From Here to There

There

I was rolling my eyes inside my head as I listened to someone sharing their frustration with me about a certain situation. I wanted to just look at them and say something like this–

You can fix this yourself. If you’d just do “A”, then you would get “B”.

I don’t know what made this conversation from the past come to my mind this week, but there it was. And I started thinking about how many of us do this. We complain about a situation in our lives and, yet, if we’d just do things the way we should, we probably could change it and get the results we so desire.

For instance, we may be frustrated that we are in debt, but we aren’t willing to do the work and sacrifice necessary to not be in debt.

We may be frustrated that our marriage isn’t very healthy, but we aren’t willing to give up our own selfish desires to make it better.

We may be frustrated that we don’t get a raise or a promotion, but we aren’t willing to be an employee of integrity and give a 100%, no matter what job we have.

As I thought about all of these “people” that struggle with getting from here to there, I recognized just how often I do this same thing in many areas of my life.

The one that I do this with the most is my weight. Throughout all of my life, I was able to eat pretty much what I wanted without gaining weight. I was never super skinny but I wasn’t really overweight, either. However, these midlife years have presented quite a challenge for me. Now, it seems as if I gain a pound just by looking at food. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But, realistically, in order for me to stay the same weight, I cannot continue to eat the same way I ate for my whole life.

So this is my new life. And I have a choice. I can choose to continue on in the way I always have or I can choose to scale back on my calories and eat healthier.

The choice is mine. And only mine.

And, yet, I often find myself complaining about this. Not so much to others–although I have been known to do that. No, my negative dialogue occurs mostly in my head. Constantly.

It feels like there are a million miles between here (typical middle-aged body) and there (skinny, attractive) and that it is impossible to reach. But I don’t really do anything about it except grumble.

As I have been working through this in my head over the last several years (yes, I said years–weight seems to be the internal battle that just won’t go away), I have thought about all of this quite a bit.

And I realize that there are some things we really need to consider, when we see a there that we want to reach. First and foremost, we need to view our goal from God’s perspective by using the Word. So often we feel pressure to be something or to do something because the world is pushing us and telling us we need to do it. But what does the Bible say?

We do know that God wants us to be good stewards of all that we have been given (Luke 16:10; I Corinthians 4:2), whether it be our bodies or our finances or our marriages, but how exactly does that look? What should be our test for this?

Scripture has much to say about all of these things and more and our first duty is to find out what it says.

And then we need to act on what we learn. If I am not being a good steward of my resources, what am I going to do about it?

One thing we do know for sure is that inaction is useless in getting us to there. And yet inaction–as much as we all hate it and desire to avoid it–is so tempting. It is always easier to float downstream than to use the energy necessary to swim upstream. And so this is why so many of us are much more comfortable floating along, bemoaning our circumstances.

Another thing we should consider is whether or not we are setting a goal that is outside of our control. Sometimes our there is just simply out of our reach and yet we keep trying to manipulate circumstances to get to where we want to go. Perhaps it is a rebellious, wayward child, a spouse who refuses to change, a dead-end job with a lousy boss that we need to survive, or we have a chronic health issue.

So what then?

This situation makes me think of Paul. He, too, was given a circumstance –we don’t know what it was–that was frustrating him. We read about it in 2 Corinthians 12–

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul wanted this thorn to be removed but God said NO. This thorn was used to keep Paul humble and relying on Christ rather than on himself. Paul’s trials drew him to Christ rather than away from Christ.

Is this what our trials do for us? It’s a good question to ask ourselves, isn’t it?

We probably cannot grow from trials until we get to the point of resting in God’s sovereignty–always continuing in fervent prayer for those we love or for our seemingly impossible circumstances and doing what we can to change the situation, and yet resting in His timing and His will instead of always trying to fix it ourselves.

And, finally, one last thing we should always consider– whether our there is within or outside of our control–is our final there. Our daily decisions here on earth should always be made with eternity in mind. Matthew 6 puts it this way–

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So, while it is very important that we be good stewards with all we have been entrusted, it is also very important that we live with heaven in mind. I don’t know about you, but this is not always part of my decision-making process. I get caught up in the here and now and do not always give much consideration to eternity.

Well, I hope my rambling thoughts gave you some food for thought today. As you may have noticed, I am working through all of this myself and certainly have a long way to go. It is a challenge to live a victorious Christian life here on this fallen earth and I struggle every day. But it is so important that we keep moving forward in this life.

May we continually dig deeper in the Word with submissive and obedient hearts and may we give ourselves to dedicated prayer, all the while relying on God for the grace and strength to get through each day. In so doing, we will show a lost and dying world that Jesus does make a big difference–not only for eternity, but also for the here and now.

 

 

Obstacles

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The dogs are menacing and terrifying– much more so than the barking dog in the picture above. Since I don’t get my camera out in the middle of an attack, I have no picture of the actual dogs. But let me start at the beginning.

Around five years ago, I started running and I would always hate passing this particular house. The dogs would run out on to the road and I would try to act like I didn’t care, shouting at them, and scooting past as quickly as possible. But then came knee surgery and that was the end of running for me.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I decided that I would see if I could get into the habit of walking. Since my dogs love going for walks (and my Chocolate Lab could stand to lose a little weight!), I decided to take them with me. Unfortunately, I need to pass this house where these dogs reside to reach both developments I like to walk in.

The first few times, the owner saw me coming and called them inside. I started to relax when I walked by, thinking she had them under control now.

And then there was the day last week that we were on our way back home. I crested the hill and spotted the dogs. My heart started pounding in fear. I was across the road from where they were, so I scrambled up the embankment next to the road and onto the field to put as much distance between me and them as I could. And then I started walking really fast.

But before I could blink, those dogs had run right across the road, up the embankment, and stood circling my dogs and growling. And this was no friendly growl. I have not been that frightened in a long time. I started screaming at them and, finally, after what seemed like an eternity– but was probably only a few seconds–the owner came out and called them and they left us.

My heart was beating like crazy. I had not been that scared for a very long time. What would I have done if the owner had not heard me? I had no idea.

Now what? I thought about this the whole way home. Would I keep walking? Or just give up?

I decided that I was not going to let a couple of dogs scare me and so I continued to walk, always taking great care when I’d go by that house and yet assuming that the owner wouldn’t let such a thing happen again, as she could visually see (and hear) just how frightened I was by her dogs.

But I assumed quite wrong. This past Saturday, my daughter and I decided to take the dogs for a walk in the beautiful sunshine. As we approached the house, my eyes scanned the horizon for the dogs but didn’t see them. I breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the relief was naive and short-lived, for as soon as I passed the barn, I saw my two formidable enemies standing there. I knew what was coming. I told my daughter to pick up and hold our small dog and I stood there, this time with a can of Mace in my hands, and tried to defend myself and my Lab as much as possible.

We must have been quite a sight there in the middle of the road–me with my flying can of mace, screaming at the top of my lungs and my large Chocolate Lab that may as well have been Winnie-the-Pooh, for all the responding she did. She literally just stood there–which I guess is good or it could have grown very, very ugly.

Just about the time I thought those teeth were going to sink themselves into my dog, the owner came out and called them off. I asked her-as kindly as I could muster–to pleeeease put up a fence for her dogs. But even as I asked it, I knew that it would never happen. It’s just something she says to the people who feel threatened as they walk by her house.

So now I am not sure what to do. But I am leaning towards never walking by her house again. It’s just too frightening and I really don’t know what those dogs would do with their bared teeth, should their owner happen to be occupied.

And it makes my heart sink, because I had been working myself into a good habit of walking until this. It’s so discouraging.

But as I was thinking about this, I realized that most of life is like this. Whenever we want positive change, we will run into obstacles. Things we didn’t count on. The stuff you can’t plan. Whether you are working on a healthier body, a better marriage, sticking to a budget, or you have a goal to be in God’s Word, you can almost be guaranteed that something will happen along the way to derail you– if you let it.

What is the best way to respond to these obstacles? How do we keep from jumping ship? For many of us (myself included) the path of least resistance is to throw up our hands in defeat and comfort ourselves with the fact that at least we tried.

But will this take us to where we want to go? And, more importantly, is this how God would want us to respond?

Godly Christian living is really hard work. It’s full of obstacles and discouragement. But we can’t let that stop us from doing what’s right. For if we do, we will stop growing. And if we aren’t growing, we are shrinking. There is really no neutral.

And so, I have been trying to think outside the box a bit. How do I get past that house with my dogs in peace? I can’t walk the other direction, because there is a dangerous hill where cars fly. That feels even more dangerous than passing the dogs. I haven’t really solved the problem yet but I haven’t given up. At least not yet. Although, I have to admit, it’s very tempting.

But all of us face obstacles. Any positive change we try to make is hindered by obstacles and trials. And so we pray for strength and we keep walking in the right direction. Sure, our best laid plans may have gone awry, but the Lord knows all that. No obstacle or trial surprises God. Even menacing watch dogs don’t escape His notice. And somehow, there is great comfort in that.

Just 15 Minutes

15-minutes-timeHow much time does it take to change your life? I think sometimes we drag our feet at putting any change in place, thinking that it will gobble up the precious free hours that we have. We honestly believe that we don’t have time to cook healthy meals or exercise or that we don’t have the time to organize, keep a budget, or read the Bible. Or perhaps we believe we will never have time to learn to play that instrument or learn how to use the computer or read that classic. And so I have a challenge for you (and for me, too!)

It’s simple, really.

15 minutes.

The challenge is to give 15 minutes per day this year to something that you really want to accomplish in your life. If a year seems overwhelming then start with a month.

There are 1440 minutes in each day. We spend about 480 of those minutes sleeping. That leaves 960 minutes to work and play. Surely, we can take just 15 of those 960 to start working on something that really matters to us?

For me, I have decided to take January and tackle some housecleaning jobs that have been neglected.  I have made a checklist of small jobs that need to be done around the house that I never seem to get to. None of the jobs will require more than 30 minutes and most will be 15 minutes or less.

I share this here, because I wonder if sometimes we don’t move forward because it just seems so overwhelming. But what if it only took 15 minutes a day?

If we exercise for 15 minutes a day, isn’t that so much better than not at all?

If we focus on our budget for just 15 minutes (or even 5 minutes!) each day, wouldn’t that be so beneficial in tracking our finances?

If we would read our Bible for even 15 minutes per day, that would still add up to 5,475 minutes spent reading our Bibles. That’s over 91 hours spent reading our Bible in one year!

Perhaps change is within our grasp, after all.

A man names Charles Atlas says this: “15 Minutes a Day! Give me just this and I’ll prove I can make you a new man.”

I don’t know anything about Charles Atlas and I don’t know the context of this quote, but what I do know is that this is true. If we would dedicate just 15 minutes a day to something we really want to accomplish, we will accomplish it! Sure, the downside is that it will take us longer to get there, but let’s remember it was the slow and steady tortoise that finished the race in Aesop’s familiar fable.

Of course, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention here that there isn’t anything better you could spend your 15 minutes on than studying God’s Word this next year. I am sure by now you are tired of hearing about the Bible Challenge, but I truly hope you will consider joining me and other Growing 4 Life readers as we read through the Bible chronologically. Or, if not with us, that you will be in God’s Word with another group of friends or your church or even on your own. I am convinced that– while we can change our behavior and our habits–a changed heart can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit through the reading of God’s Word. There is power in this Book. There is nothing else that could possibly be of more value to you as you head into 2015.

But whatever you choose to spend your 15 minutes a day doing, I know you will feel a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the year (or month) because you stuck it out and have made a change– even if it’s a small one.

Anyone care to join me in the 15 minute challenge?

iOS Frustrations

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Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

Upside Down and Turned Around

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I find myself so frustrated and even depressed by the weight battle I find myself fighting every day. Every. Day. Literally. Some days I lay my head on the pillow at night and feel great about how the day went. I know that I made wise decisions and took the best care of my body that I possibly could have. But there are so many days when that isn’t the case. Instead I lay down with regret and disgust that, once again, I was so weak.

Quite frankly, this battle has been a great source of discouragement to me. I want to be at a healthy weight. I want to look thin and attractive. And yet when faced with a temptation, I cave. When challenged with the daily habits necessary to lose the weight that I say I want to, I fail.

Now, I need to keep fighting. We can’t give up. It’s against the very nature of our Christianity to do so. And victory is possible! But I wonder– when we are in the midst of a battle that feels like it will last for all eternity– is there any other way of looking at it instead of with depression and discouragement?

As I was thinking about this the other day, it hit me–

Perhaps this battle is a blessing.

Yes, I said blessing.

And here’s why–

Because I can’t seem to conquer this battle, I am continually reminded of my weakness and so it keeps me humble. And because I haven’t conquered this yet, it helps me to be constantly aware of my need for dependence of God in this area of my life and, therefore, reminds me of my dependence on Him in every area of my life.

Think of a battle that you face. It may be weight but it may be something totally different — some temptation that you just struggle with on a daily basis. Are you allowing this to develop humility in your life and draw you closer to your Savior? Or are you stuck in a pit of despair?

While I seem to lack lasting victory in this area of weight in my life–at least for now, I am thankful that at least something good can come out of it, if I choose to look at the battle from a different perspective.

Removing the Junk

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I have a feeling my husband might be a little upset with me today. Well, let me begin at the beginning.

I have spent the last year or so on a very slow and arduous journey. It has taken me to the highest mountain and to the lowest valley. I have felt the exhilaration of success and the sting of defeat.

Most of you know I am not an athlete, so you probably are wondering what in the world I am talking about?

It’s called Weight Loss.

Ugh.

Can anyone relate? My journey is so slow that when I went to the doctor in April, I had lost only 18 pounds in one year. But, as I figure it, that is 18 pounds less than I weighed a year ago. That is 18 less pounds that do not need to be carried by my bad knees. 18 less pounds of fat surrounding and impeding my internal organs. 18 less pounds. I consider that somewhat of a success. At least for someone who can’t run anymore.

I do have lots to share about the past year. If you are discouraged in your weight loss journey by physical limitations or simply hopelessness, please contact me privately. I am not ready to share anything publicly yet, as I have such a long way to go.

But, on to why my husband may be upset with me…

So my doctor’s visit in April was a wonderful success and then I let my guard down. Everything was crazy busy with the wedding, I was doing great, and…

I got lazy.

This morning I stepped on the scales with great trepidation. And, rightly so. I had gained several of those pounds back.

I thought over the last few weeks and realized that there was a good reason I was seeing that number on the scales. I had completely left my guard down and had brought junk food back into my home. It’s also ice cream season and I have a hard time resisting ice cream. I had grown apathetic and had not exercised as regularly as I should.

The funny thing is that all of this bad stewardship of my body wasn’t making me feel better in any way. Nope. All that extra sugar and fat was making me feel lethargic and gross.

As I was thinking about that this morning, I decided that today is a new day! I am going to feed my body well. But I was also fully aware that as I progress through the day, this bright morning resolution was likely to dim considerably as the ice cream would start calling my name from the depths of the freezer.

Something drastic had to be done.

And so I gathered the container of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream that I can’t resist and the half-eaten bags of Dieffenbach’s chips and threw them away.

You see, I know what I can and cannot resist and those two things were making it difficult for me to continue on my path  to health and wellness. Enough is enough and they had to be removed. Now, my husband does not like when I throw away food. Do you think it is okay if, in this one instance, I went ahead and did it, anyway? I think so, since I am pretty sure me being healthy is more important than a few dollars wasted.

The ridiculous thing is that when I bought these items at the grocery store, I knew full well that they would be difficult for me to eat in moderation. And so a wise person wouldn’t have purchased them in the first place. But I had this insatiable desire for sugar and salt and decided to completely ignore the voice in my head that told me to walk by them in the store.

Our spiritual lives are so similar, aren’t they? We know full well what sins we can or cannot resist. And yet we flirt with them, thinking somehow that we won’t reap the sorry consequences of our choices. But a spiritual diet of all junk food is just as devastating to our spiritual health. For we always reap the consequences of our actions. I can’t eat a regular diet of junk food without reaping the consequences of extra weight. It’s the same in the spiritual realm.

And so we need to carefully think about what we are allowing in our lives and discard anything that is keeping us from being the healthiest we can be spiritually.

And, just like eating a good, balanced diet helps me to feel so much better and be my most healthiest self, so feeding ourselves biblical truth through Bible study, solid preaching, and books that help us understand scripture correctly helps us to be our healthiest spiritual self.

And so let’s think about our lives. What do we need to discard today? What is keeping us from growing like we could be? Perhaps it’s a favorite tv show or an addiction to movies (get rid of cable)? Or an insatiable desire to buy stuff (cut up your credit cards)? We all struggle with different things. But we all struggle. Let’s be fully conscious of the things that are keeping us from being the healthiest we can be–in all areas of our lives!

If-Then

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I never, ever leave my car windows open. It has been as much a habit to close the windows as to unbuckle my seatbelt when I get out of my car. And so when we were awakened by a deafening crack of thunder the other night, the only thing on my mind was my computers. As I lay in my bed listening to the heavy rains gush down I had one thought: Should I go unplug them? In the end, I decided not to, as the worst seemed to be over and I just didn’t want to cross the dark parking lot in the heavy rain to reach the office computers.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped outside the next morning to find my car windows down and the car seats absolutely drenched! I thought back to the day before and I remembered that I had come home from Sam’s Club with a ton of groceries that needed unloaded. I had gotten distracted and had forgotten to close the windows.

But there are certain natural laws we cannot change. Such as: IF I do not want wet car seats, THEN I must close the windows.

I can’t wish this away or pray it away or change it. It is what it is.

It reminds me a little of a conversation I had with a young lady one time. She expressed to me her deep desire for a godly husband and her discouragement at finding one. However, when looking at her Facebook page, I saw her pictured in bikinis and drinking alcohol. She did not give the impression that she was a godly young woman. But here is the thing–

IF you desire a godly husband, THEN you must be a godly woman.

I think so often we want good things, but we aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to get what we want. This young lady certainly isn’t alone. I, myself, have been guilty of this many times. For instance–

IF I desire a healthy body, THEN I must eat right and exercise.

IF I desire to know God, THEN I must study His Word.

IF I desire to have a clean and organized house, THEN I must be willing to clean and organize.

We can’t get around these natural laws, but we sure do try, don’t we? We want clean houses without working, great bodies without effort, and a close relationship with God without trying. But all of these are impossible without taking the necessary steps.

I remember watching the show “Bewitched” an occasion or two when I was little. Seeing Sam twitch her nose made me slightly envious. Who wouldn’t want her ability to mold her circumstances to fulfill her desires without any effort on her part aside from a little wiggle of her nose? But, in case you haven’t figured this out already, that isn’t real.

We’d like to think it is with our positive thinking and selfish prayers, but the bottom line is that most times our goals just take good, old-fashioned hard work.

Of course, once in a great while, I guess there are exceptions. But I am not really sure I know of any.

No, if you want to know God, then you need to study His Word. If you want a healthy body then you need to eat right and exercise, and if you want a clean house, you either need to either do it yourself or give up your hard-earned money and pay someone else to do it. Either way, these things are going to cost you something.

Scripture talks about this in a short little verse in 2 Thessalonians (3:10) For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.

We live in a world that wants everything for free. We want the whole world but we don’t want to pay anything for it.

This applies to jobs, finances, health, raising children, our family relationships…actually, almost all areas of life.

I think it is important that we examine our lives in light of this thought. Am I willing to do the work necessary to have the things I desire and then leave the rest in the Lord’s hands?  Of course, sometimes godly women do not find godly husbands. Sometimes healthy bodies get diseased. But, outside of the things we can’t control, are we trying our best or are we just throwing our hands up in the air and crying “this is impossible!” because we aren’t willing to do the work?

It is certainly something to think about, isn’t it?

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Pledge

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What are our rights as Christians? Do we have the right to a beautiful home and two cars? Do we have the right to have a healthy family? Do we have the right to be happy?

Perhaps most of Christians’ heartaches, contentions, and worries are born because of this thinking that we have special rights.

I came across this pledge the other day, written by a Sunday School teacher named Russell Kelfer. He was a Bible teacher at Wayside Chapel in San Antonio, Texas for over 20 years and has left us many lessons, poems, and stories. But perhaps nothing he wrote is so convicting as this Christian Pledge. Could you sign this?

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Having been born into the kingdom of God, I do hereby acknowledge that God’s purchase of my life included all the rights and control of that life for all eternity.

I do further acknowledge that He has not guaranteed me to be free from pain or to have success or prosperity. He has not guaranteed me perfect health. He has not guaranteed me perfect parents. He has not guaranteed me perfect children. He has not guaranteed me the absence of pressures, trials, misunderstandings, or persecution.

What He has promised me is eternal life. What He has promised me is abundant life. What He has promised me is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, and self-control. He has given me all of Himself in exchange for the rights to my life.

Therefore I acknowledge this day the relinquishment of all my rights and expectations, and humbly ask Him by His grace to replace these with a grateful spirit, for whatever in His wisdom He deems to allow for my life.

 
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Wednesday Wisdom: Should “Christian” and “Yoga” be used in the same sentence?

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It has been heavy on my heart that so many fellow believers view yoga as a benign exercise. Somehow they believe that the physical poses of yoga can be separated from the spiritual purposes of yoga. But here is what a Hindu himself says about yoga:

While yoga is not a “religion” in the sense that the Abrahamic religions are, it is a well-established spiritual path. Its physical postures are only the tip of an iceberg, beneath which is a distinct metaphysics with profound depth and breadth. Its spiritual benefits are undoubtedly available to anyone regardless of religion. However, the assumptions and consequences of yoga do run counter to much of Christianity as understood today. This is why, as a Hindu yoga practitioner and scholar, I agree with the Southern Baptist Seminary President, Albert Mohler, when he speaks of the incompatibility between Christianity and yoga, arguing that “the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine” is fundamentally at odds with Christian teaching. This incompatibility runs much deeper (bold is my emphasis).

You can read the rest of this article here. It is a very interesting read.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hindu-view-of-christian-yoga_b_778501.html

So why have so many Christians fallen prey to becoming part of this false religion? Because we have been told that it’s simply a relaxation technique and a good form of exercise. But as believers, we have a responsibility to make sure that what we are being told is actually true.  And before I hear the argument, “Well, it doesn’t affect me…I do it just for exercise,” think for a minute why you would even desire to do something so spiritually intertwined with a false religion. Should we draw closer to false religions and play around with their rituals and traditions or remove ourselves as far from them as possible? 

I found this article by Marsha West. I have only the second half of the article here, but you can read the rest of it by clicking on the link at the bottom. 

Many Christians have been duped into thinking that yoga is just relaxation and exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Classical yoga is intended to put one into an altered state of consciousness. Believers who think they’re “just exercising” are being swept into a counterfeit religion.

Not all religions are equal, as liberals would have us believe. Orthodox Christianity teaches that there is one true God. God as the all-knowing, all-powerful being who created the universe and still rules it today. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:6,7). Moreover, orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes”(Romans 1:16). On the other hand, “Progressive Christians” (PC’s) believe that the Bible is a book of myths and legends. PC’s “read the Bible symbolically or allegorically, as a collection of interesting stories to take whatever meaning out of that pleases them. This allows them to reject various portions of the Bible they disagree with. Liberals label their interpretation as a “critical” approach, which essentially allows most of their theology to consist of finding ways to criticize the Bible, rather than actually trying to determine what it says.”[4]

PC’s see nothing wrong with yoga. They see nothing wrong with Christian mysticism either. But that’s another article.

According to God’s Word, mystical practices of any sort are evil. Romans 12:9 instructs Christians to, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Sooner or later the sharks will pull Christians who wade into mystic waters under. Jesus gave this warning in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Eastern mysticism leads to destruction.

Professor Tiwari is an authority on classical yoga. He believes that yoga cannot be separated from its spiritual center. “The simple, immutable fact,” he says, “is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but originated from it.” These facts need to be unequivocally stated in light of some of the things being written to the contrary by yoga teachers. The effort to separate yoga from Hinduism must be challenged because it runs counter to the fundamental principles upon which yoga itself is premised, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). These ethical tenets and religious practices are the first two limbs of the eight-limbed ashtanga yoga system which also includes asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation/Self Realization). Efforts to separate yoga from its spiritual center reveal ignorance of the goal of yoga.”[5]

If your church is integrating “Christian yoga” or any other New Age practice into its services, it’s incumbent on you to speak up. Gently lay out your concerns to your pastor. Explain that yoga is a Hindu or Buddhist practice and has no place in a Christian church. 2 Corinthians. 6:14 says, “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Many pastors are unaware that some yoga practices, especially meditation to achieve an altered state of consciousness, can be spiritually damaging. If your pastor chooses to ignore your warning, you might want to consider finding a new church home.

To all you Christians who want to get in shape, I say halleluiah! I’m all for physical fitness. To stay in shape I’ve taken ballet (for the novice), jazz dance, aerobics, stretch classes, played tennis and racquetball, hiked in the mountains, and gone on brisk walks. All of these things will keep you in great shape. You don’t need yoga to stay fit

Footnotes:

4, Liberal Theology Misses Plain Truth By Rachel Alexander
5, Yoga Renamed Is Still Hindu By Subhas R. Tiwari

© 2006 Marsha West – All Rights Reserved

Read this article in its entirety here:http://newswithviews.com/West/marsha30.htm

Joy Killers

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Yesterday, I shared some excerpts from a sermon by Spurgeon on the Joy of the Lord. As I thought about his words, I thought of how often I desire to walk in the joyful sunshine of God’s light but then choose, instead, to walk through the dark, cold shade of my own sinful choices.  What are some of those sinful choices–or what I like to call Joy Killers–that are so effective in leading us to the shady side of the street?  The list is probably endless, but here are a few that came to mind–

 Joy Killers

  1. Holding a grudge
  2. Entertainment that glorifies what God hates
  3. Caring too much about what people think
  4. Loving money
  5. Eating more than your body needs
  6. Wasting time
  7. Gossiping about someone else
  8. Caring more about your physical health than your spiritual health
  9. Watching too much news
  10. Anger and Frustration
  11. Caring too much about what you look like
  12. Focusing only on what’s wrong in the world
  13. Making yourself and your needs your top priority
  14. Complaining
  15. Criticizing
  16. Trying to fix, control, and manipulate people and circumstances
  17. Taking something that isn’t yours
  18. Envy and jealousy
  19. Sex outside of marriage
  20. Hating someone
  21. Putting sports (or anything else) ahead of the spiritual welfare of your family
  22. Language that is filthy and crude
  23. Pretending to be someone you are not (hypocrisy)
  24. Abusing our bodies with substances
  25. Twisting scripture to make it mean what you want instead of what it really does
  26. Living only for today, with no thought for eternity

Many on this list are specific things listed in scripture as sin (see Galatians 5). Others are simply unwise to do if we want to live a life of joy. There are so many others that could be added. We humans have been very creative at concocting ways to steal our own joy!

I have been really convicted lately that we need to pray that we (and those we love) would hate sin. No, we will never be perfect here on this earth, but if we have a heart that is yielded to the Lord and we desire to be pure and holy, it is then, and only then, that we make it possible to have deep, abiding communion with our heavenly Father, thus leading to true and lasting  joy.

Do you have anything to add to my list of Joy Killers?