Bible · christian · Christian Devotion · faith · peace · purpose · Spirit · worry

Higher Heights, Deeper Depths

 

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

 

I admit it. I’m challenged by the mere thought of heights (I’m trying not to use the word afraid as a woman of faithJ), which is why I didn’t like the idea of stopping off for a little mini-vacation on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  There are certain areas where I haven’t allowed my faith to reach maturation, and this is one.  In a household of all males, I’d never be outvoted on this one. I sucked it up, grabbed a latte and a dose of courage as we traveled up the mountain in the dreary weather.

While we followed the trail, I wasn’t fearful at all.  We passed markers along the way giving us historical information about this location and that while we laughed and took pictures. I forgot that we were going up the mountain. It didn’t feel like we were ascending, but when we came off of the trail, I realized that we’d reached the pinnacle. I hadn’t even felt the incline. My guys all remarked at how breathtaking the view was, and I agreed, but in a much different way. My stomach dropped when I realized that we were so high up.

It got me thinking though. What would our problems, challenges and fears look like if our focus stayed on the right things?  While we hiked up the trail, I was focused on the nature around me and just enjoying time with my family, not my fear of heights. For those reasons, I made it up the mountain without worry. In that same way, we are all bombarded with problems, great and small, but we should take the time to consider what our focus should be.

It’s only natural for a trial to have our attention. Sometimes life’s trials are so consuming, we can’t turn a blind eye to them.  The reality of the problem seems overwhelming. We may try to figure out why it’s happened and strategize for a way out. If we can’t come up with an immediate solution, we can feel distraught, depressed, and either make a decision out of impulse or become stagnant out of fear.

Most of us know that we should turn to God, cast our cares on Him, and pray about everything, including problems and obstacles. However, how do we focus on God in the midst of trying to make a difficult decision? How can we keep our eyes fixed on God’s promises when there seems to be no way of escape? And how can we be at peace when unrest is all around us?

Initially, grappling with these questions have brought me plenty of sleepless nights. The what ifs have made me feel like a dog chasing its tail. I would have a day of peace and the next day be right back wrestling with the same problem. Sometimes life throws us situations that can shake our faith if we allow it. We don’t see God intervening the way that we expect–even after we’ve prayed, fasted, and meditated on His Word.

I’m convinced that during these times, we have to keep doing all that we know to do is right. We must keep praying, fasting, meditating–in the midst of the doubt. We have keep doing these things until our spirit, soul, mind and body is in alignment with God’s will and timing. We have to refuse to allow our feelings to dictate our behavior!

We have to remember that when we get through the test, we will be at another place in our faith if we keep pressing forward in Him. We will reach a higher height and deeper depth in our faith, which will bring us to another level of peace and joy in Him.

In Ephesians 3:17, Paul instructs,

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We have power when we are anchored in His love and even more so when we fellowship with other believers. This power equips us, even in the most difficult times, to grasp the height and depth of His love us. He loves us. His love sustains us and elevates us above life’s many problems. We have to silence the noise of our issues, and hear His voice. We are His children, and He has not left us. The peace in the valley that we have access to is ours, but we must know that He loves us. His divine purpose for our lives will not be altered as a result of the test. In fact, we are catapulted to our purpose when we go through the test. He told us that if we seek Him, we will find Him.

Knowing that God’s “love surpasses knowledge” is something that has kept my faith in check.  He allows things to happen that don’t always make sense to us, but accepting that He knows and loves us can give us the assurance to quell the anxiety, questions, and fear. When we come up the mountain and through the test, we will find ourselves in a higher place in Him and His love.

Trusting Him with you,

MaRita

 

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Bible · christian · Christian Devotion · Employment · purpose · Uncategorized

Working with Purpose

 

“90% of adults spend half their waking lives doing things they would rather not be doing at places they would rather not be.”

Why We Work, September 2015 (Simon & Schuster/TED)

I ran across this article about the reasons why we work, and overall, the statistics are daunting.  Many people aren’t spending most of their time on earth doing things that they find meaningful, fulfilling, and engaging.  However, the reality of the situation is that if we don’t work, we don’t eat, right? (2 Thessalonians 3:10)  While a small percentage of us have jobs that we find meaningful, most don’t. How can we navigate through life when, out of necessity, we have to do things that we don’t want or like to do? How can we push through everyday tasks when we don’t feel like they’re part of our purpose?

When I was young, I remember my father having us help him to take large stones from one side of our pond to the other.  We carried heavy stones, loaded them into a row boat, and unloaded them, only to carry them up a hill to their final destination.  I had no idea what my father intended, but when the task was over, the landscaping looked beautiful. We all felt like the effort had been worth it, but we didn’t have the vision or insight to see what our father saw.  I’m convinced that sometimes life can be like this very simple illustration.

We have to trust that God knows our desire to please Him and to fulfill His purpose in us.  When we have a heart for Him, regardless of what our immediate placement is, He can use us and fulfill His purpose in us. It’s always toughest when we can’t see what’s up the road and we don’t understand the whys.  I know that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and push the panic button more than a time or two when things just didn’t make sense. However, we can’t cave in to what we see. When we do this, we have the inclination to sin. We want relief so we gravitate towards what we think is gratifying. For example, gossiping, sexual sin, alcohol or drug abuse, negative attitudes, bitterness, resentment, etc. can be a result of us caving to our feelings and not clinging to His Word.

One verse that I live my life by is found in John 15:2. Jesus says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it may bear more fruit.” Many times we might think about bearing fruit by simply imagining all that we can and will do for others, but I think it’s more.  We have to mediate and reflect about ourselves first. I’ve had to ask myself, what is your relationship with Christ bearing in you? We must ask ourselves daily if we are being obedient to His Word. Are we loving another? Do we have peace and joy? Are we patient, forgiving, kind, gentle, good? Do we have self-control? And, if we don’t have love, how can we have any of the other fruit?

Fulfilling our purpose doesn’t always mean leaving our jobs to do something else. Sometimes we have to stay right where we are, and it can feel wrong but be right in the Lord’s plan for our lives. Part of our pruning process may involve doing things that we don’t understand, but if we always keep our hearts and minds in sync with God’s plan, we will have peace and find purpose in any place in our lives.

Our fulfillment and joy has to be found in relationship with the Lord first. Period. Any other order is out of order. We don’t do God a favor when we go to church, read our Bibles, or give service to others. We do these things out of our love for him and our desire to please Him, but God is pleased when we trust Him and obey His Word. This seems simple but can be very challenging. There is always the temptation to put other things before Him, but worship has be a lifestyle. We have to lift Him up and seek to please Him. When we commune with Him, the evidence of what’s within us will flow outward to others.

People can feel the authenticity of those who are in fellowship with Christ. They light up their jobs. They brighten gloomy situations. They are positive but real. They are quick to listen and slow to speak. They are compassion, but stand for injustice and avoid cliques. They don’t brag about the good they do, but they do good. When we have a heart for Christ and a Christ-like attitude, we are working with purpose and on the mission that God has given us, regardless of our station in life.

I pray that today God will supernaturally reveal His purpose in where He has you right now. Psalm 119:105 lets us know that His Word is light to our path and a lamp to our feet. In the dark places, He will show us how to proceed and help us to work toward our divine calling.

Praying with you now and always,

MaRita

 

Christian Devotion · Uncategorized

Control!

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When Janet Jackson’s song, “Control,” released in 1984, it was a huge hit.  Of course, I’m aging myself, but it became an anthem for me and so many other young people.  I remember the lines, “Got my own mind. / I want to make my own decisions. / When it has to do with my life, my life / I want to be the one in control.”  Even if you don’t know the song, you get the gist.  Being in control is glamourized and applauded all most all of the time.  However, it’s important to think about who or what’s controlling our thoughts because our thoughts determine how we behave.

There’s a spiritual battle taking place, whether we realize it or not.  The battle is one for control over our minds.  Will we do and say whatever we want and feel or will we consider and act on what God’s Word says?  This war between our flesh and the spirit can be deadly. So many don’t even acknowledge that the war exists, which makes it even more dangerous.  We have to have spiritual insight to accept and acknowledge that this war exists.  When we are led by what we desire or what we think and feel, we are being controlled by the flesh.  Basing decisions on our intellect, feelings, and wants lead us into a path of destruction.

On the other hand, to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.  When we allow God’s Spirit to control our thoughts, we become vessels for Him.  As a result of our thoughts being under subjection to the Word, we will discover that our actions will follow accordingly, making us fruitful and productive.  The struggle exists between the flesh and the spirit, but we have victory over it through Christ.

Galatians 5:17 explains, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  Often, the things that feel good in the moment aren’t things that are good for us in the long run.  For example, I love sugary desserts.  When I decide that I’m going to choose to be led by my flesh and indulge in whatever I want, I might feel great in the moment.  However, there are negative consequences to my health that I can’t control as a result of me allowing my flesh to govern my thoughts.  Remembering that my body is a temple where the Holy Spirit resides helps me to make healthier decisions.

If we don’t know, meditate and study the Word of God, we are operating at a disadvantage.  When we don’t submit our will to His, we are hurting ourselves, even if it initially appears to feel good.  That’s the deception.  Sin can feel pleasurable in the moment but the consequences devastating.  When we live in sin, we may feel that we’re in control, and we are in command of our outcome.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   Sinful thoughts lead to sinful behavior.  Sinful behavior is an indication that the enemy has taken control, no matter how it masks itself.

We live in a society that uplifts independent thinking and actions, but we must beware.  Our thinking must be in alignment with God’s Word, no exceptions.  Galatians 5:19 lists acts of the sinful nature, including: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.   . . . those that live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  We have to arm ourselves with the knowledge of the Word so that we can obey it.

Galations 5:22 continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These are by-products of a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit.

When we are controlled by His Spirit, we will help restore others and help bear one another’s burdens. As Galatians 6:7 says, “God is not mocked.  A man will reap what he sows.”  If we approach each other, mindful of our own temptations and need for forgiveness, grace, and mercy, we will act in God’s love and wisdom.

How do we respond when life gets crazy?  Usually, we tighten our grip and try to control things even more, which leads to frustration and chaos.  Trying to be in absolute control of our own lives is too heavy a burden for us to carry.  Psalm 55:22a says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.”  Or, we may just give up and let the chips fall where they may.   This is a disaster also.  Feeling sorry for ourselves doesn’t ever move us forward.

There is a verse that I meditate on often in Psalm 46:10, which says quite simply, “Be still and know that I am God.”  This comforts me and gives me direction.  Sometimes we need to declutter our minds and fill them with God’s Word.  Instead of devising our own plans, we need to hear from Him by seeking Him daily.  When we set aside this time, we are making Him a priority.  We are showing that we value His direction and His Word.

An interesting things happens when we fully surrender to Him.  Instead of feeling weak, out of control, burdened down, stressed, worried, and anxious, we are empowered.  His Spirit lifts us up and lets us know that we can do all things through Christ!  He confirms in us that we are more than conquerors!

Blessings and love,

MaRita