The Unending Journey

“Are we there yet?” – the whine of any child who has ever been on a car trip.

While adults may not whine about it, we’ve all experienced that feeling of the never-ending trip. Will we ever arrive? When we left home we didn’t realize it would take this long, nor have this many twists and turns.

volkswagen-569315_1280.jpgOur journey with God is a lot like a road trip. As we pull away from our old home to journey forward with God, we often believe it will be a short trip too. He’s going to do a quick remake of our life and we’ll have a happily ever after. But as days become weeks and years we realize it is a slow and constant process – this life is the never-ending journey. We will never arrive as long as we live.

How many times in our journey with Him do we come through a trial and pruning with the unspoken feeling that God must be through remaking us into His image because we can’t imagine what else He could possibly prune out of our life? We feel as if we are an onion that has been peeled to its very core.

In a short amount of time, however, we sense another layer of our “old man” being peeled away.

The day we set out to follow Christ, whether we were 8 or 38, we began a journey that will never end. He will chisel off the rough places, sand out the flaws, shape up the imperfections, and patch the holes until the day we die. That’s what regeneration and restoration are all about. It’s an ongoing process of remaking us into His image.

God’s got a grand adventure planned. God’s attitude toward us is not slap-on-a-new-coat-of-paint-and-send-her-on-her-merry-way. His mindset is apparent in Genesis 12:1 (MSG) “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.” He had in mind to take Abram to new places, unknown places, places of adventure and scariness I’m sure. Places that caused Abram to grow a faith that was later credited to him as righteousness!

The destination and the route we take is in God’s hands. As He did with Abraham, God does with us. He calls us to go to a land He will show us – an unknown destination. We don’t know where the road may take us or what may happen along the way. We imagine there will be joys at the right hand of God. We fear that he will take us somewhere we don’t want to go. But do we realize that He will be beside us every step of the way?

accident-car-communication-2224He doesn’t send us off on the journey alone. The last phrase of verse 1 is the icing on the cake – “for a land that I will show you!” Girls, he’s not sending us away on a journey all by ourselves. He’s going with us! The only way my husband can show me the way on our road trip is to be in the car with me. That’s where our Father God is – in the seat beside us, taking us on this grand and sometimes scary adventure, trying to give us directions to this “land that I will show you” if only we’d listen to Him.

The journey is life-changing. We never stop to think of the inner impact the journey will make on our lives and the changes that will take place within us. As we journey with Christ, externally we may change our location, those who accompany us, or the job we do. But the greatest change is His molding of our inner man. He is transforming us into the image of Christ from the inside out. So I pray for you, and for myself, the words of Paul:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16 

 

We weren’t created as statues. We were created as flesh and blood people that change from day-to-day, year-to-year, minute-by-minute, endlessly, until we pass from this earth.  The change, the re-making is intentional on God’s part. Scripture tells us:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians. 4:22-24

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Transformed. Made new. Renewed. That’s us.

On this never-ending journey of life with our Beloved, let’s embrace the word change. Let’s be pliable clay in His hands, willing to be mashed down, re-formed, made into something new! Even in the painful circumstances that try our faith, let us desire the touch of our Master Creator who isn’t finished with us yet.

The breaking and re-making. The new places on the journey and the hard places that tax us to our limits. These are part of the journey we signed up for. Let us be willing, not weary, travelers. Coming to know God and allowing Him to mature us in His ways is lifelong. We never arrive as long as we live. We are always “becoming” until the day we die. Becoming more faithful. Becoming more Christlike. Becoming more patient. Becoming more loving. Becoming more joyful, peace-filled, kind, gentle, self-controlled….

When we feel He’s shown us our deepest core, there are still other layers below. The journey is never over Girls! Enjoy the adventure of it all!

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The God Who Runs

by guest author Joni Shankles (Reposted from Joni’s blog with permission. Read more from Joni here.)
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Rebellion.

Selfish demands.
Surly words.
Shameful choices.

We’ve all played the rebel, rejecting the rules to get what we want, to experience something new.

Regret.

I was so stupid.

We’ve all suffered the consequences of rebellious choices, finding ourselves in a mess we can’t escape on our own.

Rejection.

I’m no longer worthy.

And sometimes, we fall into despair, feeling ashamed and blaming ourselves again and again.

What can we do when we’ve failed, when we feel cut off from the good life we knew before, separated from God and those we love?

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show rebels like us what to do.

When you’ve chosen your own way, when you’ve suffered the consequences, when you don’t even feel worthy to be called a child of God….

Get up.
Turn around.
Go back to your Father.

I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went to his father.
Luke 15:18-19 CSB

Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son to show us how love responds.

Love sees.
Love runs.
Love forgives.
Love restores.
Love keeps searching.

But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24 CSB

God is not a father who writes us off.

God is the Father who sees.
He is watching for the moment our hearts turn toward home again.

God is the Father who runs.
He closes the gap to embrace us as dearly loved children, not hired workers.

God is the Father who forgives.
He is filled with compassion and shows us mercy when we repent.

God is the Father who restores.
He celebrates our return, welcomes us home, and demonstrates His love, providing more than we could ask or imagine.

God is the Father who shows us that our worth is not earned, but inherited. Our worth comes from our relationship, initiated and sustained by the Father.

We need to remember that when we’re not playing the rebel, we are easily tempted to play the judge. The rebel demands his own way. His judgmental brother demands he pay for it.

The Father loves them both.

So his father came out and pleaded with him…“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15:28, 31-32 CSB

God is the Father who keeps searching.
He invites the self-righteous to trust His judgment and join the celebration.

God is a good Father.

He sees.
He runs.
He forgives.
He restores.
He keeps searching.

We are God’s children.
We belong to Him.
When we fail or when we have it all together, we can trust His love.
And His love never fails.

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! 1 John 3:1 CSB

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At the Table: Where Life and Truth Meet

by guest author Joni Shankles

Most of us have asked the question, “What is my purpose?”

For me, that question has often taken a paralyzing turn. I think, “What is MY purpose? What is the one thing I’m supposed to be doing with my life to glorify God…and what if I miss it?”

Like most women, I fight feelings of inadequacy and fear.

I can scroll through social media and think, my life isn’t as interesting as hers.

I can look through Pinterest and think, my house isn’t as beautiful as hers.

I can read blogs and think, my thoughts aren’t as profound or funny as hers.

I can even watch a video Bible Study and think, I don’t know as much as she does and I don’t look as good as she does, so no one would ever want to listen to me.

How can I ever find my purpose?

I have to put down my phone and pick up the Word.

In the Word, I read Matthew 22:36-40.

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He [Jesus] said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In the Word, I read Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I’m learning to find my purpose in these three commands:

Love God.

Love people.

Make disciples.

 

These are the priorities of Jesus.

Jesus loved God by doing everything His Father commanded.

Jesus loved all people, especially the ones others rejected.

Jesus made disciples by sharing the truth while he shared His life.

Jesus spoke the truth to crowds on occasion, but He lived the truth before His disciples daily. He demonstrated that the best way to learn to live the truth is to watch it lived in others. At the tables of tax collectors, sinners, and friends, Jesus shared the truth and showed how to live it.

This is the ministry of Jesus.

We all need someone in our everyday lives to teach us the truth and show us the way to live it. Screens won’t do.

I am realizing that much of the truth that I know and live today, I learned first around a table with godly women who were willing to share their lives with me. My life changed, my marriage changed, and my kid’s lives changed because these women made room at their tables and invited me to join them.

beautiful-businesswomen-career-601170.jpgI think about the women around the tables during my decade of Tuesday morning Bible Study. I think about Mrs. Bobbie, who got up from her table of friends to walk across the room to hug me and tell me she loved me every time she saw me enter. I think about the women who let me sit and listen and ask questions only when I was ready. I think about the women who invited me to lunch, who shared stories of everyday life, of marriage and kids and struggles where truth meets reality. I was changed week by week, not because of the truth I heard from a screen, but by the truth I saw lived out by women across the table and around the room, women I saw in my daily life in the carpool line, at Walmart, and at sports events. I could trust these women with my questions and know they would pray for my deepest needs. I learned to parent by watching these women navigate through daily challenges. I can’t tell you the names of all the Bible studies we did in those years, but I can tell you name after name of the women who loved me, prayed for me, worshipped with me, and lived the truth out before me.

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. Titus 2:3-5 CSB

 

I think about my friend Ann, who has been making room at her table for me and my family for more than twenty years. At Ann’s table, our kids did their homework together, celebrated the day’s victories, and shared disappointments. We met at Ann’s table to eat her home-cooked meals, play games, and laugh at hilarious moments only Ann could adult-business-businesswoman-515169create. With neither of us having parents or other family in town, Ann’s family and mine joined forces to celebrate big occasions and holidays together. When unexpected repairs made our house unlivable, Ann took us in for three weeks and we both cried when our house was habitable again. At Ann’s table, my children gained a second mother and we all learned the healing power of laughter. And because Ann invited us to share the chaos of daily living, I learned that hospitality is not about what is on the table, but who is sitting around it.

A joyful heart is good medicine…Proverbs 17:22 CSB

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 NIV

Don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity;

better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Proverbs 21:10 CSB

 

I think about my friend Tracy, who always joked that at her table we could solve the problems of the world (and for a while, we did solve the problem of me wanting more blond in my hair). The problems of the world came to Tracy’s table when she opened her heart and home to take in foster children. Through the eyes of these precious children, I watched deprivation become plenty and despair become hope. At Tracy’s table, I close-up-coat-eating-139681.jpgwatched God’s supernatural love heal physical and emotional pain. When Tracy invited me to join her at fast food tables for visits between her foster kids and their birth parents, I learned more about forgiveness and the painful process of reconciliation. And as Tracy’s table got bigger and bigger, I learned about the beauty of adoption and began to appreciate more and more my own adoption into God’s family and my place at His table.

Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17 CSB

You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16 CSB

 

people-2567915_1920I think about my friend Pam, who is always ready to meet me at the table of our favorite Mexican restaurant. At these tables, we have studied the Bible chronologically over chips and cheese dip. In dark times, we drop everything to meet at the table for companionship and encouragement. We share our lives. Pam’s wise counsel is one of my most precious treasures. At the table with Pam, I have learned that God redeems all things.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise later in life. Proverbs 19:20 CSB

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 CSB

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130:7 NIV

 

dinner-2330482_1920I think about the women I met in the Romanian cities of Timisoara, Hunedoara, and Hateg. I think about the tables in their homes where they welcomed me and shared what they had. I think about how we gathered with other women in their churches to worship, singing songs together in our own languages. And I think about the tables at their churches where we gathered afterward for a shared meal and time of fellowship. At tables in Romania, I learned a little bit more about what heaven will be like, where people from every tribe and every people gather before God’s throne to worship, and where one day we will all gather at the table for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Revelation 7:9-10 CSB

 

What do these incredible women in my life have in common?

They know their purpose. They love God, love people, and make disciples.

They refuse to be immobilized by insecurity. They stop falling for the trap of comparison that says, “But I’m not _____(fill in the blank with the name of any popular speaker or writer).”

They share their real lives, inviting people like you and me to the table to share life and truth.

As I reflect on the most critical times of my spiritual journey, I realize I didn’t need someone famous, I needed someone real. I needed someone in my daily life whose heart belonged to God and whose life reflected a desire to live the truth. I needed someone whose love for me and desire that I become more like Christ would cause them to drop everything and meet me in my time of need. I needed someone face to face, someone who could see beyond the mess I was to who I could become. I needed someone to listen to the Spirit and catch a vision for how God could be glorified in me.

rustic-334080_1920.jpgI needed to come to the table.

At the table, I learned to love God more.

At the table, I learned to love others well.

And at the table, I was discipled and learned to do the same.

At the table, I didn’t just hear truth, I watched it in action.

 

So, these days, I’m learning to ask myself another question.

I’m learning to ask, “Where are my people?”

If I know the purpose of my life is to love God, love people, and make disciples, then my guiding question becomes, “Where are the people God has given me to love and disciple as I grow in my love for God?”

It’s time I die to the pride that is the root of feelings of inadequacy.

It’s time I stop being afraid I will look foolish or fail.

It’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines playing it safe.

It’s time I realize that God isn’t holding my favorite Bible teacher or blogger responsible for discipling the people who are longing for a seat at my table.

It’s my turn to do the inviting.

It’s my turn to do the discipling.

It’s my turn to find my people.

 

What about you? What do you need?

Do you need to know your purpose?

Focus on the big three:

Love God.

Love people.

Make disciples.

Do you need to know where to find your people?

You are likely to find them gathered around a table – in your home, at your place of worship, in your workplace, or in your community.

And like me, you will discover this:

The truth you need and the ministry you were made for are waiting at a table near you.

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The Journey: Learning to Yield

Teenage Driver!

That term strikes fear in the hearts of most moms of junior high schoolers. They see the child before them and cannot fathom that child behind the wheel. But before those moms can blink twice it seems, they find themselves in the passenger seat beside an eager 15-year-old. While mom is praying in fear, most first time drivers have the “I got this!” attitude going. After all, what’s all the fuss about. Mash the gas. Stop at stop signs. “I’ve driven tons of times on the PS3,” they declare.

But when reality starts settling in for them, they realize its not always as easy as it had seemed with a game controller in hand rather than the steering wheel of a 1 ton vehicle.

One of the most challenging things for young drivers is learning to yield. A stop sign is definitive: see it, do it. But a yield sign is ambiguous: see it and make split second judgment calls. A yield sign offers you a choice and carries with it a responsibility. It involves a quick and weighty decision. Lives hang in the balance if it is ignored or misjudged. Even moderately large cities have high-speed interstate highways that present young drivers with practice in yielding – practice that involves risk and reward. 

Just as yielding while merging onto a highway is a skill learned and developed over time and with maturity, so is yielding spiritually. Our first spiritual yielding is to His call to “Come follow me,” just as He called the apostles He walked with throughout Judea and Galilee. Little by little we learn to yield spiritually.

We yield our logic to pursue faith.

We yield our bodily desires and inclinations to become His temples on earth.

We yield our way and choose to do things His way.

We yield our weariness in order to watch and pray when He prompts.

We yield our fears to be ambassadors for the King to an unappreicative people.

We yield our rights to ourselves, and throw ourselves on the goodwill of the Father who loves us unconditionally.

We yield our hopes and dreams to accept His plan.

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Scripture offers up these directives on yielding:

Yield yourself to the Lord.

“Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary.” (2 Chronicles 30:8 ESV)

Don’t yield to anything that would hinder the gospel.

“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” (Galatians 2:4-5 ESV)

Do not yield to unrighteousness / Yield to righteousness.

“Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God…. 19 …for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” (Romans 6:13 & 19 KJV)

We become the servant of the one we yield to.

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16 KJV)

So as you drive down the road this afternoon, with or without a teen driver chauffeuring you, allow those bright, caution yellow Yield signs to be a spiritual reminder to yield your ways to Him every moment, every day. 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

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Legalism?

Christians and non-Christians alike are familiar with the Ten Commandments, and people who were raised in the church know so many shoulds and shouldn’ts that we often struggle with legalism and perfectionism. No one wants to be accused of legalism.

Legalism has become such a distasteful concept in society that modern Christians tend to shy away from anything that could make them look as if they are rigidly following the rules. In fact, contemporary Christians often exhibit behaviors that make them appear just like the rest of the non-believing world. Their underlying message seems to be, “Live how you choose, but carry a Bible, go on the mission trips, and make sure you have the right “look” to be accepted as a modern Christian.” Who wants to be a Pharisee, right?

While living a life by the letter of the law or to fulfill our need to look perfect can trip us up, the thought behind those actions is a holy one: it’s important to live a life obedient to God’s dartboard target aim goal achievement conceptword. It’s as important to play this game of life perfectly as it is to pitch that perfect game of baseball or to get that shut-out in football. No, not as important – more important. In fact the Hebrew word for sin in scripture (chata’) means “to miss the mark.” We tend to give ourselves credit for getting pretty close to the mark. In the game of darts that doesn’t fly: a miss is a miss. In reality, it’s the same way with sin. A miss is a miss; a sin is a sin.

In John 14:23-24 Jesus tells His disciples, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” Our level of obedience to Christ clearly reflects the depth of our love and commitment to Him. It’s not a bad thing to want to live a totally obedient life and follow the rules! In fact it is a precious, loving gift to the Father to walk uprightly and honor Him!

If we dig into scripture and really look at Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees, we find it isn’t because they are rigidly obeying laws, it’s because their inside didn’t match their outside!

“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without dishes-197_640neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.'” (Matthew 23:23-28)

Dirty dishes! White-washed tombs! Their behavior didn’t reflect their heart. They put on holy masks and tried to look good before people, to be acknowledged, and to be honored publicly. They obeyed the laws, all the while having hearts full of selfishness, greed, envy, … sin. The Father had chosen His people, the Israelites, way back in Genesis. He had intended them to bring blessing to others (Genesis 12:3), but now these Jewish leaders were looking out for themselves instead. 

And so we come to us. Today. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ. To spread the Gospel. To show God’s glory. To bless others.

In this world of darkness, living a life filled with the light of Christ is more important than ever. If we only offer our stories, scripture verses, and other words of encouragement we are short-changing the people God has placed around us to minister to. Don’t get me wrong, our testimony and uplifting words are very important; we are commanded to share the good news in Matthew 28:19-20! However, if words are all we have to offer, with no obedient lifestyle to back it up, we’re presenting a half-hearted gospel. Our obedient life is living proof of the change the gospel has on a human heart. The world needs what we have, not just what we say. These words of Jesus Christ enlighten us:

pexels-photo-262042“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

How many souls have rejected Christ because I spoke the story of the gospel, but I lived out another story: the same story of fear, depression, worry, desperation, sin, and failure that they were living. While my words seemed hopeful, the reality seemed like a myth. Instead of being a light on a hill, I was like a flashlight with no batteries – not effective for the job I was created for. A help to no one.

Today scripture charges us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3) We are a representation of Jesus to the world. Are we reflecting His humility, gentleness, patience, and love for all in our behaviors?

In Colossians 19b-14 Paul calls us to live out a worthy life. He states, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into His kingdom of light! Let us live as children of light as Paul lays out in Ephesians 5:8-20. Let us not fear living blameless, pure lives above reproach in this warped and crooked generation. (Philippians 2:14-15)
 
Following the rules only becomes damaging legalism when we equate adherence to the laws of scripture with salvation instead of offering the grace and love of Christ to ourselves and those around us. Therefore we must speak up to share the gospel with the lost world: Jesus is the only sacrifice for sin. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6) We must walk uprightly in every behavior. We must also get involved in people’s lives to love them well instead of standing back and pointing out their error, but offering no help. We must be patient, offering grace and mercy to those who fail, but also calling others to a higher standard of obedience.

Walk as children of light!

 

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The Journey

Priceless has begun a new series of articles this year. They will be entitled and tagged as “The Journey” with several different subheadings. These will be encouraging or uplifting blogs that offer sustenance for us all as we travel through this Journey of Life. Proverbs 4:26 reminds us to “Ponder the path of your feet, then all your ways will be sure.”

We hope to do some pondering, and to give you scriptures, questions and ideas that will keep you pondering your paths as well, so that your ways will be sure and established. In fact, we’ve already published a couple that you can find here and here if you missed them.

pexels-photo-41102Does your journey seem dark right now? Psalms 119:105 tells us that “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Does your path seem too difficult to keep going? Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

Are you journeying alone feeling unknown and unnoticed? Psalm 139:3 tells us that  “You [Father God] discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Are you searching for wisdom to help you deal with a seemingly insurmountable mountain you are facing? Psalm 27:11 offers encouragement: “Teach me your way, Lord  lead me in a straight path….”

Do you long for direction in life? Psalm 16:11 explains where to get real direction and where to find joy in the Journey: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Have you wandered in a wilderness for so many years that you are hopeless and desperately looking for deliverance? Isaiah 64:4 says, “From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God besides You who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.”

Whatever you are searching for on your Journey, it can only be truly found in Jesus Christ leading your life, working in you and through you! Let us walk with you on this Journey! Eagerly look forward to the Father miraculously speaking just the words you need to hear. He does that you know!

May you find joy in the Journey!

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The Journey: Walk in His Shoes


Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2

Once I had children, this verse became a powerful incentive for me.

I read it one peaceful morning as my babies were sleeping. My husband’s work boots sat across the room beside the door. As I read this verse, the boots caught my eye, and I flashed back to the night before with our 18-month-old climbing into Daddy’s boots and vintage-shoes-old-bootstrying to walk. It was a sweet picture. He was stumbly and slow and didn’t get very far, but he wanted to be like Daddy.

That’s what the Christian journey is. It’s just a matter of stepping out as Jesus would and getting up again when we fail to walk like Jesus.

When we are first saved and do this, our steps are faltering and slow. We stumble a lot and mess up often. But we love Him and we want to be like Him, and so we get back up and try to take a few more teetering steps. We lurch forward and face plant again, but once again get up and haltingly keep trying to walk like Jesus.  The shoes may feel too big at first. We get tripped up by the strange feeling of this new walk. We feel like all we can do is stumble. And it hurts when we fall. But we are not called to be perfect; we are called to be an imitator of Christ!

What we find is that we don’t stay a 2-year-old Christian any more than my children stayed 2-year-olds. We grow up in Christ. The walk becomes more natural.

We become an 8-year-old that can scuffle through the house in Jesus’ boots without falling so much.

We grow to be a 14-year-old in Christ whose feet fit perfectly in our Father’s shoes, and we only fall when we face obstacles beyond our abilities.

We mature to be the eager 24-year-old who barges into the mission field with energy and confidence in our Father’s shoes, but occasionally lets our ego lead us into failure.

And one day we hope to become the 76-year-old that may have faltering physical knees but has the spiritual foundation that makes imitating Christ in their every step not even seem like imitating Christ; they have walked in His shoes so long, that the shoes seem like their very own!

Whose shoes are you walking in?

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A “Don’t Miss” Repost of Iva May

Had to repost this from Iva May’s Chronological Bible Teaching blog – too good to miss!

The One Year® Chronological Daily Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), January 9 Isaac assumes he is about to die (although he lives for many more years) and promptly decides to bless his son Esau before his death. Rebekah overhears Isaac and Esau’s conversation and quickly concocts a plan to secure Esau’s blessing for Jacob. Jacob ignores…

via Recognizing Deception — Chronological Bible Teaching

Back to Basics: Sin

Why do I NOT want to write this article?

I suppose it’s because it heaps correction and conviction on my own head. But I don’t shy away from truth just because it hurts. So here goes…

On an average day I think of myself as a “good” person. Overall I obey the scriptures, treat people decently, act morally, and haven’t broken any laws (except possibly speeding and acting selfishly towards my husband). You probably think of yourself in a similar way. Even people who don’t live upright lives often still look upon themselves as good people. We humans can lie to ourselves and deny reality, deny sin.

Sin is a huge issue in our modern society even though society at large avoids the word and the concept of sin. Just look at contemporary politicians and the scandals surrounding them. But let’s not get to feeling all self-righteous. Though we may not have committed the particular sin a politician is accused of in the media, we have committed our own sin. Don’t think so? Just stick with me a bit.

So what is sin anyway? How would you define sin?

commandments-49012_1280.pngWe would probably all include murder, robbery, assault and such things in our definition of sin. We readily agree that anything that breaks one of the 10 Commandments is sin. But then… we back pedal when it gets to some of the “lesser” of the commandments. You know what I mean. “Bearing false witness” – we justify with the unspoken excuse, I didn’t really lie. I just revealed the part of the story that doesn’t make me look bad. “Honor your father and mother” – Oh, but you don’t know MY father, surely God didn’t mean for me to honor him? “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” – I know it’s supposed to be a day of reverence, but we have to… You can finish the sentence. And I won’t even dig into commands 1 though 3 about no other gods before me, no graven images, and not taking the Lord’s name in vain. These 3 have fallen by the wayside with most of  our modern world. But these 10 commandments only scratch the surface of the “what is sin” question.

A quick search in the new testament brings up 1 John 5:17 which states, “All wrongdoing (or unrighteousness) is sin” depending on which version you read. Well that surely broadens the definition!

Our world doesn’t see an action as sin if it is done in self-defense. In this modern world gone crazy, if you do something to me it’s wrong. But if I have a reason for doing the same thing then it’s not wrong. We see that in our teens – How dare she steal my boyfriend? But didn’t you do the same thing to someone else last month? Well that was different, I loved him. We see it in political parties – we criticize another party for loyalty to a candidate who has displayed corrupt behavior, but excuse those in our own party that we want to believe in. We see it in the riots where people are – sometimes rightfully, sometimes not – protesting over a perceived injustice, and then they turn that around and act unjustly to others by injuring, destroying property, and burning buildings of innocent people. Society excuses itself if it feels it has a reason while condemning another whether there is reason or not. Scripture speaks to this societal phenomenon also, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5) Are you justifying your sin yet accusing another? Let’s get the stuff out of our eyes first so that we can see clearly. Sin blinds us to truth many times.

Our world ignores and belittles sin. Most often these days people simply ignore the idea of sin, unless a wrong is done to them personally they (and we) tend to let it slide. These progressive times have yielded progressive thinkers that see sin as an antiquated idea that does not fit in our society. Have we the church let this tendency subtly slip into our thinking? Do we find ourself thinking, “Well that’s not as bad as ____,” or justifying our actions with our selfish reasoning and lame excuses? Have you and I forgotten the principal of  Ephesians 5 that teaches us that sin is improper for God’s holy people and we are to walk as children of light?  Verse 11 of that chapter warns us to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.”

Our world today tends to only see it as sin if it’s an action. But God’s word clearly teaches that the sins of the heart are just that – SIN. In some ways sins of the heart are worse, because they are like the seed or the root of sinful actions. Thoughts yield actions. Luke 15:18-19 tells us that “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.” Do we regularly inspect the depths of our heart and thought life for that root of sin and weed it out? Do we regularly hold our inner thoughts and motivations up to the light of scripture and allow the cleansing of God’s word to flush out our iniquity?

dangerous-1040641_1280.jpgOften in our struggle against any kind of sin we fall into the trap Joshua Harris mentions in his book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is). While talking about content that we allow to enter our minds he says, “…Instead of seeing how much I can avoid, I spend my energy trying to see how much I can handle.” (page 118) This is so true. Our enemy lures us into thinking we’re strong enough to play around with things that lead us to sin. We’re like people gathering beautiful stones on the rim of a canyon, getting closer and closer to the edge for more trinkets until our foot begins to slide into the abyss of sin and it’s too late to rescue ourselves.

Susanna Wesley, mother of those godly brothers of the 1700’s John and Charles Wesley, is quoted to have said the following:

“Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” (Letter, June 8, 1725)

Wow! Even allowing myself to speed because I’ve run late looks like questionable behavior with this thought in mind. My breaking a simple law of the road makes my heart callous to being obedient. If I allow myself to break one law it makes it just that much easier to break another, especially a command that God has given us, but people around us ignore.

So where does that leave us? Do we follow the ways of the world? Or do we stand as beacons of light upholding truth and righteousness while still loving and gently warning of the dangers of sin? Do we give in to little sins because everyone else does? Or do we avoid anything that impairs our conscience and obscures our sense of God? Do we participate in things that leave us in bondage to sin? To each of us scripture says it is our choice each day. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The choice is clear; go with God or not. Choose wisely.

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My Story: Underestimated Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.

by Guest Contributor Lisa Greene

Depending on the season of life, my roles have varied from daughter, sister, mother, wife, school principal, teacher, daycare administrator, missionary, pastor’s wife, and business owner. Through all these roles that God has given me, I have claimed Phil 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Those roles are all a part of who I am, but as with all of us, I am sometimes a hidden person on the inside that people never see. Being very blunt, openly honest, I am a naturally negative, sometimes fearful, quite anxious, and a controlling person who has learned some very difficult lessons at the Hand of God. All of these led to a low self-esteem for years, a feeling of never being able to measure up, never being good enough, always fearful that someone might see who I really was on the inside and see how terrible I was. In reality though, it was a sin condition that led to who I was and am on the inside.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of God’s peace that I came to understand how His peace could change my life. It’s what I call God’s underestimated peace. It truly is a peace that is far beyond all human understanding, but it is attainable and absolutely necessary for our relationship with God. Just as we sometimes underestimate the power of God, I believe as children of God, we underestimate how God’s peace can change our lives and deepen our relationship with Him.

I wish I could say that my journey to attain God’s peace in my life began at my salvation at the age of 12, but it actually began about 15 years after that. During that time in my life I had been blessed with a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and a church that was supportive and nurturing. God had opened doors and Sam and I were entering full-time ministry on staff at Liberty Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Fl. We were happy, we were following God’s leading in our lives, we were fulfilled. All should have been peaceful, right?

baby-2922564_1920.jpgWhen our children were about 7 and 5 years old, God began to stir my heart to have another child. My husband couldn’t understand this and I will never forget him saying, “We have a girl and a boy, what else could you want?” When I realized he was not going to be a pushover in this area, I became what many of us wives become when we don’t get our way – a nagging, whiny, selfish woman – like the woman that Proverbs 21 talks about – “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a wide house.” I began to back my husband into a corner, trying to play God. He in turn was not swayed by any of my whiny, manipulative ways! Our home, my heart, during that time was anything but peaceful.

I was discontent, not thankful for what God had already given me, filled with worry that God would not give me what I asked for. Little did I know how much more He wanted to give me, but He knew I had lessons to learn before He could give me more. At around the same time, I was asked to participate in leading a Bible study at our church. The study was on being a content woman of God! You talk about a struggle! Praise God, it was through that study I learned about God in a way that I had never seen Him before. He became my ENOUGH! He became my FULLNESS! He became my ALL! For the first time, I took complete ownership for my relationship with God. Though my husband was the spiritual leader of our home, I learned that I was accountable to God for my own spiritual growth and relationship with Him. Most of all, I learned contentment.   It was during this time that I claimed another verse in Philippians that God used to help me realize that I was worthy and He was enough — Phil. 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

This verse began to affect my relationship with God in a way that made me realize that I had worth, I was somebody in God’s eyes, I had a special purpose. Through this time God taught me that He was enough for me AND I could be enough as I was. I did not need to be controlling of my circumstances and those around me, because He was in control. I did not need to be anxious, because He was the Great Provider! Presenting myself to God as a living sacrifice just the way I was became my first step toward the Peace of God.

When His peace came into my life, it came with a contentment. I began to pray God’s will, not mine, and ultimately I began to pray more specifically, “God, if you want us to have another child, please change my husband’s heart. And Lord, if you don’t want us to have another child, please change my heart and take the desire that I have away.” I prayed that prayer for many months, learning more about God’s peace, and the contentment and the perfect rest that comes with it. You see, it wasn’t that God didn’t want me to have the desire of my heart. It was that He knew I needed to learn to rest in Him and grow in His grace and peace before I could handle what He wanted to give me.

Little did I know how at the same time, God was working in the heart of my husband. One day, out of the clear blue (I had been praying, but not talking to him about it) he came and said, “I think we should have another child!” In March of the following year God gave us a son. Two years later he gave us the daughter that would complete our family of six.

PeaceThrough this time in my life I learned what God’s peace really is. How it demonstrated itself inside of me was life-changing. It is a PEACE that passes all human understanding. It is a PEACE that is possible regardless of circumstances (in us OR around us). It is a PEACE that dispels all negativity. It is a PEACE that comes to those who ask for it and believe. It is a PEACE that produces a rest within us. It is a PEACE that triumphs over fear and anxiety. It is a PEACE that proclaims God’s power and God’s presence.

Just as I have come to learn what God’s peace is, I have come to understand how my worry is an actual affront to Almighty God. Worry is me saying that I don’t think God can handle it! As the Psalmist David said, “Lord, when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Ps. 56:3). Worry is simply being afraid – of the future, of the past, of the present. We can have victory over the worry that often claims us by using the weapons of warfare that God has equipped us with.

In Tony Evans’ book, Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, he states that we have to put on the shoes of PEACE to combat Satan, and have victory over fear and anxiety. When we trust in Him, He exchanges our fears for His PEACE. We put on the shoes of peace by trusting in His presence and power and seeking Him in the midst of our fear and anxiety. Dr. Evans further explains by saying,

“I put on the shoes of PEACE by humbling myself. I recognize my inadequacy and my lack of control. Much of fear stems from a need for control, but ultimately I do not control anything. Being anxious on an airplane does not keep it in the sky. Being fearful of ill-health does not keep me healthy. Being afraid that my marriage or relationships will deteriorate does not keep them strong. This is because ultimate control is in His hands, and no matter what happens, He will use it for good when we love Him. Humility allows me to acknowledge that He knows better than I do.”

It was a difficult season in my life but one of the most rewarding times of growth in my relationship with God. By humbling myself to His authority, I gained His peace as a companion in my spiritual walk. I can claim I Peter 5:6-7 (“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the Mighty Hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”) as a promise that He has fulfilled in my life. I have lived it, and continue to live it and claim it each day. Some days, some trials, some valleys, are easier to claim it in that others, but through the lessons of the past I am reminded of His promise.

When God closes a door, it is this PEACE that reminds me that He is in control. When I face struggles in relationships, it is this PEACE that reminds me that I am His, wonderfully made and created in love. When financial difficulties come, it is this PEACE that triumphs over my fear and anxiety to remind me that He is my Provider and He has a plan to prosper me. When I lost two brothers last year within six months of each other, it was this PEACE that brought me through the valley of despair and reminded me that I have a Heavenly Father whose loving arms are always open wide.

We have no excuse as believers to not live a life of peace. We have been given every tool we need to conquer negativity, dispel the darkness around us, and defeat Satan. The Word of God has been given to us full of promises that, if we live and abide in them, will lead us into a peaceful relationship with our Heavenly Father where we can rest in His loving arms. David, the Psalmist, in Psalm 4, so sweetly pictures it for us, “I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety.” By allowing the peace of God to rule our hearts and minds, we are able to present ourselves to our Heavenly Father as believers of faith and love, always confident in His power and keeping.

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I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8