character and thoughts are aligned to the absolute truth of God’s Word we experience the transcending joy talked about throughout the Scriptures. Reading God’s Word is one thing, but transformation comes when we believe what we read and act on that belief. We can fill our heads with knowledge all day, but unless we act on that knowledge, we have nothing but words. Words are not eternal; truth is eternal. John 16:13 tells us, “…the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth…” When we hear the conflicting messages all around us it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the “noise” in our heads. What is truth, what should I do, which direction do I take? Jesus simply tells us to “Continue in My Word…and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)  The world is complicated, Jesus is simple; let’s not complicate what He has made so easy for us. Seek His truth, stay in His Word, and experience the pleasurable joy He created you for.

Duct Tape

“Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth.” Psalm 119:43-NIV

Duct Tape

The stickiest substance known to mankind, well, as far as sealing products goes. The man-made
miracle of duct tape…it has hundreds of uses, if not more. From sealing boxes
to fixing leaks in a raft, duct tape is an extremely versatile substance.

 And who hasn’t heard the phrase, “I wish I had some duct tape to shut them up!”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to say something, perhaps even feeling
compelled to say something, just speak up, but that proverbial duct tape has silenced you? The words press against
your lips, screaming against your tongue to be released, and yet your mouth, or
even your brain, refuses to cooperate. You leave the scene feeling ashamed,
regretful, emotional…the “what ifs” begin. What
if I had said something….what if I had done this….maybe it would have turned
out differently.
A real nightmare you have.

Once again you’ve become victim to the duct tape of man, also known as fear. Fear of man can be an
effective silencer of the boldest believer. We fear rejection, acceptance, or the
repercussions of not being a part of a group anymore.  We’re insecure.

If you get nothing else out of this, I pray you get this simple truth. Man cannot take what God
has already given you. God has accepted you, secured you and given his truth to
you. No amount of fear should keep you from sharing that with a world of people
who are in desperate need of it. Does this mean we jump on our box with our
picket signs painted in the bright red letters of JOHN 3:16 at every street
corner? No, unless God has spoken to you to do so. I imagine there are many
other ways we can speak up and share the life and love of Jesus without bashing
people over the head with a “turn or burn” approach.

How many times do we pass by the homeless man as we’re walking and offer a kind hello? Or offer a
drink to the man working in our house, or let someone go ahead of us in the
grocery store? How many times do we get upset when the waitress gets our order
wrong, or the line at the bank is moving too slowly and we’re late for work? I’m
talking about living the truth of Jesus. By living the truth of Jesus we have
the means to back up the words we
speak about him.

If we’re not going to speak the truth that we have been given the privilege and honor of holding dear
in our hearts, we may as well get that roll of duct tape and wrap it around our
Bibles.

Prayer

Jesus, today I confess that I
have missed many opportunities to share your truth with those around me,
whether through your Gospel message or by an act of kindness towards a stranger.
I ask that your Spirit grant me with the discernment necessary to know when to
speak truth and when to keep my mouth shut, and I ask that I never need to feel
the regret of another missed opportunity.