Saturday, April 20, 2013

Living in unity


God dealt with my critical spirit and bitterness. He has shown me that there are areas in my life that I need to change, and there are areas in my life HE needs to change. There are three things that I can do to promote unity and to reduce the risk of causing discord within my church family:

Do NOT hinder the Church“These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” {Proverbs 6:16-19}

God hates it when we create division and trouble in the body of Christ. If we are having a problem with someone or something within the church, we need to deal with it in a Godly way. It rarely involves telling anyone who will listen about it. Speak to only the people involved {Matthew 18:15-17}


“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
Be in the same mind
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians. 1:10).

We are to “speak the same thing” so that there will be unity in the body of Christ. That means we need to be in the same mind and focus on what we have in common - which is Christ and His Word. It's very easy to focus on our differences and allow them to divide us, but it's not what God wants.

Submit to those in charge

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” {Hebrews. 13:17}

We are to cooperate and submit to our spiritual leaders. We are to show respect and honor to those that God has anointed and placed in charge of our branch of the body of Christ. We need to see them as God sees them and that is that they are recognized as the authority in that particular church. This doesn't come without accountability to that responsibility! We have no right to dishonor and be rebellious towards those that God has placed in leadership.

MY PRAYER
Dear Father,
Remind me to speak with a pure tongue, that uplifts and builds up your Church. Thank you for placing the people that you have in leadership and help me remember they are your annointed and appointed. When I rebel or resist their leadership, I resist you.  Help me to remember that it's so much better to live together in unity. Help me keep my actions pure and my attitude sweet. 
Amen

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bitterness and the Critical Spirit



crit·i·cism  Noun

The expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes

“Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. And so each of us shall give an account of himself - give an answer in reference to judgment - to God. Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.” {Romans 14:10 - Amplified Bible}

I am guilty of possessing the critical spirit. I have repented and have asked God to deal with it. This has been incredibly tough for me to admit. It was even harder to admit to God that I had a serious problem and I needed dealing with. God wasn't exactly subtle in his delivery of the fact that I had a critical spirit. He told me straight out and I was in serious danger of doing some irreparable damage.

So what is a "critical spirit"? Based on a study from www.victorious.org :

A “critical spirit,” is an obsessive attitude of criticism and fault-finding, which seeks to tear others down — not the same thing as what is sometimes called “constructive criticism.” The only criticism that is ever constructive is that which is expressed in love to “build up,” not to tear down — it is always expressed face-to-face, never behind their back. 
My critical spirit came out in the following form:
1. Gossip
2. Speaking disrespectfully about my church leaders
3. Negative views on the denomination as a whole
4. Criticizing the church in all areas.
5. Negative thinker
6. Picky, looking for faults.
7. Complaining

The Bible tells us not to tear down our Christian family through criticism or judgment, as this can be a serious stumbling-block and cause irreparable damage to their faith. I could have made someone stumble and fall because of my careless and destructive words! I cannot tell you how sobering that knowledge has been for me, especially remembering the scripture. "But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.{Matthew 18:6}*GULP*

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Although it doesn't say in so many words, I think that this next passage deals with the attitudes and actions of someone with a critical spirit. 
"..Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." We are to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our thoughts and attitudes. I can tell you now that the Holy Spirit is in no way connected with a critical spirit. Those with a critical spirit may feel justified and righteous in their criticism and negativity, but it is not Godly. 

"So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body." Have you ever heard the saying, there are three sides to the truth? There are - your side, their side and the truth. Perception plays a huge part in how we see the world. If we are critical and negative about something, that will warp our sense of reality and how we see situations. We could inadvertently tell lies because our sense of what really happened and what was really said was warped by our perception. Instead of discussing our issues with one another to all and sundry, we should just keep quiet and deal with the matter privately and in the Biblical way. If we can't be sure it's the 100% truth, we need to stay silent. 

"And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil." By not dealing with anger and resentment quickly, we give the devil a chance to get in our ears and start filling our heads with nonsense. It can quickly escalate into a bigger problem and destroy relationships.
"......Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."  Someone with a critical spirit can be spotted as soon as they open their mouths. Our words are to be encouraging and building up the church, not tearing it down.  

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. {Ephesians 4:23 - 32}

There is no place in our hearts for a critical spirit. It muffles the voice of the Holy Spirit. It creates disturbance and hostility within us when there should be peace. 

MY PRAYER
Lord, Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Renew my mind and attitudes. I want to be more like you. Help me speak words of encouragement and be an uplifting part of the Body of Christ. Help me deal with my disappointments maturely and in a way that brings you glory. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

From Disappointment to Bitterness


Bitterness
resentment: a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will.

Anger and ill-will is a sign that I have held unforgiveness in my heart. From this unforgiveness I have not behaved as I should. “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” {1 John 2:10}. If I had dealt with my unforgiveness and resentment earlier then there would have been no stumbling. But. I didn't.

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Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. {Hebrews 12:15}

We are given fair warning! WATCH OUT! Look for that root, expect it to come and deal with it as it does. The Bible says that it is poisonous, that it grows and will trouble and corrupt you. Well I can tell you that it does. It robs you of peace. It robs you of joy. It consumes you. It's poison getting into every part of you, skewing your views on everyone and everything. It ceases to be directed at one person or circumstance, but spews out bitterness like a geyser, and there is no control of the flow. The Bible tells us what to do with bitterness:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you {Ephesians 4:31-32}

We are to get rid of it! Dispose of it. Chuck it away. Remove it from ourselves. We are to change how we act and respond to one another. Be kind, be tenderhearted and forgive. Either way, it's a decision. We can decide to hold on to our anger and bitterness, we can choose to speak harshly or gossip nastily OR we can choose to be kind and forgiving. 

It's all up to us. 

We can do it my way, or God's way. We can allow my flesh to rule and continue on being bitter, or we can exercise self control and show the God who is living in us through our actions. It's our choice

MY PRAYER
Lord please rip out that root of resentment and bitterness. Replace it with goodness, kindness and self control. Help me to remember your word and your views on bitterness and unforgiveness. Help me to see a root trying to take hold and to deal with it promptly. Amen

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Expectation

After my last post, I have finally got my thoughts together and have been trying to learn where I went wrong. In a nutshell it's this: I have been disappointed in our church. I have felt impatient and annoyed because certain things that I felt should have happened were not happening. I have felt disappointed because my giftings have not been used. I have felt disappointed because friends keep leaving the church - and I have blamed the church (wrongly). I have felt discouraged because I did not attend church for months (due to my special needs son) and I did not receive any pastoral care of any kind for months and months. I have been disappointed. I'm a wounded church goer. I'm one of those "Offended" church-goers - the ones I used to make fun of!

Being disappointed is ok - but it's what you do with your disappointment that really counts. I did not handle mine well at all. In fact mine turned into bitterness and I developed a critical spirit. This is an incredibly ungodly and destructive attitude to have and I have exercised ungodly and destructive behavior as well. I did not realize until recently just how dangerous I have been! I have failed miserably! But I am not discouraged! I read a great blog post by Plumbline (awesome blog by the way and I highly recommend it) and she said:
"Even in the failure, there is a redemptive quality - when the failure is an open door for God to begin afresh in us what we could not do through "mental determination"
I am at the end of myself. I can't make myself into this amazing, gracious, person. But God can! This is part of the refinement process and I am more than happy for God to do the work. God is reshaping me and molding my thinking to be more like his. Over the next few blog posts, I want to share with you what God has shown me and how he has had to change my thinking.

Unreasonable expectations of the church and leadership has let me down

DISAPPOINTED: Adjective
(of a person) Sad or displeased because someone or something has failed to fulfill one's hopes or expectations.
(of hopes or expectations) Prevented from being realized.
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Nicely said Shakespeare. Expectation is the root of all heartache. I can't believe I didn't get this earlier! I have experienced someone else's unrealistic expectations on me. The person is perpetually disappointed in me because I don't know about these expectations or I don't let them control how I live my life. Expectations are annoying!!  But yet, I have had expectations in our church and Pastors and they haven't delivered. Big surprise? Well looking at it from this angle - I can say that no, it's not a surprise. But while I was in the thick of it, it was a great source of frustration to me. How could they muck it up so badly??

Years ago I left a smaller church where I had more input and influence to go to a much larger church where I was a nobody. I was used to how things ran in the smaller church and I don't like how things are run in this much larger church. This is my own problem and attitude - not anyone else's. I have to learn to adjust, submit to my leaders and trust that God is working even though I don't understand it. They are doing their best and I have to recognize that and stop being such a know-it-all! It's not the Holy Spirit that is telling me that everything they do is wrong - it's my critical spirit!

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit {Hebrews 13:17} It is in my best interest to submit to my leadership and trust that God is using them. They have such a huge responsibility (one that I wouldn't want!) and that is to watch over the congregation and help them grow spiritually. My daughter sometimes can be quite difficult. She is stubborn, sassy and can be quite argumentative. Trying to guide and train her can become wearisome. At least she has an excuse (she is on the spectrum too) - what kind of excuse do I have for behaving like a child? The answer is none!

My problem was I wasn't trusting in God. I was placing expectations on men and women who are human, who are going to make mistakes, and probably have no idea that I have these expectations! This is what the Lord says:“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. {Jeremiah 17:5} My trust was not placed in God, but in humans. It was only a matter of time! I have had to shift my expectations off the church and it's leadership and place them on God who will never let me down or disappoint me. Why? Because God is faithful. God keeps his promises. God is Good. “My soul, waits silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him” (Psalm 62:5).

MY PRAYER
Lord I messed up! I placed my faith in man and not in you. I have been hurt and disappointed - not because I have been attacked or hurt intentionally - but because I had unrealistic expectations. Help me to recognize when I do this. Help me to submit to my leadership and trust that you are working all things together for good. Lord when I don't understand what on earth is going on around me, please help me to rest quietly in you. Help me to accept the authority that you have placed them in. Help me to be a support, not a hinderance to those you have annointed and placed in our church. Amen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Clean me up

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I've messed up. God revealed to me last night something that had developed within my spirit that was less than stellar. I have had to repent of this - and the amazing thing is that in my repentance, my spirit felt free. More free than it has in ages. How long has this sin bound me in chains? I have allowed myself to a slave to sin and it has restricted me. But no more!

I will explain all a bit later on when I've got my thoughts together - but I want to share that God dropped this Psalm in my heart, while I cried out to him - "Create in me a clean heart - and renew a right spirit within me." So today that is my heart cry - that God will renew a right spirit within me.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Bondage of Self Esteem # 3


"Self-esteem for the Christian is a paradox: The more of the real thing you have, the less you think about how good you are.The stronger you get, the more you become aware of your weaknesses.
The better you look, the less you care who's looking. The more self-esteem you have, the less self-conscious you are”. {Arla Caraboolad}

The self worth that we should have comes not from understanding yourself and accepting yourself but from an understanding of who God is and your relationship with God. Godly self-worth needs to be centered around Jesus, not yourself. A Godly self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you; no more and no less. True self worth is knowing who you are, but in order to know that, you must know who you belong to. From that knowledge you will be able to understand and accept your value.

Humanistic Self Esteem vs Godly Self Worth

1) Self-esteem is based on what we do and how we behave.
We judge ourselves harshly on our performance around others that we want to impress. How many times do we lay awake torturing ourselves with "I should have said this, or that or behaved a certain way. What will they think of me?" A self esteem based on performance means that we will feel terrible about ourselves when we mess it up. It is human nature to mess up! We imprison ourselves when we base our self worth on this.

Godly self esteem says otherwise. God's love of us is not based on anything. He loved us first, he extended his gift of Salvation first. His love for us never changes. It is constant and everlasting. He loves us even when our behavior or performance slips. To him, we are more than what we do and how we behave. A self worth based on God's thoughts towards us will never bind us.

2) Self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves.
Let's face it, humans are fickle. They love you one moment, hate you the next. You are best friends one moment, fighting the next. We love spending time together one moment, need some space the next. We bag out that drug addict singer one moment and when she is dead rave about how much we loved her. Human emotion is not to be trusted. How we feel about ourselves is decided on what is going on around us at the time - like a thermometer. It is influenced by it's environment.  You reacted badly to a piece of news - you are a bad person. You gave money to a charity - you are a good person. You saved a man's life - man you totally rock!! You hate that your best friend is pregnant and you have been trying for years - you are a terrible, terrible person. You got a promotion - I must be awesome. You got laid off - I must suck.

How God feels about us is like a thermostat, it influences it's environment, keeping it steady and remaining unchanging. Godly self worth does not fluctuate wildly like self esteem does. It is steady and strong.

3) Self-esteem is based on what we think about ourselves.
Some of us loathe ourselves. We are too fat, too thin, too ugly, have a big nose, have a terrible laugh, have no personality, have no skills in certain areas etc. What we think about ourselves are usually a bit warped. For example (this is a true thought pattern that happened) A person in authority made a stupid joke. This guy jokes around all the time and puts people down in jest a fair bit. So after this terrible joke I did a sarcastic fake laugh thinking "if it's acceptable for him to do it, it should be acceptable for me to do it." His response was not positive. In fact I think I offended him! So... here begins my thoughts "Oh no. I don't think he liked that. Oh dear, he didn't laugh like I thought he would. He's looking at me strangely. Oh no, he thinks I'm a bad person, I AM a bad person! How could I be so rude? Think before you speak Skip! Now you just muffed any chance of getting to use your giftings in the church. He will hold that against you. You deserve it you dimwit! You nobody! Man, you can't do anything right. Just shut your mouth and don't say anything. Now you are going to have to try and make up for it. Stupid STUPID girl."

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You can relax, my self worth was not influenced by my crazy thinking. It doesn't stop the crazy thoughts, it's just that I learn to dismiss them and not believe the lies of the enemy. I am not stupid. I am not a bad person. I misjudged the situation. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Who cares what I thought?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." {Isaiah 55:8-9}
What we think about ourselves is very harsh and usually very warped - like my own thoughts after this relatively minor event. Thankfully I know that my thoughts about myself are less than true. God's thoughts towards me are 100% true though and I can rely on them to be constant and reliable.

4) Self-esteem is based on how we’re doing compared to others.
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Let's face it, when we compare to others, we tend to feel even worse about ourselves. They are better than me, they have more than me, they look better than me etc etc. The truth is, no matter how amazing we are at any given thing, there will always be somebody better.

Remember what Paul said? But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!{2 Corinthians 10:13-14}

We are running our own race, walking our own journey, living our own lives, making our own choices. I have been created unique and individual and in the image of God. There should not be any comparison to any other person. God doesn't do it! "I wish Skip would be more like Billy Graham. Why can't you be more like Martin Luther?" So if God doesn't do it, why should I do it?


5) Self-esteem is based entirely on judgments, whether from others or from ourselves.

When criticized for doing something wrong or whatever - does your whole self esteem plummet? Do you respond harshly and angrily? Do you feel like you are nothing? Criticism when you are secure in who you are and whose you are should not effect you so drastically than if your security lies in your self esteem. Don't get me wrong, no one likes to be criticized, but if we have a Godly self worth, criticizm will not destroy us.

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Judging and being judged is not Godly. End of story.
"Do not judge others" {Matthew 7:12}

Godly self-worth is not based on what other's think of you, or what you think of you - but how God sees you and values you and loves you. God does not see you as a “personality” but as a “soul,” with unchanging potential and worth. 

6) Self esteem is rooted in fear.
A fear of failure, a fear of your built up self esteem to crumble.... again! A fear of rejection. A fear of judgement. A fear of criticism. A fear of not being liked. A fear of all your failings rearing it's ugly head again. Fear is crippling and binding. 

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Fear has no place in Godly self worth.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline {2 Timothy 1:7}

We have nothing to fear if our worth is based on God's love for us. Nothing. His opinion of us will never change. We will always be his kids and his love for us is so vast. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. {Romans 8: 38-39}

CONCLUSION:
Don't sell yourself short. Don't buy the whole "love yourself", "accept yourself" and "forgive yourself" "look for inner beauty" lies. Not only are they unbiblical, but they will wrap chains around you, inhibiting you and preventing you from living a life of freedom. Don't look within yourself, look up and out towards your Creator. You were made in HIS image, you are HIS child, and you need to know HIM in order to understand your value and place in this world. Stop reading books on how to feel beautiful and how to love the inner you. Open your Bible and start learning about the Father who created you and loves you. Use what you have learned as a weapon against the lies of the enemy! Start living a life of freedom and possibility instead of accepting humanistic lies and allowing yourself to become a prisoner of self esteem. 

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. {Isaiah 64:6}






Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Bondage of Self Esteem # 2



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Many people try and justify self love by quoting this scripture: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” {Matthew 22:37-39}
Let's look at this closely. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the most important commandment from the law. He answered them with "love God and love your neighbour". There was not a third commandment chucked in there. Loving yourself is not a commandment. We are not told to love our neighbour AND ourselves, but AS ourselves.

So we are to love ourselves? Does this contradict what I have been saying? No. When we love someone like we love ourselves, we are going to assume that we have a desire for our own well being. We shower, we wear clean clothes, we eat healthy meals, we drink water, we exercise (well some of us do anyway! LOL), we live in healthy environment, when we are sick we go to the doctor etc. When Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself, he is saying "have the same concern for your fellow man/woman as you do for your own needs. If someone is hungry, feed them. If they are unhealthy, help them get back to health. "etc etc. You get the idea.

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"Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."{Romans 12:3}

The Bible tells us to not think we are better than we really are and to measure yourself by the faith God has given us. I'll be honest with you - when I look at my inside this is what I see:
Pride.
Anger
Resentment
Bad attitudes
Impatience
Jealousy
Inferiority
Critical spirit

And this is ok. Because I am a sinner! I can't look at my inside and fool myself that I have "inner beauty". This is not beauty. This is ugly!! And this is ok - because when I am honest in my evaluation of my heart, I am enabling God to say "These are the areas I want to work in your life." If I glossed over these very ugly traits and looked into my heart and only compassion, kindness, love, creativity, inspiration, words of wisdom etc, then I am doing myself a big diservice. I am silencing God and his desire to make me more like himself. I am saying to myself "I don't have to change because I am beautiful. "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. {Psalm 10:4}

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When one starts to self-love pride will become a real problem. Love in it's Biblical definition opposes this. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {1 Corinthians 13:4} It is written in the Bible that God doesn't look too kindly on pride. So we aren't to loathe ourselves, but yet we are not to focus on our self esteem. Where is the balance?

In Paul's letter to the Church in Corinth he says
"Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us... {2 Corinthians 10:12-14}

So I can boast that God has helped me deal with my explosive temper. By God's grace I have been changed from a bitter, abusive, nasty, hateful person into what God has made me today. I have been given boundaries in the areas of myself that I can take pride in. I can take pride in where God has lead me and how God has changed me.

What happens if I start to build my own self-esteem and base my self-worth on the areas outside of these boundaries? I will crash and burn! Because I can't hide the ugliness of my sinful self with all these positive traits that I may have forever. Self esteem is like a sand castle - it may look nice a pretty and sturdy, but when there is shift of wind, or sands the whole thing will crumble. Foundations of self worth and self love will crack and crumble and I will be left to rebuild my shattered or shaky self esteem again. This will become a vicious cycle and I will always be a prisoner of this misguided concept of how I should view myself.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. {Proverbs 16:18} It's inevitable. Self esteem will destroy you.



Monday, March 18, 2013

The bondage of self esteem #1

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. {Philippians 2:3-4}

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Low self esteem, self esteem issues, good self esteem.... - it's unlikely that you don't know anything about it. It's everywhere! It's likely you have heard teaching about self esteem in the church and how you are to "love yourself" and "forgive yourself" and "accept yourself". Self esteem psychology has infiltrated the church and it's members and instead of giving some a sense of freedom it promises, it has bound them in chains, imprisoning them and preventing them to live the life that they were meant for. Why has it done this? Why has the acceptance of oneself caused people to become restricted? Because teaching us to value ourselves is not a Godly concept. People end up spending their lives trying to feel better about themselves and boost that feeling of unworthiness.

Self esteem psychology is basically humanism. So what is humanism?
Humanism defined is an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanism is valuing human interests, values and dignity over anything else.

Self esteem in it's definition shows that it is a humanistic idea. The term self-esteem comes from a Greek word meaning "reverence for self." It is a respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself.  Self esteem teaches self love, self promotion and self-glorification and instead of rejecting glorification of oneself. Reverence is not for oneself - but for God alone.

Look in your Christian bookshop. How many books are being sold in the millions that are based on self esteem? Anything with the title "Beautiful" in it appeal to women who long to raise their self esteem and feel beautiful.  Parenting books are filled with advice on raising your child's self esteem so they don't feel inadequate and inferior. The list goes on and on.

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Nowhere in the Bible do we see God instructing and encouraging us to have a healthy self image. Look at some of the greatest people in the Bible - and we see exactly what they see themselves as.

When Abraham was beseeching God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes." {Genesis 18:27} Abraham new that he was nothing before the Father yet God loved Abraham and him in a mighty way and he lived his life to his full potential as the Father of many nations. Yet he saw himself as dust and ashes. He's not exactly exuding self esteem here.

When God called Moses to free the Israelites from 400 years of slavery: "But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” {Exodus 3:11} the chapter later he went on to say “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled." {Genesis 4:10} Here is a man who knew that he was not capable of big things and didn't pretend to either. His greatness did not come from within himself, but from where God lead him. Moses felt insecure in his abilities and doubted God's choices, but he was used in a mighty way as the Deliverer of the Hebrew slaves.

On the eve of Saul being annointed as the King of Israel - a powerful job and by a powerful prophet. Samuel said to him "And I am here to tell you that you and your family are the focus of all Israel’s hopes.”Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?” {Samuel 9:20-21}
Saul had been chosen BY GOD and Saul did not have a self-appreciation of himself. He knew that he was nothing special. But yet was annointed to be the very first King of Israel and he ruled for many years. He muffed it in the end, but the point is that in the beginning he had appropriate humility and a view of who he was.

John the Baptist told the people around him "But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals." {Matthew 3:11} John the Baptist had the most mighty ministry in his time, preparing the way for the Messiah! He lived his life in the complete will of God. He would have been quite chummy with Jesus - afterall they were cousins. We don't see name dropping, and pride in the fact that they are related. John knew he was not worthy.

The Bible tells us: Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. {Philippians 2:3}; "Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."{Romans 12:3} 

Self esteem psychology is a trap. We are not asked to accept ourselves and love ourselves. We are not asked to look within us and build ourselves up. Our eyes should be looking at God and those around us, not ourselves! Self esteem is a very selfish idea. Our identity should be wrapped in God, not in our attributes and how amazing we are. If we are looking at how we feel about ourselves and let that define us and control us then we are not living the life that God intended for us. 

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you have to believe yourself as dirt and scum and have no worth whatsoever. That would be depressing!! I believe that the self esteem movement is a lie from the devil designed to bind and destroy God's people.

In "The Facts of Self-Esteem, Psychology and the Recovery movement, it is said "In fact the very 'self' that modern psychology exalts is the fallen self, whose exaltation God teaches will result in self-destruction. It is the selfism of modern psychology and culture that leads to widespread social desolation about us…The psychological concept of self-love leading to esteem and the biblical concept of self-denial leading to self-enrichment are diametrically opposed…The teaching of the Bible, human history and personal experience tell us that it is principally holiness that leads to emotional wholeness, and not vice versa. In fact, when emotional wholeness is pursued for itself, it rarely leads to personal holiness."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What being a special needs Mum has taught me about God

I have been blessed with two amazing children with Asperger's syndrome. They are bright, smart, funny little people that keep me on my toes. Last year was an incredibly hard year on our family as we journeyed the early intervention path with my son. This involved a LOT of appointments and therapy for him while we tried our hardest to help him overcome some of the debilitating sides to ASD. But as I look back, I can see where God revealed himself to me through my experiences, failings and weaknesses. I want to share two of these things with you today.

1. God is our biggest advocate.
{Psalm 46:1} God is our refuge and strength,always ready to help in times of trouble.

There have been times, and will be more times that I have to go into battle for my kids. I have learned that a diagnosis does not get you everything you need. You have to go in and ask/insist/fight for what they need and are entitled to. My kids cannot do that for themselves yet, so it's my job as their Mum to go and advocate on their behalf so their path is smoother and easier to walk. God paves the way for us to make our paths clear. He helps us obtain what we need to succeed in life {Philippians 4:19} And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. 

A few months ago my boy was riding his bike down the street (I was watching him from a secluded spot so he could have his space and independence, but in safety). The neighborhood kids were out too and spotted him. They circled him like a pack of wolves, laughing at him and trying to teach him inappropriate things. I stepped out from my spot so I was in full vision and gave those kids "a look". One kid saw me and said "Stop! His Mum...." all eyes were on me. Three kids bolted and hid in their yard, the other kids backed right off him and left him alone. And my son, not even aware that I had intervened, kept riding around the street happily.

God stands in his spot giving "the look" to those who may harm us or want to hurt us. He has the same attitude this Mama Lioness has - and that is "Don't you DARE touch my kid!" God fights for us and defends us! {Exodus 14:13-14}  “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.......  The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

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2. God is never sick of "Daaaaad"
{Ephesians 3:12} ....in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him

A really hard part of being a parent is listening to the constant needs of my children "Muuuuum, I need... Muuuuuum I want... Muuuuuuuum can you.... Muuuuuuuuuuuummmm I can't find..... Muuuuuummmmmm" Then throw in ASD where these kids are so egocentric (no fault of their own) and are only interested in themselves and what they are interested in. So I have to listen to their chatter about their interests, their day, their dreams etc - and there is rarely any "What did you do today Mum?" It's a very lopsided relationship. So sometimes when I have heard "Muuuuuuuuummm" for the millionth time that day, I snap "WHAT????!!!!!!" My ASD kids look at me a bit warily and confused at my reaction - but proceed to tell me all about the Sonic Hedgehog X-box game that they are both really into. And they don't see my body language or lack of interest. All part and parcel of ASD.

We can be like that with God to...
"GOOOOOOOODDDDDD? I need.... GOOOOOOODDDD I want..... GOOOOOOOOODDDD... can you...... GOOOOOOOOOOOODDDD I need a carpark....... GOOOOOOOOODDDD help me find my keys...... GOOOOOOODDD..." But do you know what? Even though we can be quite egocentric in our prayer life and do more asking and telling rather than listening, God never ever answers our calls of "GOOOOOOOODDDDD" with "WHAT???!!!!!!"

{Hebrews 4:16} So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

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Be blessed!!

MY PRAYER 
Dear Lord, although my road is rough, I am thankful that you are teaching me cool stuff along the way. Help me to remain open and alert to what you have to show me. Thank you that you are patient with me and always approachable at any time of day or night. Thank you that I don't have to go at life alone, and you are with me every step of the way, ready to issue "the look" at anyone or anything that threatens me. Lord keep revealing yourself to me and showing me who you are and how I am made in your likeness. Keep teaching me through your Word about you. I love you. Amen

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Committed and teachable

{Psalm 25:1-10}O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.
The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

I love this Psalm. It is one of dedication, submission and a desire to learn and follow. 

God already knew that David was His, and David knew that he belonged to God - but yet he makes a fresh dedication of his life. This may not have been for God's benefit, but rather David's. "Lord I give my life to you" - a reminder to David that his life isn't his own. Think about it in today's terms - imagine if every time we got on our knees before God, we said the sinner's prayer? We are already a child of God, we don't need to do that! But we do need to be in complete surrender to God and remind ourselves that our life is nor ours - but God's. "I trust in you, my God!" - In order to completely be in submission to someone, we have to completely trust them. If there is no trust, we are not going to be pliable, teachable and lead-able.  For example, my children relax in my arms as I hold them, the trust that I will not drop them or hurt them. If I was swinging them about or they feel unsafe in my arms, they are not relaxed, they stiffen and it's difficult to move them about. Trust in God is vital if we want to live a life of surrender.

David shows his desire for God to lead him when he says "Show me the right path... point out the road for me to follow.. lead me... teach me" We are incredibly blessed that we don't have to wander around life aimlessly. We have a purpose, we have a place in this world and we also have a designated journey to travel. We have our own paths to walk along and experience. Our paths are different from the next persons path. {Hebrews 12:1} .... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. It's set. So there is no point trying to walk another person's journey. It's hard to main focused on your own path when our eyes see the people around us doing different things. We can become confused and sometimes scared to make the big decisions in life. What if this isn't God's will? We can pray that God will show and direct us in the correct way. 

The most important thing that we can be is teachable. Have you ever met an unteachable person? They are stubborn and WANT to remain ignorant. They frustrate the people around us and in the end it doesn't get them anywhere. I learned early on in life that ever single person has something to teach me, and I can learn from them - something - whether it be a positive or negative lesson. Some people can be lessons on what NOT to do! :) God wants us to be this open with him - because when we are willing to learn and be guided, God can show and do amazing things. If we remain stubborn - we are not doing ourselves any favors. I have found that being stubborn with what God wants to teach me - I will either miss out all together - or I learn the hard way. 

Where is your heart right now? Are you running away from where God wants to lead you? Are you willing to allow God to lead you? Are you living your life in full submission to God and trusting in his goodness and his ways?

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MY PRAYER
Lord I want my life to be yours. I want my heart to always remember that my life is not my own. Make clear the path before me and show me where I am to go and what I am to do. I trust in your goodness and your wisdom. When things get tough and the paths are not so clear, help me to remember that! 
Amen

Friday, February 8, 2013

Open my eyes!

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MY PRAYER
Lord I want to see more than I ever have before. I want to look in your Word and have your truths jump out at me and smack me in the face. I want to see things and understand things that I haven't before. Take the crusty old scales off that cause me to say "Seen that, read that, get that" - I want a deeper understanding, a fresh revelation of the things you want me to learn. Help me to be receptive to your word and to find ways to apply it in my life. I want to have a deeper understanding and revelation of YOU.
Amen

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Choosing the right outfit.

Every single day we are going to come up against something that is going to bother us. A rude customer, callow teens who think they own the world, being judged by another, grumpy old people etc. These things in the grand scheme of things are relatively minor. Some people come up against so much more - mental/physical/sexual/spiritual abuse and rejection by someone that they love. 

Whether you are having a minor or major struggle in life, we must dress appropriately for the occasion!

{Colossians 3:12-15} Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.

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First of all I would like to point out that this outfit has to be a deliberate choice and action. "YOU must clothe YOURSELVES.....". It is our responsibility to get dressed in this outfit that God has laid out for us. It's not God's responsibility to dress you. Be intentional about the outfit. And like all good outfits, don't hide it under a big bulky jacket. Show it off baby! The outfit needs to be seen. It needs to be obvious you are wearing it. You can't say "I'm wearing my kindness shoes today..." but yet it's not obvious that you are being kind to that boss who is yelling at you and trying to humiliate you. 

Second of all I would like to point out that the outfit is for when you are dealing with people. It's a relational outfit. Each item deals with how we treat others and our own attitude towards others. Mercy  kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love are all for the people in your life that irritate you and hurt you. It goes on to say "Make allowances for each other's faults". We all have faults, every single one of us. We have to make allowances for each other. We have to forgive one another when we mess up and hurt each other. Again I reiterate - making allowances is not allowing someone to treat you like a doormat. Love and boundaries go hand in hand. Making allowances and forgiveness does not mean you have to be abused or hurt repeatedly by someone. Make allowances AND "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life" {Proverbs 4:23}
Making allowances would look something like this: Your boss is uncharacteristically yelling at you and your instinct is to yell back and tell him what you think of him. Making an allowance would be "He must be having a bad day. Maybe he is under a lot of stress and is taking it out on me. He is upsetting me with his yelling, but I choose to respond with grace and kindness." 

Thirdly I would like to point out that this suggestion of appropriate attire is for our own good. If we don't wear the outfit, it effects us in more ways than one. We can become hard, bitter and rash with others. We can become intolerant of one another and unforgiving. Our hearts are influenced by our clothes, or lack of them! Future behaviors and attitudes are determined by our choices. If we deliberately put on the outfit, it becomes our focus. We are annoyed by someone, so we choose to show them kindness and patience. If it's not our focus we choose other ways of responding which can become habit and destroy us and our relationships.

What areas in your relationships do you need to be intentional about wearing this outfit?

MY PRAYER
Dear Lord, Thanks for the instructions! Thank you for not letting us wander about aimlessly, experimenting on one another as we try and get things right. Thank you for showing us what we should do that is not only for our own good, but it will develop and nurture the relationships we have with others. I want to be intentional in dressing, every day. Help me change the bad attitudes into these awesome traits. Help me to keep my heart soft and sweet. Amen




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Learning obedience is tough!

{Hebrews 5: 7-9} While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest....


We all suffer. We all go through rough times. We all wish that  we didn't have to, but we do. Our focus when we are going through these tough times should not be "I need to get through this unscathed" but rather "What lesson can I learn from this experience?". How we act and react to these times is important, because it determines whether or not we learn obedience.

In Hebrews it said that Jesus went through tough times. He didn't want to go through with the crucifixion (who could blame him!!?) and he pleaded with God, "Please, take this cup of suffering from me" {Luke 22:42} This isn't a sign of weakness in Jesus, it just proved that he was a man, and was facing incredible physical, mental and spiritual suffering. But his heart's attitude was "Yet I want your will to be done, not mine" and THAT was his determination. We see here in {John 12:27-28} “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!28 Father, bring glory to your name'. He didn't want to face death - but his heart's cry was to bring glory to God. He was put to the test - and he was obedient to the Father. Jesus is a perfect example when we are tempted to resign from the will of God in times of difficulty. He persevered. 

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The test of true obedience is not found in doing all those fun little jobs, but of the dreaded assignments - the ones that you just want to escape from. {Hebrew 5:8} Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. He didn't learn obedience through playing with the kids, and doing all the awesome miracles that he did. He learned obedience in his death.

There are benefits in our troubles! But we just have to see it that way. God is not punishing us or trying to torture us - he is allowing us to live life and we have the opportunity learn something - or not. It's completely up to us. 

MY PRAYER
Lord give me the strength to endure with grace, hope and purpose all the trials and troubles that I face. I don't want to waste any part of the agony and struggle. I don't want to come out on the other side empty handed. Help me make the most of my troubles and help me keep my heart and attitude in check. Amen

Monday, February 4, 2013

True Love

Wuuuuv Twoooo Wuuuuuuv

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I NEVER thought I would get a Princess Bride quote in!! :) But I did!!

You know, as Christians, we all talk about love. Love one another, love your wives, love, love love....We talk about it, but do we really do it? Do we really know what it is and what it means?  Where does the love come from? Does that means we have to hug and kiss everyone? What kind of love? Brotherly love?? Well my brother and I fight a lot... does that mean I tussle people's heads and get them in a headlock?

The world has skewed our idea of love. Love comes across as an emotion felt for someone else. But love is not an emotion. So let's look at what the Bible has to say about love - twwwwoooo luuuv. :)


God = true love
{1 John 4:7-8} Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

To truly love another human being, you have to have a revelation of what it is to BE truly loved. To truly love you must be loved by the one who expressed his love so greatly and so completely. God is the ultimate source of true love. Anyone who loves is a child of God - because (hopefully!) they have had a revelation of God's life-giving love and so are able to love that way themselves. Those who don't know God have a poor imitation of love.  

{1 John 4:9 - 10} God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

I love this passage - it spoke volumes to me. God's love is given, regardless of whether we deserve it or not. He just gives it to us. And he loved us FIRST. Which means that that we didn't have to do or be anything to receive it. We just got given it - end of story. God sent his son 2000+ years before I even thought about committing my first sin - but He knew that I needed a Savior and that I needed redemption, waaaay before this. And he expressed his love and desire for me to be his kid waaay back then.  How's that for forward thinking? 

{1 John 4:16} God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
Love characterizes God because of his ultimate expression of love to us. Because God is love then love comes from God. God is the ultimate source of true love. Love comes from God to us, and when we love others, this love flows through us to others around us. If God is love - then love must characterize those who claim to be a child of God or knows God. 

True love received = true love given
{1 John 4:11-12} Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us

God's love was shown in action and this was by sending his Son, so for us to demonstrate love to others it will be love in action. This doesn't mean you have to go kiss and hug and be best friends with everyone. This sort of love will be kind, generous and serving to one another.

{1 John 4:19} We love each other because he loved us first.
Those who truly know God and have had a revelation of this love and receive this great love, can receive the commandment to love with joy! If you have received the love, you know exactly what it looks like and you are not commanded to do anything that is far too hard for you to do. If you know God's love for you - you will know how to love.

{1 John 4:7} Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. 
Continue...means keep going! Don't stop! Love and love and love some more. Remember God's love for you and what kind of love it is and then love others around you that way. Sometimes we humans complicate love. We make it all performance based "If you behave this way, I will love you.", "If you don't do that, I will love you." Peformance based love is manipulative and not true love at all. We love others regardless of what they do, what they say etc. I'm glad God's love isn't performance based, otherwise I would never have received it. Although let me reiterate that love does not mean you are doormat and have to allow people to hurt you. You can still love someone but guard your heart from hurt and from bad influences by putting appropriate boundaries in place.


{1 John 4:17} And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.
Is this not a great reason to continue on in the ways of the Lord? Is this not a great reason to seek out God's will and purpose for us on this earth? Is this not a great reason to have a close relationship with the Father?


MY PRAYER
Dear Father, thank you so much for the model you have set so that we can truly love one another in a true and meaningful way. Thank you for giving us that love in the first place regardless of whether we accept it or not or deserve it. Lord, help us to remember that you are love, and all you do is based on your love for us. Help us to remember this as we express love to others.
I pray that anyone reading this today, and not having a revelation of you love will seek it out and receive it for themselves. I pray that when I love others, they will see you in me.
Amen





Sunday, February 3, 2013

Revive the Vision

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting very much. That is because I was on a journey and God was leading me places I thought I would never go!
In the last 12 months I have been living this crazy life and I haven't even had time to scratch, let alone blog. My Bible studies fell to the wayside. My prayerlife was intermittent. And that's ok. God doesn't hold that against me, because he gave me the life I lead and knew that when I got to this part, all hell would break loose, and I would struggle. He held my hand and was with me every step of the way. This I am certain of. You know that saying "Too busy NOT to pray"? Well..honestly - I was! By the time I sat down after everything else I was doing, I was so tired and my brain couldn't function. What I could cut back on, I did - but still found that 2012 was insanity plus some!

In the last 12 months, two of my children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My son was diagnosed first, and because of his age, we were eligible for government help and an early intervention package. This meant very intense therapy. This meant up to 3 appointments a week, researching, learning, reading, doing a few hours of therapy in the evenings with him, liaising with the school, advocating for him and helping him. My days were very full. I had to put aside everything in my life and just focus on him. Then a few months ago, my eldest daughter got a diagnosis of ASD. Thankfully she manages hers quite well and so only needs a bit of help from two therapists. Also because we have two kids on the spectrum, we get more help and support. This means I don't have so much running around to do.

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Last week, my baby girl started school - so with all three of them out of the house, I find myself with lots of time to use. I have plans, lots and lots of plans. Yesterday, while in the middle of planning some things to do over the next few weeks, God whispered in my ear "It's time to revive the vision." The vision? I had practically given up on it. I thought maybe I would never see if fulfilled - or maybe it would be fulfilled when my kids don't need me so much.

It's time to start preparing myself for my calling. God has laid some groundwork - and I have come out of this time - faith unshakeable, trusting in God and his purposes, and with character. Yeah it was hard. It was hell at times. But God has not forgotten me, nor has he lead me down this path and given me this life for the sake of it. I must say God's preparation methods are not that great sometimes - but I have to have faith in what he is doing.

I am reminded of the verses in Jeremiah: {Jeremiah 29:11-14} For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

This encourages me so much, because it shows that our character and faith building journeys do not last forever!! I had reached breaking point in my journey. Then God pulled me out. He ended that crazy period in my life and replaced it with a new time. THIS time. A time to pray, to seek God wholeheartedly. To replenish my spirit with the Word of God. To prepare my heart and spirit to serve him in however he chooses to use me. This time is the time to enjoy being in the presence of God and savoring the time. This time is the time to get to know ME again - who is this person who has come out of this crazy time?

MY PRAYER
Thank you Father for being with me while I went down the ASD road. Thank you for the life lessons it taught me, the faith lessons that were instilled in me and for loving me even though you didn't get much of a look in. Thank you that you are not a God of guilt-trips and manipulation. You allowed me to live the life I was given in the best way I knew how.
Lord as I turn the corner and onto a new road, I want to pick up my vision and dreams. I want to develop my calling and skills to be used for your glory and in extending your kingdom. Show me how to do that. Be my teacher. Be my mentor.
Amen

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