Point of View

I was listening to Matthew 16 on the drive to work:

21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Here was Jesus telling his disciples that He was about to walk into one of the most trying yet necessary times of His purpose on earth.  And Peter tries to tell Jesus  in so many words, “No that can’t happen.”

The nerve.  Who does this guy think He is?   Does He know who he is talking too?  That was my thought. Condemnation of Peter, a man of God.  Jesus’ disciple.  A man who eventually reached more people than I could possibly consider.

Judgement, I admit it is one of my worst traits.  I felt a quick, yet familiar check in my spirit.  “How can you judge Him?  You do it too,  Jackie.”  The still, quiet voice that frequently challenges me.  “You often try to stop My purpose too.”

Ouch!matt1623

I rode the rest of the way contemplating the thought.

How many times have I heard that same still small voice tell me to do something and chose not to?

How many times have I felt the need to step out and froze instead?

How many times have I spoken discouragement over someone else’s purpose being a dangerous trap?

It is so easy to pass judgement knowing the full story. God reminded me just as He was writing Peter’s story at the time, He is still writing mine today.  He is also writing the story of those I come in contact.  I have the ability to see things from an eternal perspective instead of just looking merely from the human point of view.  I have the ability to speak life. I have the ability to be obedient.  I have to take my eyes off the circumstances surrounding me and ask for God’s point of view.

 

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Testing will cost

Fulfilling my purpose
Requires testing.
Testing will cost
something.
Jesus’ purpose
cost Him,
His life

Testing isn’t meant
to destroy me,
but to make me
more dependent
On God.

God is asking
For my surrendered life.
Testing will cost me,
laying down
my fleshly desires,
my pride,
my insecurities,
my selfishness,
my judgmental and critical attitudes,
And comparison.

My purpose will cost me.

Jesus saw the reward
before Him and
counted His testing as joy.

I must stay focused
on the reward.
I must stay focused
As I’m tested,
And pruned,
And tried by fire.
I need to look
at my determined purpose
to know Him more.

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Preparing for Temptation

Temptation.  We all face it, so how do we prepare for it?

Ephesians 6:16-18 (CJB) Always carry the shield of trust, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.  And take the helmet of deliverance; along with the sword given by the Spirit, that is, the Word of God;  as you pray at all times, with all kinds of prayers and requests, in the Spirit, vigilantly and persistently, for all God’s people.

In most English versions, this verse says the shield of faith.  In the Complete Jewish Bible it is translated trust.    We must have the shield of trust.  I am amazed at how that one change in word impacted my view of temptation.

Trust in God is the shield we use to put out the fire in the attacks of the enemy. I can’t stop attacks from coming, but trust in God can be a shield to dull the  impact.  If I believe what the Word of God  says I will act on it in faith or trust in Him. Obedience to God will impact the arrows the enemy shoots our way.

ephesian61618We can’t truly place trust in God until we come to the saving knowledge of Him.  Salvation delivered me from the ultimate trap of the enemy – Hell and separation from God.  When the enemy attacks my mind, it is Salvation that I can hold on to as the ultimate protection.  Regardless what comes against me, my eternity is seal with God.  Satan can’t take that.

The Word of God takes me to deeper levels of understanding of the character and promises of God.  Jesus used the Word of God to combat temptation, how much more do we need it.  The Word is a sword of defense as it shows me who I am and whose I am.  The Word is a sword of offense because it contains the promises of God.  The more time I spend in the Bible, the better I am armed against the enemy.

Talking and listening to God is another way I can grow my trust in God.  Prayer is an important discipline in our lives. The more I talk with Him, the easier it is for me to go to Him in my times of temptation.  The more I listen to Him, the more familiar I become with His voice.  I can trust His voice and discern His voice from the voice of the enemy.

God had equipped us with everything we need to defeat the enemy.  We can place our trust in salvation, the Word of God, and the voice of God.  Greater is He that is within us, than He that is in the world.

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Empathy

At work the other day, our team was discussing giving others grace and mercy.  We didn’t use those words, but that is what it boiled down to.  Some of coworkers are more easily frustrated with the drama that comes from people.  They see the actions or lack of actions and just don’t understand.  We have a lot of discussions to try to help build empathy.

As a Social Worker, empathy is a core skill in being effective with other people.  I might not have walked through what someone else has exactly, but I can stop to think of what it would be like to walk in their shoes.  Then I can better understand why they make some of the decisions they do.  Seeing where they are, I can look for options to get them on the right path.

I believe that deep down people want to be good; they just don’t know how to get past the circumstances they have been dealt or the bad choices they have made.  There are times that I can easily enter into someone else’s world.  Someone shares the details of their life.  For a moment I get a glimpse of just a small part of how they got where they are when they meet me.  When I can do that, my heart usually is filled with compassion.  I meet them where they are; I try to come up with workable solutions for them to choose.sand-181273_1920

There are other times, I am sad to admit, where my empathy is not there.  Sometimes it’s because I am busy and don’t take the time.  Or because the person has a wall up and won’t share on a level that helps me see what their life is really like.  Other times, it is because I have dealt with a person so many times, that I’m just done with their excuses and the lack of effort on their part.  I am less forgiving, and less likely to do more than say “Here is some resources, these would be helpful.” and point to specific ones that might help if they make the needed effort.

I am so grateful that Jesus understands our weakness.  God knew that we would need His mercy and His grace.  Jesus faced temptation,  so that He could empathize with us.  He literally came down from heaven and put Himself in our shoes.  Unlike me, He is never too busy.  He makes every effort to help tear down the walls that separate us.  He doesn’t weary of  excuses or lack of effort.

Jesus faced temptation that He overcame so He could empathize with us.  He has been where we are.  But not only does He give empathy,  because He has been where we are, we can boldly go to God to receive His grace and mercy.  Jesus is there interceding on our behalf.  Not just saving grace – but grace when we need it most.  Grace, not only favor and honor but grace to live the life He called me to live.  Not just the compassionate part of mercy, but the pardoning of all my sins.  Praise be to God for empathy!

 

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O Christmas Tree

The ornaments are packed away.

The lights are taken down.

The tree placed back in the box, awaiting a trip to the attic.  prague-1339185_1920

Yet tonight, visions of a Christmas tree ran through my head.

The tree was perfect and full, tall and stately.  The evergreen needles full of color.  I watched as clear white lights were draped  around the tree faultlessly.

Then suddenly the picture perfect tree was decorated with broken glass bulbs.  The jagged edges cut through the elegance of the picture.

I paused for a moment trying to take it all in.

I know that the Christmas Tree represents God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Everything about Him is perfect.

The lights represent Christians – we are the light of the world.  God has us perfectly placed where He wants us for His purpose, even when we can’t see what that purpose is.

But the bulbs, why would they be broken?  They tarnished the picture.  The world around us is lost and broken.  They are part of His picture, even if I don’t take time to make them part of mine.

I was part of that world too once.  I was one of those broken bulbs.christmas-ornament-207334_1920

As I came to that realization, I was taken back to the tree.  As light hit the broken bulbs, a clear glass coating completed the ornament and made them whole.  They started to reflect the light as if the light was inside of them also.

O Christmas Tree, how beautiful with the bulbs reflecting the light.

I was reminded that is what I am called to do.  I am connected to God.  I am a light to the world.  He has perfectly placed me where He has plans for me to be.  When I share what God has done in me, I am able to give hope to those I come in contact.  As they internalize the hope I have in Christ, they also become whole and start reflecting the same. The finished God-product of every broken person is  healing, wholeness, and reflecting Him.

 

 

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Bad Company

When I was a young adult in college, I rented a home with an apartment on the backside.  It was my first experience with roaches.    The roaches didn’t live with us.  I wouldn’t see them all day or if we were home and up late at night.  One night I discovered they visited  when I woke up in the middle of the night turned the kitchen light on;  they would scattered out of sight.  It didn’t matter how clean I kept my house, sometimes the  bugs would get into my house.

After a few screams and calls to the landlord I found out that the back apartment had roaches.  As a single male, he might not have cared; I did.  If I wasn’t diligent when I saw them, my neighbors problem could quickly become my problem.  I remember when I finally moved, we loaded all the stuff in the U-Haul,  and set off two bombs in the truck and let it sit just to make sure we didn’t take any of the “visitors” into the new place.  Over the next twenty years, I quickly learned when a neighbor had bugs and when their apartment or close by house would get treated.  To this day, roaches still freak me out.

I am not sure what got me thinking about this the other night, but I thought about how it applies to my spiritual life as well.    I work with people in difficult circumstances and there are times that I allow other people’s junk to get on me.  I allow their problems to become mine.  Much like my neighbor’s roaches,   I pick up other’s bad attitudes.  If I allow myself to react or worse yet, to join in to the negativity it becomes my problem.

I like to think that I have a positive life stance as John C. Maxwell calls it.  My attitude, assumptions and expectations about myself, others and the world around me generally come from a positive perspective.  As a social worker, it’s called the strength’s perspective and I have always excelled at finding positives in even the most difficult of circumstances.

lost-places-1819466_1920In I Corinthians  15:33 the writer warns that bad company corrupts good character.   I can’t spend all my time around negativity and hope to maintain my positive life stance.

I can not be shocked by the circumstances and attitudes that I come across in dealing with people.  I can however guard myself to not pick up those things and make them my own.  I can receive negativity and not give it back.  I can be surrounded by the darkest of circumstances and not join in to them.

Isolation from the world around us is not the answer.  We are called to be lights. Darkness cannot overcome the light as long as it shines.   Light has to stay plugged in to its source to shine.   I am called to go out into the world.   Its up to me to make sure that I keep my house clean and stay plugged into the Source, so that bad company doesn’t corrupt me.

 

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Ashamed to Glory

Imagine the Gospel without any suffering.

No mention of the sin in the garden.

No mention of the murder of Abel.

No mention of the flood or the tower of  Babel.

No wandering in the wilderness or battles of war for the Israelites.

No mention of the trials and failures of men.

No mention of the suffering of the cross.  ipeter416

I realize that often times this is the gospel I want to portray to the world.  I don’t want to share the testimony of my struggles with sin.  I instead focus on where God has brought me, making the years of struggle into a moment.  I  leave others feeling I have it all together.  Not willing to share that I’m just barely pieced back together by the glue of God’s grace and forgiveness.

I don’t want to share the areas where God has corrected me.  I am more protective of the areas  He is still correcting me.  I don’t want to admit I’m wandering around in the wilderness of disobedience and pride.

I fail to share the trials I am facing as I am walking through.  I don’t share in the valley times.   I only share the testimony of the finished product from the mountaintop.

I don’t share of my failures.  In my pride I stand, suffering alone.  My own insecurities keep me from allowing people in to the pain and  rawness of my failures and suffering.

As a therapist, one of the techniques I teach people is mindfulness – being present in the moment.  Today, God spoke to  me  through this scripture about the mindfulness of being truly present in relationships.  We have to allow others with us in the moment for the true glory of God’s work in our life to be seen.  We don’t need to be ashamed of where we are – unless in disobedience and pride we choose to stay there.  However, for people to truly see God’s hand in our lives we must allow others to be truly present with us in our Christian walk.

Jesus suffered in His walk.  He knew what it was like to feel alone, betrayed, forsaken.  If our Savior felt these things, it is only natural that we would also experience these times.  Jesus allowed His walk to bring glory to God, and us back to Him.  We must also allow our walk during these times when we want to hide in shame, to bring glory to God and draw others to God.

 

 

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Anticipation

As a child you wait
In grand anticipation
of Christmas morning
the gifts, family, food and fun.

Early morning wake up
Excitement fills the air
As we wait for the time
From being good all year.

Over 2000 years ago
The world waited in anticipation
For the birth of a Savior
A gift for all mankind


But that early morning
With no bed to be found
The Savior was born
With only animals and His parents around.

Today and each day He now waits
With anticipation for us
To accept Him as Lord
And submits to His way.


He wants us to find excitement 
In reading His Word
He wants us to see the value
In talking to Him.

He wants us to wake daily
with anticipation of our time
That we will spend with Him
and the gift that it brings.

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Power and Strength

Isaiah 40:29 contains a powerful statement.  God gives power to the weak.  God gives strength to the powerless.

Power is defined as:
1)the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality
2)the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.

isaiah4029God gives us the ability to do things or act in a way with special faculties or qualities.  God gives us the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviors of others or the course of events.  Today that truth spoke to my very soul.

There is an event in my past that I have allowed to stop me from stepping out into the faculties and qualities that God created me.  On the spiritual side, I know that God has used that experience to draw things out of me that needed to change and to bring me into deeper relationship with Him.  Nothing is ever wasted in God’s kingdom.  Yet, I have allowed that one event to make me weak and keep me from further developing the qualities that are engrained in my very being.  I have allowed it to make me feel,thus rendering me, powerless, even though the qualities are still there.  I have stepped back from my ability to influence others and events.  I have stepped back from the unique way I do and act to bring about the things that God has called me to do.

Strength is defined as:  the quality or state of being strong, in particular

  • physical power and energy:
  • the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult:
  • the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure

I gave up my strength when I gave up my power.  But my powerlessness is a result of my actions and my decisions.  Today I can decide to allow God’s strength to cover my weaknesses.  I can accept His power to flood my insecurities.  God has given me the emotional and mental qualities necessary for dealing with the situations or events that are distressing or difficult.  I just have to receive it.  Today I decide to receive God’s power in my weakness.  Today I decide to receive God’s strength in my powerlessness.

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Stop

Last month my husband bought me a new truck.  Prior to getting it, I had only driven a truck twice, and have driven a small car for the past four years.  It is definitely taking some getting use too in the driving department.  One thing I have really enjoyed about this truck is the dashboard has a digital option for the speedometer.  After just two days of driving, I quickly realized that I rarely come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

The speed limit on the road that leads to my house is 30 miles an hour.   I kind of knew I have always done a rolling stop at stop signs, but I didn’t realize how bad I really am at truly stopping until I started driving the truck.  Saturday when I looked down during my “Stop” at the stop sign, I realized  I typically never get below 10 MPH an hour when I come to a “Stop.”  Even after recognizing it and trying to make a concerted effort to purposefully stop I was still turning at 5 MPH.  It really was eye-opening. speedImagine my surprise on Saturday when God started speaking to me in my “stop.”

God has called us to a day of rest, the Sabbath.  God took one.  The Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus took time to rest.  Yet, in our society today we hardly take time to pause, let alone stop.  We rarely take time to completely stop everything and focus on God or rest.

We live in world that is constantly on the go.  I look at my schedule.  While I re-prioritized my life two and a half years ago, I still  have little margin.  I look at my cellphone and realize I am constantly connected even though I am no longer on call 24/7.  My social media is full of updates and likes, yet my relationships seem superficial.  The things I want to do I have little time for without major planning and even then it sometimes fails.  That is not how God designed me to live.  He didn’t design any of us to live that way.

We are called to live like Jesus did.  Jesus often pulled away to be alone.  If Jesus took time to stop the busyness of life and ministry to get alone, how much more should we?  

  • Sometimes Jesus’ alone was by himself. 

 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns.  Matthew 14:13

After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there aloneMatthew 14:23

  • Other times that alone was with those closest to Him.

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.  Matthew 17:1

  •   Still other times, he went alone with all his disciples. 

Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.  Mark 4:10

There is a Proverbs that states If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you will turn your back on knowledge. Proverbs 19:27  The ten commandments are the Lord’s instructions.  Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus again instructs us to rest.  Rest is defined as cease [stop] work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.  When we ignore God’s instruction to rest, we are turning our back on His knowledge.  He doesn’t want us to pause, God wants up to give ourselves times where we stop everything alone, with those closest to us, and in small groups.

Stopping to rest is a choice that we have to make.  Just as I have a choice at the stop sign to pause and do the rolling stop or to truly come to a legal stop.  I have a choice to do things my way and run on empty trying to pack more into my busy schedule.  Or I can choose to live God’s way and honor His day of rest and allow that time to recharge myself in Him, to connect with a few close people, or to use it to connect with a small group.  I think I will choose to stop!

 

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