Workout your thought life!

Workout2If I could stay in bed, sleep in and still stay fit, I would do it. While I enjoy the camaraderie of my workout classes, if I could avoid the intense exertion five out of seven mornings a week, I would totally do it! But because I enjoy being fit and keeping my weight and mental clarity at a certain level, I make myself rise at an early hour so that I can have time with the Lord and also have time to exercise every day. I say, “No”, to hitting the snooze button 14 times for the greater “Yes” of feeling good after a hard workout and for the rest of the day.

The other morning, when I was doing my devotions, the thought came to me that we can put our thoughts into the same workout regimen that we put our bodies in.  The same way I control what I put into my body and how I exercise it to stay in shape, I can control what I put into my mind and exercise those thoughts to get the flab out of my thought life. Just as my body without exercise would revert to a state of untoned muscles, my mind without exertion becomes slack and untrained. My thoughts will automatically go towards negativity, fear, and low self-esteem. That’s what my mind looks like when left to itself.

But God has given me a great “gym” for my thought life. It’s called the Word of God. For every flabby negative thought that wants to keep me in a cycle of failure, I can purposefully replace it with God’s thoughts about me and my circumstances. But those thoughts aren’t natural, just like working out doesn’t feel natural. I have to MAKE myself dig into the Word and find God’s thoughts on a matter and then I have to WRITE them down so I don’t forget them, and then I have to REHEARSE those words over and over until they get into my brain. Eventually, my thoughts will get into godly shape.

But here’s what I see so often…many of us hear the Word on Sunday and think that a one-time hearing is going to make a change. But let me ask you this: if I went to the gym once a week, do you think I would notice any measurable change in my cardiovascular health or in the shape of my physical body? And if I ate junk food all week and then expected that one visit to the gym to work magic, do you think I would see the results I hope for?

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What’s the deal with sin? It’s a new day

Woman on shoreline at sunrise.jpg

Did I just sat that out loud??

Do you ever have those moments when you say something and then realize what you said after you hear it come out of your mouth? Most of the time when that happens to me, it’s not a good moment of realization.  It’s usually one where I stand there in embarrassment wishing the floor would open up and suck me in.

But now and again, I have really great moments of brilliance inspired by the Holy Spirit when I say something wise, or encouraging, or with a knowledge that I KNOW didn’t come from me! I’m just not that good! That happened the other night when I was leading a discussion / book group at a transitions home for women who are coming out of poverty, homelessness and drugs. Most of these women have children. When I look into their eyes, I see such potential and such promise, yet I know they are just one bad decision away from re-entering their destructive life. So I pour out everything in me on those nights, giving my all to demonstrate the immense love of God for these broken girls, most of whom have never known safety, stability, self-discipline and real honest love.

I don’t go up to that house with a plan.  I bring a book that we’re reading together that deals with using God’s Word to bring emotional healing and changing destructive thinking to positive, overcoming thinking. We take turns reading out loud until I feel like we should stop and talk about what we read. Or until one of the girls stops me and asks a question. Every single week is different from the last.

Some girls have left the program…sadly. But more have joined the house than have left. And as our group grows, so does the amount of discussion and the number of questions that I’m fielding. So I lean heavily on the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom for the simple reason that I’ve never been an addict or homeless with my children. I have first-hand experience with addiction in my family, but that’s not the same as being the user and the one who now has to pick up the pieces with children in tow.

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Even If: How do we trust God when things go sideways?

Festoon-lightingI recently heard a song that could have been written about a season in my life. The lyrics perfectly describe a situation that I went through over a decade ago…but whose reality still grips my heart. It’s a song by the band, MercyMe and it’s called ‘Even If’.

Verse 1:

They say, ‘Sometimes you win some / Sometimes you lose some.’

And right now, right now I’m losing bad.

I’ve stood on this stage night after night, reminding the broken it’ll be alright,

But right now, right now I just can’t.

It’s easy to sing when there’s nothing to bring me down.

But what will I sing when I’m held to the flame like I am right now?

 

My husband and I were just a couple years into blending our family. Things had been challenging in every arena but our love and gratitude for this fresh new start was high.

And then the bottom fell out. We were taken to court by someone who wanted to see us fail. This person slandered us, sent us threatening letters, and attacked our character, our finances and the peace in our home. I can’t go into more detail than that, but suffice it to say that the months leading up to the day in court were fraught with anxiety and fear.

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Fruit that Remains: Excerpts from my journals that nourished me and might encourage you, too!

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Fruit That Remains: Lessons from my journals. These are excerpts from my journals over the years. Some are more current than others. I love going back into my journals because I always get refreshed and re-learn the lessons that the Lord has taught me and that I have faithfully scribed.

 

I can’t take it anymore! I’m so overwhelmed I feel like I’m going to have a breakdown!

Have you every felt like that? I have – many times! On one such occasion, I had been trying to make everything work in my own strength but I was in a season where there were too many demands and not enough of me to go around.  I had too much on my plate and plainly needed a clone of myself to get all of my work done, let alone things at home and in ministry. It was just TOO MUCH. So I brought my anxiety to the Lord.

1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

So in this instance, here is how the conversation went down in my journal:

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What a mess! Can God do anything with this??

What a mess!!Messy room with girl in it

Sometimes it’s easy to look at our life and wonder “Can God do anything with this?” We look at all of our faults and question if there is any way that He will ever be able to truly change the mess inside. But the good news is He already has done something about the mess! The word of God tells us that we are redeemed and restored to glory – that old things have passed away and all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

But the enemy will lie to us so consistently and so believably pointing out our flaws and our failures that our consciousness of who we are in Christ becomes deadened and our focus on the lies becomes acute.

What is the solution for this? I believe that thanksgiving plays a major role in keeping God at the center of our focus and not placing weight on the wrong things. Do we have flaws?  Yes, we do. Do we have failures? Yes, we do. But believe it or not, those things do not define us. God has clothed us in the righteousness of Christ and he sees us as perfectly redeemed and restored. He doesn’t see us that way as in seeing us through a hopeful vision of who we may become someday. He sees us that way NOW.

Galatians 3:27
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

 

Romans 13:14

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

So why do we continue to struggle with the old man? Why is it so easy to see ourselves as defeated, as a bad person, as a failure?

It’s because we have lost our vision of the truth. But thanksgiving will put the truth back in the center of our focus. It will put the miraculous work that God has done in us and for us on Center Stage. We can’t afford to lose the awareness of God’s presence for one moment or we will succumb to the pressures of this life and to a worldview of ourselves and our limitations.

We serve a God who is unlimited and who calls us to live an unlimited life of adventure and holiness, so a small-minded view of ourselves will hinder God’s plan.

  • Do you wake up excited for a new day? Do you rise in the morning with an awareness of God and a feeling of intimacy with him?
  • Or do you wake up feeling already defeated, hemmed-in by your life, by your obligations and by your poor self-esteem?
  • Do you see other people’s successes and envy them because you feel you will never have success of your own?
  • Do you see goodness in other people and feel condemned by it because you wonder if God is disappointed in you?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that God adores us and loves us the way he does when we are so busy comparing ourselves to other people. But He does love us each uniquely. He created us and he loves who he created. It is unhealthy to focus more on the problems in our lives and in ourselves than on the goodness of God. Thanksgiving turns our perspective around changing our thinking from focusing on the negative and on our failures to focusing on the work of God.

Now you:

  • Do you want to wake up with a positive attitude about the day and about your life?
  • Do you want to stay aware of the goodness of God throughout the day.

Thankfulness is the key to keeping God at the center of our focus.  We can set a reminder on our phone or place sticky notes around our house to remind us to be thankful.  We can teach our children the difference between being thankful for what they have and complaining about what they don’t have.

I was with a mother last night who had her daughter with her.  The daughter is around 10 or 11 years old.  When they were leaving the cafe where we were meeting, the daughter started to complain that the mom hadn’t bought her a cookie.  The mom calmly stopped her by lifting up her finger and said, “That’s complaining.  That’s not being thankful.  How about being thankful for the wonderful salad with chicken and tomatoes that mom bought you? How about being thankful for your family and for your blessings, like swimming lessons?” The daughter proceeded to try to voice her complaint but the mom stopped her again and said, “If you want to complain, you’re not going to do it front of me. You’re blessed and you need to say ‘Thank you’ to me, not gripe and complain.” The daughter, seeing that her complaining wasn’t getting her what she wanted relented and said, “Thank you for dinner.”  I thought that was such a great lesson.  Instead of telling her daughter that she didn’t want to hear the griping, the mother focused on the fact that being thankful should be her attitude and she helped her daughter by focusing her thoughts on things to be grateful for.

Let’s parent ourselves well and stop that little griping child inside from voicing complaint after complaint.  Let’s put a finger to our mouth and stop ourselves from being unthankful, rather reminding ourselves of things that we can be grateful for! Amen!!

 

Do it like Daniel: Dedicated prayer brings discernment and answers

The praying woman

Sometimes when I’m reading the Bible, I am prompted to write out the scripture as a prayer or a declaration for myself or for someone else. Other times, what I have read prompts me to write a prayer of dedication as I did in the journal excerpt below.

As I am reading in Daniel chapter 10, I see examples of what happens in the heavenlies when people pray. I see angels sent to bring forth Your word, to do warfare, and to deliver messages, encouragement and direction. I see the angelic host being withstood by the demonic host. But I also see that you have victory over all the power of darkness even if for a time darkness seems to be winning. I know that your word is filled with wisdom, insight, and revelation about spiritual warfare. I believe that through Your Word I can learn how to be successful in spiritual warfare. I pray dear Jesus, that I would learn, that I would devour your word in the area of spiritual warfare that I may become bold and wise in how I pray and intercede. I want a hunger to be placed in me to see your kingdom come and your will be done on this Earth as far as it concerns me. Help me to grasp the hidden mysteries in your word as revealed by your Spirit and to live my life according to that truth. Regardless of what I see with my eyes, let me lean completely into your truth. Let me burn with a zeal in my latter days that will bring revelation and freedom to the captives. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Now you:

  • Do you desire to learn how to pray so that things change?
  • Rather than throw up weak, faithless prayers that you’re not certain even get heard, do you want to learn how to be led by God’s voice into a strategy that impacts your world?
  • Do you believe that God still moves today?
  • Do you struggle to believe that God hears you or cares about the things you pray for?

The first step in successful spiritual warfare is to learn to discern the voice of God from all other voices that would seek to keep our attention. Yes, we have an enemy. And yes, we need to realize that he hides in camouflage so as not to be discovered. But the Light that you have on the inside of you, if you are a child of God, is so much greater than the darkness, that we needn’t spend all of our time in prayer combatting the devil. In fact, Daniel wasn’t combatting the principalities during his three week fast and prayer vigil.  He was seeking the Lord’s face and answers for the condition of his people. Let us be like Daniel, discerning the times, bringing our concerns to God in faith that He is able to make a difference and then let God and his angelic host do the part we cannot do. Ask God today to give you heart to see His Kingdom come and His will be done on the earth. That’s a big prayer…and we serve a big God who told us to pray that way!

I encourage you to read Daniel chapter 10 and then use my prayer of dedication as your own or write a prayer of your own to pray!

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Jesus isn’t Spider Man – He is the Son of Man: So how did he do the miracles he did?

Spider ManWas Jesus like Spider Man?  Was He human one minute, changing into a superhero the next?? I used to struggle silently with these questions because it made no sense to me how Jesus could operate at such a miraculous level.  It seemed to me as though God gave Jesus an unfair advantage during his life on earth that I don’t have. I mean, how can I be expected to live like Jesus? I’m not the Son of God, right??

But here’s the truth that I have been wrapping my brain around for last number of years: Yes, Jesus is referred to as the Son of God, but his favorite moniker was Son of Man.

Jesus was fully human every minute of his earthly life, whether laughing and walking with his disciples, or walking on water, or making a mud pack for a blind man’s eyes curing his blindness. He did everything as a man.  It’s a mystery to me how He could do this; but somehow He left his glory with the Father and took on human flesh. He chose to have to live as we do, reliant on the voice of the Holy Spirit to relay the will of the Father and empower Him for miracles.

As a result of that choice, we now have an example of what God’s glory shining in and through a person completely surrendered to Him looks like.

Just because it’s hard to imagine how he could live a perfect life as a man like us doesn’t make it untrue. Just because you’ve never walked on water doesn’t mean that Jesus used cheater powers to do that.  If Jesus did the miracles that he did using a power that we don’t have access to, then we could be impressed but unchanged and un-challenged.  But knowing that he completely shed his former glory while living as one of us on the earth, makes us accountable and challenged by the life he lived.

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