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Living Life Or A Fly On The Wall?

Living Life Or A Fly On The Wall? — A great blog entry by my Twitter friend Tirani; check her out at A Cup of Cheer.  Reading her thoughts quickened my heart and soul; living a fulfilling life is one of the items on my vision board.

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Should You Choose To Accept Your Assignment….. (Day 29)

I’m a James Bond movie fan, particularly those with Sean Connery and Roger Moore.  They played the role to a T.  Pierce Brosnan was pretty good as 007, too.

As I read this latest chapter in The Purpose Driven Life, I thought about Mr. Bond.  We each have assignments that God has called us to fulfill in our lifetime.  Like the assignments given him in over 20 movies, we too have the choice to accept the assignment of engaging in the full-time ministry of adding life to those around us. 

God placed us here to contribute the gifts, abilities and talents He’s given us to give to the world.  We’re blessed to be a blessing, and saved and called to serve God.

In classic James Bond fashion, ‘M’ gives him the details of the assignment.  The Bible does, too:

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you.  Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.”  (Jeremiah 1:5, NCV)

“It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work, not because we deserved it but because that was his plan.” (II Timothy 1:9,LB)

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27, NLT)

“If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it.  Only those who throw away their lives for my skae and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.” (Mark 8:35, LB)

As we fulfill these assignments of service, we’re also preparing for eternity.  Each time we use our God-given abilities, we’re fulfilling our calling, whether we’re singing in the choir or cooking a meal for a bereaved family.  Like ‘Q’ and his team of scientists, they too were a part of fulfilling 007’s assignment.  Every ministry matters because they’re inter-connected.  (I Corinthians 12, NIV) 

Just as the ministries are connected, so are our spiritual muscles.  They must be worked out daily in order for them to grow and be strengthened.  When we don’t, spiritual atrophy sets in, hindering us from true blessing and true life significance.  We shine when we’re helping others.

Go ahead, make a difference in the world around you.  Should you choose to accept your assignment, allow God to work it out.

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What Caught My Eye On Twitter…..

@hartramsey IN the WORLD but not OF it brings victory. OF the WORD but not IN it brings defeat. #ReadYourBibleHearGodSpeak

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Temptation Helps Us To Do Good (Day 26)

We tend to think of temptation as something bad or immoral, when in all actuality temptation is anything that deters us from doing what’s right, no matter how small or big it is.  And the funny thing is we think temptation is around us, when in fact, it’s in us.  Desire, followed by doubt, deception and disobedience, are the four components that take our thoughts and desires to full blown temptation.

However, I recently learned that it’s not a sin to be tempted.  You’re probably looking at this like “What’s this chick talking about?!”  Here’s the thing: the sin lies when we’ve made the choice to act on what’s tempting us, which ends up throwing us into personal seas of guilt, self-blame and degradation.  This chapter encourages us with the fact that every temptation we face gives us the opportunity to do good and to become stronger in our faith journey.

Each temptation we face is a stepping-stone for us to choose to do the right thing versus the wrong thing.  For example, a person gets fired from a job and everyone believes they know the reason(s) why.  These reasons become rumors, which have an energy all their own.  You can A) come up with your speculation to add to the rumor mill, or B) make the choice to avoid it all together and let the truth come forth.  Most people usually roll with option A to feel important, which tends to add fuel to the proverbial fire in the office.  Yet, God desires for us to choose option B in order for us to develop more like Christ.

In order to develop like Christ, we must understand the fruits of His character, which are described in Galatians 5:22-23: “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  This fruit develops slowly, just as we do. 

With each temptation we face, God develops these fruits by allowing us to experience temptations that enable us to express the opposite of what we would normally do.  Let’s take the fruits of peace and patience and dissect them for a minute. The Lord teaches us how to be patient by placing people in our lives that drive us batty, or lead us to a situation where everything is jagged.  With each instance, any of us would complain, quit or even go off on God.  The Adversary loves it when we’re in this position because we wind up playing the blame game, or go around in circles losing focus on the One who can help us. 

When it’s all said and done, the true purpose for these experiences is to get us to a position where we MUST depend on Him to teach us, help us and ground us successfully.  The way we learn this is to refuse to be intimidated by the temptation, recognize what thing(s) tempt us, and most importantly, ask for God’s help.  He delights when we call upon Him to help us in times of trouble.  The epistle of James reads, “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing.  Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NLT)  Let’s go for that crown, shall we?

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Trouble In My Way, I Have To Cry Sometimes….. (Day 25)

This old-school spiritual reminds me of the subject of this chapter.  Have you ever noticed that we tend to draw closer to the Lord when we’re going something rough?  A tumultuous child, an unexpected medical diagnosis or cutbacks at work can easily set us off course, and we find ourselves asking the ‘why’ questions. 

Every circumstance that happens in our lives is intended to build our character and strengthen our faith in the Lord.  Our troubles have a purpose, and God uses them transform us in our faith journey.  We learn about God in our suffering and in our question-asking that we can’t learn any other way.  Each experience helps us become more like Christ. 

And here’s the interesting part: God orchestrates problems or gives permission to the Adversary for us to experience trouble.   Because He is sovereignly in control, our circumstances are part of His plan for us.  Joseph experienced this when God used him to save his brothers and their families at the end of the book of Genesis, “Even though you intended to harm me, God intended it for good…” (Gen. 50:20a).  And in Romans 8:28-29, the Apostle Paul speaks of this: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.”

In these experiences the way is hazy, and as strange as this is going to sound, we must offer up praises of thanksgiving.  “You don’t know what I’m going through!” I can hear someone say as they read this blog. “Why should I?”  The Word says we’re to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:18, NIV)  We praise our Heavenly Father in the midst of the storm, and if we praise Him in the valley low places, we’ll be praising Him even more in the mountain high moments.  Blessing and thanksgiving help us get through the rough patches.  

Everything that to happens to us is important for the health of our relationship with the Lord.  God’s plan is always the best plan, and we must remember this fact in the midst of life’s storms.

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Ouch, That Hurts! (Day 24)

The truth hurts.  It cuts, it stings, and it’s relentless.  Being transformed by the truth is a heavy-duty process, and yet, it’s ever so needed for us to grow and progress.  I’m cringing as I write this blog because since finishing the chapter yesterday, I’ve been on a mini-emotional rollercoaster.bandages ...

You see, there are things I’ve been through, some beyond my control and some not.  I believe God used this chapter and a prayer I whispered late last week to help me begin unpacking experiences, unearthing suppressed feelings and purging unhealthy mindsets.  Part of the sanctification process is the revelation of who we really are, which also includes reaffirming the security of knowing whose we are.  When God speaks to us through His Spirit, things must change in order to fulfill His purpose, no matter how uncomfortable it is or how it makes us say “Really, Lord?!”

Despite me wanting to wiggle out of these moments, the truth is.  I know that sounds a tad bit weird, but hear me out.  The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to aid us with our transformation.  After all, if we’re to develop the mind of Christ, we need His Word to be filled, right?  It’s our bread, our sustenance, the source of our maturity. 

Though I may be slender as a rail, I still enjoy a good meal.  It must be filling and satisfying to my pallet.  That’s how the Lord wants us to feel about the Bible.  The Apostle Peter said of this: “Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (I Peter 2:2, NIV)  It’s not enough to simply read the Word; we MUST become doers of the Word also.  The Word is the truth God wants us to live by.  We must abide in it, accept it, be receptive to it and apply its principles.

Right now God is blessing me with the courage to unpack my baggage, review each piece and talk about it.  Certain scriptures come to me in relation to some of the items, and the revelations are nothing but short of amazing!  What is God telling you to do or showing you in a vision?  Have you taken the first step?  Take the time to pray, allow the Holy Spirit to lead the way and be absolutely blown away.

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Grow Up Already! (Day 23)

Spiritual growth is what we go through as God’s children.  The Word tells us that “God wants us to grow up…like Christ in everything,” (Ephesians 4:15a, Msg) and “We are not meant to remain as children.” (Ephesians 4:14a, Ph).  Sounds like a harsh command, doesn’t it?  Let’s reflect on it for a moment…..

Our Father’s goal is for us to mature and develop like Christ.  There are many people who stay stuck in proverbial diapers, sucking on bottles and eating baby food.  Sure, they grow older, but never mature to solid food – the Word.  They don’t take the time to develop a relationship with God and know not what their divinely appointed purpose is.  They have no intention of growing, and frankly don’t want to.  They’re content with being spiritual babes.  However, just like in life babies grow up to become toddlers and so on, we do the same thing in our faith journeys.  It takes us making the commitment to become disciples to begin our growth process.

Discipleship is a two-way street, though.  We must be ready to shed old thoughts and routines in order to develop new habits and ways of living.  We work out our faith as God works in us.  Spiritual growth is a collaborative effort between us and the Holy Spirit.  We must be open in mind, heart and soul to engage in this metamorphosis, gradually growing in grace and character. 

Again, let’s not get tripped up about who we are as Christians.  Being a Christian is about relationship and lifestyle, not religion and rigidity.  It’s not about how much scripture you have in you, but rather, what and how you apply scripture to your life and actions.  It’s far more than following the rules, rather, how we conduct ourselves in all arenas of life.  Let’s keep moving toward spiritual maturity daily: “let God tranform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.  Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” (Romans 12:2b, TEV)

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Keep Your Peeps Covered! (Day 21)

“Unity is the soul of fellowship.” ~~ Pastor Rick Warren

It’s our responsibility to cultivate unity and to protect it, or as the youngsters say, we gotta look out for our peeps!  It’s the core of how God wants to experience Him together, and we are commissioned by Jesus Christ to do our best to promote harmony and protect the fellowship by “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

We effectively do this by:

  • Focusing on our commonalities, embracing our differences.  “Let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another’s character.” (Romans 14:19)
  • Having realistic expectations.  There’s no such thing as a perfect church, and if there were, none of us would be accepted into it!  God has a lot to teach us in our fellowship as well as our failures.  The question is do we run at the first sign of disappointment?  Do we do that in other areas of our lives?  Realistic expectations help us to mature in our faith walk.
  • Making the choice to encourage rather than tear down.  It’s easier to speak ill of someone rather than find the redeeming qualities about them.  This rule of thumb also takes place in our churches.  One negative word about somebody is typically spread to at least nine people, whereas a kind word goes as far as 1-2 people.  I don’t know about you, but this seems a little backwards to me.  Speak life, for “the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18, NIV)
  • Leaving gossip alone!  When we take the time to listen to it, we’re just as guilty as the person spewing it.  Have the courage to say, “You know what, this person isn’t here to defend themselves.  Leave them alone.”  Watch what happens.
  • Practicing God’s ways for resolving conflicts.  The Word says it’s a three-step process: “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him – work it out between the two of you.  If he listens, you’ve made a friend.  If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again.  If he still won’t listen, tell the church.” (Matthew 18:15-17a, Msg.)  More times than not, we take matters into our own hands, and most times all hell breaks loose. We must include God’s wisdom, as He has the answers we need to resolve the issue. 
  • Undergurding our pastors and leaders in prayer and support.  We’re the people who lead the charge God commanded us.  As an elder, I take seriously the role I have at my church, from sponsoring a young baptism candidate to leading communion and everything in between.  And as one of the youngest elders on the board, I look to my ministerial staff and seasoned elders for guidance and leadership, and the way they set the temperature of the congregation overall.

A unified church family is a blessed church family.  Like the television show Cheers, the church becomes a place where everyone wants to belong to and where everybody knows your name.  The next time you’re at church, take the time to check the atmosphere.  If it’s not so favorable, be the change agent.

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Building Community and Camaraderie (Day 19)

When we experience friendship and fellowship, community and camaderie are the key components.  It’s cultivated with the choices we make in who we trust, coupled with God’s power.  The Apostle Paul said, “You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way.” (Ephesians 4:3, NCV). 

However, some of us grew up in relationships that weren’t always fruitful or peaceful, and it’s tough to develop real relationships without looking over our shoulders.  It’s when we become new creatures in Christ that He teaches us how to engage in true fellowship.  The way we do this is: 

  • Cultivate honesty – it’s ok to “keep things real” when we have a safe place to express ourselves.
  • Be humble – have a humble attitude, think more about others than ourselves.
  • Be courteous – respect our differences, be considerate of other’s feelings and be patient with those who bug and irritate us (a tough one, I know!).
  • Develop confidentiality – build trust with each other, protect each other’s privacy, eliminate gossip.
  • Invest time, frequency – relationships take time, so develop fruitful and positive habits of investing time in others.  

These components take a huge leap of faith, yet the benefits will always outweigh the risk.  “We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us.  That means we must give our lives for other believers.” (I John 3:16, GWT)

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What caught my eye on Twitter…..

@PastorYPJ Faith is the ability to say “Okay” to God & do what He says even when you’re not “Okay” with what He’s saying.

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