5 Ways You Are Growing Spiritually

Woman hand in jail

Upon finishing an hour of women’s bible study at the local county jail, I got in my car, rested my forehead on my steering wheel and reminded myself to breathe. My heart was heavy as my mind replayed all of the conversations from the past hour and each woman’s face returned to my mind. With a huge sigh I silently prayed, “Lord, let them have ears to hear what You needed them to hear.”

Then my thoughts shift to, “Did I say the right thing?”, “I should have told them…”, and “Oh no! I completely forgot to say…”.

“STOP! What am I doing?” I then realized that I am pridefully limiting God. It’s like I have a Doctor Jekyll – Mr. Hyde conversation quarreling in my head. Regardless of what I should have, could have and might have said, God can use it; I have a confident faith that he will use it, but Satan certainly wants me to feel defeated and stop this jail ministry non-sense, trying to convince me that it’s a fruitless waste of time.

It’s a battle of the mind and I consciously have to take my thoughts captive and cancel out negativity, redirecting my critical heart to prayer, “Lord, I know you were there and whatever I did right use it for your glory, whatever I inadvertently excluded, give them a hunger and a thirst for your truth.”

Why is this a big deal? To be transparent, my love language is affirmation. If there is one place on this earth that you won’t get a pat on the back or an “Atta girl” for doing a good job – it’s jail. As I drove away, continuing to mentally duke it out, I felt a peace come over me; a peace in the confidence that God’s word spoken in that hour were seeds that God can use to grow. Claiming victory in this head conversation made me realize that I have grown Spiritually and I thought I would share this and other observable spiritual growth examples with you.

  1. God Fills The Gaps

This is progress for me. For so many years I gave myself a report card on my performance (for everything) and I inevitably came up short every time. Sure it earned me an impressive resume, some level of popularity and a cocky confidence that all of my combined achievements would somehow impress God because I was diligently using all the talents that He gave me and achieved certain levels of success. I now know that it was unimpressive to God. God created me a workman for His good works (Ephesians 2:10), not the other way around. When I was in achievement, advancement and self-improvement mode, what I was really doing was idolizing the world; chasing after false gods and ultimately building a pedestal that only esteemed me, not God. Oh how I used all of this ambition and missed the whole point. Yet, he used these things (success, achievement, accolades and rewards) as a way to show me that my way only reaps discontentment, burn-out and defeat. There is a gap between my ability and His and I now recognize that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

2. It’s Not About Me

Any control freaks out there? I’m a recovering control freak thanks to Christ. I have come to realize that not only can’t I control everything, but when I do try I am just getting in God’s way. God gave us His Word with instructions on how to live. If I try to create an outcome or impose what I think is best for the situation, that now sends me a red flag. If I force my kids to play a certain sport, instrument or take certain classes because I think it will help them get better grades, earn scholarships or help them get admitted to a better college – I’m causing interference in God’s plan. He knows what is best for them and if I trust Him (like I tell Him and others that I do), then I need to pray for my kids, but I shouldn’t tell God what “I think” is best for them. In the end, I don’t know God’s big and mighty and sovereign plan for their lives and chances are whatever He’s up to is going to be 10x better than I could ever ask for or imagine.

3. God uses ordinary people

If we collected the resumes of the twelve disciples we would realize they didn’t “qualify” to be in Jesus’ inner circle. Truth is, neither are we. That is what is so beautiful. If we bring Him our whole heart and let Him do the work; on us, in us and through us. What has truly baffled me lately is how many people and situations God has placed me in now that I surrender my will. I see ways to serve people EVERYWHERE. At the grocery store, at church, at work, on the streets and in my neighborhood. I just have to make myself available for Him to do His work. John MacArthur, in his 6/26/2017 sermon titled, “The Necessary Components of Saving Faith”, he says, “The longer I’ve been a Christian the more I realize that I don’t do anything for the Lord. I not only don’t do anything for the Lord, but I can’t do anything for the Lord and the wonder of wonders is that the Lord can do what he does through ME!” Me! That statement completely turns my idea of service for God upside down, or should I say right side up?

4. Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’

God’s plans are not our plans (Isaiah 55:8) and sometimes I find myself feeling a bit defeated when outcomes don’t happen the way I expect them to or (maybe worst) has fast as I expect them to happen. I am a happy person by nature, but I have to admit, if you could spend even an hour in my head you would be shocked at the negativity. It’s grumbling mostly. Thoughts of hating my clothes, wishing the kids would put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or questions like, “Why can’t they… [fill in the blank].” Because of scripture, I can re-think these thoughts and put them into a healthier, more positive, perspective. Thoughts of blessings for the roof over my head, clothes in my closet and a wash machine to keep them clean. Instead of wishing for my kids to be responsible enough to clean up after themselves, praising God for good health, the ability to serve them and knowing I’m honoring God by not nagging and complaining about it. Then the question elimination. If I find myself asking why questions for things that are not done, are inconvenient for me or causes me to search for answers that only God really knows, I just submit and accept that the why comes back to why I would want it or expect it to be another way. If they don’t want a clean house, but I do, guess who can take the steps to keep a clean house? Me! So if it’s important to me, I can just do it and feel like it’s my act of service, demonstrating my love for them.

5. I’m Not a Prisoner to Satan

He made me perfect. What artist shows up to an easel an plans to do a mediocre job? Not one. Artists show up to create a masterpiece and that is exactly what God did when he created us, but Satan doesn’t want us to believe that. He fills our minds with self-doubt and plants lies. Those ladies in the jail that I minister to may be behind bars, but the devil entraps us in a prison cell of our own. Bondage to never having enough, being enough, making enough or anything enough. BUT WE ARE! God says that he knows every hair on our head and in Ephesians 1:11-12 Paul writes, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”

It doesn’t get any better than that my friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.

His truth produces growth, transformation of character, renewing of our minds and strength to overcome. So read, grow and see that the more you love Jesus, the more clear and content you will be.

Rearview Mirror On Life

Rearview Mirror

Today’s Devotion: Deuteronomy 1

Have you ever stopped to think and took some dedicated time to contemplated your life? It can be a dangerous journey to let your mind venture down memory lane where you evaluate where you’ve been and where you are now. Image life as though looking through a rear-view mirror. You can see the road ahead, but just so far. At a glance you can see the pass behind you and that road stirs up all kinds of emotions.

Deuteronomy chapter 1 is like that to me, but from Moses perspective. He gives a recount of the good decisions and experiences and then he rehashes the bad decisions and consequences that resulted from them. It’s neat to read this chapter and have the whole context of the wilderness march through the books of Exodus and Leviticus to be able to fully appreciate what Moses is saying in regard to the actual account of the journey it took them to get there.

Our lives are like that. We have made good decisions and have had some great experiences. Then there are those times when hindsight is 20/20 and if we were to do it all over again, we would have done things differently. The future could be paved with excitement, adventure, anxiety, uncertainty, fear or pain. While the past made up of beautiful memories, daunting challenges, hard lessons, major milestones and even some unsettling regrets.

Life is full of experiences (good and bad) and sometimes, let’s admit it, we have diverted from the right path – maybe even veered into the ditch. Our God is a God of grace and mercy, love and compassion. All of the bad and good of our past is also God’s hand in developing us into who He created us to be. Isn’t it exciting when you think of it this way?

Our promise land is on the horizon and God will take the wilderness journey of our life and make it purposeful. I feel like I have really bonded with Moses over the past several months and chapters of the Old Testament and can relate to his reflection on where he as been and why staying the course assures of a beautiful future. I value that all that he endured and the people that God entrusted Him to lead has given us a perspective into our our journey. And the best verse of this chapter is  21, “See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Christian Pedigree

pedigree

Today’s Devotion: Numbers 1

We did it! Another milestone. Yesterday concluded our study through the book of Leviticus and today begins our new journey through the book of Numbers.

Right away God is teaching us how amazing He is. He’s counting Israelities to form an army. Can you image, as the census is taking place, men are asked, “Are you an Israelite?” What if they said they were not sure, maybe, think so, live like an Israelite and so by association should qualify to become an Israelite, or worse, are working really hard at becoming an Israelite?

Do you think if they are NOT born Israelites that God will give them a pass? NO! These are His people – God’s chosen – that Moses led out of Egypt. If they are not children of God, they will not be given the right to be a part of God’s army.

And so it is with us. I talk to people who give similar answers about their citizenship in heaven. If you asked them if they were going to heaven they would give similar responses…. “I’m not sure, maybe, I think so, I go to church or most common of these, I am a good person, I work hard at it.”

These are not enough and that’s not my Words, it’s God’s (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sad thing is that we can have absolute assurance that we will be in heaven and are children of God, but it takes re-birth. What is re-birth? It’s surrendering our lives to Jesus. It’s giving God headship of our lives. It’s believing, by faith, that we can’t get to heaven on our own and that we need a savior. Then we are given the Holy Spirit, our counselor, and our lives are transformed.

Like the Israelities, you can’t be an Israelite [Christian] by association, you must be born [re-born] to it (John 3:5-8). If you’re not there, you are someone who is not sure or working hard to get into heaven, please stop working on your Christian pedigree and cross the line, by faith, into the kingdom of God.  All you have to do pray. Confess that you can’t get their on your own and ask God to be LORD of your life.

If you did that welcome in and congratulations for making the greatest decision of your life! Mark this, the day after Thanksgiving, as your birthday into the kingdom of God. If you need guidance on where to go from here, please email me. If you are already there, I would love to hear your testimony in the comments below. How and when did you receive Christ and how has your life changed?

Dress For The Best

Fashion Model

Today’s Devotion: Exodus 28.

When I was younger, my Mom used to tell me to wear my “Sunday best”. I had a couple of dresses that were very special and I only wore them to church on Sundays or dress up events like funerals, weddings, school pictures or concerts. As I read Exodus chapter 28, I thought of my Sunday best.

God was very specific about this certain outfit because it is the attire that Aaron would need in order to enter into the presence of God. It appears that Aaron was promoted in this chapter so God is making sure that Aaron was appropriately suited to represent the position of high priest.

Have you ever heard the quote, “Dress for the position you want, not the position you have?” After reading Exodus 28 and the criteria of this Godly dress code, I believe that statement applies here – Dress the Best for God. What does that say about our choices for our wardrobe? As it has been in the past four chapters of Exodus, God has every intricate detail covered and in this one, He is a bit more personal. This one describes our own physical presence in relation to a perfect God.

It causes me to think about what a Christian woman should wear to represent Christ. I know we are not supposed to dress immodestly because we don’t want to draw negative attention to ourselves. If we want people to see us as followers of Christ, as I tell my daughters, in words, actions, thoughts and deeds – what does that look like? I think the way we dress can say a lot about who we are and how we desire to honor God.

This chapter is a call out to me on what dressing for God looks like. It certainly leaves us with much to think as it relates to our choice for dress. We don’t just turn our Christianity on or off whether its a Sunday or any other day of the week, so the question I will take to my closet this morning is, “How can I dress for Godly Success?”

My Inquistive Mind

Genesis 7:1

The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. (NIV)

I can still picture it. A boat with a bunch of cute little animals smiling, decorated in every pastel shade, with a rainbow. (Can’t forget the rainbow.) From my Sunday school classes and vacation bible school at the small Covenant Church in Marinette, Wisconsin, to the nursery I designed for our first daughter – Noah’s ark was among one of my favorite “stories” of the bible. Fast forward to today and I read the story of Noah in an entirely new way.

One of the first things that I am fascinated by is that God chose Noah and his family because they were found righteous. It’s hard for me to fathom that from the Garden of Eden until Noah lived to the ripe (young) age of 600, that sin dominated the earth. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Noah? At least I get to plug into a bible study, call a girlfriend, listen to a “Focus on the Family” Podcast, or dial in to my favorite Christian artists on Christian Radio. Noah had to be one awesome spiritual leader for his family for all of them to have been found righteous with God. Way to go Noah!

I guess my take away from Genesis chapter 7 is that no matter how bad the world gets and how God keeps getting pushed out of our courtrooms, schools and public buildings, we have a much greater opportunity to remain connected, reminded, reassured, and confident in our relationship with God. We are so blessed.