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.

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Pray for Wisdom and Knowledge

Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture passage is Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (NASB) The Apostle Paul is commending the Colossians for their faith and their love of the brethren. He encourages them by telling them he is praying continually for them, and he is praying that they would gain wisdom, understanding and knowledge of God so that they can walk their spiritual lives in a manner that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord.

Gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s Word is essential in the life of a Believer. Without understanding His Word, we are not able to live a life that is in “a manner worthy of the Lord.” Given to our own devices, we will fail miserably, and it also makes us an easy target for the enemy of our souls to set traps for us without us recognizing them. Praying for wisdom and knowledge from God must be done daily. We need His guidance for daily living.

Asking for wisdom in other situations is also needed. James encourages the early Christians, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 NASB) Wisdom is something God is more than happy to give to His children. When God told Solomon to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. (I Kings 3:3-14) God was pleased with Solomon because he didn’t ask for riches or long life or that his enemies would be killed. Because Solomon asked for wisdom, God chose to also give him riches and honor among the people.

Daily prayer and Bible reading, studying God’s Word and then applying it to our lives is what brings honor to God. We must read our Bibles with understanding. When we understand what God is telling us, not only can we bring honor to God in the way we apply what we read to our lives, but we become a light for others to see. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s Word, also helps us in fighting our battles against the enemy. Without a sound understanding of God’s Word, we have no defense against Satan’s attacks. We must remember, the enemy also knows God’s Word, and we must be able to fight back with Scripture and the correct application of that Scripture to defeat him. Satan will take Scripture and twist it for his own devices, and if we are not familiar with the true meaning of God’s Word, the enemy can lead us astray easily.

Jesus defeated Satan as the enemy tried to tempt Him to relinquish His authority and to refrain from doing the task God had assigned Jesus. How did He defeat the enemy? When Satan quoted Scripture attempting to trip up Jesus, the Lord came back with Scripture properly applied to fight back against the enemy’s attempts at bringing Him down. That’s how we win at defeating the enemy as well. Spiritual warfare can be very difficult because we have an adversary who is bent on crushing us and make us defeated Christians with no joy, peace, or victory in our lives. As we apply that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, we receive Spiritual fruit that will grow and make us stronger in our daily walk with the Lord. So, asking God to reveal His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding through His Word, is the key to growth in living for Jesus, and being a light in a dark world.

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.

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

Whatever it Takes

It’s early morning and I’ve been up since 3:30.  I’ve been awakened by a song, Damaris Carbaugh sings called, “Whatever it Takes”.  Sometimes God wakes me in the middle of the night because He wants to talk to me.  This song is running in my mind over and over.  The words are so haunting, and it causes me to stop and re-evaluate my relationship with Jesus.

There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree
And it whispers, “Draw closer to Me;
Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb,
And a new place in Me you will find.”

CHORUS: For whatever it takes to draw closer to You, Lord,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do;
For whatever it takes to be more like You,
That’s what I’ll be willing to do.

Take the dearest things to me, if that’s how it must be
To draw me closer to You;
Let the disappointments come, lonely days without the sun,
If through sorrow more like You I’ll become.

Take my houses and lands, change my dreams and my plans,
For I’m placing my whole life in Your hands;
And if You call me today to a land far away,
Lord, I’ll go and Your will obey.

I can hear Damaris singing, with her deep, rich, alto voice resonating in my mind, and my heart is stirred within me.

I used to sing this song, without much thought to what it really was saying, not really applying it to my life.  But, one day my first husband asked me if I really meant what I was singing. Then he said, “You’d better be sure, because you don’t know what the future holds or if God will hold you to the words you sing.  Do you really mean, “Whatever it takes”? His statement and question caught me off guard.  I hadn’t really considered the fact that what I was singing, God may some day require me to prove my words.  Shortly after that my husband and I went through a very long trial. He had two strokes and became an invalid and I had to put him into a nursing home.  I had to carry a full-time job, try to manage all the things he had always taken care of, take care of him, and try to keep my head above water financially.  After a very long illness of seven years, God took him Home.  Then I spent six years alone before meeting my second husband.

I learned what those words meant! My second husband calls it my Job’s Trial. They were very dark days, but as I wandered through that haze of feeling nothing, I found out something. I found out that deep down inside, I really did mean those words.

It was so hard, but God showed me how I could trust Him with everything. I found that I had no one else to turn to, not in the way that I needed. Yes, God brought people into my pathway to help me, but they couldn’t be the Rock I needed to keep me standing.

So, as I listen to this song in my mind, I question, why is this song running through my mind now? It’s been a very long time since I’ve played the CD on which it is listed. God, what are You trying to tell me? I searched for Scriptures where Jesus is asking us to draw closer to Him and I found Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (NASB) Then the thought crossed my mind, “Am I about to go through a trial?” I don’t have to fear, because God has already proved Himself strong, and I know that whatever He asks me to do, I will be able to accomplish with Him by my side.

The verse talks about taking up our cross. Crosses are heavy. They are burdens we carry and can be almost anything that drags us down or brings us to a point of desperation. Do we try to carry them ourselves, or do we go to the One who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NASB) Rest, that’s what we find when we draw closer to Jesus. Peace floods our soul as we lean upon Him to carry those things that overwhelm us. The closer we get to Jesus, the easier it is to carry the burden, because we are not carrying it alone, He is taking the brunt of the weight. It is much like oxen who are tied together in a yoke, they each carry a portion of the weight as they pull the plow across the field. The burden is lighter.

So, as I think about the words to this song, I can say, “Yes, Lord, whatever it takes, because You have already proven to me that You are faithful, and I have nothing to fear.”

Mother’s Day Thoughts

 

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it’s been fun to see all the greetings to everyone yesterday on Facebook. I’ve been thinking about this Mother’s Day and the ones I’ve experienced in the past.

Let me begin by saying I’m extremely blessed! I have three stepchildren and six grandchildren that I am extremely proud of. They are my delight and fill my heart with so much love. It hasn’t always been such.

Before I married their father/grandfather, I had no children or grandchildren to dote on. My first husband and I never had kids. When I was 30 I got pregnant and my husband and I were through the moon with excitement, but at eight weeks I miscarried and then went immediately into pre-mature menopause. The doctor said I would never have children. I was so heartbroken! I wanted kids so badly. When my husband and I went to premarital counseling before we were married, the pastor asked us how many kids we wanted …. we said 6, and now we were left with none! We tried for adoption and both attempts ended in dead ends…no children.

Mother’s Day became a very difficult day for me. Even though I had a baby in Heaven, I couldn’t call myself a Mom. I had nothing to show for it, no children that I could point to and say, “They are mine”, no pictures in a frame to show. One Mother’s Day was extremely hard because a lady in our church had dealt with infertility for many years, and like me, Mother’s Day was hard for her, but on this day, her heart was full because she and her husband had adopted a little boy. As she related her story to the congregation, tears started to fall down my face and I was a basket case. My poor husband didn’t know what to do. A couple of the ladies in our church saw my distress and after church, came up to me to love on me and encourage me. This happened 20 years after I had lost my baby. Some people would think that by that time I would have been able to get over it, but there’s one thing every mother who has lost a baby knows, and that is, you never get over it.

A couple of years ago on Mother’s Day the First Lady of our church (our pastor’s wife) was having every mother write her name on a slip of paper for a drawing she was going to do for a prize. She asked if I was a mother, I told her I had a baby in Heaven. The next thing out of her mouth was like a revelation to me! She said, “Well then, that makes you a mother, put your name down.” I had never thought I could call myself a Mom! It was like I was given permission to say I was a Mom.

After my husband passed away I was left alone for six years, and then God brought to me a most wonderful man! We fell in love and got married, and when I married him, I got an immediate family complete with children and grandchildren! The Bible says that God will give you the desires of your heart when you are committed to Him. Well, God went above and beyond ANYTHING I could even imagine! I have two beautiful stepdaughters, three handsome stepsons, and six incredible grandchildren.

Today my heart is full and my cup overflows! As I was thinking about my kids (even though I didn’t birth them, I consider them my kids) I began to think of my daughters and how proud I am of them as I watch them be Mom to their kids. They are strong women of God and are teaching their children to love God and are exhibiting before them the characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman. Proverbs 31:29 (NASB) says, “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” Amber and Kristen, I am so proud of you both, and the example you display before your families, of a woman after God’s own heart. I am honored to call you my daughters.  Your mothers are to be praised for raising such amazing women of God!

Power


What do you think of when you hear the word, power? Do you see a strong man lifting heavy weights? Do you think of the overwhelming intensity of lightning, or of an engine equipped to do heavy work? The Bible says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

Some people talk as if the Holy Spirit is a thing. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and as such, is a living being, not an “it”. In my church we sing a song called, “Send it On Down”. It is a song asking for the Holy Spirit to come and inhabit our worship. However, my Pastor doesn’t like the idea of calling the Holy Spirit, “it”, and so we sing, “Send HIM on Down”. As such, we give the Spirit of God His rightful honor and ask for His presence to reveal Himself to us.

The book of Acts says the Holy Spirit will give us power. If the Holy Spirit was an “it”, I can’t imagine a thing being able to give us power. However, as a person in the God-head, He is able to endue us with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) So, what kind of power are we talking about? Let me give you a testimony from my own life.

I go to an Assemblies of God Church, and we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I first went to that church, it was a foreign concept to me because I was not raised in a Pentecostal denomination, my background was Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, and Covenant. I often describe myself as a “Christian Mutt.” After being part of this church for a couple of years, the desire to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit became very strong. I wanted a deeper relationship with God. I began praying and asking God to fill me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One Sunday night I went forward for prayer as I had before. This Sunday night, He granted my request and I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. My Pastor at the time, told us that when we received the Holy Spirit, we had access to power given by Him. At the time, I didn’t know or really understand exactly what that meant, but a few months later my first husband had a stroke, and then a year later he had another, more devastating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side, could only repeat things back to you, but not carry on a full conversation. However, God allowed him to retain the ability to sing, he even sang duets with me, which I found amazing and I am so grateful God didn’t allow that to leave him. My husband was sick for seven years and was in a nursing home until he went to the hospital with pneumonia and heart problems and died.

Those seven years were the most difficult I had ever experienced in my life. There were days that I felt that I had no strength to take care of my husband. But it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do the things that needed to be done. I HAD to rely on God for EVERYTHING. I truly believe that I would not have been able to take care of my husband, work a full-time job at a Christian television network, be on the worship team at church, and try to keep my house together without the power of the Holy Spirit helping me along the way. There was a time of depression and despair, I’m not going to say that I didn’t go through that, but it was then that I realized that there was no where else to go but to God. My current husband says what I went through was a Job’s Trial, and I truly believe he is right. It certainly felt like a trial.

That is one way the Holy Spirit gives us power. He also can give us power in doing ministry work. Some are given the gift of healing and so, the Holy Spirit gives them power to perform their ministry of healing. Some are given the gift of preaching and the Holy Spirit gives them the power to preach messages that bring us into the presence of God and instruct us in righteous living. The Holy Spirit releases power in us for various giftings, circumstances, and situations.

Now, the last part of our verse gives us a mandate. We are to go and be witnesses! The Holy Spirit also gives us power to go and tell what God has done in our lives. That can be accomplished in words, but the most effective tool is to live out our lives in front of people, so that they see Jesus in us. When we let others see the impact He has on our lives, they will want what we have, and that is the person and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to utilize the power given to us from the Holy Spirit to be a witness to a lost world. That mandate, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19), is our purpose as Believers. We are to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus through His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. We are to bring people to Heaven with us. Are there people in our sphere of influence who know that we belong to Jesus, or if asked, would say they don’t know? Are we speaking and living in a way that leaves no doubt in their minds that we are Born Again Believers? It is time we take stock of our lives and how we appear before others. If we aren’t living and speaking so that others see Jesus, then we need to repent and be intentional in our witness.

So, my final question to you, dear reader, is…. are you utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?