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SHAPE Me, Lord…..(Days 30 and 31)

 

“We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  ~~ Isaiah 64:8

Before God created us, He gave each of us an assignment, a specific and unique ministry He wants us to perform.   He also planned every day of our lives to bolster His shaping process, meaning that nothing in our lives is insignificant.  After all, we’re “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14b, NIV)

Since God made us so wonderfully,  He also made sure to incorporate a combination of factors within us, identified by Pastor Rick Warren with the acrostic SHAPE:

  • Spiritual gifts
  • Heart
  • Abilities
  • Personality
  • Experience

We’ve been given a number of spiritual gifts, ranging from leadership to hospitality to encouragement and many others in between.  These gifts are to be discovered, developed and used for the benefits of others: “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (I Corinthians 12:7, NLT).  

How do you know you have a spiritual gift?  Look at what holds your interest, what you’re enthusiastic about and what comes naturally to you.

Along with our spiritual gifts comes the ability to listen to our hearts.  Our hearts hold our desires, hopes, dreams, affections and interests, and is the source of our motivations.  Our hearts reveal who we are, and sets the course for what we say, feel and act.  It helps us understand why and how we’re shaped for service.  We have to pay attention to those inner nudgings to help point us in the direction of our ministry.  It’s what makes you you; it’s those natural talents that we’re born with. 

Once we realize what they are , we’re able to apply them to the ministries they relate best to.  Me, I have the natural ability to write, sing and dance.  I use the writing skills with my blog, poetry, etc.  I enjoy singing, though sometimes I’m scared to sing.  And movement have become my passion these days, particularly with our new dance ministry at church.  Each of these abilities and the others I posess fuel one another, shaping me to become ‘my utmost for His Highest’ (the late Oswald Chambers).

In order to become our utmost for His Highest, we must realize that our natural abilities are as important and as spiritual as our spiritual gifts. The difference between the two is that the natural abilities are given to us at birth, and part of the responsibility of our churches is to help cultivate and set free these abilities for serving God.  Every ability we possess can be used by Him.  What we’re able to do, God gives us the tools to do them.

Personality is another tool used to shape our assignments.  I’m not like you, and you’re not like me, and it’s great that God made us that way.  Variety is the spice of life, and this adage is no different in the lives of His children.  He made us introverts and extroverts, thinkers and feelers, fuddy-duddies and the life of the party.  Our gifts and abilities must be in relation to our personalities as well.  We introverts don’t function well in situations that take us out of our element, and vice versa.  It totally creates tension, raises the temperment and throws us off kilter.  Never mimic another person’s ministry if you know that what they do is out of your realm. Do you.

Our experiences are also a huge catalyst in being shaped and used by the Lord, particularly our painful experiences.  These undergurd us for the specific ministries we’re naturally inclined to participate with.  And, here’s the kicker: we must be willing to share them with each other.  It’s hard to minister to another person if we’re masking the pain of losing a loved one or holding a secret.  This is tough for many of us.  I’m shuddering at the thought!  Yet, with God his strength is made perfect in weakness, giving us the strength we need to share how His grace helped us. (I Cor. 12:9, NSRV)

As you reflect on this blog entry, ask yourself this question: how can my SHAPE help my church, my family and the world around me?  Then, think on this: “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you do with yourself is your gift to God.” (Danish Proverb)

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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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I Want It Right Now!!! (Day 28)

“Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.” (Ecclesiates 3:1, CEV)

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that I’m a three-year old trapped in a 43-year old’s body.  I feel as if God has me on the verge of something big, something beyond my wildest dreams.  Yet, I can’t see the forest from the trees, and my frustration levels are through the roof.

The chapter speaks to this, and the first words I read last night were, “there are no shortcuts to maturity.”  Why not?  I want my blessings, my growth and my joy RIGHT NOW!  God in His infinite wisdom and love made it so that our spiritual growth happens gradually, similar to how a newborn baby or a newly-planted sycamore tree grows.  We worry about how fast we grow when the Lord is concerned about how strong we grow as His disciples.  The Word tells us that “Our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.” (II Corinthians 3:18b, Msg)

We still haven’t answer the million dollar question: why does our growth take so darn long?  Pastor Rick Warren pinpoints several reasons:

We’re slow learners.  We have a tendency to keep bumping into the same tired habits that hinder us, the sins that trap us and the same problems that recur.  God in His patience teaches us lessons that many times have to be repeated as many times as possible until that “A-ha” moment happens.

We’ve got a lot to unlearn and a lot to relearn.  Our problems and bad habits didn’t happen overnight, and neither can we expect to resolve and retool them overnight, either.

Facing the truth about ourselves is tough.  The truth hurts, and it’s only when we allow God to show us where we fall short do we begin to experience His love and grace to develop in character.  We must be moldable and teachable.

Growing is painful and tends to be scary.  Change is scary, especially when we become comfortable with what’s familiar, no matter how bad or wrong for us it is.

Our habits take time to develop.  It’s said that it takes 21 days to develop a habit and about the same amount of time to let it go.  No matter if it a bad or good one, habits are practiced.  Yet, the Lord desires us to practice spiritual discipline, be proactive in repeating good habits such as service, fellowship and grace.  

When we allow ourselves to grow in spiritual maturity, it’s best to cooperate with God rather than go against the grain.  Trust me on this.  We must believe that He’s working in our lives even when we can’t feel it or see the results.  Again, think sycamore tree. 

Second, we must try to be patient with the Lord and with ourselves, and not to get discouraged in the process.  God’s time isn’t the same as our society’s microwave time.  We grow through trials, temptations and triumphs.

We’ve gotta hang in there, y’all.  Our change is coming.

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Run, Forrest, Run! (Day 27)

Remember this classic line from the 1994 movie Forrest Gump?   Jenny taught Forrest to run from any dangerous or scary situation.  She was his muse for staying focused on being safe and secure.  He even ran to the point where his leg braces broke! 

We would be wise in doing the same thing when it comes to temptation.  The Word tells us to “Run from anything that gives you evil thoughts…but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right.” (II Timothy 2:22, LB).   Every day I need to tell myself, “Run, Shelly, run!”

In our running away from temptation, we must also remember that God gives us an escape route.  That route is that He never allows more on us than He puts within us to handle.  Yet, we must do our part by:

Refocusing our attentions on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 7b-9, NIV).

Revealing our struggles to a trusted, godly friend and/or a support group.  God’s solution is very simple: don’t repress it, confess it.  Many people find this hard, myself included.  It’s tough to be naked with your shortcomings and stumbles in front of someone.  If you have someone like this in your circle of influence, consider yourself blessed.

Resisting the Adversary.  The Word instructs us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NIV).  We have to think of ourselves as soldiers on the battlefield protecting ourselves from tempting people and situations.  Our main weapon is to store the Word of God in our hearts, and using the other pieces of spiritual armor we must wear on a daily basis. (Eph. 6:10-18, NRSV).  There’s always a way out.  Don’t let him fool you and tell you otherwise.

Realizing your vulnerability.  No one’s exempt from temptation, period.  Our flesh and souls battle all the time, and it’s up to us to stay alert and pay attention.  Let not your feelings and emotions lead the way, either.  They’re unreliable.  “Don’t be so naive and self-confident.  You’re not exempt…forget about self-confidence…cultivate God-confidence.” (I Cor. 10:12, Msg).

Stand strong, my sister.  Hang tough, my brother.  The victory is won.  Choose wisely and run like Forrest!

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God’s Timing is Perfect…..

”Be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8)

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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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Reminders and Confirmations…..

While watching Oprah’s Lifeclass today w/Bishop T.D. Jakes, God blessed me with confirmations of things that He placed on my mind and soul some weeks and months ago…..

  • Stop trying to be something I’m not.  It takes TOO much effort and it’s not worth it. 
  • Stop allowing others to place me in a box.  Like the singer Kelly Price says, this is who I am.  Let. me. be. me.
  • Stop tripping about what hasn’t or didn’t happen.  People fall short; no one’s perfect.  Instead, I must focus on what’s happening now and get excited about what’s to come.
  • I can’t depend on other people to fill the holes in my soul.  One of the seasoned women at my former church taught me that, yet it’s always good to be reminded.  My Heavenly Father fills those holes.
  • I’m attractive because God is pouring into me daily, gracing me with His anointing.  I’m the salt of the Earth, the light of the world. (Matt. 5:13-14, NIV)
  • Know when my space is too small.  That’s a sign that I need more room to soar, even if it means removing people and situations from my life.  I need the space to fulfill my divinely-appointed purpose. 
  • “Greatness is contagious!” ~~ Bishop T.D. Jakes
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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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