Category Archives: freedom

Don’t let them live rent free

for_rent_free

“Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods’ will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

It was an ordinary day, my alarm clock went off at 5:00 am, I hit snooze, (I can actually hit snooze 3 times and still get out the door on time). I get up, feed the dog, go into the boy’s room and turn on the light then the girl’s room, making sure everyone’s eyes are open and they are moving out of bed before heading to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

I continue to keep my cadre of kiddos moving so we can get out of the house on time. During all this activity, as I keep myself and the family moving you would never guess that something ugly has taken up residence in my mind…and I’m letting it live there…rent free.

How often do we allow thoughts in our head to take up residence and literally consume our brain to the point that our thoughts spin out of control and eventually take us with them? Perhaps it’s something that happened during the day that you haven’t been able to get past, or a conversation you had with your spouse, or the flirtatious comment from a coworker that you can’t seem to stop replaying in your head. In my case it was something that I took to heart, that probably wasn’t meant the way I took it, but it made me doubt myself, question every action I had taken. So I second guess every decision, replay conversations in my head, how should I have said this or done that. Before you know it, not only are you questioning that interaction but every subsequent one. You begin to question yourself, your value, your very viability…sound familiar?

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:22-27

When we allow (and yes, it is a choice, we do allow it) our minds to be consumed by worldly thoughts and cares we are not following Gods will for our lives. Not to mention, we are giving Satan the reins.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-44

This is NOT how Christ wants us to live! He wants us to live free from the thoughts that enslave our lives and hold us hostage to the past, to sin, and to death. However, we seem all too willing to allow these thoughts to take up residence in our minds and control our lives. They are the thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t loved, that we are beyond grace, and that we’ve fallen too far for God to redeem. Guess what, they are LIES!

While talking with my son and some of his friends at church, one of them asked me, “how can you tell if it’s God talking to you and not the devil?” It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. A very wise man once told me that the best way to know God’s voice is to know God’s word. The Bible tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability, and will always provide us a way out, (1 Corinthians 10:13). It also tells us that we need to focus our thoughts on higher and nobler things, (Philippians 4:8).

It’s not just a matter of keeping broken thoughts out of our minds but filling it with whole thoughts. Thoughts that are uplifting, holy and pleasing to God. “Well gee Betsy what does that look like?” Well I’ll tell ya, when we focus our thoughts on the gifts God has given us, our lives, our families, the many blessings and promises He has made, who He is and His love for us, then there is no room for doubt, lies and shame.

I have found that in those times when my mind is bombarded with doubts, that focusing on who God is, and who I am in Him, works as the best eviction notice.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Knowing God’s word helps me to recognize His voice. Being able to recognize His voice enables me to know when it’s Him in my thoughts. Christ wants us to know Him, to recognize His presence in our lives. He wants residence in our hearts and minds, and He paid the price to be there.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

Consider it pure joy when losses are wins!

downloadIt’s one of those verses… we quote it, pastor quotes it, everyone quotes it. They quote it at you, to you, near you. Do we really know what it means?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Talk about what seems like the ultimate contradiction, “consider it joy…whenever you face trials”? Yea, cause when I’m facing trials, I’m going to be joyful…that’s gonna happen!

I was driving to the office a couple of months ago, like I do every day and I got a phone call. It was a good morning, kids got out the door on time, hitting green lights, coffee in hand, KLOVE on the radio, I was feeling it. Today, only good things were going to happen to me.

“Good morning, this is Betsy”, I answered the phone. On the line was a woman I had been working with on a very large project. To clarify, winning this grant would be the equivalent of my entire fiscal year’s revenue budget. We had been working together on this for months. Today was the day we would hear who won the grant. Only good things were going to happen today, I could feel it.

As I heard her voice, I could tell it was not the news I was hoping for. The disappointment was palpable in the sound of her words. I think she felt worse having to give me the bad news, than she did receiving it herself. I was stunned for a full 30-seconds, perhaps more because she pulled me out of the silence, “Betsy are you still there, did you hear what I said?” “Yes, sorry I heard you. I am so sorry, it was a great proposal and we can try again for the next cycle (in three years)” She agreed, and we talked about how much we enjoyed working together, we wished each other the best of luck and hung up.

So much for only good things happening huh? The projected represented an enormous amount of time and resources invested. As I pulled up to my first red light of the morning, this verse popped into my head. Thank you, Holy Spirit! In that moment, I had an opportunity to decide. I could mourn the loss, spend time (in my case hours if not days) spinning in my head about where I went wrong, what more I could have done, what more other people could have done. I could have looked for who to blame and been angry. Or I could take a moment to consider God’s greater plan for my life.

God was NOT trying to ruin my day. There was a reason we were not selected. It would have been a HUGE investment in time and resources, embarking down a road we’ve never been before. Could we have effectively executed the plan, living up to the expectations laid out in the proposal. Did I really have the time, along with my other responsibilities to lead the project? In that moment, I took a deep breath and felt an unexpected calm. In that moment, the second part of the scripture came to mind, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

I can think of a dozen reasons that I didn’t get the grant, but that doesn’t really matter. My getting the grant was not in God’s plan. I know that working outside of God’s plan for my life is disastrous. No, seriously been there done that, not going back! I was joyful in that moment that God is in control, that He has so much more for me than this one grant that served to exalt me in my career but not Him in His Glory.

The joy in this scripture that James talks about is Joy in the Lord. Not joy in our circumstances. God shows us His hands-on involvement in our lives through our circumstances, that is where our joy comes from, not in the circumstances themselves.

The storms of life will come, full force and try to knock us down. It is in those storms that God shows us His glory, His intimate involvement in our lives and His love for us, for our future and wellbeing. That is our joy! God knows and loves us, He wants what is best for us and use any and all means, (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28) to achieve His purpose for our lives.

Next time, you feel knocked down by the circumstances, take joy in the knowledge that God is actively working through them to make you more like Him.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Don’t Be Roadkill!

squirrel-in-the-road.jpg“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

A friend of mine shared a story with me a few years ago that has stuck with me. At the time we were discussing some of our students and how they seem to get stuck and not able to move forward toward their goal. I kept commenting that even though they can see the path, because that path is new and unfamiliar they are more likely to do an about face and return to the familiar at the first sign of difficulty, it was maddening to see so many not achieve their goals when they were so close.

He told me a story about a little ambitious squirrel. One day he was standing by the side of the road looking off into the distance, he was hungry you see as there wasn’t much food on his side of the road. As he gazed across the vast paved expanse, he saw a huge tree full of acorns. It was like looking at the promised land…and yes, the grass really was greener.

So, this squirrel started across the road, he kept his eyes on the tree, on the acorns and steadily, he began making his way. Just when he had almost reached the other side, he heard a sound, and saw some lights in the distance, he paused and looked around, he took his eyes off the tree, off the acorns, and began looking back toward where he came. The noise got louder, and he got scared, and started to doubt his decision and his direction. He stood in the road paralyzed not knowing what to do as the sound got louder and the lights got brighter… should he continue on his path toward the unknown or should he quickly return to the familiar? The noise gets louder and louder and the lights brighter and brighter, the confused squirrel begins to wonder why he’s in the road, why he risked this danger, what was he thinking and quickly he begins to run back the way he came, without realizing how close he was to safety.

He runs frantically back across the road…but alas the distance is too great, and the squirrel doesn’t make it to safety before the car reaches him.

Moving toward the new is difficult, scary and just about anything in life coming at us can cause us to doubt. We must keep our eyes focused on Christ if we want to succeed. If we do that, if we put Him first then we will reach our destination.

Serious words…often they seem easier said than done.

Jesus asked us to put off the old, to stop living in the past, to move toward something new, to move toward Him. The Apostle Paul tells us, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Ephesians 4:22-24

So then, why do we keep reverting back to our old ways, doing what we’ve always done instead of moving toward Christ and all the love and freedom and healing He has to offer?

The million-dollar question right?

Short answer FEAR, I found an acronym that sums it up pretty well; False Evidence Appearing Real. We too easily listen to the lies of; it’s too hard, too far, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve love, grace, forgiveness. The real evidence, the truth, is that Christ came to earth while we were still sinners to save us and reconcile us to God. Thankfully He didn’t wait until we were perfect, holy and healed (like that was going to happen without him). He came for you, me, everyone; that is the real evidence. Christ came to seek and save the lost, broken, sinful, disinherited, mournful, disenchanted and displaced. He came for each of us.

We don’t have to be scared, we don’t have to FEAR, we only need to have faith that God is who He says He is, not who we think He is. He keeps his promises, always and forever. All too often we give up and lose hope right as we approach the finish line, missing out on God’s blessing and favor.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Remember the squirrel, if he had just kept his eyes on the tree, kept moving forward, not only would he have made it to safety, he would have received all the abundance of blessing that was waiting for him.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Why did you make me like this???

images“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Romans 9:20

Have you ever asked God this question? Why do I look this way, why am I shy, why do I have such a hard time with math, why am I weak, slow, tall, brown, blind? Why did He make me like this?

I know in my life, it often seems like the individual struggles I experience are a result of character ‘flaws’ I was born with. It’s not like I chose the way I look or the individual characteristics that form my personality. But, here I am, tall and awkward and a bit too energetic and zealous for my own good. I wish I wasn’t so tall, I wish I was smarter and had more patience, I wish I was more like the kind of people God could use…

Like Peter… an illiterate fisherman with more passion than common sense, or Paul a brilliant theologian who couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or perhaps King David, the youngest son and shepherd and adulterer. I often have to remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, He makes each of us exactly as He intended with all our rough edges and soft morals. He has a plan for each of us, that includes those ‘flaws’ that we all too often focus on. In fact, it’s our flaws that allow Him to be glorified. Because if we were perfect, How could God take credit for all that He accomplishes through us?

I have to laugh a little, to think that God made me the way that I am. I’m not sure why He made me with two left feet, how does being clumsy accomplish His purpose? I’m not sure I’m any more effective at 5′ 10″ than I would have been at 5’8″?  Or perhaps I could be more effective or useful if I were perhaps more athletic or a better student? However, He does use me, just as I am. Through my imperfections God’s perfection is made apparent. He chooses to use the least, lost and most unlikely to fulfill His purpose.

God uses the imperfect to demonstrate His Sovereignty, His Perfection. He designed me to fulfill a role in His plan and that role included all of my ‘flaws’ those areas in my life where God could demonstrate who He is through me. I may not be the bravest but He has given me the strength to endure hardships like the death of my husband and my oldest daughter thus enabling me to speak in to the lives of others who are hurting. I am not the smartest however, God has shown me great favor through incredible opportunities and people who have helped me to learn and grow professionally allowing me to do the same for others.

I have been beaten, and abused. I have been told over and over everything that is wrong with me, why I can’t succeed, how I’ll never amount to much. Well, God’s plan’s are bigger, way bigger than other peoples expectations and assumptions. He can use ANYONE and when I say anyone, I actually mean anyone. He also has a soft spot for the lost and the broken. He love the opportunity to showcase His love and grace and mercy to those who feel they least deserve it, raising them up for the world to see Him!

It has taken me the better part of 4 decades to like what I see in the mirror. I don’t really mean my image, although that too. I mean who I am…who He created me to be, an imperfect work in progress, perfectly designed to fill a role specifically created for me.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

Jesus’ Biography

bioheaderI want my life to be a biography of who Jesus is.

We are called to be salt and light, to be Jesus to the world, living as He would. We are called to love others as He loved them, to see them as He saw them and to treat them as we would want to be treated. Jesus called and equipped us, through the power of the Holy Spirit to be a reflection of Him.

I sometimes miss that; in my quest to be better, I miss that I’m not just supposed to be better, I’m supposed to reflect Him. Being ‘better’ is a relative concept, better than what, better than who? Being like Jesus is NOT relative it is constant, relevant and real.

Peter tells us that we have been given everything for life and godliness. If that is indeed true, then what am I doing?

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

I once compared our relationship with Jesus to that of a writer trying to pen a biography of a famous person. It’s not something you can do without study. Reading everything about them, what they wrote themselves, talking with people who knew them personally, how can you write about someone you don’t have an intimate knowledge of or relationship with? Our relationship with Jesus is the same, so often we go out into the world with a very tertiary knowledge of our Savior and we try to share Him with others and when questioned, on some very basic tenets, we falter because we aren’t firm in our knowledge of and relationship with Him. If we are to reflect Jesus, we need to have a relationship with Him.

I am no longer content to just ‘know’ Jesus. I want my life to be a living testimony to who He is! I don’t want to quote scripture as an ancient text that provides answers but as the living breathing Word of my Father and Savior; Words that grant freedom, Words full of love and mercy, Words that transcend letters on a page, Words that save, heal and loose. Words that penetrate my heart to its deepest core, and drive me to love and action.

I have been given everything that I need for a godly life through my knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and goodness… EVERYTHING.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

I believe that God has given me what I need to be a perfect reflection of Him.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1-2

I can only imagine what you are thinking, I know what I’d be thinking…I can’t be perfect. Well, if that is what you think, you’re probably right. I chose to believe what my Father in Heaven has told me, He has given me everything I need to be a perfect reflection of His Son. It won’t happen overnight, it will take time. I will continue to get to know Jesus through studying the scriptures, prayer, fellowship, discipleship and worship. I will ask the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and my words, I will ask Jesus to change my heart to be more like His. I will fall, (hopefully forward) I will fail, I will forgive and be forgiven. I will be confident in the knowledge that it is possible for me to be a perfect reflection of Jesus in this world.

I chose to give Him everything I am, I have, I can be, and know that He will continue to show me the person He has always seen me to be.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

As you have believed, so let it be done…

Lent Lenten Sermon Roman Centurion Soldiers Jesus Christ Christian Confessional LCMS Lutheran_zpsj8ppveigWhen Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10

Jesus was amazed by what He just heard. A centurion, and in case you didn’t know that means a Roman, not just any Roman, a Roman soldier, a commander in fact, had shown more faith than ‘anyone in Israel’. Yes, a Roman military commander just approached Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant.

I want to provide you a little context, the Romans were the occupying force in Judea at the time. They were not liked, they knew they were not liked. The Jews of the time considered the Romans beneath them. When at all possible the avoided contact of any kind.  The Romans were significantly outnumbered in Judea however, possessed the most technologically advanced and well-trained military in the world. A Roman centurion was proven on the battlefield, and as such, put in command of 100 soldiers, men who were there to subdue the population, by force if necessary. The centurion who approached Jesus was just such a man.

Along comes Jesus, He heals the sick and the broken, causes the blind to see and the lame to walk. His fame had been spreading across Judea to the point that a Roman centurion heard what He could do, was doing for the most unlikely and unlikable people. So, one of the most disliked men in Judea approached Jesus and asks for help.

I am ALWAYS struck by who Jesus reaches out to, who He calls, who He heals. It’s NOT the elite (Paul being the exception), it’s the least, the lost and the unlikely. In the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus says He came to heal the sick not the well. Jesus came to those that were rejected, despised and considered unclean. He came to those who had nowhere else to turn, but they had hope.

They flocked to Him, they surrounded Him, they broke through roofs to get to Him. What He had was all they wanted. A Samaritan woman, a tax collector, a leper, the possessed and the dead, if Jesus could heal them, why not a Roman servant? So, the centurion went, knowing the hatred these people felt for him, knowing he would probably be sent away but, he wasn’t. Jesus was going to come to his home.

I can only imagine what that centurion thought, “what, wait… you’ll help?” However, the centurion also knew that asking Jesus into his home could open up a whole can of problems not just for himself but for Jesus as well.

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Matthew 8: 8-9

Jesus was AMAZED by the faith of this centurion. He understood who Jesus was and what He could do. His belief in Jesus saved his servant.

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment. Matthew 8:13

A Roman Centurion, the most unlikely of candidates for Jesus mercy but, is he really that unlikely considering who Jesus is? Jesus doesn’t make the distinction; Roman, Jew, adulterer, drug addict, thief, lonely, disabled, downtrodden, abused and unloved…Jesus answered the request of a Roman soldier, one possibly responsible for the death of Jewish people, is there anything that can keep us from the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39

NOTHING!

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Freedom from not Freedom to…

 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened  by a yolk of slavery. Galatians 5:1

What does it mean to be free? Jesus speaks frequently in the Gospels of the freedom He brings, but what does that mean to us today? Free from what, free from whom? The Bible tells us we are free from sin, we are free from the result of sin which is death. We are free to live in a way that gives glory to God.

The simplest way for me to state this is we are free…to live! I am free to speak the truth (in love always), I am free to make decisions that will bring my spirit joy, not my flesh. I am free to live without the constraints that hold me hostage; fear, anxiety, worry, jealousy, hate, judgement, lust. These things cause my soul to hurt, the restrain me to a way of thinking that is both self-perpetuating and self-destructive.

Have you noticed when you allow these thoughts to take you hostage, to encourage sinful behavior, you feel trapped. You feel guilt, you want to hide what you thought, what you did in a hope that no one will see and God won’t notice. Yea right…like He won’t notice! But still we try to hide what we’ve done, which encourages dishonesty, anxiety, worry, and the cycle continues. This is how you are held in bondage.

Christ died to free us from this. We have already been forgiven! We have been freed from this cycle, we can chose to turn toward Christ and live in a manner that doesn’t lead us down this wide windy road to death. We have been freed to not live by the tenets and precepts of this world.

We don’t have to strive to achieve what the world tells us to. We are free to love and care for people. We are free to put our families first, we are free to be happy with what we have, regardless of what others have.

Romans 5:8 tells us, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were still sinners, striving to achieve a world view expectation of who we should be and what we should want, Christ went to the cross with the image of our face in His heart.

The freedom that Christ bought with his sacrifice makes me want to enjoy every blessing He has to offer, not to waste a moment. We have freedom chose life over death…what will you do with it?

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

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