Spiritual Challenges

When You Just Can’t {India Werner}

Dear Christian Friend, saved by the grace of God,

              When you just can’t, remember that God can.

              It is true that we are sanctified people who still sin and mess up…yet I sometimes wonder…

              How often do we draw attention to our flaws rather than glorify the God Who can use us beyond our human capacity?

              Why is it trendy to be a “hot mess”? 

              Why is it cool to brag about how we don’t have it together?

              Do we as Christians focus so hard on “being real”, that we forsake our call to holiness?

              Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am all about the funny memes that highlight our “fails”!  Trust me, I laugh at them all the time and send them to my sisters on Pinterest.  Talking about our weaknesses is healthy to an extent, because it allows us to relate as human beings.  It causes us to admit that we aren’t perfect and never will be.  The danger is when we become too comfortable and cease to learn from our mistakes.

              Life is hard!  It will never be easy!  However, I strongly believe that God allows hardships in our lives to strengthen and mature us.  Ultimately, He is glorified when we rely on Him and stand firm at the end of the day, recognizing that His grace is enough.

              The attitude of “I just can’t” (we’ve all said it!), undermines what the Spirit can do in a life surrendered to Christ.  One of the most famous verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  Do we believe it?

              It’s good for us to admit that we have flaws as we commit them to the Lord and beg for strength to overcome.

              It’s okay to be a “hot mess” occasionally, because we’re all human.  It’s “okay to not be okay”, but it ought not be a way of life, no matter how “not okay” our situation is.

              It’s okay to not have it all together every single day, but we should never stop trying to live an orderly life.  We need to represent Christ well if He is truly our Reason for living!

              It is vital to “be real” because Christianity does not make us perfect.  However, our reality as children of God is a daily practice of dying to self and being Christ-like.

              When you just can’t, remember that God can.  He can pick up the shattered pieces of your life and carry you through the impossible.  He can give you unspeakable joy that will take the world by surprise. 

              “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

              “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice….Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6, 7

             

             

             

             

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Make a Joyful Noise {Lois Ormsby}

The American holiday season sometimes feels like it zooms right by us, and before we know it we are caught up in whatever it is that we get caught up in. In studying Psalm 100, the LORD gave me this thought-provoking question: “What kind of noise is your life making?”

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.” Psalm 100:1
We so often relate noise to audible things…but today, I’d like us to ponder the inaudible. So much of who God designed us to be as women is actually about the inaudible…the things we do that no one “hears” unless we do it wrong or, worse, neglect it completely. If I learned anything last year, it would be this: that my role as a woman is so much about what people don’t “hear” — that only my Creator “hears” — and that I am to be completely ok with that.

If there is a joyful noise indicated, that begs to say there is also the opposite possible… like clamorous in Proverbs 9:13. The dictionary defines it as “marked by confused din our outcry; noisily insistent”. I did NOT say glamorous, haha, although, isn’t it interesting that those two words rhyme! Today’s woman seems determined to be anything but meek and quiet – yet, God says that this is the kind of noise He is looking for.
We’re making too much of the wrong kind of noise! Why do we skip our devotions on the very days we need them most? On Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or any other event this time of year that we are hosting…we find ourselves willing to neglect our time with God, but not our makeup or hair routine. How sad.

How is the music of your spirit doing? Reading on in Psalm 100, we note that it says “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise…”. Does your presence bring a spirit of praise or a spirit of “stay away from me”? I think sometimes with commands like these, we shrug them off and don’t take them seriously. How is the spirit of your home doing? We don’t sing enough in today’s homes. Is the only singing you do when you’re jamming out to your favorite movie theme songs? Pastor Art Kohl taught me years ago that singing is a sign of spirituality. If you’re not willing to sing, that’s a huge sign of your inward condition! Do you sing?

How is the music of your influence sounding? Are you a classy Christian or a complaining Christian? A gracious woman retaineth honor…are you retaining the honor God bestowed within you? The little eyes watching us know how we feel about our Christian life. Even if we never voice it, they “hear” the noise of our life on a daily basis…and it is affecting them.

What about the noise of the influence you are allowing to affect you – are you aware of it? We need to cut out the noise in our own lives that is influencing us in a wrong way. The phone is a big one…there’s no arguing that it easily consumes our days. Things
on our calendar is another. How crammed a day can get…and how normal this has become! Along the same line is the noise of that feeling of obligation. This season is huge for that – cook this, bake those cookies, buy these people presents, attend this family gathering, get a family photo with these people, and on and on it goes. Somehow, American culture has convinced us that we have to keep up with the noise. Especially this time of year…how noisy does your life feel?

Choose to be different! The noise of our society causes us to cave: we must do this, post pictures or it didn’t happen!, must coordinate outfits on holidays, etc…yet, we still choose to cave. No one makes us do those things – we choose to. God says in 1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Are you choosing that which is expedient towards edifying? Choose God’s way! Living out God’s Word (“make a joyful noise”) is validating! Yet – why do we seek to validate our lives otherwise?

These things we need to work on – most of them are things people won’t “hear”. They won’t “hear” us taking time to better our cooking skills so our family has regular meals; getting up 20 minutes earlier to talk to Jesus; cleaning the bathroom so it can be dirtied again; crying tears to the Holy Spirit over a troublesome burden; exercising meekness when someone crosses us; accepting and integrating the help of those around us. Whatever your joyful noise is that you need to work on – remember that God “hears” it…and that is really the only One Who matters. The middle verse of our passage is perhaps the clincher of why we choose the wrong noise – we forget Whose we are: “… we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” The last verse reminds us why we are His! “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

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A Messy Heart {Lois Ormsby}

Recently God slammed me with a convicting thought.  The thought was so real and so strong that I’ve made sure to meditate on it regularly since.

By now you all know how much of an organization fanatic I am.  Our house gets messy, that is for sure, for we live in it and living makes messes.  But I literally cannot function well if it stays that way for too long.  Things being dirty or out of place irks me.  Clutter makes me feel stressed and I can’t rest until the mess is taken care of.

The thought God pricked me with was this: “Why doesn’t a messy heart bother you the way a messy house does?”  …are you already feeling convicted reading that?  Just typing it again makes me squirm with conviction.  How good I am at cleaning up messes, getting rid of clutter, and organizing household catastrophes.  Yet, how often I let my heart – where the Holy Spirit dwells – remain a messy home.

That frustration against my husband that I allow to fester…oh, it’s no big deal.  He made me frustrated in the first place so it’s really his fault and not mine.

That enmity I’m feeling toward a sister in Christ…she doesn’t even realize how ridiculous she is being.  I can’t believe she is acting so belligerently.

 

That hurt I’m harboring because of something someone did…it hurts so bad.  Why do I bother trying to be nice to her?

Over and over, there are so many corners of my heart-home that are not clean at all.  What’s worse, instead of tending these areas with all diligence, I usually walk right by them, keeping them in their messy state, justifying the mess with silent, self-pity parties.  My heart’s messes get pushed to the end of my priorities way too easily.  While my family’s home may be neat as a pin on a regular basis, how regularly do I keep my heart the same way?

Proverbs 4:23 happens to be my life verse: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  Ironic, isn’t it?  What a keen renewal of my verse has this thought provoked.

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Music with a Story – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing {India Werner}

             Perhaps one of the most popular hymns of all time is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.  It just so happens to be my favorite song!  The words speak truth to my heart and the tune inspires me.  The words “bind my wandering heart to Thee” are probably my favorite part of the song.  I have traveled for my whole life, never staying anywhere for more than six months at a time.  Though my life has been full of literal wandering, I pray that my heart will never wander far from God.  I have had times where I began to wander, but I am grateful for a God Who welcomes me back with loving arms! 

Recently it occurred to me that I did not know the history of this well-loved hymn, which started me on some research.  These are the original words of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, written by Robert Robinson.  Take a few moments to read them and then see a brief history of the song at the end of this post.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

             In short, Robert Robinson was a troubled young man who was sent to London by his mother to be a barber’s apprentice.  He was saved sometime after hearing George Whitefield preach, and later went on to become a Baptist pastor.  He wrote “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in 1757.  However, the interesting part of the story is that Robinson was truly prone to wander, just as his song says.  Late in his life, during a time when he was not walking with the Lord, he was confronted by the truth of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.  A complete stranger shared the song with him, not knowing that he was the one who wrote it.  Tradition says that he came back to the Lord after this encounter.

             This hymn is a powerful personal testimony that we are being blessed by nearly 300 years later!  Robert Robinson was honest in the writing of his lyrics.  He offered the reflections of his heart to the world in his now-famous hymn.  When I read the complete original words and absorb their meaning, I am convicted and encouraged.  I do like a lot of newer songs, but this is what I love about the old hymns.  They are rich with truth and doctrine. 

            

Sources

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-come-thou-fount-of-every-blessing

http://stefaniesthisandthat.blogspot.in/2013/05/the-story-behind-hymn-come-thou-fount.html

http://www.cyberhymnal.org

 

 

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Security Breech: #SelfieStatus! {Lois Ormsby}

Recently I have been preparing for a July Bible study with my older church girls.  The theme of the lessons will be “Securely Woman”, based on a book I found from Striving Together Publications.  In pondering how this theme affects every aspect of our lives as women, something really clicked for me that I wanted to share with you!

 

Selfies are more than “all the rage” in our culture.  These days, they are perfectly normal…so normal that even toddlers attempt them!  There is nothing inherently wrong with selfies.  It’s fun to try to get the right angle when taking a picture with someone (though it was more of a challenge back in the day when we didn’t have reversible cameras on our phones!).  Selfies can make for great laughs and capture special memories.

 

But Satan has cleverly captured an angle on our selfies, too.  Think about it: so many selfies today are of one person, taking a picture of himself/herself.  Such selfies are usually taken seconds before they’re posted; the person might have taken the selfie just to have something to post.  Then, he/she posts and subconsciously checks his/her social media a dozen times in the next 30 minutes to see who liked their picture.  Come on, we’ve probably all been guilty of this – you know what I’m talking about!

 

“She got 42 likes on her selfie, but I only got 12.  My smile is way prettier though.”

 

 

“His selfie with that pro athlete got 116 likes!  Why did mine only get 24?”

 

 

“Nobody liked my selfie for 2 hours.  I must not be as cool as ____________.”

 

See how easily selfies feed the wrong kind of security?  As Christians we are supposed to be secure in Christ, in Him alone.  And yet, we easily fall prey to the world’s means of finding security — focusing on ourselves.

 

The point here is not to say that all selfies are wrong and and that any selfie will cause a “security breech” in our lives.  If you go on my social media profiles, you’ll see selfies sprinkled throughout my pictures (but not a whole bunch, because I am really bad at taking selfies, haha!).  My exhortation is that we need to consider why we post selfies in the first place.  The why behind our selfies is where a security breech might be lurking!

 

Are we posting to get someone’s attention?  Are we posting to show off our gorgeous hair?  Are we posting because “everyone else always posts a selfie when they drive through Chick-Fil-A”?  Are we posting because we are feeling insecure and want to make sure people still like us?

 

“See then that ye walk circumspectly…” ~ Ephesians 5:15a

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Lifting Up Christ in the New Year {India Werner}

 

The reminder on my desk

Another year has passed us by.  One thing about January is that many of us use it as a time to refocus.  A fresh start is sometimes good and starting a new habit or a resolution on the first day of the year helps people stick to it (or that’s what we try to tell ourselves anyways).  This year I didn’t set any major goals or resolutions.  I have a few personal things that I’ll be working on, such as reading through the Bible with Sakshi and Paisley.  I have a renewed desire to just keep doing what I’ve been doing, and to do it more effectively in the new year.

As I was dwelling on these things last week, the phrase “lift up Christ” came to my mind.  I realized that I can do better in 2018 if I will purposefully and deliberately lift up Christ.    See, we have a new year, new goals, but we serve the same God and He is worthy to be exalted each day.  These are three important ways in which we can lift up Christ:

1) In our speech

If we believe in an Omnipresent God, then we should believe that every word we say matters.  This thought is humbling.  Our lips flow so freely with the right words when we are around church friends, but do we speak the same way in front of those who do not know Christ?  Do we really believe that God is with us always?

I have determined to use my speech to lift up Christ this year.

Psalm 63:3 “Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”

2) In our conduct

Again, do we believe that God is always with us?  If we do, then our conduct should reflect that.  We can exalt the Lord by our every day life.  Whether it is in how we choose to spend our time, the clothes we wear, or the music we listen to, we have many opportunities to show the Lord that we love Him.

Some of you may be thinking, “This sounds like legalism.”  Please understand that making the decision to include Christ in every aspect of your life is not legalism.  The teaching of legalism says “Do this, and salvation is yours.  If you do not abide by these standards, your eternity is in jeopardy.”  This is a false teaching because the Bible clearly says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

The Bible also says in Romans 6:15, “What then?  Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?  God forbid.”  We are warned against abusing the grace of God.  Yes, we can know that heaven is our home, but that is not a license to sin.  We should be striving to please and glorify the Lord with all that we do.  This applies to our speech as well.  Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  If we love God, we will obey Him.

I have determined to use my conduct to lift up Christ this year.

3) In our hearts

God knows our every thought.  As Christians, we recognize this, but we often have the attitude of “I wouldn’t say it, but I’m sure thinking it.”  Guilty over here!  What if we spent more time silently dwelling on pure and lovely things (Philippians 4:8) and less time allowing negativity and worry into our minds?  When wrong thoughts enter our mind, we should confess them to God and ask Him to replace those thoughts with things that are right.

I have determined to use my heart to lift up Christ this year.

Psalm 119:7 “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.”

I would love to hear how God has been speaking to you in this new year as well.  It is so amazing that we have a Father Who communes with each of us personally.  I mean, do you ever feel like you’re His only child just because of how closely He cares?  This is yet another reason to lift up Christ every day.

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