7.28.2014

Get rid of the old! Put on the NEW!

The Lord has given me the delightful privilege of meeting with a new believer in a discipleship relationship.
After our initial meeting to investigate whether we are a good match for one another, we spent the next session talking through expectations, desires, needs ... and purpose.
What are we striving for? What do we desire to accomplish? What is our goal for our bi-monthly meetings?
And then I remembered the passage in Scripture that was presented during our leadership training for the youth group. I grabbed my Bible, looked it up, and BAM! That was it!
We had our purpose - and our theme.

And then I realized - it is not just fitting for this precious young woman ... it is fitting for ALL discipleship relationships. According to Titus 2, we as older women are to be teaching younger women. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This is a big deal!
This is important!
And it is incredibly humbling.
Because in order for older women to TEACH such things, they must be LIVING OUT these very characteristics in their own lives.

As I read the passage it became clear that while it is a perfect model for teaching a young woman/young believer how to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh, it is also a perfect model for the older woman/more mature believer to continue imitating so she may grow more like Christ day by day.
In short - it is a terrific model for a reciprocal, mutually encouraging relationship that will be a challenge and comfort to both women as they pursue Christ - together.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 
But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

Isn't this great??

PUT OFF your old self.
Everything you did before Christ - remove it! You are a new creation. Your desires for the things of the world must fade away until they are no longer visible.
But this does not mean you disappear!
We put off the old self - and PUT ON the new self! The things of Christ. The fruits of the Spirit.
And when we do, we are even more beautiful because instead of reflecting ourselves - we reflect our Savior.

It is not a one time event, however.
Our sin nature does not evaporate at the moment of salvation. It remains within us, but with less power because the Holy Spirit is also living within us - able to give us the strength and desire to say NO to the enticements of the world, and YES to Christ.

Think of it like changing after a workout.
You peel off the sweaty, stinky, dirty clothing.
You shower.
And then, you put on clean, unwrinkled, fresh-smelling clothes.
Aah! Such a nice change!

That is the continual exercise of the believer.
Put off the old ways - the LIES of satan and the world.
Put on TRUTH!
God's promises. His character. His ways. His dealings with His children. His holiness.

For every stinky, sweaty lie you take off,
it must be replaced with the truth of your heavenly Father.

It will take time. You do not know Him. You do not understand His ways. The pull of the world is quite strong and you have been a slave to it for years, perhaps decades. Learning a new way of thinking, speaking, behaving, and living requires a heart and mind that are willing to be INTENTIONAL.
Every ugly, evil, lustful, lying, jealous, self-loathing thought MUST BE REPLACED with the truth that you are a beautiful, loved, forgiven, and cherished child of God! A child who can learn to be kind, thoughtful, content, and confident - IN CHRIST - because He promises that the work He began in you will continue until He returns to take you Home!

But I promise! The more you replace the old with the new - the lies with the truth - the easier it will become! It will feel natural, though never effortless. Our flesh refuses to yield and must be constantly put in its place. But you know what? You will never be doing it on your own! You have the power of Christ to draw from ... a well that never runs dry. This is EXCITING! This is AMAZING!

God says, "Be ye holy as I am holy."
And this starts by ridding ourselves of the "old" - and replacing it with the "new." The joy, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness of a wonderful and loving God who desires to give good things to His children.
It is His job to give good things. It is our job to dispose of and destroy the bad.

Thank You, Lord for this Discipleship Theme! I LOVE it, and am so excited to have a purpose and a plan for our time together as sisters in Christ. What a privilege it is to be allowed into the heart of another, and what a JOY it is to see them look less like themselves and more like YOU!

7.26.2014

Ready to do it again!

On Thursday we spent nine hours at the beach. And for almost two of those nine hours I was in the ocean! It was absolutely delightful.
The sun was blazing hot which made the icy waves feel like a refreshingly cool blanket wrapped around me as I swam. I gained the courage to swim out farther than where I could stand up and touch the sand. And you know what? I LOVED it!
I felt free, uninhibited, and relaxed. I even started floating on my back! I discovered that the farther I went, the waves rolled softly without breaking, so I didn't have to worry about managing the waves or being tossed about. I laughed a couple of times when I thought of the visual of me bobbing around the vast ocean ... the same ocean I have avoided, and even feared, for the past two decades. It was peaceful. Quiet. The perfect place to just be ... and reflect.

Surprisingly, I did not do a lot of thinking while I was in the water.
I never really believed "not thinking" was even possible, but there is something about the ocean that puts my mind at such ease that all matter of thought ceases. And I LIKE IT!

However, once I was back on land and living daily life again, my mind kicked into full gear and I discovered an encouraging spiritual analogy about my ocean experience.

Getting IN the ocean is the hardest part.
The water is cold when it hits your skin, causing you to second guess if you actually want to keep going.
The tide may be in or out, the waves small or large ... both a determining factor in your level of commitment and bravery. Wading into soft, easy waves is one thing. Willingly moving toward hard-crashing waves is quite another.
Until you get past the break line of the waves, you get knocked around a little. Or a lot.
You swallow the salty water.
And now you have a choice:
Ditch the water and go back to the sand where everything is constant and easy, and snacks, ice water, and a cozy, warm towel await you.
or
Gather your courage, plunge into the cold waves, push through the break, and swim out until you get to the calm, peaceful water where you can finally cease striving - and just enjoy the beauty of the ocean.
Your eyes see far into the distance. You can observe the oncoming waves and have plenty of time to prepare for them.
You can look toward the shore and see the sand, the umbrellas, children frolicking, and hear the voices of people talking and laughing.
You are able to take in the WHOLE scene ... the good, the bad, the easy, the difficult, the simple, and the complex.
And you are quiet.
Peaceful.
Relaxed.

But to get to that place - you HAD to work your way through the tumult - you had to TRUST that there was something better waiting on the other side ... even though you had no proof. You had to have CONFIDENCE in your own ability to maneuver through the waves and swim on your own.
And because you did, you found success!
And now, the next time you go out, it will be even easier. You will attempt to go farther, and you will not second-guess yourself as often. It will become second nature. And before you know it, you will be inviting others to join you - teaching THEM how to push through the difficult part, encouraging them to go farther, because you know that what is waiting for them is wonderful!

And it all happened because you took that FIRST STEP.

Isn't this just like our walk with the Lord?
When we stand on the outside looking into what is required of a Christian, we see high standards required by a holy God, sacrifice, trials, suffering, the need to give up self, commitment, faithfulness, having to trust in the unseen and unknown, hurt, pain - and the need for grace.
It is overwhelming, and seemingly impossible.
We hear the crashing of the waves, but we cannot see the beauty of the calm that lies right behind.
We fear what we see, and refuse to trust in what we cannot see.

But Jesus says, "Come. I am the way, the truth, and the life. When you see me, you see the Father. I can help you do this. I can give you the courage to start, the strength to stand firm when the waves crash around you, and the perseverance to keep going - farther than you ever dreamed possible."
His hand is always extended towards us - never to be taken away.
And all we have to do is accept it, cling tightly, put one foot in front of the other, and keep our eyes focused on Him.
It is never easy.
Never perfect.
We will look away and get thwacked by a wave.
We will choke on the bitter salt water.
We will look back towards shore, wishing we could just plop down in the sand where there are no risks or reasons to fear.

But if we keep our eyes locked on His, never let go of His hand, and trust Him without wavering ...
we will learn how to walk.
We will soon start to run.
Our strength will build.
Our confidence will increase.
We will want MORE of what we have experienced.
We will see that behind the storm there is calm.
And the longer we walk, the easier it will be to KEEP walking.
Obediently.
Without fear.
Filled with joy.
And ready to do it again and again and again.

Thank You, Lord, for being a strong and powerful God who is able and WILLING to draw us to the hard places ... the places You KNOW we need to be. We would most likely never venture out on our own, but Your kindness is like a magnet that cannot be resisted, and once we surrender to its pull, we are drawn in to a place of exceeding joy, bountiful rest, and consuming love.
Never stop pulling us to You, Lord.
Oh, how much we need You!

7.17.2014

21 years ...


... of wedded
bliss
friendship
trials
growth
refining
arguments
challenges
sacrifice
support
encouragement
rebuke
comfort
laughter
fun
security
trust
forgiveness
.
.
.
and LOVE.

Happy Anniversary, Dennis!

I pray the Lord will give us 50 more years!

I love you ~ Michelle

7.16.2014

Quote.

Mountaintops inspire leaders, but valleys mature them.

                                                                                           ~ Sir Winston Churchill

7.12.2014

Quote. On worldliness.

"A 'worldly Christian'? Can there be such a thing? Or is this a term that the backslidden Church came up with to try to appease their guilty consciences and to excuse their ungodly ways? The concept of a 'worldly Christian' is a total absurdity! A true Christian is devoted, dedicated, or consecrated to God's service - not worldliness. We are either devoted to Jesus - or to the world. Which is it for you?" C. Giordano

"Some people want only as much of God's salvation as will keep them out of Hell, and they measure out with unconscious precision how much worldliness and sin they can still hang on to without jeopardizing their chances. This is 'conversion' without repentance. Flee from it!"
David Shepherd

"Nothing worse can happen to a church, than to be conformed to this world! Those who would be transfigured by Jesus, must not be disfigured by conformity to the world." Charles Spurgeon

"If I find anyone who is settled down too snugly into this world, I always doubt whether he's ever truly been born again." A.W. Tozer

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth!" Matthew 6:24

7.06.2014

Quote ~ on loneliness.

When you experience loneliness, let your emotions be a signal that you need God.

View your time alone as a grace gift from God.  Realize you are never really alone. God is always there.  "I will never leave you or forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5.
Talk to Him often throughout the day.  The more lonely you feel, the more you should let God talk to you.  He will talk to you through the holy Scriptures either by your reading them, singing them, meditating on them, or recalling previously memorized verses.
Long for God as King David did -
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You;
my soul thirsts for You like a parched land.  Psalm 143:5,6
                                                                                       ~ Martha Peace, The Excellent Wife

7.02.2014

Quote ~ on sin and repentance.

"Godly sorrow works repentance." 2 Corinthians 7:10

Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature's garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters - but penitence never shows itself in sinners, unless divine grace works it in them. If you have one particle of real hatred for sin -then God must have given it to you, for human nature's thorns never produced a single fig! "That which is born of the flesh is flesh!"

True repentance has a distinct reference to the Savior. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin, and another upon the cross. It will be better still, if we fix both our eyes upon Christ, and see our transgressions only in the light of His love.

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally - just as a burnt child dreads the fire! We shall be as much afraid of sin, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway. And we shall shun sin, shun it in everything - not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great ones.

True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest we should say a wrong word. We shall also be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend.

Each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcomings - and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up, that we may not sin against Him.

Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This sorrow for sin is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time - but this dear sorrow grows with our growth. It is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy it until we enter our eternal rest!

                                                                                             ~ Charles Spurgeon