Thursday, September 24, 2009

not the end

"Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit."
Matthew 27:50 (NLT)

I opened my Bible today and this seemingly simple verse leapt off the page at me. The verses leading up to this paint a desperate picture. For three hours darkness covered the land.

"At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?' which means 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" (v. 46)

Matthew then goes on to recall that bystanders misunderstood and thought that Jesus was calling for Elijah. As if He hadn't been mocked enough, they jeered that maybe Elijah would save Him, because, it clearly didn't appear like His own Father would.

Sometimes that's where I get stuck. I find myself in what feels like a desperate situation and begin to fear that God has abandoned me.

And yet, this story, and my story doesn't end there. Death is not the end.

Those who arrested, tortured, taunted, crucified and killed Jesus did not understand that death was the key to victory. In their eyes, death was the worst thing they could do to this man whom many called the Messiah.

When Jesus' flesh died, He "released His spirit." It didn't end there!

This world is all about the flesh. God's Kingdom is all about the spirit.

It is absolutely impossible to kill the spirit. While our bodies will one day cease working, as Jesus' did, our spirits will not. The power of life, and love, continue on.

Many of us fear death, and yet, in truth, death should be pursued, not run from. Whether it be dying to our flesh, or, dying in our flesh and releasing our spirits to God in Heaven. Both result in new life. Both result in victory.

"Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5—7

When my mind finally allows me to grasp this simple, yet powerful truth, I realize how ridiculous it is for me to fear and battle against the one thing that will truly free me—death.

Ah, this journey of faith continues to amaze me, challenge me and excite me.

Friend, I pray that even on the worst of days you are able to catch a glimpse of His glory. And, may you know without a shadow of a doubt how very, very much He loves you.

I am so thankful that death is not the end, it's the reason I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Rejoicing in His goodness,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the 3rd Commandment

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name."
Exodus 20:7 (NLT)

The other day, God revealed to me an area of compromise in my life. My heart was grieved when I was finally able to view the choices I've made in my life truthfully against God's Word.

You see, aside from when I was an ignorant teenager, I have chosen not to take the Lord's name (any of them) in vain. In my mind, I have been keeping the Third Commandment.

And then I heard about a family who chose to limit their media choices with criteria that really challenged my own. Any time they heard the Lord's name used in vain, even once, they turned off the T.V.

I'll admit that lately T.V. has left me feeling slimed. If I am able to find a show that fits my personal guidelines, I still end up being slimed by the commercials that blare into my home during the breaks.

It's impossible to forget images that our eyes have seen. And the words spoken? Well, once they are spoken and heard, the damage is done.

But—I like to be entertained. I enjoy good movies and admit to following several popular T.V. series.

Which brings me back to the Third Commandment. Why is it that I'm easily offended when a show or movie uses the really bad words, but the Lord's name can be used as a swear word over and over, and I am able to ignore it?

As I thought about the other family's choice to turn off the program, I felt really uncomfortable.

"Sure, that's fine for them. Wow, they must be really strong people.

But what if it was a good story? What if that was the only thing "wrong" with the show?"

And then God allowed me to see the reality of my choice through a different perspective. What if, instead of using the Lord's name, the person spoke a hateful word against one of my loved ones? Would I let it go and keep watching? Absolutely not.

So, backing up to the First Commandment. God is to be first and foremost in my life. So, in reality, I've been breaking two Commandments—all the while thinking I at least had those two covered. Ouch.

God had my attention, but my flesh still wasn't convinced. I countered with, "Well, the person is an actor and the story isn't real." (Gulp. Yes, those were my thoughts. Ah, God is ever-so-patient with me!)

Yes, but behind every story is a writer, correct? That person, along with the actor that spoke the word, chose to break one of the Lord's commands.

If I were talking to a person in real life and they were spewing out words of hatred against the Lord, whom I love, would I continue to listen? Absolutely not. So, because it's entertainment, that makes it alright? (Did I already say, "ouch?")

Just in case I didn't get the point, God allowed me to be tested in this very area. Last night, I was watching a DVD with one of my favorite female actors. I had seen the preview several times and it looked like a fun story.

A third of the way through the story, she had taken both God's name and Jesus' name in vain. My heart hurt. I watched awhile longer and then realized that I wasn't enjoying the movie. After I stopped the movie, I realized that once she broke the Third Commandment, my spirit began to convict me. What once would have been a difficult choice became quite obvious to me.

As I shared recently, I've been asking God to make me holy. The only way for that to happen is for me to stop compromising, stop allowing my mind to be filled with things unholy and start allowing God to guide my choices. Both big and small.

One of the things that has helped me to choose the narrow path in my daily choices is the reality of Heaven. I now understand that this life is just the beginning and Heaven will be above and beyond my greatest expectations.

Please don't think I have all the answers or live a sinless life. The reality is that I sin countless times every day (hour!) In fact, before I turned off the DVD, I got frustrated with my kids for interrupting my night off—and my husband for not hearing their interruptions. I kept trying to "enjoy" my movie and found God knocking on my heart. He didn't stop until I put aside my own feelings and apologized to all four of them. Sigh.

It's a process for all of us. I'm still learning, and, truthfully, my mistakes still far outweigh my victories. The only thing that matters is that we don't give up and that we remember that it is only through God's power that we are changed and transformed.

May God give us both the ability to persevere through seasons of growing and change—trusting that a season of rest and rejoicing is always around the corner.

Be blessed, my Friend, and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for His grace,

Monday, September 21, 2009

reflecting

" As a face is reflected in water,
so the heart reflects the real person."
Proverbs 27:19 (NLT)

The lessons continue. Geoff and I have been listening to more of Mark Hamby's "Life Changing Seminars." We are learning so much and feeling challenged, inspired and reflective.

Tonight I heard Geoff pull into the garage after work at 5:50. At 6:00, he still hadn't come into the house. Sure enough, he was sitting in his car listening to the ending of one of Mark's teachings. I had to laugh, because I've done the very same thing.

If you haven't listened to Mark's teachings yet, I highly encourage you to do so. All I can say is—you'll laugh—you'll cry—you'll be forever changed for the better.

Mark teaches from a transformed life. God is using him powerfully in the lives of families—especially mine.




One of the foundations of his teachings is that successful relationships are found in following the example of Jesus.

Christ came to Earth not to be served, but to serve. He came not to take lives, but to give His life. He came not to judge, but forgive.

As I learn to surrender my need for control, God has been slowing down my days. He's allowing me to recognize individual moments where I can make new choices. One of the biggest choices I can make is between focusing on my children's responsibilities—or—focusing on my relationship with them.

I can battle with my children over things they forget to do—or—I can choose instead to bless them by doing it for them.

Talk about turning the current parenting trend upside-down!

This new way of parenting definitely challenges me to the core. However, after only a week of trying it out, I am finding that my kids are happier and more peaceful. And, just as important—so am I.

I had no idea how much control was rooted in fear and pride. But I'm learning, and, am once again thankful for God's grace and patience.

Friend, when God begins a deep work within our hearts, there's no need to be afraid. He never expects us to do it on our own. He will always give us the necessary tools, wisdom and guidance we need along the way.

And, He will give us countless opportunities to try again when we make mistakes. Don't give up and don't stop believing in Him. He will see you through!

May we both continue LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Reflecting on His love,