God’s Grace Transforms Us

This past week has been very hard for me and my family. Saturday, we held the funeral for my nephew, and it’s been difficult to say the least. So, I’ve not been in any frame of mind to do journaling. The day before my husband and I left to go to the funeral I did my Bible journaling artwork, and Satan knew just how to get to me because my hubby and I had a big argument and I couldn’t even put my thoughts together to write my journaling blog. So, the artwork has just been sitting here and as I look at it and read the Scripture, I still am having a hard time knowing where to begin.

The verse comes from Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (NASB) The first thing I see in this passage is that God’s grace brings us salvation. For that, I am eternally grateful! Without His grace toward me, I would have no hope, no joy, no peace.

The second thing I see is that God instructs us in how to live our lives. He guides us in godly living, and that guidance helps to transform us. When we allow Him to do that transforming work in our lives, we are changed. We are not the same people we were ten years ago, five years ago, a year ago, even a day ago! He is constantly molding us and changing us to be more like Him. As I think about how He has transformed me, I recognize that the transformation He must do in me can only come about if I allow Him to work in my life, allow Him to change me.

I still battle with anger issues, but He is working in me trying to help me gain control of my anger. It isn’t easy for me to not just lash out at whoever I’m angry with. I am a work in progress. I don’t know if I will ever gain control over this, but I know it can’t happen if I don’t allow Him to do what He needs to do in me to gain the victory over anger. He is still working, and I can see that the outbursts aren’t as frequent, but I still have a lot of work to do to be more like Him.

The last thing I see in this passage is that because of His transforming work in our lives, we have something to look forward to…”the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We are expectantly waiting for His return, the Glorious Appearing! As I look at events in today’s world, I know His return is very close. There are days I say, “OK, God, You can come anytime, I’ve had enough!” We have a future to look forward to! We can be assured that He will keep His promise to come and take us home with Him. We also can have that assurance that He won’t call us home until we are transformed into who are to become…a transformed child of God who is the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

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Guard Your Mind

I’m going to break off today from the Journaling on love for this month. Sunday, our pastor gave a message called, “Guard Your Mind.” This is an area where, I think, most of us, Believer and non-believer alike, are having problems. Satan’s sole purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) and he will use any means he can find to accomplish his purpose. We are looking at II Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (KJV)

Satan knows one fact; the battlefield is our minds! He wants to take control of our minds, what we think on and how we look at the world. As Believers, we have an advantage, God has given us the ability and power to control our minds. We can decide whether we will dwell on negative thoughts or positive thoughts or on sinful thoughts or holy thoughts. Satan’s desire is to corrupt our thought life. He plants temptation through our minds, and it is up to us whether we will dwell on those thoughts, leading us to temptation and sin. We can rationalize and say, “Well, no one else knows what I’m thinking, how bad can this be?” However, we forget there is One who knows our thoughts, God! He knows exactly what we are thinking. He calls us to think pure, honorable, right, and lovely thoughts. (Philippians 4:8)

Satan has a strategy to draw us away from those good and lovely thoughts. The Bible says he is a deceiver. (Revelation 12:9) One of his tactics is to bring doubt into our minds. We see this in the Garden of Eden. The serpent (Satan) deceived Eve by causing her to doubt what God had said about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He said they were not to eat from it, and Satan asks Eve, “…hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” When Eve tells him what God said about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that if they ate from it they would die, Satan tells her, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof; then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 KJV) He put doubt into her mind, causing her to think that God was withholding something good from her. When she and Adam ate from the tree, death did come, not physical, but spiritual. Satan had won that bout, he caused her to fall.

Another strategy Satan uses is perversion. In today’s world, it’s hard not to see some pretty awful things. It seems that everywhere we turn we are faced with things that are unholy, whether it’s TV programs or song lyrics. We live in a depraved world and it is hard for a Christian to maintain pure thoughts when we are constantly bombarded from every side. II Corinthians 4:4 tells us that he blinds the minds of unbelievers. Because they have no advocate to help them, they end up succumbing to the temptations of their minds. He also tries to blind us, but we have God to help us. Whether it’s sexually explicit material or other things, Satan plants those thoughts into our minds, and it is up to us fight against it. Matthew 16:19 says that we can bind Satan and loose the power of God.

The door Satan uses is our unconfessed or hidden sin. When we don’t deal with our sin, it gives him an opportunity to enter and plant his deception. But we can defeat the enemy by doing three things, repent of sin, resist him, and renew our minds. Repentance closes the door on Satan, resisting his attempts is our action of fighting against him, and renewing our minds is done through getting into God’s Word, committing every day to God, and praying for God’s help. The battlefield is definitely in our minds. We must be diligent in keeping our thought life pure. Applying Philippians 4:8 daily by thinking on “these things” …what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, anything of virtue, anything of praise. When we do this, we can then guard our minds, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)

A Call to Holy Living

Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Peter 1:13-14, “Therefore, with your minds be ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance.” (CSB) I recently journaled on the 13th verse, but today’s “musings” is focusing on both verses. In the CSB version I picked up on something I didn’t see the last time I journaled this passage.

We have already talked about taking action when going about fulfilling the goals we have set for ourselves. But what stood out to me today was a list of things that we must accomplish to live a holy life. The first thing is to be ready to act. Planning comes before everything. What steps will we take to accomplish this thing? Part of planning also involves prayer, asking God to help us reach the goal we have set for ourselves.

The next step is to set our hope on grace. Peter says, “set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When we see Jesus revealed it brings us hope. We then realize that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB) He gives us the strength and the ability to accomplish our goal. Spiritually, when we are attempting to become like Jesus, changing attitudes or behavior, the strength He gives us to be successful in living a life that is holy and well pleasing, is what helps us as we realize it is through His grace that we are able to do what He is asking of us.

We then must be obedient to what it is He requires of us, and that can be combined with the next point. We are not to be conformed to the fleshly desires of our past life. Those are the things that have kept us away from God and hindered our relationship with Him. Obedience is a dying to the fleshly desires of the past. Look at the word “Obedience”, right in the middle of the word is another word, “die.” We are to die to our own selfish desires, turn direction, and live a life holy and pleasing to God. That is an act of our will. We must intentionally decide to die to the old habits and behaviors, and change our way of thinking, our attitude, our behavior, and our allegiance. Disobedience is to follow the enemy’s ways. This can lead us into areas of discontentment, dissatisfaction, loss of peace and joy, and misery. Obedience brings a whole new perspective on things, and brings us contentment, joy, peace, and a strengthened walk with the Lord.

If we read I Peter 1:15, Peter says that “as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.” Our attitude, how we act and speak, reflects who is sitting on the throne of our heart. We are to daily evaluate ourselves to see if we are sitting on that throne or if we are allowing God to sit on there. When we allow Him to be the Lord, Master, and King of our lives, we find we can accomplish what He is asking us to do. It takes a mind and attitude that is totally surrendered to Jesus.

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

Count the Cost

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Luke 14:28, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he enough to complete it?” (NASB) I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not much of a planner. Give me a daily planner and you will most likely see an empty planner! Although, if I have a specific task to do, say planning a party, I will figure out all I need.

I have never been one of those “This is where I want to be in five years” kind of people. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that all my planning goes out the window, because God has my life and He knows where He’s taking me, I’m just along for the ride. For example, I moved from Ohio to Montana and said, OUT LOUD, “I will never move cross country again!” WRONG! Ten years later I moved from Montana to Southern Illinois! It was a God thing for sure. I often tell people that when I made that statement God just laughed and said, “Oh yeah?”

On the other hand, there is something to be said for planning. Jesus used the example of someone building a tower. When my first hubby and I built our house in Montana, we had to sit down with a contractor and draw out our plans so he could draw a blueprint. That blueprint was his roadmap on how much material he needed and the exact dimensions and placing of each room in the house. Without the blueprint, he wouldn’t be able to build a strong, sturdy, house that would withstand the elements.

Our lives are like building that house. Without a goal or a plan, we wander aimlessly through life, not knowing where we are going. Are there parts of our lives we would like to change? How badly do we want to change them? If we are intent on changing, then we must sit down and “count the cost”. What will it take for us to make that change? Will there be discomfort in changing…most likely there will. Are we willing to endure the hardship to make that change? What steps must we take to bring about that change? All of these things need to be considered when we come face to face with parts of our lives that we are unhappy about or want to make better.

Planning means taking the time to evaluate what it is we need to be doing, how we are going to go about bringing that change, and above all…praying for God’s help in moving forward to overcome during the hard times and becoming the person He has created us to be. I know what needs to change in my life, and this year I need to be intentional about bringing about that change. My first issue is getting the courage to actually start! I guess I’m more of the “I need a swift kick in the pants” type of person.

For example, I need to lose weight (don’t we all?) That involves dieting and exercise. I’ve fallen off the diet wagon this past year and gained all the weight I lost. A lot of it has to do with exercises…my back pain has kept me from getting into it again. However, if I don’t get up off the recliner and get moving, I’ll be in worse shape than I am now. So, I need to make the time (set an alarm? schedule time? be determined?) to get this done so that it will help me lose weight. I need to be committed to sticking to my diet…no more munchies of potato chips and pretzels…but eating healthy snacks, and in limited amounts. I’ve lost the weight doing this and I know I can do it…I just need to make up my mind and be determined to get this done.

The same applies with our Spiritual lives. We must sit down and be determined to change or move forward in areas that will draw us closer to God. That may involve scheduling a Quiet Time with the Lord…if it means putting it on your calendar, then do that, as a reminder that you need to spend time with God. I’m not a morning person, so praying and reading my Bible when I first get up is not good. I can barely function much less concentrate on what I’m reading, and have it stick. So, I do my Bible Journaling, which becomes my Quiet Time with Him, later in the morning or sometimes in the afternoon when I can retain what I’m reading and praying for His guidance in what I’m supposed to do, in journaling and in life.

We are at the beginning of a new year, and it’s a good time to decide how we are going to go about doing what it is God wants us to do, and how we can follow Him closer, so that we become the person He has created us to be.