Living Beyond the Ordinary

I just finished up a post on being a servant and having the heart of a servant, and instead of sleeping I’m thinking about how God designed us for the extraordinary and supernatural, but we settle for the ordinary and mundane. There’s an old Switchfoot song that says, “We were meant to live for so much more. Have we lost ourselves?” And I can’t help but think we have.

Filled with Power from on High

The Prophet Ezekiel talked about the Holy Spirit in chapters 11 & 36 when he shared a vision that God gave him; in which, God spoke, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Luke tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection, Christ told His disciples to wait for this “power from on high” before continuing His ministry (Luke 24:49). In John, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as an advocate, helper, and Spirit of Truth (John 14:15-17). And throughout the book of Acts–and the remainder of the New Testament–we see the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as a group of frightened disciples is filled with the power of the Spirit and transformed into a fearless group of messengers bringing the Good News of Christ to everyone they encountered! 

The Holy Spirit is the power of God alive and at work on the earth; and every believer is filled with this same power from the moment we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. His Spirit is what enabled the disciples to face persecution head-on, with joy! His Spirit is what gave them the ability to cast out demons and heal the sick. His Spirit gave them boldness and authority to preach the Word to the nations. It’s the same Spirit that’s at work in us today! Yet, we’re content with just getting from one day to the next. Even unbelievers can do that!

Gifts of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit empowers us to do things far above and beyond that which we could ever do in, and of, ourselves. He helps us all to live lives full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This means that regardless of our ethnicity or background, the Holy Spirit gives us the supernatural ability to treat others with love, gentleness, and respect; even when the world tells us we have the “right” to be angry and/or react offensively. It’s inexcusable for believers to site their ethnicity or background as an excuse to behave poorly or unkind. If we’re a believer, it’s Christ’s blood that runs through our veins, and that’s the only thing that matters.

The Spirit also empowers us with other gifts and abilities; although, different for each believer, they’re all equally important. These gifts include gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-11); as well as teaching, helping, and administrating (1 Corinthians 12:27-31).

Lastly, let’s recall my last post in which we discussed how we were created for the purposes of God. Each of us were created with intimate precision and care (Psalm 139:13-16), and God provides each of us with giftings and talents that we’re to use to bring Him honor and glory.  Reinvesting the gifts and talents that God has given us into establishing His kingdom is what He designed us for (Matthew 25:14-30)! But the talents that He gives us will never be used to their full potential until we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us to. Only once we abandon all selfish ambition, will God be able to take us above and beyond all we could possibly imagine or conceive, yet not for our own sake, but for His (Ephesians 3:20-21)! Because God’s Spirit makes the impossible possible! He brings the dead to life. He brings healing to the broken and sick. Provision to the needy. Hope to the hopeless. Joy to the hurting. Freedom to the oppressed. He does what we could never do in our own strength and abilities.

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A Wise Man’s Words

According to Proverbs, the power of life and death are in the tongue (18:21). Therefore, everything we speak should be truthful (Proverbs 12:19, 22:20-21), gentle (Proverbs 15:1, 15:4, 25:15), gracious and pure (Proverbs 15:26, 22:11). Because our words are powerfully influential (Proverbs 11:11) they should impart knowledge (Proverbs 15:2, 15:7) and wisdom (Proverbs 10:11, 10:13, 10:31), and should feed and guide others (Proverbs 10:21). Our words should heal (Proverbs 12:18, 16:24), build up (Proverbs 14:1), and correct (Proverbs 19:18, 28:23); and yet, we should save our rebuke and correction for those who would listen (Proverbs 9:7-9).

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We should not speak falsehoods (Proverbs 6:16-19, 12:22, 26:28), gossip or spread secrets (Proverbs 11:9, 11:12-13, 20:19), sow strife or contention (Proverbs 20:3, 25:23-24, 26:17, 26:20-21), harp repeatedly on the mistakes of others (Proverbs 17:9), or speak rashly (Proverbs 12:18). We should not speak perversely, or contrary to the Word (Proverbs 6:12, 10:31-32), mislead or deceive (Proverbs 4:24), or slander (Proverbs 10:18, 26:22-26).

Elsewhere in the Word, we’re told that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45); and that both blessings and curses ought not come from our mouths, because both fresh and bitter/salt water can’t come from the same spring (James 3:8-12). If the words that come from our mouth are an expression of what’s in our hearts, what do our words reflect about us? Are we wise or foolish? Are we full of love or hate?

I think one of the most important things for us to do, is stop and think before we speak. We’ve talked about this before, in the Characteristics of the Wise post, that we ought to be slow to speak. Our words have the capability to steer others (and ourselves) towards, or away from, the Father; to ignite a fire between friends (or brothers), according to James 3:4-6. And we will eat of the fruit, or bare the consequences, of what we say (Proverbs 12:14, 18:20).

For teachers of the Word, it’s even more important that we’re not misrepresenting the Word of God and teaching things that are untrue, for we’ll be judged by an even higher standard than others (James 3:1)!

We’re not perfect, and we will all stumble, and say the wrong thing at some point. However, we should do our best, relying on the Holy Spirit, to lead and direct us. And when we do fail, we should aim to correct, or apologize, when possible. Lastly, when others fail in their speech, we should pray for them, and ask God to help us extend grace towards them (Proverbs 12:16, 17:9, 19:11).

Book Review – God of Creation: A Study of Genesis 1-11

God’s been impressing a lot on my heart these last few weeks, as I’ve been studying the book of Proverbs, so I figured I should get this book review on God of Creation, by Jen Wilkin posted while it’s still somewhat fresh in my memory.

I tend to be somewhat wary of studies created by, or directed towards, women. Mostly, because I love expository teaching of the Word, and most women’s studies tend to be a little more expressive; and I really just want to know more about the Word. But after finishing this study, I felt like I really do have a better understanding of Scripture, and I felt like even my husband would enjoy this!

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God of Creation is a 10-week study on Genesis, chapters 1-11. “But I know what happens in these chapters, why would I want to do this study?” Here’s the thing, before I begin any study, I pray that God will reveal something new to me. I mean, I’ve read and learned about Genesis 1-11, since I was a little girl. However, it’s incredibly important as believers, that we never stop learning, and seeking God’s wisdom and insight. And no matter how much we study the Word, God always wants to reveal something new to us. I always say the Bible is like an onion, with endless layers; which the Holy Spirit peels back, one layer at a time.

This study covers creation, the fall, Cain & Abel, the flood, and more. Some of my favorite aspects about it are its lack of fill-in-the-blank notes and its use of open-ended questions. I love the questions because they encourage the reader to think for themselves; and thinking critically about the Bible is an important skill that all believers should strive to acquire.

Some things I learned from this study are the importance of repetition in the Word; to pay attention to how things are ordered in Scripture; and to not just skim over genealogies, because they have a purpose, and not just for scholars.

I’d recommend this study to anybody, really; and I’m looking forward to Jen Wilkin’s continuation of Genesis in God of Covenant: A Study of Genesis 12-50 which is supposed to be released in January 2019.

Motherhood: The First Season

Recently, I remarked to my hubby that I’m in a place where I truly appreciate everything my mother did for us, as children. She was a military spouse, whose husband went away for months–and once, a whole year–at a time, which meant she was at home with me and my younger sisters, without any help (or family nearby) for extended periods of time. And it’s not that I didn’t love my mother or appreciate her before, but now that I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), whose husband sometimes goes away for weeks at a time, I truly understand what this entails and appreciate the sacrifices she made.

Honestly, when I was younger, being a SAHM didn’t appeal to me, because I thought I’d be bored (HAHAHA). I didn’t realize the amount of work involved in being with your child. All. The. Time. It’s a never-ending routine of changing, nursing, feeding, bathing, reading, and so forth…and that’s not including all the household chores, grocery trips, or meal-making. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining; I love having the financial freedom to be at home with my Cookie Girl. It’s extremely rewarding, but can also be lonely and exhausting.

A week or so ago, our church organized an outreach in our neighborhood. I tried to sit through an informational meeting, beforehand, with a squirming toddler, and failed miserably. I ended up leaving early, frustrated. God and I had a good talk on my drive home, though; and I’ve come to the realization that things will not be the same as they were before we had children, at least not for a very long time. My place, for now, is with my child(ren) and sometimes I will have to stay back, or behind the scenes, in order to be of any service. At first, I was upset about it. It didn’t seem fair that I wouldn’t get to participate in things the way I used to (or how I want to). However, I’ve accepted that for now, W and I have to play tag until baby girl gets a little older; it’s just the season of life that we’re in.

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As I’ve written before, this season will not last forever, nor does it mean that I’ve completely given up on my own dreams or visions. As a matter of fact, God placed something big on my heart, after a visit to Philadelphia, with the passing of my grandfather. But I’m recognizing the need to be patient and wait for the Lord’s timing. The things He’s planted in me will come to pass, even if not right away. I just have to let Him continue to prepare me for these things. Interestingly enough, I heard confirmation of this during Sunday’s sermon: that we’re never too old to walk out the calling God has placed on our lives and that we must stay on the anvil of God and allow Him to shape and mold us.

Therefore, whatever God’s promised you, whatever He’s planted in your heart to complete, sometimes we just have to be patient. We have to continue to seek His face and His will for our lives, and allow Him to mold and shape us through the power of His Holy Spirit. There are tons of biblical examples of men and women of God who probably wanted to give up on their dreams as they ran away from their enemies (Moses, David, Elijah), wandered through the wilderness (Moses, Joshua, Caleb), or as year after year passed, without child(ren) (Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Hannah, Zechariah & Elizabeth). As I’ve been studying Genesis–through Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation study–I realized that Noah was 500 years old before he had his sons, and 600 years old when he boarded the ark (Genesis 5:32, 7:6). It could very well have taken 100 years to build an ark for a flood that God promised a century before (we don’t know the details!). A hundred years…

David was just a teen when he was anointed as Israel’s next king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but it would be many years before he actually sat on the throne, at age 30 (2 Samuel 5:1-5). The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before Joshua or Caleb got to enter the promised land (Numbers 14; Joshua 1). And Abraham & Sarah (Genesis 17-18), and Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-24) were just two couples way beyond their child-bearing years, who gave birth to influential men of God! Jesus, Himself, didn’t begin His ministry until He was 30 (Luke 3:23).

As for me…this first season of parenthood is a tough one, requiring self-sacrifice, patience, trust, and complete dependence on God to get through each day; in fact, I am in no way the same person I was before our little Cookie came on the scene. But I know each season will be different, and each will teach me something new about myself, like what I can and cannot handle on my own, about the importance of flexibility, how to better manage my time, and how to show grace in different situations. And each season will change me for the better, and shape me more into the woman that God desires me to be, for which, I’m incredibly grateful.

New Wineskins

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” ~ Matthew 9:17

God is the father of creation. While His character will never change–for the Word says He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever–He’s continually doing new things in and through our lives (Hebrews 13:8). God doesn’t fit inside the box we try to contain Him in, nor does He do things the same way over and over again. Regardless of the routines or rituals we’ve set up in our lives, God is God, and He does what He wants, when and how He wants.

The verse above came to mind during prayer a few weeks ago, followed by Ezekiel 36:26-27.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

These two verses caused me to think about how, often, the longer we walk with Christ, we tend to forget the graciousness and loving-kindness of God. We hear and read of His sacrifice for our sins so often, that sadly, we sometimes become callous to its meaning. We no longer recall the love, thanksgiving, and joy that filled us at salvation; we’ve forgotten our first love (Revelation 2:4-5)!

However, God wants to do a new thing! And in order to do so, we need to have a heart of soft, tender flesh, and we need to be flexible, new wineskins! We must let go of “how things have always been done” and our fear of the uncomfortable, and allow God to break our hearts for what breaks His.

Tearing Down the Walls

One Sunday night, a week or so ago, during our monthly prayer service, God gave me this vision of the walls of the church crumbling. There were a couple different walls that I felt God was speaking to during this time. I’m going to attempt to unpack them below, since I feel these are for every believer.

Wall Number 1 — The Spiritual – Secular Divide

Years ago, I heard a message regarding bridging the spiritual – secular divide, and God brought it back to memory. So, what exactly does bridging the spiritual – secular divide mean?

Sometimes, as believers, we try to place God (and our faith) in this little box and take Him out a few times a week. We, in turn, keep this spiritual portion of our lives separate from the everyday, mundane, secular portion of our lives. We keep God within the confines of our churches, Bible studies, or personal prayer times; or within the boundaries of our relationships with other like-minded individuals. However, God desires to tear down these walls, and desires to permeate every aspect of our lives. And not in some weird “mystical” way that I sometimes hear used to describe the Holy Spirit, but in a meaningful, powerful, authentic manner. God desires to tear down the walls that we’ve placed in our lives; walls that we’ve built to protect ourselves, but which actually do more harm than good.

Truth be told, there should be no spiritual – secular divide! We live this one life, and have but one purpose: to glorify and make God known. If we truly believe that Christ is our Savior, this goal should excite us. His Spirit should stir us to action and prompt us to share His love wherever we go.

Wall Number 2 — That Which Separates us from the World

The Word of God says that we may live in this world–physically–yet, we are to be separated from it–spiritually (John 17:14-16). However, too often we think that this means that we must completely cut ourselves off from non-believers! Instead, we stay in our bubble of like-minded individuals, never reaching out, shining our light, or speaking truth into the lives of the people God has placed in our lives.

Yes, we are to be holy and set apart for God’s purpose, and there will be things we will abstain from and places we may avoid (John 17:17, 19; 1 Peter 1:16). However, just like Paul, when he said, he became all things to all men that he might win others to faith in Christ; we should pray about what and where God is leading us to, before immediately running in the opposite direction, and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). Jesus, himself, spoke to some of the most unsavory characters, in the oddest of places! Which leads me to the last wall…

Wall Number 3 — Prejudice

Now, with racism being a hot topic in our current culture, this should come as no surprise to you; but prejudice isn’t only regarding race. Prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” (according to Google); it can be positive or negative, and can be based on race, social status, sex, political affiliations, or religion, just to name a few.

Prejudice can prevent us from having relationship with another individual because they’re different (or we think they’re different) from us. Prejudice can prevent us from reaching out to another because of our own fears, preconceived notions, or opinions.

James discouraged the early believers from showing partiality towards those who were wealthy, and snubbing those who were poor, and reminded us to love our neighbors as our self (James 2:1-9). This could go either way though, we could just as easily snub those who are wealthy, and favor those who are poor. The point remains the same; regardless of the other person’s background, we are to share God’s love and truth with them.

I think the most difficult part about this is, even when we allow God to fill our heart with grace, mercy, and compassion for people who are different from us, the same might not be said for them. Usually, they too have preconceived notions about us, and are fearful, angry, or suspicious of our motives. Yet, even so, we must remain calm and genuine, and allow God to work through us. Is it hard? Absolutely! But remember…the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is alive within us (Romans 8:11)!

To Err is Human…

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We all make mistakes. It’s just a part of being human. Sometimes we say the wrong thing, make the wrong choice, forget, or simply run out of time. We can’t expect to be perfect, and we can’t place unrealistic expectations on others, either (for more on this you should check out this post).

Yet, how often we feel like failures when we don’t get things right. I recently finished reading Gloria Furman’s, “Missional Motherhood,” and in it, she reminded me that we need to be careful with what we call “failure.” She states, “Things that are part of our design–our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an ‘earthly tent,’ and our lack of knowledge–are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us” (Missional Motherhood, p.124).

We must beware, Furman goes on to state, because “we often [mistakenly] place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins” (pp. 124-125). Mistakes due to our humanity are not the same as down-right rebellion against God. Our neediness and weakness points us to Christ; it’s why He created us this way; that we would be dependent on Him. Our sin, on the other hand, draws us away from God; the bible calls it enmity (James 4:4), in which, we’re spiritually at war with Christ. Sin requires repentance.

Therefore, when we make mistakes, the only thing we can do is acknowledge it–apologize, if we hurt someone in the process–and attempt to prevent it from occurring again. I love the quote above, attributed to Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” because it takes supernatural power to forgive ourselves, or others, when mistakes are made. Whether we have to walk in humility because we messed up, or offer grace to another, because someone unintentionally hurt or disappointed us, it’s only by His Holy Spirit that we do so.