Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It is Done!

God is clearly working overtime to purge this spirit of guilt that I have allowed to consume my life for too long. I think our finances has been the main thing to expose this false belief in me even though I've claimed over and over that I don't live by this lie. But I am here to attest that today that victory is mine! Yesterday, the enemy came in roaring at me through some very unwelcome sources in regards to this whole issue of our finances. The enemy tried to steal what God was doing in me, but it didn't work. In fact, God turned it around on him and used it as an opportunity to help me personally to rid of this false sense of guilt once and for all!! And today, I am claiming victory. After the lies hit me hard yesterday, it was revealed that there was still a part of me that couldn't find the freedom that God has so graciouslly given me in all my areas of sin. And today, God is drawing me to Him closer and closer as to find that freedom I so desperately have needed and didn't even know it.
So I want to share this in hopes that someone out there needs to know that God is a God of love, forgiveness, peace, salvation, and hope. He does not use punishment to bring his children to repentance. He uses love...and Truth!....NOT FEAR. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18.

God is out to make us perfected in love...not fear! So if there is anything in your mind that is making you feel fear, guilt, condemned, or like you can't come to God boldly with who you are or what you've done, rebuke it! It is the enemy. God wants relationship with us. Jesus came so that we can have that and come to Him boldly despite our sin. Christ died so sin can't separate us from Him anymore. He knows we will sin before we do it, but He also knows that He has already paid for it...and He wants us to live free lives!! I know it grieves His heart when we think we have to still pay for our sins. Because many of us still live as if we are! But today, I'm done with that!

So, how do we live by that Truth? This is what His Word has spoken to me. If we come before Him daily, know Him, seek Him first and His kingdom, I think we will be astounded at how our sinful nature will literally melt away. The truth is, we can't make ourselves not sin or bear our own good fruit, but HE CAN...and He has!! He will change us from the inside out in order that the Spirit-man will become strong so that the flesh becomes weak. We just have a choice to feed the Spirit, not the flesh with our daily choices. What we feed ourselves with will be revealed by our fruit. What goes in, must come out. So which is it?
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." John 15:4.

The lie that enemy wants to tell us is that we are still attaining or earning something from God that is actually already ours...only to leave us chasing the wind. And the scariest part is that many don't even realize they are still living this way. If we are living the Christ-centered life, we will reflect the finished work that brings Power and Love to and from our lives...not the continual cycle of guilt and condemnation.

It was done on the cross, now will we believe it and live like it?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oh the Pitfalls

Today I fell into a trap. I went shopping. I talked myself into taking Hannah to get a few new pairs of clothes know we had less the $200 to our name for the rest of the week. Not to mention I had my other two children in tow…who I’m sure would lure me into buying them a few things too. I justified it by seeing it still as a need and not a want. After all, my husband even said I need to get some new clothes for Hannah. All 3 of my kids’ clothes are getting shabby too and I figure a few cheap new outfits won’t hurt especially cheap ones. And my friend tells me last night that this particular store is having a huge sale and she got all kinds of things for $2-$3 apiece for her daughters. So I thought, “wow!” I need to go check that out.

So this morning it was on my mind and figured it would be something to do….even though I just told my husband this morning we have very little money in the bank and I watched him come home for lunch in order to avoid spending money. Nonetheless, I still move forward with my plan of shopping. What kind of idiot am I to not use such common sense? Ok, I know. Enough beating myself us. I’m good at that as you can tell.

I’m on my way to the store, and I keep thinking, “What are you doing?”. But yet I still tell myself that it’s just to check things out and if nothing is within my price range, I won’t buy anything. Whatever!! I get there and of course there’s a plethora of options, clothes all over the place to sort through, sift through, check prices for. Then the kids of course don’t help with their distracting behavior and also Hannah looking so happy shopping with me and looking for clothes. So I just kept looking, and looking, and looking….

…and an hour and a half later, I walked out spending $40 on 12 things. Not too shabby by most standards. Good sales! But that $40 feels like $400 now. I don’t even know how we’ll get groceries for the week and I went and did this? I feel like the scum on the bottom of someone’s shoe. I’m asking God for forgiveness but am feeling so sorry for myself I can’t even fathom receiving forgiveness. So I’m waiting for the shoe to drop, for my due punishment…for my husband to completely light into me when he finds out. Do I go ahead and tell him? Do I wait for my kids to talk about their new clothes only to get caught? I want to run right now…but the thing is, I don’t really want to run from God. I want to run from my husband. I want to crawl in God’s lap though, and I want Him to tell me it’s ok and that my mistakes are not gonna change how much He loves me nor will they change His provisions for us. But the hard part is, accepting and believing that will happen. Will He punish me? Will I get yelled at for this from Tim? Will I never be trusted again? I don’t trust myself, how can anyone else trust me?

Well, as I’ve been typing, God has been speaking to me about this. But before I go on, it's amazing to me how one little slip-up can take the rest of your day on a downward spiral and have you grasping to get back on your step. I wish I could just rewind the tape and have a do-over but here's what I'm learning from this already. I guess nothing goes wasted, huh?

So how would God want me to address this if it were my children? And how does God see me as His child in this? Was He surprised I did this? No. And He will probably see me do it again. This is stirring up a lot of things that I don’t really know how to sort through. When you do something wrong deliberately, but are so scared of your punishment that you can’t face the one who might be punishing you, what lie are you believing about them or you? And what has God done that would make me think he would bring unjust punishment that would affect our relationship? I guess I still don’t know God enough. Does God want to do something that will ultimately cause our relationship to suffer? No. So what is the right response here? God knows I’m beating myself up over this. That’s no secret. What if he doesn’t want to hear me say another word about it because it is already forgiven and forgotten? Because it sounds a whole lot like I’m making this more about me than Him. What if this is so minute in his mind already that He can’t even figure out why I’m still mulling it over and over? But if I accept his forgiveness so easily, doesn’t that just make me feel like I just got away scot free and that I’m accepting cheap grace? Do I deserve punishment? Yes. But God doesn’t use harsh punishment to bring His children to repentance anymore. The word says that He uses the careful instruction and guided discipline of the Holy Spirit. He knows we don’t want to do it again. And He knows we probably will make more mistakes. So it comes down to this. I guess I just need to be willing to accept what it takes to not let this not happen again. And trust that whatever that is, is good…even if it’s hard.

So my response is this:

“God, we have hashed this out enough. I want this offense to be wiped clean and in your Word you say ‘that we can come boldly before you and are washed clean by your blood because our sins are forgiven. They have been cast as far as the east is from the west.’ I just don’t want to accept cheap grace though. I want to accept the grace that is necessary for pure repentance and change in the area of spending habits. So today, I will give over my rights over the finances to You. You are in charge. I simply want to be obedient. So guide me through each day as if this money is not mine to manage…but Yours. Help me change my mind daily to realize that everything comes from You, through You and to You. And please protect Tim and me when this comes up. Prepare us somehow with the grace needed to prevent the enemy from getting between us with our finances. All that we are and all that we have is Yours. I want us to live our lives in that way in all that we say and do. May we give over whatever rights we think are ours that you never gave us. This is gonna take a lot of major discipline probably but I don’t want to be subject of financial traps and attacks anymore. May we pass over the pitfalls that the enemy tries to throw in our path so that we will remain steadfast in Your will and plan. And keep us alert, and pursuing You daily so our lives my reflect You in every area."

In Jesus’ Name,


Monday, June 14, 2010

Real Relationships

You'll have to bear with me with this one. The truth is, I just have so many thoughts and questions flowing through my mind day after day, sometimes minute by minute, I don't even know where to begin most of the time. I've been on a standstill with this blog 'cause I don't know how to get out what I want to say nor even have  known really what I want to say. But maybe as I type, the clouds will clear a bit and I'll finally be able to come to some sort of direction.

I know I have felt very discontent with so many things lately and really, truthfully, I don't think it's all bad. But like many, I do struggle with the balance between discontentment from the status quo and just being still and enjoying where God has me, even if I feel he has me on a path where each step feels like more of a mountain most of the time.
Probably the number one question that comes back more than any is, "What is real anymore?" We have the obvious answer that Christ is real. And I'll get back to that. But really when it comes to my relationships with people and how people relate to me, how in the world do I be real without being too real with those that don't want to hear the good, bad, and ugly of Bethany's life? And how do I lay myself aside for the sake of others so that they know they can be real with me and find me to be a safe place to come for comfort, truth, and unconditional love when they need it most. I know I fail at this too often. And it frustrates the crud out of me. Sometimes it's just easier to be away from people altogether. Yet I know that is NOT the answer. I love people too much. Probably way too much. Which is why this is so hard for me.

But seriously, I have been thrust into this realization over the past few years...that just being superficial and sweet with everyone is just not bringing out what my heart's desire nor will it bear that fruit of what Christ's life was about. Keeping things at surface level will not get anyone anywhere. It may have to start that way to build trust or whatever, but it can't stay that way to actually have true, authentic relationships. And it has to go both ways. Both parties have to be willing to go thru some uncomforable things and sometimes the fire to find true authenticity in their friendships. It hurts but has to happen. I've experienced it thru my marriage and one other friendship and am now on the other side where the beauty is shining from it all...all because of what we went through.
Christ is all about this go thru the fire with you, to let you stumble and fall but will be right there to pick you back up when you're ready to trust again...and ultimately He is about transforming lives and having an eternal relationship with them now matter how hard it gets for Him or for us.

So my question in the world do we follow that example that He did? Well, unfortunately we WILL have our heart stepped on. Recent happenings have had me facing that to a degree and it hurt bad! But look at Jesus' life. Talk about facing the ultimate rejection. And to become more like him, we must face that too. It's just reality.
(wow, I think I just answered a question of my own? :) )

To add to that here's some specific things that I've run into as I've been pursuing more of authentic approach with people:
  • Not everyone is gonna be honest with you.
  • Not everyone wants what you have to give.
  • Not everyone is yet capable of receiving Christ's unconditional love.
  • Not everyone wants to know every last detail of your life or even to get to know you better even if you want to with them.
  • Not everyone is willing to take risks and step away from status quo to be transformed into something better that God has for them.
  • And last but not least (this one has been the hardest for me personally), not many trust your heart toward them.
This is called living in a fallen world with broken people. Hurt people hurt people. That's just all there is to it. And I know I've hurt people as much as anyone else over the years and probably sometimes I didn't even know it. But God made us for relationships. Many of just don't know how to do it right because we lost our truster along the way. And that can wreak havoc on any relationship, especially with God. Jesus was in contact daily with these people that I described. He knew what to expect of them because they were human, yet also loved them all the way to the Cross...and still does for eternity.

So as I look back and reflect on Christ's example, all I know to do is keep my eyes on Him, the One who wants the ultimate real relationship with all of us...and knows how to make that happen. He wants our whole heart. And that's a huge and hard thing for us to give away to him or others that we cross paths with. But that's when relationship really gets REAL! It can get ugly at times but I have to believe it's worth it. We see through the masks, the walls of our hearts and others' hearts, and can become authentic in our relationships...and experience something you can't put a price on. That's what my heart desires...and that's what God's heart desires with us. So if you haven't already, are you willing to get REAL?