Go on, with your new self!

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when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; Ephesians 4:21-23

One of the most difficult things I deal with as I grow closer to Christ is the attitudes of family. I guess it’s because as you shed the old self and put on the new in Christ, friends who don’t get you anymore drift away and life moves on, but family stays. You may not see them all the time, but you are bound to run into them on holidays or other special occasions. I have several who find it hard to understand or accept how my heart has changed and how Christ is working in my life. It has led to a few clashes that leave me hurt and disappointed. They still think of me as my “old self” and those memories clash with the “new self” that stands before them. They have no idea how to reconcile these differences in my life and  respond in spite, judgment or anger. It is disheartening when others condemn your actions and take what was meant for kindness as flirting, love as weakness, joy as ignorance and your peace as suspicious. But, it also amazing to be in a situation like this and not (as my friend Kelly says) throw your friends grace and mercy out the door and give them a few choice words. Ladies and gentlemen, when grace and mercy prevail, that is NOT me! That is the Holy Spirit at work! Proof He is in this heart of mine whittling and working away to make it a better place.

I feel like I can relate a little to a reformed inmate or alcoholic. Their friends and family remember how they use to be and it will take time for to understand and see the change in them. The key is that those friends and family have to be willing to give them a chance and experience the change. As Christ followers we have to do this for others and pray they do the same for us. After a recent run-in with family in the “old self/new” battle I found myself questioning the motives of an acquaintance who had done something kind and was claiming it was for God’s Glory. This person had claimed this same thing many times before with selfish motives, but I immediately began to pray for God to cover me with His armor and send those demons of judgment running back to the pits of fire they deserve.

What is the world was wrong with me? Here I was on the hills of experiencing the hurt of judgment and condemnation and I was dishing it out to someone else. THAT is why we need God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-20). Although we will never be perfect, He will convict us of our actions and feelings which brings repentance that gives us growth and peace. The closer we grow to Christ the more we sense Him and his convictions. Feelings or thoughts I use to ignore or move past after a few days or weeks ~ God now instantly brings to my attention and I pray without ceasing until His power overtakes them. The great news is . . . IT WORKS EVERY TIME! I pray you will find strength, peace and comfort in that your Lord is with you always and has overcome so you just “Go on, with your new self” and skip like a lamb when someone “cuts you down or throws you out.”

Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this. Luke 6:22-23 (The Message)

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Slooooowwww Down!

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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

I was sitting with a friend having coffee this week and we were discussing how it can be so difficult to slow down and visit with God while “life” is happening all around us. I shared with her that two of the best days I could remember having last year were the ones my car was in the shop and I was stranded at home.  With a very valid excuse not to go anywhere, I sat in front of the fire place, read God’s word and wrote all day. I shared this memory with joy in my heart and a smile on my face. Then I began to wonder . . . Why is it so difficult to slow down on my own if it brings me so much peace and joy? Not only slow down to seek God, but slow down when it comes to reading and studying His word.

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! Psalm 119:17-19

I thought of a little girl in my son’s Kindergarten class last year. She broke her dominate hand and as if it wasn’t hard enough learning to write she was forced to use her left hand. It was slow, tedious and frustrating for her some days, but she didn’t give up. She made it happen. The girl has spunk and drive. Yes, she had to slow down, but I remember their teacher saying that by having to slow down she was learning to form the letters in a more precise way.

I want to be precise, to slow down, to savor and dissect God’s word to encourage and motivate myself and others. But how? I began to think about ways to make myself absorb His word  – make my brain slow down so it seeps into every chamber of my heart and penetrates all that I think, so and say and resets my pace to His and not this world’s.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:33-37

Just for fun, don’t laugh, I tried writing one of my favorite scriptures with my left hand. I chose a long one so I would really have to work at it. It was tedious, frustrating and slow ~ very slow, but it slowed my thoughts and my actions. I wasn’t on autopilot because it was so unnatural to write with my left hand. Try it just for fun, but I don’t recommend doing it often (maybe just for memory verses) or you may be tempted to give up studying all together. So for the long haul, I suggest these tools:

Find a word ~ Choose a word from the devotion or cited scriptures to reflect on for the week. Some examples: sovereign, righteous, almighty, full, uphold, future, hope, love, obedience. Search your Bible commentary.

Define ~ Choose one to two words to define and then reread the scriptures, replacing the word with the definition.

Translate ~ Choose two or three different Bible translations.

Go the Distance ~Read the entire chapter of your favorite verse for the week.

Prayer ~Close your eyes and talk to God or write out your prayer in your journal.

I go into greater detail about in my Bible study In The Mi[God]dle, but I pray this will give you a little direction and encouragement to slow down. God blesses us in ways I can’t express when we slow down for Him and the word He has for us.

Harvest 2012

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Harvest America! Who have YOU invited to come hear the Good News on 8/26?

Bring a friend who needs to hear the Good News!

Harvest America is a nationwide, evangelistic outreach with Pastor Greg Laurie! There are over 1500 host sites nationwide that will be joining Pastor Greg live via satellite from the Harvest Crusade in S. California.

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium – doors open @ 6:00 – Admission is Free!!!

Pastor Greg Laurie – is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California began his pastoral ministry at the age of 19 by leading a Bible study of 30 people. Since then, God has transformed that small group into a church of some 15,000 people. Today, Harvest is ranked as one of the largest churches in America by Outreach magazine (Outreach 100, 2011).For more information about Pastor Greg, visit his personal homepage at www.greglaurie.com. For information about the Harvest Crusades, visit www.harvestcrusades.org.

The Matt Papa Band will be playing!

Stop Barking!

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The kids were enjoying their favorite TV show one afternoon when our dog started barking at  a car that pulled up and parked in front of our house. They started yelling over the barking, “Trudy, STOP BARKING! We can’t hear.” and were on their way to grab her when I stepped in. “She is only doing her job. She is protecting you. Don’t punish her for it.”

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.Psalm 121:1-4 NIV

I am guilty of doing that same thing in my relationship with God. When things aren’t going the way I want them to go, the way I planned, the way I thought it would turn out . . . I begin to question God, get angry, wonder “why me?”, “why now?” instead of trusting. Having faith that God knows and I don’t. He knows what is best for each of us. Knows what we need to draw us closer to Him and wants to protect us. I am beginning to trust more and more. Trusting that when I am delayed because of a car problem, a diaper blow out, a spilled smoothie or a slow driver God’s protecting me or putting me where I need to be FOR HIM and His glory – at just the right time. Instead of getting upset, impatient, angry or resentful ~ look for God and praise Him for being in every detail of your life and loving you enough to be there.

Finally, be strong in the Lord  and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers  of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12 NIV

God never sleeps or slumbers so He never stops doing His job protecting, loving, forgiving, guiding . . . don’t let Satan win by slipping in with His tentacles of doubt, fear, anger and questioning spirit. There’s so much more to this fight we are in. Put on the armor of God because our daily fight is about more than we can perceive or imagine.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV