“Never be lacking in zeal , but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
As followers of Christ we best represent our Savior when our life is lived out with zeal and spiritual fervor as Paul shares here in Romans 12:11-12. He suggests zealous living is evident in those who serve the Lord. Our zeal shines through as evidence of our joyful hope, our patience in affliction, and our faithfulness in prayer.
Self reflection is always good. Let’s do a zeal heart check.
Heart Check Questions:
Are we serving the Lord?
Are we joyful in our hope in the Lord?
Are we patient in affliction?
Are we faithful in prayer?
Our heart check helps us to refocus and help us be more intentional about staying plugged into our power source for zeal and spiritual fervor.
Welcome if you are joining me for the first time. This post is part of my weekly series “Wisdom Wellspring”. Take a moment to visit the page to learn about the heart behind the series and view previous posts.
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Days run by like water flowing to the ocean- sometimes just a trickle and other times swiftly. Either way, they have an
effect on the lives and landscape they run by and through. God’s natural design for the waters is to pursue the vast oceans as their ultimate destination. Likewise, His natural design for mankind is to pursue Him as our eternal destination. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Would you describe your pursuit as a trickle or a swiftly running stream? The easy answer is “not quite swiftly but much more than a trickle.” But what does that look like? As I consider the question. My mind floods with even more questions— Am I pursuing Him at the rate He has designed for my life? Am I taking the path He has set out before me? Am I allowing His design to have the effect on me He intends? Am I allowing His design to have the effect on those He places in my life? Is it better to
move at a swift pace or trickle? My heart struggled to discover a truthful response- one absent of rationalization. I desired a cloudless view of any part of my pursuit that wasn’t authentically centered on Christ. Not excusing areas of my life that I refuse to sacrifice in my pursuit of God’s call to “be Holy as He is Holy.”(1Peter 1:14 – 16)
Our pursuit of God is not measured by pace but rather our heart as we pursue a life that “finds out what pleases the Lord!” (Ephesians 5:10) When we study the paths of water to the ocean, we discover it travels at many different speeds
and has subtle and drastic effects based on the path on which it has been set. Each journey looks different. Consider the contrast of a flowing mountain stream, a river valley, and a mighty river. In each season they have their purpose and shape the landscape as designed by the Creator.
Living our life in pursuit will look different for each of us. The key is to keep moving with God whether it is at a painfully slow or exhilaratingly fast pace. Continue the journey with an open heart to what pleases the Lord and be prepared for the effects.
As our lives are lived according to His eternal design it leaves us changed for His glory and those in our life’s path effected too. Take time to read the rest of Ephesians 5. Paul gives a few examples of “what pleases the Lord”. (Ephesians 5:10) I will leave you with this challenge.
Ephesians 5: 19b- 20 “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I’d love to hear what song the Lord puts in your heart!
Can you relate to my “Sol experience”? It’s all about the art of dog walking. My preference is with my sweet Border Collie Kate. It is a tranquil time of reflecting through the wooded trail behind our home. Now it has become a “Sol experience”. What is a Sol experience you ask? Well it’s walking the family rescue dog ,Sol–a “Jack-a-be”, or Jack-Russell and Beagle combo. The first time my husband and I walked her we were mortified. We had just become “those dog owners”.
You know them. You’ve seen them, and when you see them, you wonder, “Who is walking whom?” “Those dog owners” have no control over their dog. You consider turning around to avoid them altogether. It’s comical and scary at the same to time as they approach. Their dog is lunging forward with every step at the end of the leash no matter how long or short it is, huffing and puffing, straining to get to the next thing, zigzagging across the path, whimpering excessively, and barking. If you have experienced it then you can relate to my “Sol experience”.
Sol does it all, but everything becomes excessively exaggerated when we walk near another dog, she spots a squirrel, or notices a bird. The looks I get– and oh, the advice I get– when I’m trying to train her. All the time, Sol is barking and usually getting more aggressive looking by the moment. It is comical at times, because the advice is so important to share they willing my agony of this incessant dog barking performance for what feels like an eternity. I nod my head and repeat, “She is a rescue in training.” I smile as much as I can through my complete embarrassment, all the time wondering to myself, “What does this person think of me?”
Growing up the same question seemed to always be on the grown-ups minds too. I would get questioned all the time. Should you being doing that? Should you say that? Why didn’t you________? With the follow on question/statement “because what do you think they think about you after_________?” I know the questions all came with the best intentions but they developed a habit I’m still struggling to break.
I wonder if you can relate? I became hyper sensitive to what I think people might think about my choices and behavior big and small. It led to constantly evaluating and wondering if I was good enough in other people’s eyes. I became entangled in the web of real and perceived expectations in my mind. In our Christian walk it is important what others think of us to an extent. But I can get wrapped up in seeking to please others rather than the Lord. Especially when I worry about what they “might” think.
So let’s take a moment to be honest with our selves. How often do your thoughts wander to “What do they think, or will they think about me?” When you are deciding what to wear, what to post on social media, where to go, what to buy, etc., how often has that determined what you would do or not do? If you are like me your answer is much more than I would like to admit. It is amazing the power other peoples’ opinions, perceived or true, that I will give others over my life–even a stranger’s opinion. At times I may even find my self fearfully making choices in hopes to not offend and disappoint people. This fear robs me of full enjoyment to experience life in freedom. Proverbs 29:25 “ Fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” Since I discovered this truth I have been growing in my ability to recognize my fearful thought patterns. It’s a work in progress but day-by-day I am getting more skilled at “taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ”(2 Corinthians 10: 5).
It is a transforming process. I’m thankful I don’t have to do in my own strength and knowledge. It is the Holy Spirits job to transform me from the inside out making me desire to be obedient to this foreign way of living (2 Thessalonians 2:13). And just as I think I’m taking ground on this “fear of human opinion” disability I realize I have a long way to go. I need of a make over of my self-centered thoughts. The Lord wants to completely remove this fear from my wardrobe. He wants to refit me with a style that is more flattering for His warrior-princess.
What woman would ever say “no” to a wardrobe makeover? Not me! The new designer label is “Fear of the Lord”! Just the name sounds fit for a warrior-princess. My first peak at the collection left me breathless. I would be stepping into a whole new way of thinking. He no longer wanted me to measure my choices and behavior by what others would think of me. He is asking me to be more concerned for what my choices would make others think of Him. Making this change would reflect righteousness from the inside out. I would be putting on my spiritual garments of praise, robe of righteousness, and crown of salvation to send the message of love and hope found in Christ. My Christ- focused choices will spread His fragrance, thereby providing the opportunity to lead others in the direction to hope in my King. The new decision questions I will be asking myself are: What message am I about to send? Does it give others a glimpse of God’s love? Will it point others to Him? Can it send the fragrance of life in Jesus? How will it speak to those who need a loving God?
The way I live every part of my life sends a message. Will I live each part out in such a way that I send a message, giving off a fragrance that points others in the direction of their Creator to discover His love for them? Even in my “Sol experience” I need to turn my thoughts to the Lord. In what area of your life is he offering you a wardrobe makeover? Will you accept the invitation and receive the gift?
I’d love to hear about your “Sol experience”. Please pray for Sol and I in our obedience school!
Here are some other scriptures the Lord is using in my make-over process:
Philippians 4:8- “….think on such things…”
Romans 13:14- “…clothe self with the Lord Jesus Christ..”
Colossians 3:12-14- “…clothe self with compassion…over all of these virtues put on love…”
What are you doing with the heartbeats you have been given? Where is your life journey taking you? Some of us are enjoying the ride and maintaining a steady heartbeat. While others are holding on wondering what is around the next corner, with hearts beating out of their chest. Wherever you’re at along this journey of life I know we have a common beginning- our first heartbeat in our mothers womb. It was there life began, our first heartbeat, undetected by our mothers but heard with anticipation by our Creator, God. Experiencing life, as we now know it began later, with an audience, as we were ushered into this amazing world and naturally inhaled our first breath. Take a moment to soak in the miracle of life. As I emerged myself in the miracle of my life I became captivated by the realization of the intentionalness of God in my life! He alone heard my first heartbeat, he gave me my first breath, and he heard my first cry. The very thought left me breathless. I was struck with wonder to reflect on his intimate connection with each of us. We are his first and destined to be his for eternity. He alone was there for my firsts and I know He will also be there to usher my soul into eternity after my final dun-dunt and exhale. His love brings me to my knees. Each of us is between our first and last so the question is “what are we doing with the heartbeats in-between?”
The “heartbeats in-betwee”n is our journey lived out in this world that is not our home but preparation for our eternal home. It says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that the Lord has placed eternity in our
hearts. What does that mean? Some would say it is the “God shaped hole” in our hearts and others it is the underlying “knowing” in our soul that there is more beyond this life.
The purpose of having eternity placed in our hearts is to spark the desireto seek after the Lord, ignite the inspiration to live in connection with Him, and the courage to take each step on our journey. Eternity in our hearts leads us to relationship with our Heavenly Father. Relationship with him changes our identity and redefines our purpose as we live out our “heartbeats in-between”.
When your identity changes from how the “world” defines you to who God has made you in His Son, Jesus Christ, your purpose is refocused on eternal relationships. Discovering your identity in Christ opens your heart to the desire to follow after him. It inspires you to choose him over this world and awakens the courage to follow in his footsteps.
Hebrews 12:1-3 says it best. It instructs us to be strong on our journey that is “marked out for us” by throwing off all that hinders and entangles us. Encouraging us to remain eternally focused with our eyes fixed on Jesus following his example. He traveled his life journey, his “heartbeats in-between”, with the “joy set before him”, the redemption of the world and his glorification at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus’ life provided a road map dotted with crossroads where he chose to live for eternal reward rather than worldly recognition. He lived a sinless life of love, was not entangled by the opposition from sinners, endured the cross, and perfected our faith pioneering the path marked out for us to follow.
Why is it so hard to follow Christ’s example? Apostle Paul answers that well in Romans 7:14-25. He shares the struggle to do what he desires in his heart, to delight the Lord, but he doesn’t always win the battle. He describes a war waging between his body (a prisoner to sin nature) and his mind (delighting in law of God), which he loses more than he would like. Can you relate to Paul’s struggle? I can! Too often I find myself daily wanting to do what is right but then find myself doing the very thing I did not want to do. The influence of our sin nature doesn’t stop just because we have a new identity in Christ. The battle rages and we must fight and purpose to keep our focus on Jesus the perfect source of our desire, inspiration, and courage to take each righteous step toward eternity.
It is so easy to get off course and follow after wrong desires, of the sin nature. I find I must have courage to honestly assess the source of my desire and inspiration to make wise daily choices of the direction I will move. Can you relate to any of these choices?
To buy or not to buy..
To say or not to say…
To do or not to do…
To stay or to go…
To look or look away….
Now, later, or not at all…
Depending on the day and situation some choices are easier to make and stay on course. I have found that the more grounded I am in my identity in Christ the clearer the right choice. When I am seeking in stillness with the Lord I have greater desire, inspiration, and courage to follow through with the God honoring opportunities set before me.
I encourage you to take time this week to be still with the Lord, breath in His goodness, and be infused with his strength for each moment. He hears your heartbeat and will guide your steps as you listen to His heart.
What are you doing with your “heartbeats in-between”?
Everywhere we turn from social media, TV, to magazines, and ads we find headlines aimed at self-improvement: “try the latest…”, “how to…”, “you just need ….”. I’m sure you can add more to the list. We live in a world that bombards us with messages that speak to our desire for more. Do you think we would be constantly exposed to all these suggestions if there weren’t the need to satisfy a craving? Are you familiar with it- The unexplainable desire to search for “the answer” that fills the void within your soul?
The answers the world gives are appealing. They soothe the desperate heart cry for meaningful life.
Felt in response to this need and the underlying message sent that we just aren’t good enough yet. One experiences oneself being drawn to each new captivating solution in search of their own “answer” for them. I have caught myself entranced in the endless search for fulfillment. How about you? When will this longing and quest be satisfied? What would happen if women were awakened from the trance of the world’s enchantment and recognize that the “answer” lies in our identity in Christ?
Yes I’m guilty. I’ve been known to get caught up in the trance. But thankfully I was awakened to who I am meant to be in Christ- his Warrior-Princess. Not just his daughter or princess but his Warrior-Princess because I’m in a daily battle to walk in the power and truth of whose I am (God’s) and who he has made me to be (his Warrior-Princess). Maybe, like me, you wrestle with questions about God and his plan for you. Some of you might even be asking: “How do I measure up in this world? Or “ Does God really want me?” Or even “Would he ever use me?” Whatever your questions might be let me just say that it is okay to question because that is the beginning of naming “the need” and finding “the answer” to fill the void within.
One such question unexpectedly emerged during a heart to heart. I was listening intently when it came gushing out through sobs that were ushered from the depths of her precious heart- “God doesn’t want me, He doesn’t, He can’t. How could I be good enough for him?” My precious daughter struggled to speak in the early morning hours. Her words bursting through her apprehension of the reception they might receive from her teary eyed momma. But she was unable to hold her questioning back any longer. She released the hurt that was tearing at her soul. She collapsed into a tender embrace, reassured that it is okay to question-even question God. She rediscovered his love and peace in her honest questions. I encourage you like I did her, to have the courage to believe that nothing can separate us from him or remove his love for us (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing. It takes courage, Warrior-Princess to win each daily battle (Ephesians 6:12). So take courage because you are never alone!
I invite you to join me in my Warrior-Princess journey. A journey I hope will be one of discovery, inspiration, and empowerment. Together we will find strength to live the life we were created to live. I say “together” because my prayer is that we will journey along side one another connecting through our stories. I believe we were created for relationship and need each other for encouragement, growth, and confidence along the way. We might not all be at the same intersection of our journey, or facing the same temptations or trials, but we are able to encourage each other with where we are and where we have been. Together that is what will enrich our life journey. Let’s journey together!
Life has a way for surprising me so to find myself launching a ministry website and on the edge of publishing a Bible study is uncharted territory for me and incredibly unexpected. I am truly humbled with this opportunity just as I was over 15 years ago when I began to serve in women’s ministry leadership roles. These service opportunities have directed my path to this unique threshold. The courage to take the first step into this uncharted territory comes through experiencing the Lord’s direction in my life. He has orchestrated sweet relationships with people who are strong in my areas of weakness and need for growth. It has been a true faith building experience. I’m very thankful for each person’s encouragement and sharing of their gifts and talents to further the Lord’s purposes in my life.
I posed the question in the beginning:“What would happen if women are awakened from the trance of the world’s enchantment and recognize the answer is our identity in Christ?” I believe the answer is -we will live in a brighter world because we will become a brilliant
reflection of God’s love in this dim world. In my ministry and military experience I have witnessed first-hand how women strongly influence the spiritual and relational connections within community. “That is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”(Ephesians 5:14) As the Apostle Paul said we must wake up and live for Christ. When he shines on us he radiates into the world and awakens his people. Arise from your slumber warrior-princess and shine his light! Our world is desperately searching and in need of “the answer”- Jesus!
Are you ready to live out your identity in Christ: Warrior-Princess?
I’d love to get to know more about you! Will you quickly share a meaningful verse with me?
Psalm 25:4-5 has guided me to this place in my life. “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
Can’t wait to hear yours!!
Be Alert~ Stay Strong~ Pray Always
Is anyone else tired of the walls and distance between who a person is and who others believe they are? Can we please just be REAL? Life is tough no matter at what stage you find yourself. When we chose to build walls and keep others at a distance it hinders the growth of authentic relationships. The extent to which barriers are built can even lead to losing the ability to know how to be “you”. Leaving the builder, you, with the question to answer: “Who am I?” Have you ever experienced a struggle within to identify and express your personal opinions and beliefs? You strain to acknowledge them. But they are blurred by the mask you’ve worn for the world. Emotions try to emerge but they are blocked. All you can feel is fear, numbness and confusion. Reinforcements come to the rescue. “What will they think of me if I’m really me?”… “No one will like me anymore.”… “No one has to know I’m struggling…I can just keep hiding.” The questions and rationalizations are indicators that your chameleon walls are thick and the reinforcements are strong.
How do I know? I was a chameleon for most of my life. Growing up I struggled with who I was, so I lived in safety of my camouflage skills, like a chameleon. My natural instinct was to keep harmony, make others happy, and stay out of trouble. The expectations of others ruled my world. I adapted and changed based on who I was with and what their expectations were so I would be accepted and keep the peace. I thought I was in control.
Do I have any chameleon friends out there? It might not be easy at first glance to recognize it in yourself. Why? Because to an extent that is just part of surviving in our world of ever changing norms and expectations. I realize it is safer to live with walls. I’m an expert builder myself. But I have been challenged to tear my walls down and build REAL relationships: Relational through Encouragement, Authenticity, and Love! That means sharing the struggles of life and letting the light of Jesus shine through my weaknesses as my source of strength.
I was most challenged with tearing down my walls while living in Germany. Our family was preparing for Daddy to deploy for 15 months and suddenly I found myself facing a medical diagnosis that required emergency surgery with an extended recovery time. Many decisions needed to be made. One decision was “will this be a private walk or a public walk?”
Public was what the Lord required. In 2 Corinthians 1: 4-5 the Apostle Paul encourages us that we go through challenges to prepare us and give us opportunity to edify and relate to others through our experience. So there I was on the receiving end of much encouragement and support from newly made friends and strangers. I was learning to live out Proverbs 27:10 where it tells us that when we are in need of assistance we should get our help from those nearby rather than distant family. Living in Germany didn’t leave much choice. It was out of my control
Through that experience I gained friendships I never would have had the opportunity for and my witness for Christ grew. At that time I was also a leader in the community so for those who were watching my family and I handle this challenge it strengthened the message that we need each other in the good times and the challenging ones too. As I let the Lord tear down some of my walls and trust him to be in control I grew in amazing ways. It became clear that I was telling women through my actions that a “strong woman is one who knows when she needs help and seeks it out”. I have witnessed so many women, especially military wives, struggle in their own strength. They chose to stay behind their walls and fake that they were in control and just fine. In reality, inside their walls at home, they were falling apart. I had a front row seat to my own struggle. When I let go of my control to the Lord. He broke me free! I chose to be REAL first with Jesus and began doing life in his strength. Then I found the freedom to be REAL with the people he placed in my life.
Can you relate to being a wall builder? Do you struggle to appear to have it “all together” when the world looks at you? Are you ready to live in REAL community? Where do you want do go in your freedom of being REAL?
When is the last time you took a moment to be quiet and listen for the sound of your heartbeat….dun dunt – dun dunt? Or experienced yourself breathe…the still air drawn in as it lifts your chest and extends your abdomen before the release…awe. I think it takes courage to be still with yourself. I believe we don’t take enough time for stillness in our overstimulated lives,though that is just what we need. Stillness before the Lord. Have you ever considered that our very life began with a heartbeat, followed by a breath of life that awakened the anticipation of our first step in life’s journey. I have learned the importance of being brave and taking the first step to be still with the Lord. Because it is there that I find the courage for the next step of each journey even when the path is difficult or unclear.
Much like a child learning to walk, we are driven by the desire and inspiration that power our courage to take each step and keep get up when we fall. I’m sure we each have an image in mind of a precious child taking their first steps. For me, it’s the twinkle in her eye that reveals a desire within to just get to her daddy’s hands. Because she’s inspired to be swept up into his safe and loving arms to celebrate her accomplishment or pick her up when she falls, she is courageous. She trusts her daddy.
How trusting are you of your Abba Father? I know the level of trust that I have of my Abba Father is reflected in the courage with which I live my life. Maybe you can relate? It’s not a natural thing to be still before the Lord. But as I shared earlier I have learned to “just do it”, like the Nike motto inspires us. I remember a time when
I had to do just that- choose to be courageous. The choice became evident one day when I was wrestling with the feeling that I was missing out on life. Part of me argued that missing out didn’t make sense because I was involved in so many “good” things for the kingdom. That argument won the first round. I let the feeling linger just setting it aside as I trusted that it would pass while I kept doing “good” things.” Then, unexpectedly, came round two as I was reading in my devo time. There it was! A message from Christ himself about how abundant life with him is intended to be something we experience now. (John 10:10). I was missing out! I was not experiencing much joy in my life, no matter what I did.
To my knees I went. I chose to be brave, to pray, and seek the Lord about why I was missing out on the abundant life he has for me. The feeling I had was a nudge to reflect and be still with the Lord. When I did, it become clear I had been letting the thief rob me without putting up a fight. I needed to be still with the Lord and delight in Him so He could refocus my desire, he could inspire me for His Kingdom, and cultivate my courage to step out with confidence as he shows me his ways. A verse that I turn to often is Psalm 25:4-5. One day it literally kept me from a complete breakdown…but that faith adventure is for another time.
What is your desire? Listen for it. Where is your inspiration found? Experience it as you breathe. Are you living with courage? What steps are you taking to live out the desires and inspirations the Lord has placed in you? No matter what your answers are, know that you can find courage in the Lord.
We can be courageous and take the next step! We need to just come to the Lord with childlike faith (Luke 18:17) even the size of a mustard seed (Mathew 17:20) and trust our Father in Heaven. In Psalm 37:4-6 we are reminded that when we delight ourselves in the Lord he gives us the desires of our heart. How will you delight in the Lord today? This week?
Are you looking for renewed desire, inspiration, and more courage for your journey?
Can you relate to needing to be still with the Lord and just breathe? He is waiting!
Please share how you spend time delighting in the Lord.
Can you walk in a straight line? How about with your eyes closed? With our eyes open and something to focus on, yes, most of us are able to walk in a straight line. But when the ability to see and focus on our destination is removed or interrupted we will end up off course. Is your life still on course? Has your focus been interrupted? When is the last time you purposefully carved out time to quietly self-reflect with the Lord? The most common time for us to pause to contemplate where our life is going and consider changing direction is when the year draws to a close. I am learning the value of taking this time more often than once a year. For me, self-reflection is an effective tool the Lord uses to help keep my life on track and arrive at my destination without too many detours.
Recently, in an almost forced pause for reflection, I was faced with a question: Does the way I live reveal that my identity and self worth are established in Christ? The honest answer was that I’m not sure it is as recognizable as I would
like it to be-which meant it was time to get to work. In my heart I knew that my identity and value are in Christ. However, when I was honest with myself my outward behavior showed that I believe differently. I was seeking acceptance from this world. In some areas of my life I had put greater value on other’s opinions of success (as measured by this world) than over my unmatchable worth in Christ. The source of my true identity and self-worth were in conflict. My heart was reminding me that I am secure in who God says I am; his child, enough for him, loved, and the list goes on. My mind was measuring differently and offering its own list “You are lacking compared to….”; “You are out of style compared to…”, “You don’t have enough education to…”, People don’t really like you.”, and that list went as well. Do you ever experience this conflict?
What does the world require of you to achieve its standard of worthiness? By what standard do you measure and align your identity and your worth? The world’s or Christ’s?
Here are some verses to remind you of your identity in Christ:
Colossians 2:10 “ In Him (Christ) you have been made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority”
1 Corinthians 6:11 “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Christ and by the Spirit of God.”
Also- 1 John 4:4 ; Ephesians 1:3-13; Ephesians 2:2-13
Do you ever struggle to be truly honest with yourself and minimize your choices? During my forced reflection time I wrestled with being honest with myself. I had to admit that trying harder was not the answer. I had to finally surrender to the Holy Spirit’s transforming power and fight the urge to rationalize my thoughts and behavior. Opening my hands and releasing control, I chose to trust that he would gently show me the source of my weakening witness for Christ. And he did. The honest truth was I had experienced a pretty painful rejection. Until that time of stillness, I had never named it, but that is what it was. Rejection.
Did you know that the fear of rejection is one of the greatest human fears?? Once I openly assessed my behavior and thought process it became clear, to me I had been rejected. Naming it allowed me to recognize how my thought life shifted from focusing on Christ’s best to my “best” according to the world. The transition blurred my unquestioned security in Christ. This lead to a search for reassurance of my value in this world. When the fog of selfish thinking was removed from my eyes, I could see clearly how pride had crept into a corner of my heart. Living in the haze of pride it gave me permission to behave and make choices that I never thought I would. Thank God nothing earth shattering occurred, but enough happened to leave me embarrassed and regretful as I look back. I find assurance and comfort in 2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
I sought after and put more value on the acceptance and approval of people around me that at the end of the day, wouldn’t even remember we had crossed paths. (John12: 43 “for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”; Proverbs 29:25) I pushed aside God’s unconditional love as my creator, the one who has great plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11-12), and accepts me just as I am. I took my eyes off Jesus and put them on myself. Faced with this truth I was left to stumble through the questions: How did I not see this happening? Why didn’t anyone say anything to me?
My answer: I couldn’t see because I was living out of a place of hurt. It was easier to choose to justify myself and blame the people who were causing my pain for my poor choices. This included making sure other people in my life knew I was being wrongly treated. I responded pridefully, rather than trust God to heal my hurt heart and ego. I rationalized that my feelings were justified, and I ended up stuck in a cycle of rejection, hurt, looking for assurance. Around and around it went. The situation didn’t change, but I became more effective in dealing with my response. Many months later when I finally gave the situation fully to the Lord I had the strength to put change in action. The most perplexing factor was that during this whole situation I had not drifted from my involvement with my daily devotions or Bible study. I was living in a false security and blindly choosing not to fully lay that corner of my hurt heart and wounded identity in His arms for restoration. I was going through the motions in that area of my heart.
Have you ever caught yourself in a similar heart situation? If yes, then you can attest to the sense of peace that comes as you practice the process of surrender. I had to surrender my hurt and release my hesitation for future interactions. I had to forgive and release my need for restitution. I had to repent of pridefuly seeking approval of man and live for the approval of only my Savior.
The enemy is so subtle in his ways. This is just another reminder that we need to live our life as the Warrior-Princess we are and stand fully armed for battle everyday. “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against he powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Remember~ Armor up and lay my pride down!
Take time to reflect with the Lord by focusing on Psalm 139:23-24 he will meet you in the stillness of your heart and lead you in ways everlasting.
How is your spiritual breathing? Have you been holding your breath too long? Take a deep breath. Hold it…..keep holding it….okay BREATHE. Did just the thought of holding your breath make you anxious? I don’t like the feeling I get after holding my breath for too long. My heart starts to race and I begin to feel light headed. Why do you think that is? Because breathing oxygen is essential to life and our breath rate is usually in rhythm with our heart rate. They are dependent on each other to do their job- provide O2 to the body.
Like physical breathing is essential to our physical life, taking time to spiritually BREATHE is essential to our spiritual life. Living out my identity in Christ should be as automatic as each breath I take, right? But why isn’t it? Oxygen taken in with each new breath is essential to maintain the strength of life in our body– from all the tiny cells to, each major organ. Likewise, the way we live out our identity in Christ maintains the strength of our spiritual life. I am challenged by the harsh reality that I am not as immediatly aware or alarmed when my spiritual breathing has been interrupted as I am when I am forced to hold my breath for more than 30 seconds. I can begin to feel the panic rise up inside, as I desire to release the old air and receive the new to avoid loss of consciousness or ultimately loss of life.
So what do I mean by spiritual breathing? Well recently I’ve been challenged with principles to help maintain spiritual balance in my life or taking time to BREATHE. I tend to put principles into acrostics making them easier to remember and put into practice. Here is my BREATHE acrostic:
Believe God is able ~Remember you are redeemed and release ~Everyday eternally focused ~Available and aware ~Trust with thanksgiving ~Humbly resist ~Exhale ~
When I keep each of these “BREATHE” principles active in my life I am strengthening my spiritual life through responsible relationship with the Lord by living my identity in Him. I notice that I become spiritually oxygen deprived when any of the principles are out of balance or rhythm. Let’s take a brief look at these principles.
BelieveGod is able. This principle challenges us to keep who God is in alignment with who we believe He is. Sometimes this looks like remembering that He is the great I AM who holds all that is dear to me in his all-powerful, majestic hands. This principle asks us- “What do you really believe about God’s ability to provide and care for you and all that you hold close?” This of course cramps the style of any of us control freaks, right? ~Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…” ~ Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God…”
Remember you are redeemed and release. Knowing who God is and remembering he has redeemed us as his daughters is the foundation of one’s identity in Christ. When I reflect on the power and sacrifice that were exercised for my redemption it calls me to a place of surrender and release. I surrender to his never-ending love where I am able to experience his gentle kindness. In this sweet relationship I release my hold on the shame of my sinfulness and allow him to wash me in his forgiveness. Remembering this also releases me from the snare and trap of the enemy leaving me free in Christ. ~1 Peter 1: 17-21 “…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear…. it was not with perishable things …you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ…He was chosen before the creation of the world… through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” ~ Ephesians 1:7-8 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.” ~ 1John1: 9-10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us…”
Everyday is eternally focused. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Mathew 6:21) These words of Jesus ring true don’t they? Keeping our heart and head focused on where our real eternal treasure is difficult and takes determination. I struggle to fix my eyes on what is unseen because of the lure of the seen is so tangible and tempting even though it is temporary. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “ Therefore do not lose heart…outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen…what is unseen is eternal.”
Available and aware. This principle reminds us “it’s not all about me”. Though I will make plans for my days and weeks it is the desire of my heart that the Lord will direct my feet. Some days it is evident that the Lord has better plans for the day than I do. My response to his redirection reveals my heart attitude toward being available for the Lord’s purposes and determined to press on in difficult circumstances. It also is evidence of my sensitivity to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. I must remain available to do the good works the Lord has prepared for me in advance. I also need to be aware of his leading and the needs of others in my life. ~Philippians 3: 13-14 “…Forgetting what is behind and straining…I press on toward the goal…for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” John 14:26 “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send… will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Trust with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6-7 sums this up. We are not to be anxious or worry about anything. Rather we are to trust God wholeheartedly with everything. To not be anxious means trusting God through petitioning in prayer and believing he is able with a thankful attitude. This is not easy but I do breathe more easily when I practice this principle.
Humbly resist. Resist what? The temptation of pride to take control and live like I don’t believe God is able. Pride is the root of all sin and it is the hardest for us to detect in ourself. A heart of humility helps us live selflessly and resist the tendency to control and capitalize for personal benefit. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 3:7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” 1John 2: 16-17 “For everything in the world- lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
Exhale. Exhale everything into His hands and exclaim His excellence. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) When we take time to exhale, we are able to maintain an attitude of worship and experience the peace of the Lord in relationship with him. I am able to see him at work in the big and little things of life. Then I am moved to worship him with my life.
Take the time to review the principle verses that speak to where you are in your relationship with the Lord.
Armor Up, pride down, Pray Always
John Maxwell Team Certified inspirational speaker and author