Born Again

“And the vessel that he had made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.”
Jeremiah 18:4

We are far from perfect—nor can we make ourselves to be—but we can choose to allow God to reform us into something beautiful. It requires letting Him hold us in His hands and allowing Him to reshape our lives, many times quite drastically.

“No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine in old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:16-17

I think we often try to hold onto parts of our old lives that are hard to let go rather than fully surrendering to God, and this quickly creates a problem. As long as we are holding onto our old bodies—our old ways, traditions, lifestyle, selfish desires, and such—we are naturally going to be rejecting God without even meaning to. We aren’t going to be ready to receive His Spirit and His blood upon us to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We won’t have His desires within us. We won’t be fully equipped to share the gospel as long as we are like this.

I might as well say it: it’s not easy—not if we’re doing this 100%. It takes a continuous surrendering, but it is worth it. Let’s allow God to fully renew our bodies so that He can fill us to overflowing with His Holy Spirit, His desires, His strength, His love, His wisdom, His peace, His joy, and so much more.

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Make The Most Of It

There are many things we have no control over, but it is still up to us how we accept those things and react to them.

What got me to thinking about this was a few weeks ago at a doctor’s office for a pre-op appointment. While in the waiting room I noticed that literally everyone there was doing something on their phone. I have an iPhone myself, and there have been many times I’ve been waiting doing who-knows-what on my phone, but when I noticed this I didn’t like what I saw, and soon decided I wanted to do something about it.

I didn’t particularly want to be in a doctor’s office waiting room–who would? But I’ve been realizing something: no matter what our situation is, we should be seeing it as an opportunity.

Despite the fact that it seemed like there wasn’t anything else to do, I put away my phone. Before long I was able to strike up a conversation with someone. Nothing of great significance, but still–it was a conversation. Though I didn’t have the chance to share the gospel in the short time we were talking, it was enough time to communicate to the person that they are noticed and respected; a person can look at them and smile.

Small things like this can mean a lot more to someone than we might think—and I’m saying this from experience. I distinctly remember the few conversations others have started with me throughout the years. People who didn’t know me that came over and gave a compliment or just started talking about something completely random in such a kind way. They’ve been very uplifting and encouraging—I don’t easily forget them.

There have been many times where I was not feeling well and let that get the better of me by being impatient or unkind. I have no control over not feeling well, but I can choose how to react. No matter what our circumstances or what we own, we are capable of impacting others in a good way or a bad way. It is our choice.

It’s easy to let opportunities slip by while being distracted, or we can simply be unwilling to step out and do something for the benefit of others. This is a selfish way of living, and whether we realize it or not, living selfishly is not healthy for us as an individual.

So let’s make the most of whatever our situation is, and make a difference in someone else’s life for the better.

What is your “focus”?

As I believe I have mentioned in a few previous posts, I will soon be getting brain surgery. (July 26th to be exact…prayers appreciated!) We are hoping to find the “focus” of where my seizures are starting from and remove it to stop seizures.

So, trying to learn something from this, I was thinking how everybody is different. Not everyone has epilepsy. Not everyone who has epilepsy has a “focus”–a part of the brain that if removed can prevent seizures.

It reminded me of how everybody is different and what may be a problem for one may not be for another. For example, some things may be fine or even good for one, while for another that same thing may cause them to fall into sin, lead them away from Christ, or both.

We all sin. No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t be perfect. However, we can and should run from sin and towards Christ. Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t inherently bad, but are unhealthy or even toxic for us as an individual.

With my surgery/hospital stay, most of the time will be spent carefully analyzing seizures to find where exactly they’re starting—the surgery itself will only be a small fraction of the hospital stay. Similarly, where our problems are coming from can be quite a precarious task, and often times harder than actually taking care of the problem itself, but it is quite critical that we are doing this.

Many times we look for a quick fix–try taking out one thing, that doesn’t work, try something else, etc.–and that can easily make things even more complicated. One thing we can be sure of, and that’s that God knows exactly what our problems are. So guess who we need to go to if we want to find the root of our problems? Yep. You guessed it. God doesn’t hide these things from us, but if we’re not careful, our natural human tendency is to ask with our hands over our ears because we’re not so sure we’re going to like the answer.

Something I want to be sure to communicate is that no one is a perfect listener. It’s something that we can mature in, but as long as we are in our earthly bodies we aren’t going to have perfect ears. There’s been more times than one where I thought there was something I needed taken out of my life that I later realized I was wrong. But that’s ok. It is better to risk being overly-careful than being neglectful.

So, we need to take our hands off our ears and listen. Is there something that perhaps may be having a negative impact on your life that God may be asking you to take away, either for a time or permanently?

Is Christianity Decreasing?

As I’ve heard more and more of the percentage of the American population that claim to be Christians decreasing, it has really got me to wondering how many truly know what Christianity is. Perhaps I am seeing this wrong, but what I am seeing is less people claiming to be Christians who weren’t truly Christians in the first place. Not all, but a huge part of what America considers “Christianity”, has become very shallow and insincere. I think a lot of it is because much of the modern-day church has become very fact-based.

When I look around me and see the amazing detail of the creation of the world and how we can’t make a single blade of grass I wonder how people could even doubt God’s existence. The way so many things function—where if one single detail were off it wouldn’t work at all…can this really be a coincidence?

But I am slowly beginning to see that as I grew up in a Christian home, I had faith in Christ first—before all the details. And that’s where real Christianity starts—with faith.

God didn’t go to the Pharisees and perform a miracle to prove Himself. He went to the sick, the hurting, the hungry…those who were seeking and willing to step out in faith. God then reveals Himself to those who put their faith in Him.

A lot of the Christian church has been trying to prove themselves with facts—but to no avail because many non-believers already have their own “faith”. They already have something they believe, that they’ve grown up being taught and you simply can’t replace faith with facts. There’s nothing wrong with having facts, to be sure. I’ve been very fascinated by the history of the Church and all the details of God’s creation, but it’s not where my faith is based.

There’s something I have to give atheists  credit for, and ironically, it’s their faith. Their strong belief that there is no God. It’s not really something they can prove, but nonetheless, they believe it.

A religion that stands is going to be one that is based on faith. It’s where your heart is set, what no words any man can say will convince you otherwise. Sadly, a lot of Christianity is no longer faith-based. What I’ve been seeing is as there have been so many discoveries and the world has learned new things, a lot of sincere Christians with a faith-based religion mistakenly have been raising up a generation of fact-based religion…which does not stand very long.

And this generation I am speaking of is not our current generation, but previous generations. There was a period in time where many families were growing up saying, “Well, the Bible says it, so it must be true.”, and “good people” keep the Ten Commandments and go to church. This is hardly “faith” that is being passed down, but facts.

I believe the decline of people who claim to be “Christians” is people who never had a faith-based relationship with Christ in the first place. Many grew up in “Christian” homes that literally had no faith…just facts. And then as they grew up, became more independent and were out in the world they were quickly surrounded by a “faith”, but not a faith in Christ…a faith that there is no God.

We need to realize that Christianity takes faith…without it, it won’t stand. Don’t build your life and family on facts, but faith in God and His Word to us. True faith won’t decline, but will grow.

What Faith Can Do

Even if it seems impossible, that’s ok. Even if I have no idea how I’m going to reach the goals before me, that’s ok. Even if I can’t say exactly where I’m going, that’s ok. Because God is great, and He knows. With faith in Him I can reach the impossible, I can go further than I’ve ever dreamed possible, and can achieve things that I hadn’t even thought of achieving. He is my God. He goes before me and knows the way I am to go…nothing can come between me and God.

Facing Our Problems

We’ve all got problems. Who doesn’t? It’s a part of life. Where it becomes a BIG problem is when it’s not taken care of. The roots of the problem grow deeper, and it becomes a lot more to deal with…more than we can deal with on our own.

Identify
Before a problem can be worked out, we have to know that it’s there, and what exactly the problem is. We can usually tell when something isn’t right, though sometimes if we’ve been ignoring it for a long time or have put our hands over our ears to God it becomes as though it isn’t even there. Sometimes it takes some digging to find out what exactly it is, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, God will help us see what needs healed or removed from our lives. Until we find out what it is, we can hardly do anything about it.

God is Bigger
Thankfully, our God is able to handle ANY problem, no matter how big. But in order for that to happen we have to lay it down at His feet and give Him control.

The Roots
Once God reveals to us what it is that needs healing or removed, we need to find the ROOT of the problem—what has caused it, where it is from, and what can be done to prevent it from happening/being there again. Sometimes there are things that we need taken away or something we are used to doing that needs to stop. It’s not always easy to do, but without being willing to remove the root of the problem, the problem will likely grow back.

Healing and Restoration
As children of God, He is our Protector, our Healer, our Guide, and so much more. It is in Him that our trust should be found. No matter how much it may hurt to take away things that need taken away, God is able to heal, restore, and bring things into our lives that are MUCH better. He brings a satisfaction that nothing and no one else can bring.

So let’s not ignore our problems any longer, but rather face up to them allowing God to heal and restore. We’ll be glad we did.

Our Fullest Potential: God’s Will

Everyone is in a different situation, but no matter what country you grew up in, culture, religion, wealthy or poor, there’s something we can all have, and that is potential.

What is your potential? Our potential is often much more than we realize because we’re often determining by our own mind what our potential is, rather than allowing God to do the determining. Without a doubt, God’s will for us is our fullest potential. He has created each of us with unique gifts, knows our every need, our every strength, our every weakness, and how we can best live our lives in a way that glorifies Him and spreads the gospel of His love. So, really, this question falls back on asking God: “What is Your will for my life?”

Asking this question like you mean it is a daring question; accepting the response even more so as it is not always what we want or on our own timeframe. A lot of times we’re going to wish we could have a complete layout of what God’s will is for the rest of our lives—it sometimes seems like it’d be easier that way. But why would we want that? Most likely because it would make us feel like we’re in control and give us confidence in both ourselves and in what we are doing…and that could be a problem. It would lessen our confidence in Christ, faith, patience, trust, reliance on Him, and would very quickly make us feel like we no longer need to stay in constant tune with Him, which would be very dangerous.

There are many reasons—many of which we don’t know—that God doesn’t reveal everything in great detail for the next several decades of our lives. We just need to remember that if we are in close communion with God we will know what we need to know when we need to know it. God knows our fullest potential, and if we are willing to accept it, we can be sure He is going to one-by-one open and close every door as necessary to reach that point.

So, if we are seeking with sincerity God’s will for our life, even when we hardly know what the next day is going to bring we can take each step with confidence in Christ—knowing that we are living our lives to the fullest potential.

A Lasting Strength

Through the crashing waves our Lord speaks;
By the rolling thunder His voice is known.
He calls us out to step in faith,
to follow where He leads.
He reaches down and guides us on to where we’re meant to be.
His Spirit in our hearts is placed;
He makes His presence known.
His love for us can’t be erased;
His magnificence is shown.
Everywhere is seen His mighty hand and a quite intricate art;
A lasting strength that doesn’t fade–it can’t be torn apart.

“Just keep swimming!”

As I’m doing all the learning I can from books, lectures, and studying to hopefully one day be able to help special needs orphans, there are many times it feels like I’m getting nowhere, as there is no fruit to be seen, I have soooo much more to learn, and really, always will.

It’s easy to be discouraged and quit when there is no fruit seen of our efforts. But we shouldn’t be discouraged. What is happening is our roots are becoming stronger and deeper. Our branches are thickening and spreading further, preparing to be able to hold the weight of the fruit. This part of the process of fruit-bearing is so very important to a good, healthy harvest!

It takes determination, motivation, discipline, and many other things to keep going, but if we choose to, we CAN keep going. (And this is where I picture a cheerful Dory saying, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”)

I think we all have different ways/things that help us keep going, and it’s important we find what those things are. Something I’d say we all need is accountability: people that ask us regularly how it’s going, what we’ve been working on, encourage us to keep going, and are caring enough to tell us when we’re slacking or overdoing it. Something that helps me is reminding myself of what in the world I’m preparing for, and what needs are out there that I hope to help with one day.

So, if you don’t have that accountability, get some. If you don’t even know what your goals are, make some, but get the accountability first. Sometimes others can see what we are capable of better than we can see ourselves, can help us set goals, and then help us reach them.

And remember: it’s a process. Sometimes it’s long and hard, but it’s worth it. 

 

 

Is God Our Focus?

What should our life be like if we are keeping our focus on God?

1. Praising Him
You may wonder why I began with praising Him. Well, it is easy to praise God in the rare situations that everything is perfect and things just seem to be falling into place…but what about when we’ve lost a loved one, we feel like we’re failing, or just have no idea what in the world we should be doing? It is these times that it can be the hardest to praise God—but it’s these times where it is most needed, for our own sake.

By praising Him anyway, it helps us remind ourselves of our priceless blessings of eternal life, God’s love, mercy, and grace that are way more than anyone else can give. It helps us shift from regret, fear, anxiety, and sadness, to contentment, faith, peace, and joy.

“My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.”
Psalm 71:23

2. Following Him
Especially since I lost my license, (due to my epilepsy) I can TOTALLY be a backseat driver. I probably don’t have to get into too much detail to say that it’s not typically something that brings good results, and neither does trying to tell God where we need to go. There’s many times I need God to tell me something like, “Will you just let me drive?”

He can see far down the road while we can only see what’s right in front of us. We need to give Him control. If our focus is on God, then He is in front of us doing the steering.

3. Listen, talk, listen, talk…
Obviously, if we are a Christ-follower we need to have good communication with Him, commonly known as prayer. It’s easy to put our communication with God in a box–a certain timeframe of the day only, giving Him no attention the rest of the day. But what kind of relationship is that? He’s always with you, and doesn’t only speak through words.

Watch out for situations where there is someone in front of you in need and listen to see if God is asking you to help that person. When someone gives you encouraging words, don’t only thank them, but thank God who likely was speaking through them. Look for situations where He may do the same through you.

5. Relying on Him
We should be desperately seeking God for help, not placing our trust in the world or ourselves. While He many times helps us through others, we need to understand that it is still from Him. He alone should be our source of strength, wisdom, love, patience, and many other attributes that are critical to living our lives as a true follower.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I started to add a sixth thing on sharing the gospel but then stopped myself as I thought of something. (It’s amazing what you can learn from blogging! 😉) I felt like that would indicate it being something we should take the lead in when it’s not. If we are in constant communication with God, relying on Him, letting Him take the lead with a desire for His will, then His will will come about, including the spreading of the gospel. We need to focus on following Him, and let Him take care of the rest.

(Okay, just curious who noticed I skipped four? 😜)

 

Despite the Clouds

1499576730603Taking trash out after a shower, in my pj’s with wet hair, stepping outside into the dark—beautiful picture, right? 😉 Well, putting that aside, there was something about the cool breeze and the beautiful stars that caught my attention and I was soon sitting on the porch steps stargazing in deep thought.

As my family will soon be moving out-of-state, one of my first thoughts was that it is getting closer to the last times of sitting out on the porch looking at the stars while living in this home, in this town, and in this state. Looking around at the many different constellations, I soon thought of how they never change. When we move and I’m out stargazing again, each star will be the same as before.

I began to think of how God never changes. We go through different chapters of our lives on earth as time passes by, where many things can be drastically different, but still, God is the same as He ever was and always will be. If we allow Him to be our foundation, we can be a part of a house that will never fall and a home where death itself has no effect.

One last thought I want to share, is as when clouds keep us from seeing the stars, when there are things that make it difficult to see God it shouldn’t affect our understanding that God is still there. Despite the clouds, He is ALWAYS there.

Instant Gratification

The desire for instant gratification in this country has grown astronomically over the years. When we want something, we want it NOW…and this doesn’t just apply to physical things such as a car, a house, a movie right when it comes out, or an awesome cell phone upgrade with all the new features. There are other things we desire to have without too much effort such as achievement, respect, honor, healthy relationships, and the fruit or reward of our hard work.

As we’ve become more and more impatient, we’ve been trying to satisfy ourselves with things we can easily access or achieve. We’ve been satisfying ourselves with all the times people accept or send friend requests on Facebook instead of truly bonding with others as Jesus did with His disciples. We choose our occupation based on what pays the best and isn’t too difficult of a goal to reach. We accept what only gives us satisfaction for the moment rather than a lasting memory. We do kind things for others just to make ourselves feel good, though deep down we know we are capable of doing even more.

We need to stop settling for the instant and fight for the authentic. It takes time, discipline, faith, love, grace, trust, and a whole lot more but that’s a part of the journey and it’s worth it.

Don’t give up. Keep pressing on.

 

 

Don’t Lose Hope—But Check It.

Whether it is in our job, our family, our friends, or things we own, it is so easy to put our hope in all the wrong places.

“And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”
Job 19:26

There is a special kind of hope that nothing can take away. This is something I’ve been learning more and more as I’ve lost my job, my car, my license, and am getting closer to surgery. I should still have a positive mind and be thankful for what I have, (like my family who loves me, the roof over my head, and the food on my plate) but not put my hope in those things. We should be able to go through the unthinkable—losing every tangible thing on earth but still not lose hope when it is firmly placed in Christ.

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Deliver me from my transgressions…”
(Psalms 39:7-8a)

So often we forget how we have been saved from eternal death, and not only that, but that we have the gift of eternal life! We take it for granted. It sometimes has little to no effect on how we live our lives.

Why?

Well, as humans, we tend to be very self-minded. We tend to think about the here-and-now, not really taking the future outside the boundaries of time for ourselves or others into consideration.

It is so easy to get distracted. If we want to truly live for Christ we have to continually ask ourselves who and what we are living for, then watch what we are doing and how we are spending our time to see if they go together. Often times they don’t and we simply don’t realize it.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Colossians 3:2

We need to be setting our minds on things above, not on things on earth, or we are bound to be disappointed and discouraged—to lose hope.

“Instead we ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'”
James 4:15

This verse has stuck out to me a lot over the years. There are things I would like to do one day. I love helping children with special needs. I’ve been working towards it and would like to one day be able to do it in some way if the Lord wills. For quite awhile, I was saying, “I hope to do that one day.” (and still catch myself saying that when I’m not giving it much thought) But ultimately, I’ve learned I need to hope for what God wants. I’ve learned what I think is best isn’t always what is best.

This has caused me (in a good way, I think) to refocus; to not only try to set goals that will glorify God and reflect Him in my life, but doing it with the mindset that if the Lord wills, it will happen. Knowing that if somehow it doesn’t happen, then it simply wasn’t God’s will for my life.

So, my point is: Though hard it may sometimes be, we need to be thanking Him for what He blesses us with and accepting what is taken away. We need to continue to strive to honor God with our hope in Him, knowing that no matter what happens, He loves us, He is with us, and we have eternity with Him.

This is a hope that will never be let down and cannot be broken.

——————–

“My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.”

God’s Love

PicsArt_1365227845523

We cannot have love if we don’t know the Creator,
We cannot share love without its Initiator.

Love cannot stay where hate still resides,
We cannot be filled without the One who provides.

Its very existence is unstoppable,
Without God we are incapable.

Love is something that can’t be substituted,
It is where our lives should always be rooted.

Don’t Fight God

“But…but…why? What about…?”

It’s easy to find ourselves questioning God—what He allows, His motives, and what He desires for us. But we can’t see the big picture. We aren’t outside the boundaries of time. There is a lot we simply don’t know, can’t see, and there’s a good chance we never will see.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with asking questions. What’s easy to miss is that continuously questioning God is fighting Him. Where it becomes a problem is when we don’t receive an answer right away or don’t like the answer, and then refuse to accept it.

Not fighting God doesn’t mean giving up.

One of the most challenging, brave things to do is trust when we don’t understand. We need to choose our battle. There is plenty out in the world to fight against, and it’s very dangerous when what we’re fighting is ourselves or God. When we do that, what we are doing is allowing Satan to control our lives. (Who else would better want us to fight God?)

We need to remember who we are fighting and how. God is our King, but if all we are doing is questioning Him we aren’t allowing Him to reign. He is our Defender, but if we are defending ourselves against Him we are not allowing Him to defend us. He is our Guide, but if we are trying to guide Him we certainly aren’t allowing Him to guide us.

Let’s turn around, face our real enemy, and allow God to be our Victor.