My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘sanctification’

I Love the Beach…

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Anyone who knows me knows my favorite place in the whole world is the beach. Having grown up in California for the most part gave me a lasting love of the beach. When I moved to Alabama and was able to see the sugar sand of Southern beaches I fell even more in love with them.
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I love the sound of the surf, the sand between my toes, and the warmth of the Sun on my skin.  The colors and sounds just soothe my soul.  I’ve come to believe that most people seem to either love the beach or dislike it.  There is usually not many who fall in the middle.

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When I think about why I love the beach so much, I go back again and again to the verse in the Bible that talks about nature declaring the glory of God. I look at the colors and am in awe at the beauty God has created.  I hear the roar of the waves crashing on the beach and hear the power of God. I feel the sun and marvel that God placed it in the sky. What a great God we serve!

I can honestly say that the beach constantly brings me back to God. It calms
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Who I am…

Sometimes there is a huge disconnect between who I am and who I want to be.  Also, from who I think I am and who I actually am.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who wakes up some mornings and wonders who this person in the mirror is. 

I have spoken in the past about my mother, who was literally one of the nicest, most gentle and caring people I ever knew. As it gets close to the anniversary of her death each year I find myself thinking of her and her kind and gentle spirit and I find myself again lacking.
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I so want to be that person that is quiet and has a gentle spirit. But I am in reality so not that person.  I am more of the rambunctious, loud nature and someone who usually laughs when I shouldn’t.

The more I think anout this though, the more I realize that God didn’t give me that same quiet, gentle nature…but it wasn’t an accident. God gave me my personality and gifted me with the gifts I have because that is who He created me to be.  He gave me these gifts to do His will in the way He wanted me uniquely to do it.   To complain or worry because I am not like someone else is to decide that I know more about God’s will and purposes than He does…and we all know that is not true.

So to me the key is to embrace who God created me to be and use my unique gifts and along the way work on cultivating that gentle and quiet spirit that I know is so pleasing to the Lord.  I just know it’s hiding in there somewhere.

1 Peter 3:3-4 …. Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

A Head (and Heart) Fix…

ImageAs some of you may know, the last few months I have been going through some big changes.  I have been in the process of getting healthier by eating better, exercising, and losing some weight.  I have good days and bad days but I have finally figured out that what really is  most important is my head rather than my body. 

I have been reading the best book by Lysa TerKeurst called Made to Crave.  I literally feel like the author has been peeking in my window and writing about me.  Through her I have really learned some great Biblical truths that relate to the sin of gluttony that I have been struggling with. 

I have realized that like the title of the book says, I was made to crave.  Only what I was made to crave was God…not food.  The fallen world has twisted a wonderful feeling placed inside of me into something that has led to defeat, shame, and guilt.  Only by realigning my thoughts and learning to crave what I was made to crave can I get off of the cycle of overeating and rationalizing it.

Thought for the Day:  My weight loss goal is not a number on the scale.  My real weight goal is peace.

Oh how I wish I had learned these truths years ago.  Maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time in this struggle without any success. 

And this doesn’t just apply to weight struggles.  It applies to whatever you are craving other than God.  There is so much in this world that we substitute for God.  That’s our enemy’s aim, isn’t it? 

1 John 2:15-16 says, “Do not love the world or anything of the world…For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.

While I realize this will be a struggle for me (and everyone else too), until we are done with this world, I am so happy to know these truths and work on fixing my head (and my heart) and live a life that is pleasing to my Lord.

 

 

Becoming…

The other day I got back to our office from an appointment at work and discovered this big, green bug on my briefcase.  I was understandably upset and quite dismayed it had decided to hitch a ride.  Apparently, this is the time of year for these noisy cicada bugs to come out and play.  Uggg…not a fan, especially not hitching a ride with me.

Thinking about the bug I realized that maybe me and Mr. Bug had a little more in common then I would like to believe.  In what way could I possibly similar to a bug you ask?  I believe it is because we both doing the same thing right now…we are becoming.

Of course, he is becoming a better bug.  He is outgrowing his skin and coming out better than before.  That’s what he’s been made to do and that is what he is doing.

What then am I becoming?  I too am becoming better, just like I have been made to do.  Maybe you can’t always see my progress like Mr. Bug’s, but I’m hoping sometimes you can.  I admit that sometimes it’s a pretty slow process, and it can be said that sometimes my progress slides backwards a little bit, but hopefully it is mostly progress forward.

I know there are things each and every day that God is working on me with; growing me, changing me, making me shiny and new in His image.  And like Mr. Bug, I will one day emerge from my old, yucky, brown “skin” and leave it behind.  I will be new and bright and beautiful…and like Him!

Some days I think I can actually see it…just a little of the new me and less of the old me.  Some days I think it will never, ever happen and all I can see is the same old me.  And some days I seem to want to cling to the old me…sometimes it is so scary to change into something new.  I wonder if Mr. Bug feels the same?

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1 Corinthians 15 ~

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Prayer…

I’m going to let you in on my big, bad, dark secret…

I’m a bad pray-er.  I don’t want to be a bad pray-er…I really, really want to be a prayer warrior.  It’s just that I’m not good at it and I didn’t really know what to do to get better.

I have tried to various things to become better at praying.  But pretty much what ends up happening is I learn a “system” or way to pray and promptly become legalistic about it. You see, I’m a list maker and checker offer.  Once I have a system, it all because just something to check off the list.

I could never figure out what the problem was.  It’s not just about lack of time or commitment but more about motivation and what it should look like.  But no matter what I tried it just didn’t feel right.

Was God really even listening?  Why would He want to hear what I had to say anyway?  Also, I was pretty sure that every time I repented He was thinking, “Here she comes again, confessing the same thing.  Why can’t she learn and get this right?”.  Of course, intellectually I knew that God wasn’t thinking that…but emotionally, well that was a whole different story.

I have been thinking about prayer a lot lately and really wanted to grow in this area of my walk.  And, as He so often does, God seemed to be telling me a lot about prayer lately as well.  (I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I tend to have periods of “themes” in my life.  What I mean is when God really seems to be trying to get a point across to me everything will relate to the one thing, from the sermons i hear, to the books I read, to the music I hear. It’s like I can’t get away from it until I “get it”.)

Well, apparently God has been teaching me much about prayer in the last several weeks.  Usually I am not quite so deep in my blog posts but I had to share what God has taught me in the hopes that if there are others struggling in this area that it might help you as well.

A week ago our morning sermon was entitled, “Pride Comes Before Denial.”  In this sermon, Shawn, our pastor, spoke about the five manifestations of pride.  While these did not directly deal with prayer they all seem to lend themselves to teach something about prayer, or a person with a poor prayer life.

1. Pride argues with Christ even as it expresses allegiance with Christ.
2. Pride dismisses the truth of Scripture on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our hearts.
3. Pride justifies disobedience on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our circumstances.
4. Pride exalts ourselves over others (Shawn’s point spoke about exalting ourselves over those with God-given authority over us but with prayer I believe we just exalt ourselves over others period).
5. Pride confesses complete faith in Christ while still depending on one’s own strength and resources.

The next week the sermon was on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There was much that God spoke to me from this sermon but one thing really stood out.  It was the following statement:  [speaking about the prayer to God in the Garden immediately preceding the betrayal of Christ]…This is where the battle was won against Satan.

So this prayer and the resolve that Jesus felt after the prayer is where Satan was defeated?  This really made me think about the POWER of prayer.  Then a little further in the sermon there was this section about Temptation/Spiritual Tragedy that listed the steps that lead to temptation and tragedy.  The steps were as follows:

1. Self confidence [so sure they didn’t feel the need to depend on God in prayer]
2. Spiritual indifference [apathy in the Christian faith which is most characterized by a lack of prayer]
3. Temptation [lack of prayer equals a lack of dependence on God]
4. Sin [temptation gives way to sin as we fail to put on the full armour of God, including prayer]
5. Spiritual tragedy [falling away from our Lord]

At this point I was feeling pretty bad about myself and beat up about my poor prayer life.  I knew what God was telling me through this exposition of His word was to Pray.  Again and again He was bringing me the reasons why I should pray.  But itg was the same question as always…what to do next?

The next Sunday in MIT once again prayer came up.  We are studying The Holy Spirit and Sanctification and look what is on page 97 of the book we are studying:

If we work without the Spirit {to be sanctified}, we will be frustrated. On the other hand, if we leave it all to the Spirit and do not work, we will also end in failure. But combine the Spirit with work; then increasing victory will be ours. The secret of holy living is found in this combination. With it the Christian can have success.   The first work is to pray for a fuller presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ in his life….We may pray in faith for an increased indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, and we shall receive it.  We must remember that prayer is not simply a pious expression of devotion and thanks to God, but it is also a means of power. …It is necessary to persevere, for example – to go to God again and again with the same request.  It is also essential to go believing and expecting that He will answer our prayers, and not simply desiring an answer, thinking at the same time that God will not grant it….Faith is composed of trust as well as of knowledge.

Once again, I was floored by the teaching that God was sending my way about prayer.  The final piece of the puzzle was soon to fall into place for me.

Later that same evening in Tom’s evening sermon the last piece was given to me.  Tom said the following (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t possible write as fast as Tom can preach when he gets going):  You must labor to obey but it is natural and comfortable when you know God’s love through Christ.  What fuels our prayer lives?  When we are saturated in the knowledge of the love of God, our prayer life will be energized.  In our walk of faith, it is all energized and moved when we see the great love and grace to us through Jesus Christ, and the full assurance of our faith.

And therein was my problem with prayer in a nutshell:  I had a problem reconciling how much God loves me.  Growing up with a “fire and brimstone” type pastor, I tended to think of God more as the disciplinarian type Father.  When I sinned, I would feel like I disappointed Him and would actually avoiding God by not praying rather than face Him in His anger.  But that is such a wrong way of thinking.  That is totally leaving out the Love of God and Jesus Christ.  I was focusing on the wrath of Christ and not the love.

How freeing it is to remember that God loves me, He wants to hear from Me, I am his child and He wants me to talk with Him just a sure as I want my children to talk to me.  I can already feel a great change in the way I am thinking about prayer.

1 Peter 5:7  Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a  mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will  quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

 

Sin and Security…

I am going to be really transparent in this post. If you don’t like transparency, or emotional outbursts, this is probably not the post for you.

I have been taking a class at church going through a book called, “The Peace Maker” by Ken Sande. I have to confess that at first I was drawn to this class because at times my marriage has needed some peacemaking. But when two sinners get married, what do you expect?

The first few chapters were good, but then I hit Chapter 5 – Conflict Starts in the Heart. Wow…I will have to say that is when God really opened my eyes. I started reading this chapter and all of a sudden everything was applying to me…not to my husband. And let me tell you something, it was heartbreaking.

God has really used this book, and another study I am doing in my quiet time about Prayer, to break me. He has shown me that I have made an idol out of the need for security. I have seen clearly for the first time how I will do anything, including putting a huge burden on my husband, to get the security I crave and think that I deserve.

Let me back up a bit. Most of you know that I was adopted as a baby. I had fantastic, wonderful parents who always told me how much I was loved and wanted, but there was always this deep seated insecurity inside of me. I always felt like I was different and somehow not good enough because my birth mother obviously did not want me and just gave me up. Of course, as I got older and (a little) wiser, I realized that this was not true at all. She did love me, enough to give me up to someone who could better care for me. But knowing that intellectually and living it emotionally are always two very different things.

So, little by little, I placed a huge burden on my husband of making me feel secure. And when he failed, and he did, because he is a human sinner, as am I, I blamed him for my insecurity. This caused me to build a wall in my heart to avoid the pain. Sin, sin, sin…

I have never seen this so clearly as I did today. Let me share a little of what I journalled for my homework in class:

What do I seek and desire? Love of my spouse and security in our relationship. This is my idol. When I do not feel the security I desire in our relationship, I punish him by becoming distant (justification = protect myself) or angry (threaten or blame shift), instead of finding the security I crave from the one True God.

Another entry says:
As you look back on how you have handled this conflict do you see a need to repent and for confession? Yes! I was placing my needs and expectations on Bud. I believe that most of this (a recent argument) stems back to placing my desire for security on his shoulders as a burden that he can not possibly fulfill or carry. Again, repentance is necessary on my part as I have placed this on him rather than on God who is the only one who can and will give me the security and love I desire. I have continually taken the desire for love of God He has placed in me and put it as a burden on my husband. This has brought about a lot of conflict in our marriage which I have then blamed on him. I now realize there is no way my husband could ever meet these needs because he was never meant to…only God was.

As you can see, this has been rather eye-opening for me. And wildly freeing to my heart.

I can see God’s goodness and mercy so clearly and how I was the one backing away not God.

Why am I sharing this in a public forum such as my blog? I think transparency is a good thing. I think it is a public confession. I also think when God shows you something this good and freeing, you need to share it so others can learn from it as well. But most of all, I wanted to share how GREAT our God is! How loving and merciful and tender. I want to praise Him for being so longsuffering with me when I do not deserve it, worm that I am.

Thank you for letting me be transparent and free with you, as well.

That Kind of Woman…

 I’ve always wanted to be one of those women like my mother was.  In fact, pretty much my entire adult life has been spent trying to figure out how to be her.  You see, my mom was one of those women that are so rare.  She had that “quiet and gentle spirit” that the Bible speaks about.  She was loved by all: I never once heard anybody at anytime say anything negative about her.  She was always calm, no matter what.  I never, ever heard her say one negative thing about anyone. 

For example, there was this one woman in our church growing up.  She had really bad arthritis, the kind where her fingers looked mangled.  She was absolutely the hardest person to be around.  She was extremely negative all the time.  However, my mother agreed to drive her to and from her doctor’s appointments.  My mother actually seemed to enjoy her time with “Miss Emma”. 

I want to be that way.  I want to be content, no matter my circumstances.  I want to take joy in everything I do…without grumbling.  The problem is, that is not my personality naturally and I don’t know HOW to be that way.

1 Peter 3:3-5, speaking to women, says:

3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

That really, really is convicting to me.   And really, really impossible for me to attain.  You see, I’ve never been that kind of woman.  I’ve never been called gentle or had someone refer to my quiet spirit.  But I really want to be that woman.  So, I’ve asked God to help me in this area. 

Recently, I’ve had some success in this area.  I realize it is all God’s work, and God’s alone.  But He has helped me keep quiet lately when I was upset and stressed.  He has helped me tame my tongue.  However, I realize that this is definitely a work in progress.  And it will take a long, long time.  But, Lord willing, maybe one time I will be that kind of woman.  And one day someone will tell me I remind them of  my mother, or even better, that I remind them of Christ.

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.