Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

I have a friend who is doing the 40-day love challenge, which is based off of the movie “Fireproof”. Today’s posting was about love being a choice. It says:

“Love is Faithful (Hosea 2:20). Love is a choice, not a feeling. It is an initiated action, not a knee-jerk reaction. Choose today to be committed to love even if your spouse has lost most of their interest in receiving it. Say to them today in words similar to these, ‘I love you. Period. I choose to love you even if you don’t love me in return.’” (The Love Dare by Stephen and Alex Kendrick)

I really like this definition of what love is. It’s a choice. And the great thing about it is, while this is written specifically for married couples, this principle applies in any relationship, whether it’s with a friend, colleague, child, or even an enemy. Love is a choice. It means, even if I don’t particularly like someone, I still treat them well. It means, even when my child says she hates me, I tell her “I love you” in return.

When I look at love as a choice rather than a feeling, it puts a whole new perspective on things. Feelings are not something you can really control. Feelings can change. Feelings lie. But, when I make a choice to show love, I am doing that whether I feel like loving or not. I do it whether I like someone or not. Love is a choice.  1 John 4:7&8 says,

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NASB).

We are commanded to love one another. God’s Word doesn’t say love each other if you feel like loving each other. It doesn’t say love each other if they treat you well. It says love one another. Why? Because God loves us. This verse is specifically talking to Christians loving each other, but what about those who are not considered brothers and sisters in Christ? What about those who are doing things that God’s Word indicates are wrong? What does God say about that? Are we to hate them? Are we to be vindictive?

I think most of us would know that the answer to those questions is “no.” We’re not to hate them. In fact in Matthew 5, Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘ You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (vss 43-46, NASB)

In a parallel passage in Luke 6, Jesus says,

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (vss 27-36, NASB)

We are not only commanded to love those who are lovable, but to love those who are easy to hate – those who hurt us and use us. That’s so hard. My first instinct is not to show people like that love. But we are commanded to love. So, love is a choice. I can choose to be kind, or I can choose to be unkind. I can choose to react out of anger, or I can choose to calmly respond with kindness. I can love or I can hate. Today, I choose love.

Your turn! What is your opinion about love? Is it a choice or is it something you have no control over?  How do you show love when others are not?  I would love to hear from you!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

 

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“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB).

I’ve been reading a lot lately about growing in God and getting to know His Word more. In the course of that reading and studying, I’ve found numerous references to being firmly rooted in the Word of God. It’s easy to say to be firmly rooted, but what exactly does that look like? I have heard so many different ideas about how to be firmly rooted, but I’m not just wondering about HOW to be firmly rooted. I want to know what that looks like to be firmly rooted.

This morning, I was reading Colossians 2:6&7, and I think I now have a better understanding of what being firmly rooted looks like. I may not have a full picture, but I do have a bigger glimpse of what that looks like. I believe there are three characteristics that someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will have based on these two verses.

1) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s word will be walking in Christ. What does that mean? Well, that means this person is so in tune with the Lord and His Word that He lives out and copies the way Christ lived. That means, he doesn’t judge someone by past or present sins. This person accepts others as they are and cares about them regardless of their lifestyle, habits or character. Our Pastor actually spoke about this last night in our Wednesday evening service. One thing he said, really struck home to me. I’ve heard it before, but last night it sank in a little more. He said, “Acceptance is not approval.” I can accept someone without approving of his/her lifestyle. I don’t have to like everything about someone or agree with everything someone says to accept that person for who he/she is.

Being rooted in God’s Word also means that this person is more likely to be aware of and to actively seek to avoid compromising situations. It doesn’t mean this person hides in a hole and does nothing. No, instead, it means that this person is cognizant of the things that tempt him/her and then does what is necessary to avoid those situations whenever possible. What walking in Christ doesn’t mean is that this person is perfect. Unfortunately, nobody will be perfect in this imperfect earth.

2) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be built up in Christ and established in his/her faith. This means that this person knows what he/she believes and continues to live in accordance with that. I can’t know what I believe if I don’t spend time in God’s Word and really take the time to study and understand what God is saying. If I do that, then I will grow in my faith, and I will know what I stand for.

3) Finally, someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be overflowing with gratitude. That means, no matter what happens in life, this person is grateful for the good things he/she has, even when things aren’t going exactly as well as he/she would like. It means this person chooses to be grateful in spite of the bad things that happen. This is the part I have the most difficulty with because it’s really hard to be thankful when I feel like nothing is going right. But no matter my situation, I have a choice. I can choose to be grateful. Or I can choose to complain. Either way, I am the one who has to live with myself. Do I want to be joyful or miserable? It’s my choice. I want to choose gratefulness.

I’m so glad that I was able to read these two verses this morning because they encouraged me to dwell on what God has to say to me in His Word, and as a result, I am encouraged to stop looking at the past and worrying about the future. Instead, I want to focus on what God has for me today. I want to grow and learn. Most of all, I want to be firmly rooted in God’s Word.

Your turn! What characteristics you think someone rooted in God’s Word would have besides these? What other things can we keep in mind about growing in God? I hope to hear from you!!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit:  By Martin Wessely  (Unsplash.com)

Photo Credit: By Martin Wessely (Unsplash.com)

I am not one to try a lot of new things. I prefer to stick with the things I know and like, rather than try something that I might not like. However, lately, it’s been getting to the point where I am tired of the same old thing. I feel like I am trapped in a room, looking out at the world and seeing everything I wish I had the guts to do pass me by. A lot of that has to do with the fear of trying something new and not liking it or maybe even failing at it. I think for me, failure is the biggest fear I have. I think somehow, deep inside, I think it means that somehow I am lacking – that somehow I’m not good enough.

Much of my fear has to do with the fact that I have done so many stupid things in my past. I have a litany of events in my life that would illustrate the extent of how stupid I can really be. And for the past few years, I think I’ve done all I can to distance myself from that failure and make myself out to be this person who seldom messes up. It’s all about the image because if anyone saw who I really had been, they would perhaps not like me quite so much. Forget the fact that my past has taught me so many things. To let others see me as I really am might mean rejection. And I have faced enough of that in my life – at least that’s what I tell myself.

The reality is, my past is my past. I can’t change it, but I can look back on it and see how far I have come. Or rather, I can look back and see how far God has brought me. He took a scared, stupid, insecure little girl and He has grown me into someone who, while still scared, and still able to do stupid things, and often insecure, is also learning to be courageous and strong and to depend on Him. As a result, recently I have started to do things I never really expected I’d be able to do. For example, I went back to New York, where my roots are a few weeks ago. To say that was a step out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I was terrified. But I did it. That’s just one example, but I have others that I can point to. Except, that’s not the point today.

When I refuse to step out and take a risk – whether it be failure, rejection or something else unpleasant – I do myself a disservice. I put myself in a cage. I lock myself up into a tiny little box and instead of growing, I shrink. I go deep into myself and I lock everyone else out. And that’s a lonely life.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it (perfection) yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Paul had a lot to be ashamed of in his past. After all, he persecuted, imprisoned and caused the death of many followers of Christ before he went through is own conversion experience. He could have chosen to hate himself, belittle himself, or lock himself away from other believers. Instead, he chose to do the opposite and as a result started many different churches, not to mention the prevalence of his letters being included in the New Testament.

Paul went on to say in verses 15-16, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (or mature), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (NASB). In other words, live up to who you are. I am a child of God. As a result that means I am sanctified, redeemed, and can rest in God. I don’t have to keep looking back in shame at my past. I can use it as a learning experience, but my life isn’t in the past. I am to be embracing what God has for me in the future, and that is that I am going to get to be with Him someday. And if that’s the case, then what do I have to be afraid of here? What am I avoiding?

With that in mind, I have a few “bucket list” items I am planning on this year, such as kayaking, driving to New York with my kids this summer, taking a chance and entering a couple of writing contests this year, and so much more. And I can do those things because I am free. Yes, I might fail. Yes, things can go wrong. Yes, I can get hurt and it’s going to be a risk. But, in the end, I am going to grow and learn, and most of all, I am going to escape from that cage I have locked myself into.

What about you? Have you locked yourself in a cage too? Are you avoiding certain things out of fear of failure or rejection? What do you do to get past those feelings and live the life God has called you to?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Have you ever known you should probably do something, but you didn’t?  You know, when you feel that urge deep inside – not a temptation that urges you to do something wrong, but the type of urging that says, “This will be good for you.  You need to go do this.”  Do you know what I’m talking about?  I have had these urges many times, and just about every time, I ignore the urge, and I don’t do that thing I feel like I’m supposed to do.  Last night was one of those times.

During our Wednesday evening service at church, Pastor gave an invitation for people to come forward and pray at the altar.  This would mean going up in front of everyone and kneeling on the floor at the front of the church.  It would mean, getting up and moving forward.  It would mean, anyone who wanted to could see whomever decided to go forward.  He said that those of us who had things going on in our lives that were difficult or painful, or if we wanted to pray for someone else who was going through something, then we could go forward.  It wasn’t a compulsory thing by any stretch, but it was an open invitation to be vulnerable and allow the people of God to embrace and comfort and pray for us.

I longed to go forward.  I felt like something was pulling on me to go forward.  And I resisted.  I fought.  I didn’t go forward.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.  Pastor mentioned that pride could keep us from going forward.  He said that we might not want people to see that we have needs.  He suggested that perhaps we felt like people would look down on us or that we might feel like it was an admission of weakness if we went forward.  He was right.  I keep letting my pride get in the way of me asking for help.  I let pride keep me from doing the things I need to do.  I let pride keep me pressed into that seat, longing to move, but unwilling – or unable – to do so.

But it’s not all about pride for me.  Fear plays a big part as well – fear that I might be letting someone down if I admit that I am weak.  Or maybe it’s fear that God might be disappointed in me, or that I am not good enough.  I am afraid to fail, afraid that I will look like a failure.  For me, pride and fear go hand in hand.  They are not separate, they are united and they are equal in strength.

Even now, as I sit here writing about this memory, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I wonder why I could not bring myself to get up out of my seat and go forward.  There are so many difficulties that I am going through right now – some that only I know, and some that only a couple of people know.  Some of the problems are little things, but when they are all combined and the big things are rolled in, they seem insurmountable and overwhelming.

Perhaps you are wondering why I am bothering to write this and share this with whoever decides to read this.  It’s simple.  This is my altar tonight.  I didn’t go forward last night.  But I am coming forward today.  I am admitting that I am overwhelmed and in need of prayers.  I am admitting that I am weak and have these heavy burdens.  I am confessing that I was wrong to stay in my seat when I so clearly needed to go forward.  And I am asking you, my readers, to pray for me.  I am not going to go into details, but I feel “hard pressed on every side” (2 Cor. 4:8 NIV).  I need wisdom and strength to get through this difficult period in my life.  But, I haven’t forgotten the rest of 2 Corinthians 4:8, which reads, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;” (NIV).  I am not crushed or despairing.  I may be weak, but God’s “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, KJV).

Have you ever felt like you were drawn to do something, but resisted?  Perhaps you’re overwhelmed now.  Perhaps you have something that you want to lay at the altar yourself.  Please share below, I’ll be happy to pray for your needs as well.

Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

 

I think God has something in the works for me.  I’ve prayed lately for God to remove me from my comfort zone and to do what He needs to do to get me where He wants me to be.  Apparently, as I’ve learned, that can be a dangerous prayer.   I knew He wanted more from me, but I didn’t know what He was going to use to get me there.  And just to keep the record straight, I’m not there yet.

But, God’s been working in my life.  He has allowed things that hurt.  And I find myself asking why.  “Why God?  Why do I have to go through this heart-rending experience?  Why do I have watch my daughter make bad decisions?  Why do I have to feel helpless and hurt so bad for You to work?  Can’t You work in me without all the pain?”

Now, God is God, and He can choose any way He wants to work in me.  I truly believe that.  But here is what I am learning.  When I don’t hurt, when I don’t feel pain, I don’t change.  It’s true.  I talk about change.  I say I’m going to change.  I read about change.  I write about change.  I think about change.  But I don’t change.  That’s because I’m too comfortable.  It’s easier to talk, write, and think about change than it is to actually change.  In my experience, the greatest periods of change have taken place when I’ve been broken, weak, and unable to move anymore.  Why is that?  Why does it take being broken for me to change?

It’s all about control.  When things are going well, I don’t try as hard.  I get comfortable.  I start thinking I don’t need God.  I start thinking I can do it on my own strength.  And God lets me.  That’s what free will is all about.  I have the choice to lean on God or to try to do it all by myself.  And I have a tendency to try to do it all by myself.  Like the toddler who says, “I do it myself!” I pull away from God and try to do it all on my own – and inevitably, I make a mess out of things.

The hard part for me in all of this, is that I don’t plan to try to take back control.  I don’t really want to do that.  I want to allow God to work in me.  I want to do right.  I don’t want to mess everything up.  I don’t want to sin.  But I do.  I can relate to Paul who wrote in Romans, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (7:15).”  He goes on to say in verse 19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”  I can totally relate to these verses.  I often don’t understand the things I do.  At the time, I feel like I am doing what is right, but when I look back, I realize I have once again stepped into God’s place and taken control.

When I take control, I am basically telling God that I don’t think His way is good enough.  I am telling Him I can’t trust Him.  I am telling Him that I do not have faith that He will bring me through my hard times.  And often, it takes me being at the end of my rope, when I have no fight left, and I have no other ideas to finally admit that I need His help.  So I fall on my face, with tears running down my cheeks, and I ask Him to help me.  I beg Him to help me.  And you know what?  He always does.  He always comes through.  It’s seldom in the way I expect, but He always takes me into His arms and holds me close.  And when that happens, I realize that there is nothing I am going through that I cannot get through with Him.  And even though this season is really hard, I will make it through because God is with me.  I am not alone.

Have you ever felt like you were falling apart?  Have you found yourself asking God “Why me?  Why this?  Why now?”  I’d love to hear your stories and your thoughts about this.  Share in the comments below how God reveals Himself to you when you’re hurting.

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

I often find myself feeling invisible.  I can walk through a store and pass people who stare right through me.  I get cut off while driving (often).  I walk through our church halls, and pass people who see me, but really don’t.  I think this last one saddens me the most.  Church is the one place I feel people should see me most.  Yet, often, I find the opposite to be true.

Many times I want to shout out, “Don’t you see me!?  I’m here, too!  When you look through me, I feel small and insignificant and worthless.”  I long to tell these people that I have something worth offering, and that I have a strong desire to be useful, too.

Yet even worse than feeling invisible, I get frustrated at church members who talk about people as if they aren’t there, can’t hear, or have no feelings.  My daughter had this happen recently during one of our Sunday morning services.  She hadn’t attended our church in a few weeks, but she came that day and was singing and participating in the service, when a woman in front of her said to the woman next to her, “That girl behind us has a terrible voice!”  Then they both laughed.  My daughter felt like they were talking about her, since she was the girl right behind them.  She was so crushed by their words and laughter that for the rest of the service she sat, refused to sing, and just hurt.  The mother in me wanted to tell those women off – but thankfully they were already gone before I had heard the story.

Church is the one place we should be safe from such hurtful things, yet often the opposite proves true, and it’s the place more people get hurt by fellow-believers.  This should not be!!  Why do we hurt each other?  Don’t we have enough issues with how we are perceived by the world?  How does hurting each other help bring people to Christ?  This brings to mind a Bible passage about this very subject.

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (James 3:8-12, NASB)

Our tongues have the power to hurt or the power to heal.  The words of one woman hurt my daughter – so much, in fact, that she doesn’t really want to come back to our church all that much.  We need to be careful of the words we say.

What makes me sadder about other people saying hurtful things, is that I am sure I have said or done things that hurt others or made them feel invisible, too.  I wish I could say that weren’t true, but I am sure I have.  This is something that I’ve been working on in earnest.  Matthew 12:33-37 talks about how our words show our true character and how we will be justified or condemned by our words.

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (NASB)

My tendency is to speak before I think sometimes.  These verses challenge me to think more about what I’ll say before I say it.  I don’t want to be judged by bad things that come out of my mouth.  These particular verses have helped me to be able to curb my impulse to use bad language or say hurtful words.  I don’t get it perfect, but I see improvement every day as a result of learning these verses.

I can’t tell my children or anyone else to love others if I am not loving others myself.  I have to set the example.  And to love others means I need to see them, listen to them and treat them as Jesus would.  It’s a tall order, but I have a feeling it will be well worth the effort.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  What are some practical ways we can go from treating people as if they are invisible to loving them as Jesus loves us?  Have you taken any steps toward this end?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Wild Grace by Max Lucado, Adapted for Teens by James Lund

 Max Lucado, together with James Lund, has crafted a well-written, inspirational, and effective book detailing the concept of grace and what it means for each of us.

To be honest, I had a hard time swallowing Lucado’s concept of grace.  I mean come on, we talk about grace all the time, but how often do we actually show it?  The world isn’t known to be full of grace – it’s more likely to be full of judgment and hatred.  That God might really want to show grace to me is amazing, but difficult to swallow.  After all, my only experience with the world is what I have gone through personally.  And doesn’t each of us come to our conclusions based on our own experiences?  How often do we really see the transforming power of grace in everyday life?

And yet, there is the ring of truth to what Max Lucado writes.  The truth is, I’m not good enough for God’s grace, but grace isn’t about being good enough.  It’s about having faith that God wants to give us His grace, and my job is to believe and allow His grace to transform my life. This book asks the reader to look outside him or herself and see as God sees – a person worth loving….a soul worth saving.

Lucado structures his book in 3 parts.  Part 1: “God, Grace, And You” is about how God’s grace relates to you.  Grace allows you to forgive yourself for your failures and others for theirs.  Grace allows you to move past the negative self-talk and the criticisms of those who would bring you down.  Grace is Jesus giving His life for your rebellion, your sin, taking your consequence.  Grace is all you need in life.  It doesn’t take away the bad stuff, but it does allow you to move through the fears and downfalls of life, relying on God’s grace to get you through.

Part 2: “Grace in Action” is about the activity of grace.  Grace results in generosity – on your part and the part of others.  Grace gives the grace that has been received.  Grace gives forgiveness that hasn’t been earned – or, in some cases, even asked for.  Grace allows you to be honest with yourself, with others, and most importantly of all, with God.  Grace allows you to accept yourself and others for who they are, without the pressure of “pushing for perfection.”  God already loves you – you can’t do anything more to earn His love.  Grace helps you to realize that and live authentically.

Part 3: “The Road Home” is about where your real home is and where you belong.  God already loves you. He is your heavenly father.  You don’t have to earn His affection.  He already gives it to you.  Just like a good mother loves her child unconditionally, God loves you unconditionally.  You don’t have to do anything to make Him love you – in fact, there is nothing you could do to make Him love you.  And there is nothing you can do to make Him not love you.  Nothing can take His love or His grace from you.  Once you have accepted His grace through faith, there is nothing that can snatch you out of His hand.  Grace gives you a place to call home – God’s loving and gracious arms.

This book helped me to understand grace better.  I’ve always thought of grace as a passive thing.  It’s something that was done for me, but not something that is still happening.  Grace doesn’t happen just once and it’s done.  Grace continues to happen.  Grace is about getting something undeserved.  I don’t deserve my next breath – God gives it to me anyway.

I would absolutely recommend this book.  I read it with my teenagers because this version happens to be adapted specifically for teens.  The thought questions in each section helped my teens to connect with the book and helped them to open up about some of the things in their own lives.  They enjoyed the book too because it gave them a greater perspective on what grace is.  Do I think they got all the concepts?  Probably not, but it is a good place to start – and I think that this is something all teenagers should read because I think it will help them to learn why they should show grace to others.  Christian teens that know how to give and receive grace grow into Christian adults who know how to give and receive grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”