Enclosed and Surrounded!

Have you ever thought about what Jesus meant when He said, “I am in the Father,” “you are in Me,” and “I am in you”? Jesus used those phrases several times when He told His disciples that He would be going away and gave them some instructions about living without Him personally walking and talking with them.

“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:20-21

I pondered what Jesus meant by the word “in.” What does that look like? What does that mean? And so, yes, I actually looked up the meaning of “in”.

“Expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else.”
So, Jesus is enclosed and surrounded by God.
And so I am enclosed and surrounded by Jesus. 
And I enclose and surround the Holy Spirit.
And yes, I drew a picture of it!
When I see it and consider the truth of what it means; that Jesus is “in” God, and I am “in” Jesus, and His Spirit dwells “in” me, I realize what an amazing position I have been placed into!
“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
My position is one of protection, privilege, and power! I’m not just left on my own to live out the Christian life by myself.
The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He said He was going back to the Father. For three years they followed Jesus, learned from Him, and were encouraged by Him. Now, the thought of Him leaving brought fears and doubts that they could make it on their own. Jesus knew the trials, the difficulties, and the persecution they would face, and He knew exactly what they needed to know to prepare, encourage and strengthen them for the days, months, and years ahead.
While walking and talking with His disciples Jesus set the example of what it looked like to be “in” the Father. Jesus only did and said what His Father told Him to. He listened to and obeyed everything the Father said, even when His will didn’t want to.
Jesus was fully God, yet fully man. Something I can’t really wrap my brain around, but I believe the fully man part was the part that was “in” the Father.
Jesus demonstrated to us what a life lived “in” looked like.
Jesus’ love for His Father and joy “in” the presence  of His Father, allowed God’s power and love to flow through Him to meet the physical and spiritual needs of everyone He encountered.
Jesus’ passion “in” the Father fueled His righteous anger against the hypocritical attitudes of the Pharisees.
Jesus’ trust “in” His Father empowered Him to completely obey His Father’s will.
Jesus didn’t live life on his own.
And He knew the disciples couldn’t live life on their own.
Jesus entrusted those twelve men with His example and with His words of instruction, expecting them to believe Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him so that the Gospel would be lived and spread throughout the world for generations. Jesus knew it would require they lived “in” Him, filled with the Holy Spirit, to carry forth their mission.
We can’t live life on our own either!
Jesus’ voice speaks to us today, just as it did to His disciples. May we not take our position “in” Jesus for granted, but earnestly seek out what that means in our every day lives.
What would your days look like if you woke up each morning, looked in the mirror, and saw yourself fully enclosed “in” the sovereignty and love of God, completely surrounded “in” the peace of Jesus our Savior, and saw “in” you all the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
It would change your thoughts completely!
It would change your behavior completely!
You would see the attributes of God that would bring awe and appreciation of who God is and you couldn’t help but start your day by praising  and thanking Him! You would see God’s power and love and they would dispel all your fears and insecurities! You would feel safe and protected by Him. You would have a confidence in your very core that you are a child of God and that no matter what happens that day, God will work it out for your good!
You would see the peace of Jesus and be compelled to lay down all your cares and worries at His feet. You would no longer see your sin and shame, but you would hear His voice pronounce, “It is finished!” and you would see yourself as He sees you, dressed in His robe of righteousness. And standing there in front of the mirror wearing His robe of righteousness, you would realize you have been given the gift of this day to take up your cross and follow Him, and to make a difference to those around you.
You would see you really are a temple of God, because right there living inside you is the Holy Spirit! You would see His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control all radiating inside you; ready and waiting to be poured out on those around you that need to know how amazing God is!
Oh to be enclosed “in” the love of the Father, surrounded “in” the peace of Jesus, and filled with the joy of the Spirit!
May this be the truth that sets you free from the fears, doubts, and challenges of living the Christian life on your own, and may you discover the protection, the privilege, and the power that is found “in” Jesus so that you do the works of God here on earth!

A living, breathing miracle!

I know a man who needed for someone to die that he might live. He was diagnosed with a lung disorder that threatened his life. His only hope was a lung transplant.

I saw him several days ago and was amazed at the miracle God did  through the knowledge of medical science, and the skilled hands of doctors.

He is a living, breathing miracle!

It caused me to consider…

I too had the diagnosis of death upon me. My life was threatened with the guilt of sin. My only hope was salvation through the forgiveness of sin.

“For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

I too needed Someone to die that I might live.

This is exactly what Jesus did on the cross, He died, that I might live!

“But now, once for all time, he (Jesus) has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.” Hebrews 9:26

The love of God poured out on the cross as Jesus’ blood was shed for the forgiveness of my sin is truly amazing! The power of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead so that I too have the promise of everlasting life is absolutely miraculous!

I am a living, breathing miracle…forgiven, and alive for eternity!

I wonder if the man with the new lungs wakes up each day with the thought that he is alive today because someone died? I wonder if he embraces each day as a gift to be thankful for; to be treasured and lived fully?

But then I consider…

Do I wake up each day aware that I am truly alive because Jesus died for me? Am I thankful for each day as a gift from God to be treasured and lived fully for Him?

Each new day is filled with possibilities, potential, and promises! The God who spoke light into darkness, and order into chaos, continues to speak creative ideas, unimaginable desires, and impossible dreams, into the hearts and minds of all  His living, breathing miracles!

He is a God of miracles and He intends to use us to display His supernatural power here on earth!

The amazing love, intense sacrifice, and supernatural power demonstrated in sending His Son to live, die, and rise again must not be taken for granted.

I’m sure the man who went through the pain of lung disease, the agony of hoping for lungs to become available in time, then finally undergoing successful surgery, will never forget his experience.

It was truly life changing! 

The miraculous experience of the new life we have been given through faith in Jesus was never intended to be taken for granted.

We are living, breathing miracles of God, filled with His Holy Spirit, set apart for His glory!

The power and love of God is within us so that we live differently than the world around us. We aren’t like those of the world and we aren’t to blend in with them.

Living, breathing miracles are intended to live miraculous lives!

We are meant to live beyond ourselves, supernaturally, so that those around us who are in pain from the disease of sin, who are hoping for an answer, who need surgery, will finally realize there is a cure, and His name is Jesus!

“These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Mark 16:17-18

You are a miracle…live the life!

 

 

Life, “Death,” New Life

There is a cycle of life, “death,” and new life God intends for your good!

The other day I walked past my flower garden and saw three monarch butterflies enjoying the nectar from the marigolds and mums. I marveled at their beauty and took tons of pictures! I love the life cycle butterflies go through. There is so much to learn and ponder from it. From a tiny egg, to a caterpillar, to a cocoon, to a butterfly!

The life, “death,” and new life the butterfly experiences can be applied to so many situations you face in life as well.

In writing my story I’ve felt like a caterpillar creeping along. It has been a struggle to make it a priority in my life. I realize the struggle is in my thoughts, the battle between believing that I really have something important to write and believing it’s a waste of time. My doubt gives reason to fill my time with other things that seem to be more important. Other things that have quicker results.

Those butterflies were a reminder that God uses a similar cycle in my life to accomplish His will.

Life, “Death,” New Life!

And that cycle reminds me of Jonah.

When God called him to go and announce His judgement on the city of Nineveh, he didn’t want to do what God asked him to and boarded a ship sailing in the opposite direction.

Jonah thought he could out run God.

Jonah thought he could escape God’s calling.

But, the relentless love of God chased after Jonah!

God caused a powerful storm that threatened to break the ship apart and all the sailors prayed to their gods for help and lightened the ship by throwing cargo into the sea.

Meanwhile, Jonah slept in the hold of the ship! 

The captain couldn’t believe Jonah was sleeping through all the commotion and told him to pray to his god for help.

Jonah’s disobedience to God didn’t only affect him, it affected those who were near him.

Once lots were drawn and Jonah was found out the sailors didn’t know what to do with him. They were in danger of losing their lives all because Jonah was running from God.

“What should we do with you to stop this storm?”

Jonah realized he needed to die so they would live.

He told them to throw him overboard and the storm would calm.

The sailors didn’t want to throw him to his death. They tried rowing harder, they prayed to the Lord, Jonah’s God. They pleaded that they not die for Jonah’s sins, but also, that God wouldn’t hold them responsible for his death.

What the enemy means for harm, God intends for good!

And so, they picked Jonah up and threw him over board and at once the storm stopped. They immediately believed in God, offered Him sacrifices, and promised to serve Him.

If the story ended there Jonah’s life had purpose. He gave testimony that his God was the True God, maker of land and sea. He told his story that he was running from God and the storm was because of his disobedience. And Jonah prophesied that by throwing him into the sea, the storm would stop.

And because of Jonah’s message all the sailors put their faith in the One True God!

The very message God sent him to tell Nineveh; God’s judgement was coming to destroy them, came upon Jonah.

God is a just God.

Disobedience must be dealt with.

But the story doesn’t end there…

Jonah was sinking under the raging waves to certain death on the ocean floor. It was there in the midst of his trouble he remembered God and he cried out for help.

God is a gracious God who is attentive to all who cry out to him!

God arranged for a fish to swallow Jonah!

Realizing he was rescued, at least for the time being, he continued his prayer to God. There in the belly of the fish Jonah acknowledged it was God who saved him and he offered up praise and thanksgiving to God. Then he promised to fulfill his vows, which I believe was his promise to go to Nineveh as God had called him to.

Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights.

God ordered the fish to spit Jonah out of its mouth, onto dry land.

Life, “Death,” New Life!

When God told Jonah the second time to take His message to Nineveh, Jonah obeyed! And when Jonah walked the streets of Nineveh, shouting of the judgement of God, the people, from the least to the greatest, repented and turned from their evil ways.

“When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10

The evil deeds being done in the city of Nineveh deserved the punishment of God’s judgement.

The disobedience of Jonah deserved God’s judgement.

Jonah was “dead” in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, and was brought back to “life” as the fish spit him out on dry land. What looked like God’s judgement for disobedience upon Jonah worked together for the good as a sign to the people of Nineveh that he was sent by God with a message from God.

What happened to him (Jonah) was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Luke 11:30

Jesus used Jonah’s story to validate His purpose here on earth. Jesus was sent to earth by God with a message from God. “Repeat for the kingdom of God is near!” But where Jonah’s “death” and “life” saved the people of Nineveh from God’s judgement while here on earth, the death and life of Jesus saved all the people of the world from God’s judgement while here on earth, and for all eternity!

I love the stories God has recorded in His word of those who didn’t get it right, but through their “mistakes” I learn of God’s grace and I understand that God truly does intend to work everything together for the good. This story of Jonah reminds me there is a much bigger picture to my life than what I realize. Though I may not have been running from God’s calling, I have put off and avoided writing my story. I have “run the other way” doing things I’ve wanted to do.

There is a certain dying to self that is required in fulfilling God’s calling!

I will only experience the joy of new life when I am willing to die to the life I have now.

My story is a story of this cycle; life, “death,” new life, and I realize that even the writing of it requires I stop running from the calling of God, choose to die to self, and surrender to the new life He has given me.

May my story be God’s message to bring truth, conviction, and new life to those who will read it.

 

 

Write a Book?

So, yes, I do believe I’m called to write a book. It feels kind of intimidating to write that here on my blog, but perhaps this is part of keeping me accountable. I’ve found that much of what I write here on my blog is just as much for me as it is for anyone else who may read it.

They say God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I found all those books and notes the other day. You see the very emotions I went through are the heart of what I’m passionate about. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with identity and destiny.

I have learned over the years that what the enemy means for harm, God intends for the good!

There are just two voices in this world; the voice of truth and the voice of the liar.

Our lives are made up of the words spoken by these two voices.

From the moment we were conceived, through the generations before us, we carry the words of truth and the words of lies within our DNA.

From the moment we were born we have heard words of truth, and words of lies.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” Proverbs 18:21

It is the words we choose to believe as true that define our reality; they determine how we see ourselves and how we choose to live. 

“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.” Proverbs 18:8

Words we hear, whether spoken by others or from our own mouths, sink into our hearts, becoming our truth.

Over the years there has been many times when I have had to rethink the words that I believed were true.

I find this very profound to consider…

how I think about the words I hear, what I believe about them, will determine how I feel and how I respond to life situations. 

This journey of writing my blog for several years has confirmed to me that literally everything that comes into my life is intended by God for my good. Though it seems bad, difficult, or absolutely impossible, it is the very thing God is able to do something exceedingly, above and beyond anything I could ever think or imagine with!

And my writing has confirmed that my beliefs do determine my direction! 

I am passionate about God’s people being set free from the lies and deception of the enemy. I have seen in my own life how deception held me captive and stole so much good from me and from the kingdom of God. I allowed the voice of the enemy to steal my voice and my convictions. I allowed his lies to convince me I was no good; wrapped in a robe of shame that kept me striving to prove myself good. His deception trapped me in a prison of pride, jealousy, and comparison.

As I look back over my life I see threads of lies and deception woven through my thoughts, my words, my actions.

I saw them again when looking at those books and notes. There was the lie that I no longer have purpose. There was the lie that they were a waste of time. Those lies of the enemy wanted to take me to a place of resentment and self-pity to keep me from any future ministry.

They wanted to make me believe I was no longer qualified.

The enemy shrouds the memories of the past with shame to steal us from our future. 

What if I believed those lies?

If I believed them I may not have cared to enter into an amazingly godly conversation with some teenage girls on the way to youth group the other evening.

I may have been so distracted with my own disappointment I wouldn’t have read today’s Bible verse and devotion to my daughter.

I may have considered it a waste of time to pray and intercede for family and friends.

I may not have encouraged my daughter to invite her friend to church yesterday thinking that she will only be disappointed when it doesn’t go as planned.

I’m so glad there is another voice!

It was the voice of truth that drowned out the lies of the enemy

It was the voice of truth that reminded me that ministry will look different throughout my life. Just because there isn’t a circle of women around me, or a bunch of chattering girls grooming horses, the voice of truth says I still have purpose!

I chose to believe the voice of truth!

It was the voice of truth that said I’m still qualified!

And this is what I want to write a book about…

I want others to realize there are only two voices in this world and to consider which voice they choose to believe is true.

I want to share my story with others as an example of the way the enemy deceives and steals our identity and our destiny.

Deception means to conceal the truth.

Satan has concealed the truth of God with his lies. 

It is my prayer to put one more book out there that is intended to pull back the deception of Satan and expose his lies that have held people captive to the harm meant to destroy and to keep them from the One who created them to be loved by Him.

And I am really passionate about calling him out for all the harm he brought into people’s lives! I want more than anything for the Bride of Christ to live the abundant life Jesus died for them to live!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

It is my desire to point people to the truth of God’s word that sets them free from their cloak of shame, and robes them with the righteousness Jesus has given them so they will live in their true identity and walk in their true destiny!

I have been writing, “My Story” for several years now, as you can tell by the various pictures I’ve taken along the way. But, I trust in God’s timing and guidance and I have found along the journey He continues to teach me things from my life experiences that will be part of my story.

And, because I actually have no idea how to write a book!

But this line that I just wrote today pretty much sums up what I hope to convey to those who read my book some day…

“Your true identity can only be found by listening to the voice of truth and your true destiny will only be discovered by obeying the voice of truth!”

Today will you choose to listen to the voice of truth? Will you believe who God says you are and discover what God has called you to? Because you are so much more than you ever imagined and the destiny God has for you is way bigger than you could ever hope or dream!

 

Purpose in your Past?

What purpose does your past have?

I was going through my desk drawers the other day and I found books and notes tucked away from years of Women’s Bible Study, Girls Only, Horse Lovers……ministries I was once involved in.

As I looked through the things my mind was flooded with many memories. I really enjoyed those years; the women, the girls, the experiences we had, and the things we learned together along the journey.

Though I loved those ministries it wasn’t until I saw those books and notes that I realized how much I missed them!

“Why wasn’t I still involved in them?”

As I thought back on each ministry I realized they had faded away for different reasons.

But there I was, looking at all those Bible Study books, notes I had written, folders I designed, bookmarks I made…

“Why am I feeling like this?”

“Why am I thinking these thoughts?”

As I write this blog I’m still not really sure how to put them into words…

Was I upset that those ministries faded away when I still wanted to do them?

Was it regret that life brought other things along instead?

Was I grieving the loss of things that I really enjoyed?

As I paged through the books and read some of the notes I didn’t even want to relive the memories. I was caught somewhere between upset and grieving. The memories that should have been good ones were shrouded in something I didn’t understand.

Something I couldn’t describe,

but, something I wanted to understand.

I knew deep down inside that those books and notes represented good years and I wanted to be able to see them as that; to relive the good memories.

So, I asked God to help me.

Because God alone is the answer to every problem!

In His tender way God began to bring to mind some women, some young, and some older, who attended those ministries and it brought joy to my heart to consider that perhaps some of the seeds that were planted or watered through those books and notes were part of who they are today.

And then I also realized that I too had grown through those years of ministry. Those opportunities stretched me out of my comfort zone, they kept me on my knees, they caused me to search scripture for hours, they taught me to rely on the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit.

There in my room, surrounded by those books and notes I began to see the past differently.

God so lovingly began pull back the shroud that covered my memories of the ministries. 

I began to see those books and notes as the tools God provided for me and many other women and girls to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him.

I began to thank God for the opportunities those ministries provided for me to use the gifts, abilities, and resources He gave me.

And as my focus changed from the books and notes to the lives of those who were part of the ministries,

when my thoughts changed from being upset and grieving, to being thankful for the opportunities I had,

God showed me something!

I had allowed those ministries to define me!

And because they defined me, without them in my life I felt I no longer had purpose!

Discovering those books and notes were evidence that I was a women’s Bible Study leader, that I was a leader of ministries to girls. They represented what I loved to do, they defined who I was. They held memories of the purpose of my life!

Uncovering them, bringing them back into view, I was faced with the reminder that I am no longer involved in the very things that I loved, that I lived for.

Just like those books and notes, I too was hidden away, no longer of any use, or purpose.

God opened my eyes to see that those thoughts and feelings I didn’t understand came from the loss of identity, the loss of purpose!

Behind all those confusing emotions was the underlying fear…

“If I am no longer involved in these ministries, who am I now?”

“What is my purpose?”

The past is a place we can get stuck in.

Or it can cause us to make radical decisions to escape it.

When we allow the experiences of life to define us the past will either paralyze us, or lead to radical decisions in order to deal with the loss of purpose and identity.  

The amazing thing about when God opens your eyes, it may not be what you wanted to see, but it is always something you are glad you saw!

When God exposes a lie, He always replaces it with a truth!

I knew I needed to confess my sin of pride and belief in the lie that those ministries defined who I was.

Then I thanked God for all the opportunities I had and for the fruit that came from those ministries, both in the lives of others and within my own life.

For those ministries were intended to refine me, not define me!

Then I was able to look at those books and notes differently. And, once I was able to see the good God intended from them and relived some good memories, I actually threw them away!

God freed me from the lie of my past meant to paralyze me; upset with regret, and grieving the loss of my purpose.

Then He spoke truth to me concerning my future!

This verse Paul wrote about his past is a good reminder…

“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14

Now it is time to move on!

To trust God with the things yet to come!

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new.” Isaiah 43:18-19

There are new things on the horizon of my life and I thank God for all He brought me through, for all the experiences I have had that have prepared me for the “something new” He has for me!

Ironically, one of those “new” things is to write a book! Even though I just threw some away!