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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

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He was bone-tired when he finally stopped to rest. He was in a desert place, in rocky, rough terrain.  He laid down among the rocks and fell asleep with only a rock for a pillow. He was running for his life. He was accustomed to the comforts of home, after all he was a homebody. But his deception had caught up with him. Esau, his twin brother had vowed to kill him. His very name, “Jacob”, meant deceiver. He’d conned his ruthless brother and deceived his aged, blind father. He’d cleverly traded a meal for Esau’s birthright, Esau’s rightful inheritance.  Jacob prized the birthright and Esau, a man whose god was his appetites, traded his birthright for a simple meal. Genesis says, “Esau despised his birthright.” The birthright meant that Jacob would receive a double portion of the land, possessions, wealth – Esau’s inheritance. What would that matter now? He was leaving it all behind to escape Esau’s murderous wrath. He’s deceived Isaac, his father, and took the only thing that Esau wanted- the prophetic blessing. Isaac planned to give the blessing to Esau but Jacob and his mother set up an elaborate ruse to steal it away. 

What was the blessing? It contained words of encouragement, details of his inheritance, that he would rule over his brother and family. It was seen as a last will and testament. The blessing Isaac gave Jacob foresaw Jacob ruling over other nations and having God’s protection and favor. (Genesis 27:28-29). So why run from all that the blessing promised him? Jacob was a cheater, a scoundrel, plain and simple, and his conniving ways had caught up with him and could cost him his very life. 

Jacob fell into a deep sleep with his head on a rock. He was, literally, between a rock and a hard place. And that’s usually where we all find ourselves when we’ve been caught up in our own bad decisions and sin. It’s as though we’re hemmed in, our back against the wall of our circumstances. The beautiful Psalm 139 describes it all so well. God searches the heart and mind of every person. Nothing’s hidden from Him. I’m sure that the journey gave Jacob a lot of time to think about what he’d done. Jacob could run but he couldn’t hide from God or God’s plans for him.  

Jacob dreamed of a stairway with angels ascending and descending on it and the Lord God stood at the top. God said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” God had plans for this deceiver and He has plans for you and me.  What wonderful promises Jacob received from God! As a believer in Jesus Christ, we too, have many precious promises from God. 

When Jacob awoke, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” The next morning, he took the rock and set it up, poured oil on it and worshipped the God he’d only heard of before. I’ve never had a dream like Jacob’s but I’ve had many conversations with the Lord, especially when I was in bad circumstances. And His word that I can open anytime of the day assures me, I’m not alone, He is with me, always. He will never leave or forsake me. I have a hope and future. He wants to spend time with me and know me personally. His thoughts about me are more than the sand on the seashores. And above all He loves me!

If you ever find yourself, like Jacob, running from your bad decisions and actions, turn around and talk to Him. You might be surprised to find, like Jacob, that God’s right there between your rock and a hard place. 

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The task at hand was daunting and I confess I was not grateful. I saw potential in the dilapidated house but it was going to take lots of elbow grease. I really wondered if my dad, with his quick wit, might be enjoying a few laughs at how I was handling my “inheritance.” A family friend made me check my attitude. “These are your treasures,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. 

The bible talks a lot about how we place value on things, the treasures we are given. Some treasures, like a valuable coin, covered with grime and worn with age, need work and require vision and insight to assess the value. If you’ve watched “Antiques Roadshow” or shows like “Storage Wars” people find treasure from the most unlikely places. 

What are your treasures? What are you thankful and grateful for? The things I treasure most aren’t things at all, they are the relationships in my life. The gifts God’s entrusted to you and me with were given with forethought and for our good. We are managers, stewards for our Heavenly Father who rules and owns it all. What we do with our possessions, our treasures and the value we place on them makes all the difference. My attitude changed about my inheritance when I considered the original intent of the giver, my Dad. It was his gift to bless me and he trusted me to use it wisely.

Jesus tells us what is truly of valuable and what is not. Matt 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Placing value on the right things requires wisdom. God tells us how to choose what we treasure. Proverbs 10:10-11, “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” The book of James tells us to ask God for wisdom and I need wisdom every day to make right choices.

Have you ever considered what God treasures? He treasures you and spending time with you. Malachi 3:17 says, “You will be my treasured possessions.” 

What is your greatest treasure? How we spend the majority of our time and energy reveals our heart attitude, priorities and values. Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul?” We can find lasting treasure by seeking first God’s kingdom and His goodness. We are told where we can find true treasures, “In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3

We can’t take any of our earthly possessions into Heaven with us but we can use them for good. We need to tell others about how valuable they are to our Heavenly Father, so much so, that He gave His most valuable treasure, Jesus, His only Son so that we can inherit eternal life. So, what are your treasures?

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A few years ago, I stumbled and fell over my own two feet. Both of my flip-flops caught under the soaker hose that ran across the sidewalk and I was falling head-first right into an 8 ft. x 4 ft. glass window. I just kept stumbling and couldn’t get my feet under me. It usually feels like things go in slow motion but this happened in a blink. Next, I found myself in a sitting position with my back against a 15” wide area of wood siding next to the glass window. I have no memory of turning myself around. The only thing that I can think of is that my forearm (it had a bruise) hit the nearby heavy lawn chair as I grabbed at thin air. I was grateful I hit just the wood edge with my back. I sat there a few minutes to take inventory of the physical damage. My shoulder was okay (I didn’t hit it straight on). I ended up with some bruises, skinned areas and a bleeding toe and feeling rather foolish. I pulled myself together and got up.

Have you ever stumbled? I’ve done it more times than I’d care to admit. In this case, I was distracted by something and my mind was far away when I lost my footing. And that’s usually the case when we stumble and fall. I certainly think God intervened on my behalf or I might not be writing this.  

This made me think of the things that trip us up spiritually. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings may foster bitter feelings against others.  Sometimes, our own selfishness creates trouble. Other times, our perspective may be wrong and needs to change. Most often, it all starts between our ears, in our thoughts.  We may even question God’s love, God’s word, and God’s forgiveness for us. We may think we’ve gone too far for God’s forgiveness.  Often, these wrong thoughts, attitudes or subsequent actions lead us down a wrong path and at the very least, they may render us feeling ineffective for God.

If you find yourself falling for old lies, repeating sinful habitual actions – tripping yourself up, don’t stop there. If you can’t, figuratively, get up, ask for help. Don’t let guilt or regret paralyze you, confess and ask God to help you. Ask a wise, trusted friend for help. James 5:16 says, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 tells us God will help us with temptation. 

Then turn around and get back on track where you got off. Ask for forgiveness. Go to God and allow Him to renew your mind. Romans 12:1-2 says “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.” 

 Your fall may be more serious than a one-time stumble or a temporary fall and require more intensive care. Confide in a trusted, wise friend or counselor and ask for help to take steps toward forgiveness and restoration.  In the meantime, don’t just sit there, dust yourself off and get back up! God has great things for you if you’ll trust Him, turn around and turn back to Him.

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Are you up for a challenge that just might change your life? For the next 15 days, would you be willing to explore with an open mind a historical account? A story full of intrigue, influence, mystery, murder, persecution, adventure, loyalty, diversity, inclusiveness, and love. It shows people at their worst and their best. Bitterest enemies become close friends; prejudices are overcome; unity and love are the key. I ask that you read with an inquiring mind and fresh eyes the story of the birth of the church. Set aside any preconceived ideas you may have about the church. See how God took a few devoted followers to turn the Roman world upside down and spread a message that continues to influence our world. In fact, this story changed history and the hardest hearts of men.

Are you ready for the challenge yet? Explore the possibility that God’s story- His Story holds the key to many of your questions about life, mankind, eternity and more specifically- your life and your story. You’ll see how God used ordinary people just like you and me as instruments of change in their world. Are you ready? Here’s an easy, creative intro to get you started:

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The book of Acts is the story of the birth of the church, the work of the Holy Spirit in everyday people’s lives. It chronicles the growth, struggles and spread of Christianity. I hope you’ll join me in reading the book of Acts.  

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Note – Here are two resources that could help as you walk through the book of Acts:

Dr. Constable Commentary: If you come across something you have a hard time understanding or if you simply want to dig deeper, look up this free online commentary.

https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/acts/acts.htm

Youversion Bible Plan: If you desire to walk through this online, check out this online Bible reading plan that will help you keep on track. 

https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/89-acts

Recommended Bible Versions: ESV, NIV.

Recommended Study Bibles: Life Application Version which can be found in the ESV and NIV version.

 

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Does your life feel impossible and overwhelming? This video might very well refresh you and give you God’s answers to our problems. God says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28

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 This time of the year causes me to reflect on things I am thankful for and I have a huge list. Mine all have names and faces. They are just ordinary people who have crossed my path and added a richness and beauty to my life that I could never have imagined. They’re the ones who’ve encouraged, instructed, corrected and loved me with an extraordinary love. 

My list would start with a childhood neighbor, a man with a heart of gold who encouraged me through his kind words of affirmation. Or the 6th grade teacher who patiently coached my stammering attempts at an oral report. My childhood friend, Joy, true to her name, who could find joy in any situation, despite polio and diabetes! A teacher who gave sound advice and a life changing book. A youth leader who gave wise counsel. A mentor couple who taught me the value of friendship and how to help others. A friend who called at just the right time, insisted I go to the hospital and drove me there. Friends who came to share my grief at the death of my mother. My siblings with whom I share a crazy sense of humor and always love me. My loving in-laws that made me want to be a part of their family and welcomed me as their own. My mom who loved me unconditionally and taught me to treat others with kindness and respect. My dad who sacrificed and worked hard because he loved me. My husband, my rock, who never wavers – my love, my best friend, and my most avid supporter. My sons, my joy, who remind me of the goodness and grace of God and brought me amazing daughter-in-loves! My neighbors who brought supplies to secure our home after the Wylie Hail Storm. My friend, who at 80, reminds me that spunk has no age limit. My friend who says “Come on, let’s walk”, because I need it. My best friends who pray with me through thick and thin, storm and calm. The Church, not a brick and mortar building, but people who exemplified the words “Love God and love one another.” My lifelong friends that are faithful, true friends. My friends at my current church, my peeps who encourage me, care for me, and challenge me every day to live what I say I believe. I can only say, “Thank you, Lord.”  I’m rich and blessed! 

1 John 4:9-11

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

As you remember people who have touched your life give them a call, go for a visit or send a note! God has placed these extraordinary people in my path and many more that I haven’t mentioned. I am blessed beyond measure! Be prepared, your list maybe longer than mine. I hope you’ll count your blessings! 

Who are you thankful for?

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PostAbilityToForgiveSin-1080x600This story is from the life of Corrie Ten Boom. She and her family hid Jews in their home in Holland during the German occupation. They were discovered and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her story vividly illustrates the power of forgiveness. After the war, she spoke throughout the world sharing her story and through her book “The Hiding Place”.

I’m Still Learning to Forgive by Corrie Ten Boom

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. …

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. …

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”

And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses(sins),” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses (sins).” … And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.

Who do you need to forgive?

 

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