Wednesday, 29 July 2015

31 Days to Abundant Life: Day 13

Life gets stressful sometimes, doesn’t it? When life gets stressful and overwhelming, the first thing to usually go for me is “me” time. Ironically, when “me” time goes, life only gets more stressful and overwhelming. 

This week I’m refocusing and leaning into those things that bring me life. Those things that I’m passionate about, that make me feel like me, and that, in turn, reduce my stress and fulfill me.

What are those things? For me, it’s pretty simple. I would narrow it down to 4 things…
  1. Time alone with Jesus
  2. Writing
  3. Exercise & eating healthy
  4. Time with my people
There are lots of other things that make me feel good and reduce stress, like accomplishing things around the house, etc. But if I really narrow it down, these are the four things I need to be doing all the time. The time alone with Jesus, I’ve discovered, is definitely a thing I need every day. That doesn’t always mean a regimented devotional time, although sometimes it does. Sometimes its simply turning my mind and thoughts towards him and talking with him throughout my day. Other times, it’s digging deep into His Word and learning new things and meditating on them. Exercise and eating healthy is also an every day thing, even if the exercise is just a walk. I would say that writing and quality time with my people is an every week thing. I feel at my best when I’m writing about 2-3 times a week. As for my people, that means quality time with my son (which I get every day since I’m a stay-at-home mom right now), time with my husband, and seeing a few friends, whether its a coffee date with a girlfriend, meeting with my moms group, or having a couple over for dinner. These are all life giving and needed. 

If you’re in a bit of a slump and are forgetting or neglecting to do those things that bring you life abundant and fulfillment, you’re not alone! When we’re stressed we tend to think we don’t have time for these things. Sometimes we have to change our expectations of what those things will look like practically in our lives. We can be creative and put forth the effort to ensure we are doing things for ourselves that are life giving.

What are those things that bring you life? Have you been doing them? If not, how can you make time for them? It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

31 Days to Abundant Life: Day 12

We’ve talked about having abundant life when life is uncertain or hard, but what about when you don’t feel like you deserve life abundant? 

When Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, they initially had a perfect relationship with God. He delighted in them and they delighted in Him. They lived in this beautiful, abundant, place where everything was perfect. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. They eventually gave in to Satan’s temptations and lies and ate from the one tree God specifically asked them not to. They were cut off from God, they felt ashamed, and this perfect relationship they had with God was forever severed. This time in history is often referred to as “The Fall" and it forever changed our world. We aren’t born into a perfect world and we don’t have a perfect relationship with God right off the bat. Jesus is the only way to bind us back to God and he’s the only one that cleanses us from our sin and makes us whole again.

The Enemy of our hearts is still very crafty in how he tries to draw us away from God. He tricks us into thinking, “I don’t belong here” or “I don’t deserve this”, or any number of lies he can use simply to draw you away from the heart of God. 

The verse that this whole "31 day series" is based on is John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

He has come that we may have life to the full. But theres a big, elephant in the room, sentence right before it. The thief (Enemy or Satan) comes to steal, kill and destroy. What does he come to steal, kill or destroy? Anything that draws us closer to God.

Talking about the Enemy is not something a lot of people are super comfortable with. Umm, yeah…I get it. It’s NOT comfortable. There’s someone out there who wants to steal, kill and destroy my life? That sounds scary. But, remember, there’s a second part to the sentence, right? I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. We can breathe a sigh of relief as we read that. Even though the Enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy, we have a God who is MUCH stronger, MUCH more powerful, and who has ALREADY WON. He conquered our sin and shame when He rose from the grave. 

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5). 

We’re healed, made whole and given life to the full. Even though we don’t deserve it, He paid the price for us. You see, He wanted to give us life abundant, not because we deserve it, but because it brings Him delight. If we continue to listen to the lie that we don’t deserve it, we’re giving into the Enemy's schemes to keep us from God. 

Jesus, help us to release any shame we might be holding onto that tells us we’re not worthy of your love. We are absolutely worthy because we are your beloved children and you will never stop pursuing us with your love. Instead of believing Satan’s lies, help us to put our hope in your truth and to receive the abundant life that is your delight to give to us. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

31 Days to Abundant Life: Day 11

One funky feature of the rental home we’re in is that the previous owners painted chalk board paint on a couple of the doors. On my pantry door right now is this verse: “I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Psalm 145:5).

It’s so easy to read that verse and think, “That’s great. I totally want to spend my time meditating on God’s wonderful works. I know that would be life-giving, rather than focusing on my present troubles.” We read it or hear it, but then what?

Jesus told this story in Matthew 13:3-8:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

A few verses later, he explains this parable…

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:18-23).

So basically, this means…

If people don’t understand the word—> the evil one takes it away
If people hear the word and receive it with joy—> it only lasts for a bit cause theres no roots and they fall away
If people hear it but get caught up in the worries of life—> theres no fruit because they’re caught up in other things


If people hear the word and seek to understand it—> they produce fruit (good things) that multiply

Just hearing or reading God’s Word in and of itself is not enough to produce the fruit we are longing for in our lives. Just writing a verse on my pantry chalk board wall doesn’t necessarily mean fruit will come. And by fruit, I mean the good things and the promises God gives to us. Not earthly treasures but heavenly things like love, peace, patience, goodness… the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ (Galations 5:22-23). It’s not just hearing the Word that matters. It’s seeking to understand it that makes a difference in our day to day living. Which brings me back to that verse on my pantry chalk board. 

“I will meditate on your wonderful works.” 

How do we seek to understand? Sometimes we need understanding outside of how we might interpret it. We can look into the context, who is saying it, read commentaries and consider what others think… but ultimately, it’s by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us.

What I’m learning and beginning to understand about this verse is that meditating on God’s wonderful works is a really good way to live. I can choose to meditate on what is worrying me or burdensome, or I can choose to meditate on God’s wonderful works. When I meditate on God’s wonderful works, I am actively pursuing life abundant. I can make the conscious choice to meditate on the God who loves me, who goes with me, who isn’t concerned about life’s troubles but is concerned about my heart. 

Today, I’m trying to slow down and meditate on His wonderful works. What are some of them? Once you get going, the list is endless....My son’s laughter. A strong cup of coffee with my husband in the morning. An encouraging text from a friend. Immersing myself in a pool on a hot summer’s day. A leisurely walk with my family after dinner. Bright pink flowers. A summer thunderstorm. Reading a good book. The ability to buy delicious food and make a meal. etc, etc, etc…

His wonderful works are endless because He has created all things. When we meditate on His wonderful works, we experience life abundant because we're focused on the goodness of our Creator, who loves us and blesses us beyond measure.

As you seek understanding, know that the Holy Spirit is with you. He knows what you need and He is willing and waiting to reveal truth to you as you seek to live victoriously, abundantly, in Him. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

31 Days to Abundant Life: Day 10

Life can feel pretty uncertain at times. Right now we are in a season of major transition. We had a year of waiting for the transition to happen (having a baby and moving across the country), and now we’re in a year of transition while my husband finishes seminary, and we’re anticipating another transition as we pray and discern where God is leading us in ministry. Not only that, but the house we’re renting right now is literally being torn down next year. People look at us with blank, confused stares when we tell them this. But it’s true. We’re in transition…and some days, it’s just plain hard.

When life feels uncertain, I think our natural response is to grasp for control. Because, you know, when I grasp for control, everything falls into place exactly how I was hoping it would and life is easy peasy…. Ummm… NO. 

The truth is, the more I try to control my circumstances, the more fearful I become. And I have to learn, again, thatt grasping for control out of fear only leads to more fear when I realize I really have no control whatsoever.

In Psalm 145:7 it says this:

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”

When life is confusing and disorienting and uncertain, there are always certainties we can hold onto. 

God’s abundant goodness…
His nearness to us…
His unconditional love…

There are days when all the uncertainties seem a bit too much. I have questions and doubts and insecurities. We can choose to focus on life’s uncertainties. We can make the choice to try to control life out of fear that it won’t work out the way we hope. 

Or… we can choose another way. Jesus always offers another, a better, way.

We point our hearts back to truth.

Earlier in Psalm 145, we read: “I will meditate on your wonderful works.” Instead of being caught up in worry or fear, I can choose to meditate on the amazing, wonderful works of my Creator. Not only is this more helpful than focusing on life's uncertainties,  but it just sounds like a whole lot more fun to me, too. What are some of God's wonderful works you can meditate on today?

In the book of Isaiah, God is talking about how the Israelites, despite God’s continual provision and love for them, choose to worship other gods and go their own way. They don’t just make this mistake once. They do it over and over and overrrr… 

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” (Isaiah 30:15). Ouch. Isn’t this us at times? We know, deep down in our marrow, that our God is good. That he is trustworthy. But sometimes, we decide...Nah, thanks but no thanks.

Despite their wayward hearts, God is still present and He is still for them. Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion…” God says to them: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Since I heard that verse years ago, I have always loved it. It's so reassuring and comforting. It's a reminder that He hasn't forgotten us. It's a reminder that, when we're walking with him, we can't go wrong. 

Maybe, just maybe, when life is uncertain, we can experience life abundant even more so than when life is certain. Maybe the uncertainty draws us closer to the voice of the one who whispers, “This is the way, daughter.…go ahead and walk in it. I’ve got you.”