Ever Onward- Originally Posted March 26th

Philippians 3:12-14 (BSB), “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.”

Life can be tough, struggles long and hard, but as long as we don’t sit down or back up, we are constantly moving through these situations. Going through is the key. Pressing toward the goal is what Paul calls it. Something we always have to remember to do is to forget the past. Forgetting the old struggles, pain, hurts, failures, bad choices, mistakes, and sin. Forget about it. It’s ok to remember God’s goodness, deliverance, and love through those things, but don’t dwell on the ugliness, but on the beauty. He loves you!

We never get to say, in this life anyway, “I did it. I am perfect.” Paul had it right. We haven’t yet obtained perfection. However, instead of saying, “I never will” he pressed on. Ever onward. Forward march. Wagon’s hoe. Forget that your best friend just buried an ax in your back, that your spouse gambled away the house payment, that you fell off the wagon, again. Remember God will give you the strength to take that next step forward. Sure your knees might be knocking louder than a drum solo on a cyberpunk song, but so what! Take that first step toward better, toward sanity, toward, provision, health, deliverance, toward Him! It gets better, this too shall pass.

Grab your boot straps, quite like a man, stand firm in your faith, if you feel lacking in the faith department, ask God to help your unbelief. He is faithful even when we aren’t. There is always hope and help! Stop complaining, blaming, and making excuses. You choose to live different. You choose to let God mess with your life. He will work for you! He is able!

Take that first step and when you are weary take the next one. When you want to sit down, stand up. When you want to give up, give in to Him. Move forward. Walk on!

Ever onward. Let this be your mantra.

I Am Not Confined

II Corinthians 6:1-10 (MSG), “Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.”

Paul reminds the church at Corinth that even though they had some issues, those issues and circumstances including jail, work, beatings, slander, while they were ignored and distrusted, they still did what they were called to do. We can always say, “I can’t because…” of work, or sickness, or family, or friends, or because they might think this about me, or it is dangerous, or scary, or takes too much effort, whatever excuse you can manufacture. Yet, Paul says even when he was in prison he was not confined to his circumstances. We can let anything be bondage, a jail, a prison. We can let many things stop us from doing God’s will. It is all a matter of choice. Do we choose to answer the call no matter what, or do we say we aren’t able and then point the blame as someone or something.

Let’s get practical here, so you don’t have the money to bail your friend out of financial problems. You can cook them a meal, work on their car for free, pray for them, encourage them, and not judge their situation. Maybe you are still fighting the fight of faith and aren’t able to walk door to door to witness, or visit the elderly. You can call those who are shut in, you can witness on social media (not preach, witness, i.e. “God is so good, he is providing all I need.”). So maybe you don’t stand behind a pulpit, but you work, or go to school around people. Share His love.

Get the picture.

Our circumstances can’t confine us. Only we can decide to squander the life God has given us.

Quit You Like Men

I Corinthians 16:13 (DBT), “Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong.”

Ok, so I am not a guy, but this verse always gives me courage. Most of us can start out strong, standing in faith, and vigilantly protecting our territory, but how do we finish? Do we lose faith, sit down, back down, tuck tail and run, or get lazy and let the enemy run rough shod over us?

Quit like you started, quit like a man. Other versions of this verse says, “be manly”, “be courageous”, “be men”, and “do manfully”.

A Godly man knows who he is and Who’s he is. He keeps the faith, not letting his guard down. He eat, sleeps, and lives, with the battle ever in his mind. A true warrior. He will fight to the death, and if he perchance survives, he comes out stronger with his spirit and morals still intact.

Before we can quit like men, we have to be watchful, see the enemy’s attacks for what they are, stand ready for battle, then finish the job like a man.

Psalm 31:24 (NIV), “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!”

Obviously

 

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

Matthew 7:20 (NLT), “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

What exactly is a “Silent Witness” or a “Closet Christian”? To some it is the opposite of a so-called follower of Christ who beats them over the head with the word, or who spouts off scripture when a hug or a helping hand is needed, or even worse, blasts them with a fire hose when a refreshing drink is all that is needed, the ones who are afraid as coming across as “one of those” people.

Honestly, in today’s world I can see the temptation to just keep your mouth shut and live right and hope someone asks you what is different about your life. However, if we are being honest, that isn’t what God has asked us to do at all. Yes, we live right. Yes, our life should be a living testimony of God’s love and forgiveness. Yet it is more than that. It has to be. Look at Matthew five again. We are to be a light that can’t be hidden. And in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us that a tree is identified by its fruit. If I am an apple tree, I should be bearing apples. If I am a light house, my light should be seen by every sinking and faltering ship out there in the perilous waters.

Sometimes, most of the time actually, that involves speaking. We have to tell them who’s we are. Just living right isn’t going to get a single soul saved. Living a hidden Christian life, so as not to offend anyone, isn’t going to help bring anyone out of the darkness and into the light. If we speak boldly as we ought, if we shine that light on some sinful behavior, if we live right in the midst of a world living so…wrong, won’t we face some opposition, maybe even persecution. Yep! In fact that is one way that we will know we are living for Him.

Who we are should be obvious. Again I know in today’s world that is a hard one. Today you can’t even use the once affective, “checking the body parts” to see if that seemingly genderless person is male or female. We can’t tell by the clothes, the makeup or lack of, we can’t tell by mannerisms, or really anything. We have become a world that wants no divisions at all, yet is so divided! So shouldn’t we live by a different standard? As Christians we want it to be obvious that we are male, or female. We want it to be obvious that we are hard workers, honest people, good parents, productive citizens, and fun people to be around. Shouldn’t it be just as obvious that we are His? I want people to know that Heaven is my home, that Jesus is my King, and that God is my Father. I want them to know that I am being led by The Holy Spirit, I have been washed by the blood, and that they can be too.

There is no such thing as a closet Christian. Shouldn’t it be obvious who’s we are. Obviously!

Be a shining star!

Philippians 2:12-15 (Berean Study Bible) “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world.”

Book Review for “An Exalted Depravity”- Christian YA Dystopian

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What the book is about:

“Amendment Thirty to the Constitution of the United States of America: The education of young American persons between the ages of five years and twenty years shall hereby and indefinitely lay in the hands of the United States government. Any form of alternative schooling without government sanction shall not be permitted.

It all started with the rebellion. Teens in the streets, throwing bricks through every storefront, slashing every tire, and beating any stranger who looked at them twice. But sometimes the solution is worse than the problem. This is the lesson Zak learns after being ripped from his humble family and thrown into a new school, where open sexuality reigns and chastity is a vice.

There, the question in his mind remains: what exactly is the cost of discipleship?”

My Review:I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am a fan of Logan Judy, so when he offered me a copy of his latest book I accepted. I loved this YA dystopian book. This one had a whole new take on dystopian. I found it very relevant and couldn’t help thinking of “Brave New World” as I read it. The story is set in a society that is void of morals with a government that thinks they can do a better job raising the children than their own parents.  A must read for Christian teens! I give it five stars, and am looking forward to more of this series. Though this clearly is book one, it could be read alone. No swearing. There is a lot of talk of sexual contact, but not in a graphic way, only as a description of societies values. Some violence and bullying. Though geared for teens, I think any adult dystopian fan (like me) would like it.

 

Limbo

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I am not talking about the game where you duck under a broom to some fun music, I am talking about that in-between stage in your life when you know change is coming, yet you lack the details.

Limbo- an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

You know something is coming, something big. Usually it involves some kind of change, maybe a promotion, or a change in lifestyle, or a new spiritual level. My husband gets excited in this place. I get scared. (Yep, God put us together for a reason.)

I have to admit, I don’t so much get anxious anymore, but I do feel like the “Velveteen Rabbit” the abandoned favorite toy. I feel like I should be doing something, but I don’t know what. I find myself feeling stretched, but I don’t know why. I feel like just around the corner is something exciting, but I don’t know what. If you know me at all, you know I hate change. I want to know the plan and there better be one. I am not real spontaneous. So this in-between time, this limbo is a very uncomfortable time for me. Another reason it isn’t a fun place is that there is just too much “feeling” going on which is made evident in this paragraph. It is a place where you have to bypass all of those feelings and stand in faith. You have to blindly put your trust in Him who is trustworthy.

Another reason I don’t enjoy this state of limbo is because usually it means letting go of something. I was in limbo right before I left my secular job and started in the full time ministry. I was in limbo right before I left the ministry of working at my Church. (I am still in the ministry, just not at my church building.) It took a while to know what the changes were going to be. It was scary stepping out into the full time ministry. Finances were slim, new enemy attacks were coming, more faith was required! It was just as scary leaving the place that I worked and ministered for thirteen years to begin working from home. Who would I talk to, who would pray for me on the spot when I needed it, how would I stay in the loop? All things that I fretted about. I have been in limbo so many times during my life and I am starting to get that feeling again lately.

I can honestly say that every time I made the transition from one level to the next, even though I thought it was scary and totally plan-less, God had a plan. He knew what He was doing. Even when I didn’t understand how, or why, or when, or pretty much anything, He did. My life was always better on the other side. There was greater faith, more blessings, more fruit coming out of the old and into the new.

And those times in-between of waiting and praying?

Those brought patience and maturity.

Are you doing the limbo? Do you feel like you are off balance and ready to topple, or ready to knock your noggin on that broom stick?

Don’t fret!

There is a promotion on the other side!

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV), “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Heart Hooks

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Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJB), “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”

Have you ever been hooked by a fish hook? Maybe seen someone who has? I have several times, some of the stories are downright comical, others make you cringe just thinking about them. The thing about a fish hook is that you can’t just pull those things out. They have little barbs on them that are supposed to keep you from losing your fish.

I read a book recently where they used this analogy to explain the hurts in our heart. Those hurts are like fish hooks, full of barbs that are embedded in our hearts. You really can’t just pull them out. God knows this and cares about us so much that he takes them out the “easy way”. This involves pushing them through. It is still painful, believe me, it will hurt. However, it will not do more damage. Our Father knows the safest way to get them out. He can remove them without tearing our hearts to pieces. He is in the repair business not the demolition business after all.

We read in scripture about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, resisting, and then coming out of that experience full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He immediately started teaching in the synagogues. We read in Luke that He returns to His hometown, where He was raised and as was His custom, went to the synagogue there. He stands up and reads those words out of Isaiah. I enjoy the King James Version of this one because it reads that He came to “bind up the brokenhearted”. When I read this version, I always picture a torn and ravaged heart that He tenderly wraps in the gauze of His love, stopping the hemorrhaging.

That’s why He came. To heal our hearts. To show us that the Father’s love is more than enough to bind up any brokenness, to stitch up every wound, to break up every stony place, and to fill our hearts with His love (His love is “shed abroad” in our hearts.)

I found myself recently having to allow one of those barbs to be removed. I thought that the broken place had already been healed. Sometimes we don’t even know about a wound until God starts that gently pushing. Did it hurt? You bet. It also brought up some ugly stuff that I didn’t want to deal with. Yet, I have gotten smarter with every hook removed, so I allowed Him to do His thing. I was left feeling emotional, drained, and free! One more hurt gone. One more kiss from Daddy on the boo-boo. I am glad that just because we think everything is fine, doesn’t mean that He stops working on us. He knew I still harbored that hook. He also knew it was not part of His plan for my life. So out came the spotlight and there it was.

When that happens, the best thing to do is immediately surrender that hurt to God. Forgive anyone you need to, and ask Him to take it out. I used to reason with myself, make excuses, say things like, “I already got over that years ago,” or get on the bandwagon of lamenting all the hurts in my life, or take on a victim mentality. I learned the hard way that doing those things only makes those barbs reproduce. It makes the hooks grow, and it makes the process of removing them take even longer, and hurt a lot worse. That’s why it is important ask God to search our hearts. Allow the Holy Spirit to show us what’s really in there.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB), “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,  And lead me in the everlasting way.”

This isn’t about just looking for sin, or bad habits, it is also looking for wrong thought patterns, unforgiveness, and unhealed hurts, every “hurtful way” in us. He is faithful, He is gentle, and His love can heal every wound.

Will you let Him?