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Godprints

Because our fingerprints identify us, and God has placed His identifying marks all over our world and lives to point us to Him!

Roots that Dig Deep

tree-rootsPhoto by Felix Mittermeier from Pexels

Christian devotionals have been woven into the very fabric of God’s creation. We just need to look around to see His fingerprints and hear His voice speak to us. This devotional helps us connect the nature of roots to how the dryness of trials can cause us to dig deeper into our relationship with our Creator.

 Meditate

This morning as I sat with the LORD, I was praying about some tough situations. Have you ever begun to wonder what you were doing wrong because one thing after another didn’t seem to go right? But what if God only gave us blessings?

I will admit I kill plants either by forgetting to water them or by watering them too much. In the times of over watering, my plants have experienced root-rot. God knows if He only allowed blessings in our life, left us in our comfort zones…our faith may begin to rot.

And like so many things, God has built this spiritual lesson into the fabric of nature! When there is not adequate water in the surrounding soil, roots must dig deeper. Trials can cause us to dig deeper too – deeper into God’s Word, deeper into prayer, deeper into our relationship with Him. And in digging deeper, we become stronger. A plant with deep roots can withstand more strong winds and even heat because their roots have dug deep into the soil to find the water source.

Okay, this may sound crazy, but scientists have actually discovered that plants can “hear” running water and therefore grow towards it with their root systems.

“The scientists found that the plants could tell where the source of the water was and their root systems grew towards that source based on sensing the sound of running water alone. Dr. Gagilano said when moisture was readily available in the soil, the plant did not respond to the sound of running water.”

Phys.org

How interesting that when there was moisture readily available in the soil, the plant did not respond to the sound of running water. When our life is “all good”, we tend to begin relying on ourselves and the “good” circumstances around us rather than on God and listening for His voice. The roar of a noisy, busy world blocks His quiet whispers to our hearts. We have enough. We have no need to dig deeper or draw closer.

But when the dryness of trouble and trials creep or rush in, our thirst begins to snag our attention or even knock us flat on our backs. The “ho-hum” satisfaction is revealed and the need for something more can drive us to our knees.

Maybe this is what the COVID-19 Pandemic has done. Or maybe it was some other disturbing trouble that has come into our once “peaceful” yet “weak” existence. No matter what the trial may be, good can come from it. It can help us listen for the source of our strength. It can help us dig deeper to the source of our hope. It can cause us to become desperate for the Living Water calling to us. His name is Jesus.

We become stronger in Christ. We become stronger in our faith. We become better witnesses to His goodness even in hard times.

Let’s dig deep during this world crisis. Let’s stand tall with deep roots that others may see God’s goodness and the hope found in Jesus.

Scripture

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grown down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Colossians 2:6-7

“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Ephesians 3:17

Activate

Keep a plant close to where you have your quiet time with the Lord. Let it remind you of this Christian devotional and our constant need of Living Water and cause us to dig deep into His Word, listen in a time of prayer, and seek His presence in both times of dryness and plenty.

 

© Copyright 2020 Susan Smart.

Don’t Leave Christmas Behind!

 

The “Lull” before a New Year, December 26th – December 31st , usually becomes a time of reflection.  It’s a small gap in which we reflect on the past year, both the successes and regrets, while also looking ahead to a new year filled with possibilities.  One of the best steps we can take during this time is to NOT leave Christmas behind!  During the Christmas season we tend to be kinder, more patient, generous, grateful and joyful in anticipation of the season.  Let’s not leave all that behind!

Here are six ways to carry the joy of the Christmas season into 2020:

1) Keep the Cards

Christmas cards we have received make a wonderful visual prayer list for the New Year! Keep them handy taking one out each day and praying for these special people in your life.  Give God thanks for them. This is also a great idea for your family to do together during family worship or around the dinner table!

2) Send The Cards

Snail mail has almost become extinct…except at Christmas.  Take time to write an actual handwritten note to someone different each week or month of 2020; don’t just wait until next Christmas.

Recently one of our Awana leaders was sharing about the Bible being God’s letter to each of us.  He wrote letters to some of the clubbers using Scripture personalized with their name.  One of our girls hugged her letter to her chest and said, “I’m going to keep this forever!”

Whether it is a child you know, a relative you rarely see, or a coworker you see every day, a handwritten note received in the mail can shout – “You matter to me!”

3) Give a Gift

Give an unexpected gift.  We probably know what Jesus said recorded by Luke in Acts 20:35 – “It is more blessed to give than receive.”  Sometimes at Christmas or birthdays we feel “obligated” to give gifts though.

Keep your eyes open, and when you see a little something special that reminds you of someone, give it to them now; don’t wait for a reason.

But also, let’s give of our words – a gift of encouragement.  Hebrews 10:25 instructs us “but encourage one another,” and Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29 that our words should be an encouragement or “gift of grace” to all who hear them.  Words are free as far as money, but they may cost us a bit of thought and intentionality.

You’ll be the one to really receive the gift of giving! Christmas is a reminder of God’s greatest gift to us and is worth sharing.

Someone once said – “Give a rose while the person can still smell it.”  We are never promised tomorrow or next Christmas, so let’s not wait.

4) Celebrate – Have a Party

Again, for no other reason but to celebrate life, have a party!  When our kids were small, we would have an “unbirthday party” like Alice in Wonderland’s friends did.  Let’s learn to treasure and celebrate every day of life.

Create a special meal, invite friends, take a cupcake to someone, play with your children, enjoy the moments!

Life is too short to wait for an occasion; celebrate life, family, and God’s goodness … today!

5) Be Intentional about being Kind, Generous & Grateful

Shopping during the holidays is so different from the everyday shopping experience.  During the holidays people seem kinder, more patient, joyful, generous, and grateful to others and to God.

Why should this be limited to a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Let’s choose to smile at others more, be aware of their needs, give more generously, and share the joy that comes from Jesus so others may find the hope only found in Christ!

A Scripture I read this morning captured my heart – “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy;” Psalm 34:5a NLT

Let’s radiate joy and reflect His love throughout this New Year!

 

6) Keep on Reading & Thinking About Jesus!

How many times did we read or hear the Christmas story found in Luke 2 during this Christmas season?  How often Jesus came to our mind daily as we tried to keep Him in the forefront of our thoughts.  Let’s not stop now!

Let’s carry on!  BlueletterBible.org has a really great Bible reading plan that takes us through all four Gospels chronologically.  Don’t stop with the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth; get to know Who He is by reading through His life, His teachings, His miracles, how He treated and loved those around Him, and the greatest gift – His death and resurrection!

May January 2020 be a time of us beginning or continuing to soak ourselves in God’s Word.  His Words are the only ones that can penetrate to the very division of our soul and spirit, our joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12) … It changes us!

 

A New Year – Bigger & Better with God

These six ways to carry Christmas into the New Year of 2020 and throughout are pretty simple.  We can’t do it alone though.  Daily we need to spend time in God’s presence with His Word allowing His Holy Spirit to make us more like Jesus.

If we are not intentional about recognizing and enjoying His presence as we walk throughout our day, we won’t remember.  We’ll fall back into the rut, the busyness of the ordinary.

In 2020, let’s choose to live BIGGER – God Big!  Christmas is about celebrating God stepping out of Heaven to come and live among us; that’s BIG!  If we are believers in Christ, this is an everyday occurrence; He is with us always, not just during one small season of the year.

He is Immanuel – “God with us!”  Celebrate – let’s not leave Christmas behind in 2019; let’s live it out for others to continue to see in 2020!

Other Bible Reading Plans for a New Year:

This is also a great time to begin reading our Bible daily.  There are several Through-the-Year plans available.  If you are new to reading the Bible, start with our Beginner plans.  Enjoy His Word – it’s sweeter than honey.

Here are some ideas to help you begin a daily quiet time with God.

Daily devotions can also help us focus and grow in Christ.

Creative prayer plans and journaling can draw us into a deeper and longer quiet time with God too.

Bees, Butterflies & “am-nots”

bee-butterfly

If you’re like me, I would need several hands of fingers to count how many times I compare myself to others…and that’s just in one day!  God is continuing to remind me of the dangers of the “am-nots.”  They can lead us to “I can’t” so “I don’t.”  They can paralyze us where we are and cause us to miss “I AM!”

During the last few weeks I have been subbing for an elementary art teacher for her 6-week maternity leave.  I was tempted to say I “am not” an artist and can’t be a substitute for an art teacher, but God had other plans…better plans!

In introducing myself to each class I have prefaced what I’ve said with “I am not an art teacher nor an artist.”  I have gone on to remind them though that although we are not all artists, we can all be creative in some way.

The same goes for each of us as believers when we look at others and think I “am not.”

When we are focused on our “am-nots,” we miss the Great “I AM.”

God has used this to further impress upon my heart that when we are focused on our “am-nots,” we can miss the Great “I AM.”

God said to Moses, “I Am who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14

Comparing ourselves to others is like comparing bees to butterflies.  They are each beautiful and unique in their own way…not one better than the other.

Stop for a minute and think about this – do you see one as better than the other?  You may be like me and at first thought decide bees produce honey while butterflies just look pretty.   Yes, we may be able to see a ‘product’ produced by these busy bees, but let’s look a bit closer.

Busy bees buzz close by their hives remaining within about a two mile radius.  Butterflies, specifically the Monarch, migrate traveling over 3,000 miles.  One’s work may show up in a product while the other covers more distance, but both have a similar purpose in pollinating plants.  They both affect the world around them.

Bees are builders.  They may stay closer to home, but are concentrating in specific areas such as that person who invests in the lives of two or three people or a single family, but go deep and consistent.   They are making a difference.  They pollinate and effect the world where God has placed them.

And although butterflies seem to just flit and fly carefree from place to place, they are connectors reaching far and wide like those who may think they are only touching the surface, but they know the names and have connected with a whole congregation or group of people making each feel welcomed and included.  They are making a difference.  They pollinate and effect the world where God has placed them.

Many times in life as well as ministry we may fall into the trap of comparison – thinking someone else is doing more, doing better than we see ourselves doing.  God has created us each unique and special.  I cannot do what you can, but I can do what I can, what “I AM” has called me to do and to be.  Again, we can’t let the “am-nots” keep us from focusing on “I AM.”  God chooses to equip us differently, but uses us all.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work..All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7,11

Whether you are more like a bee building His Kingdom close to home or a butterfly connecting His Kingdom across the miles, you have been chosen to pollinate others with the message of hope found in Jesus Christ.  It’s not the bee nor the butterfly which matter the most, it’s the pollen… it’s the Gospel.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”  Galatians 6:4

I’m still learning it’s okay not to be able to do what others can.  I am not an art teacher, but God has gifted me with knowledge of books; so we are “looking at art through the eyes of books” in our art classes.  I must not let the “am-nots” keep me from doing what I am able to do.  I must not let them keep me in a state of doing nothing when I can do something.

When we start to look at the “am-nots,” may it remind us to look to “I Am” and see who we can be in His hands.  So the next time the enemy tries to show you what you’re not, just keep pointing others to “I AM”!

 

 

Overlooking Small

beach-butterfly

Recently my husband and I got a little summer extension; we were gifted four days at the beach in mid September.  We used it as a work retreat as in he sat in the AC on one side of the glass doors researching and planning sermons and I sat on the other side on the balcony writing and brainstorming.

As a family, one of our favorite beach/balcony activities is to watch for the dolphins. [Sidenote:  Swimming with dolphins is definitely on my bucket list!]  With my vision set on the horizon, I patiently watched for them.  As I did, I began noticing the butterflies – Monarch butterflies!  About every ten minutes three to five Monarch butterflies would glide by our fifth story balcony!  I later began noticing them everywhere – around the pool, among the sea oats, even along the beach!

I finally realized what was taking place; I was getting to experience the Fall Monarch Migration!  During September to November, these beautiful creatures travel from 1,000 to 3,000 miles from Canada and the northern United States following the Eastern and Gulf coastline to Mexico and the tip of Florida to spend the winter.  Not only is it remarkable the distance they travel, but they make this journey for the first time while following the exact path their grandparents and great grandparents took before them.

There are so many spiritual life lessons we could learn from these small but amazing creatures!  The one that hit me that day was how often I find myself overlooking “small.”  Even as children we begin yearning for older, being grown up, dreaming of big events and accomplishments.  Teens look forward to the big day they can drive, graduate, move out of the house and become more independent.  Next come thoughts of career, marriage, children, etc.  As adults we strive for purpose, to make a difference.  At times we measure life by our career ladder or maybe our children’s growth – when they eat on their own, are potty trained, go to school, graduate, leave home, etc.  The big events, the dolphins, are out there; they will appear at their appointed times.  The question remains…are we overlooking “small.”

Small.  What we consider to be small and insignificant may actually be huge in God’s scheme of things.  Have you ever noticed how often God’s view and the world’s view are opposite?  The world says, “Be first!”  God says, “Be last.”  The world says, “Go, go, go!”  God says, “Be still.”  The world says, “Bigger is better!”  God says, “Small is important.”

The widow giving her offering of two small coins in Luke 21:1-4, was affirmed by Jesus when He said she had given more than all the rest.  When James and John asked if they could both sit on each side of Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 20, Jesus responded that the way to greatness is becoming a servant.  Jesus went on to say in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.”

Small is important.  Doing what you can with what you have may seem small to you, but in God’s view it can be enormous.  A kind word, smile or hug seems too easy, but to a grieving or lonely person, it can be the encouragement they need to keep going.  A few dollars doesn’t seem to buy much these days, but joined with the gifts of others, it can feed thousands.  Changing diapers in the nursery or for your own wee one, can seem so small until you take a glimpse from God’s perspective realizing this child can become a magnificent cathedral for Him one day.  God doesn’t ask us to do everything.  He does ask us to do something – to do what we can with what we have and to appreciate the moments He gives to make a difference.

Moments are small, but love is never small.

monarch

How often do we look beyond the beauty of the present watching for that next big event or sighting and all the while God has placed these small beautiful gifts right before us in our everyday lives?  Are we unintentionally overlooking the small?

I did eventually see the dolphins, but what a shame if I had missed the flight of the butterflies while looking only beyond?  I don’t remember ever being at the beach during the months of their migration; they are only there for a matter of days – such a small amount of time.

Look for small today.  Small butterflies, hummingbirds, wildflowers.  Small smiles, hugs, kindness. Small moments that make a difference. And may we take time to appreciate God’s small yet miraculous gifts right here, right now and be thankful giving Him praise.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Gather of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  James 1:17

“Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you. Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you. Let the fish in the sea speak to you.
For they all know that my disaster has come from the hand of the Lord.
For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.”  Job 12:7-10

 

A Penny for Your Thoughts

pennies copy

My husband loves to find old coins; he has even taught our kids over the years to sort through his loose change looking for coins with old dates! They have learned it’s not necessarily the bright shiny ones that have extra value; it’s usually the dingy, dark ones.

Experience. We tend to neglect its value. Sometimes it’s the scratches and age that prove we have lived, prove we have learned from experience.

“A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness.” – Proverbs 16:31

I am continuing to learn as I move further and further into my fifties  – there is a lot to be said for being “over-the-hill”!  Granted I still like to cover up those gray hairs, but the experience, the wisdom, the growth in Christ, they are worth every little scratch, tarnish, and gray hair.  There is value in age.

Last week I was invited to hear a dear elderly man from our church sing at the assisted living center where he lives. ( I almost used the word resides, but he does more than reside there, he still LIVES! )  Surrounded by those with a few more gray hairs than myself, I sensed such wisdom as well as fulfillment.  Their lives have been full.  Yes, they have aches and pains and take various medications; they have experienced loss and need a little more assistance, but they are also so full of wisdom and life experience.

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Job 12:12

Having reached the point of “over the hill” and experiencing these gray hairs, I need to be reminded of this truth.  In reality gray hair is proof that we have lived; we have experienced life.  We have stories to tell and memories to ponder.

Think of all the things you know – things teachers and books have taught you, stories from reading or watching movies, experiences of life and living!

Look around.  Do you see any “gray-haired” folks?  Now that the Baby-boomer generation has reached this age, there are quite a few!  Each one has so much to offer, to invest in the next generations!

Over 50 has actually become the beginning point, not a stopping point, for many:

  • Grandma Moses didn’t begin painting until she was in her late 70s.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 before “Little House in the Big Woods was published.
  • Colonel Sanders didn’t begin his Kentucky Fried Chicken adventure until he was in his 60s.
  • Peter Roget’s Thesaurus wasn’t published until he was age 73.
  • John Glenn went back into outer space at age 77.
  • Ronald Reagan didn’t enter politics until age 55.
  • Julia Child was 51 when she made her first television debut.

These are just a few you may know.  Their thoughts, skills and talents continued to make a difference and yours can too!  God is not finished with you yet.

  • Abraham was 100 before becoming a father, and God made him the father of many nations.
  • Moses was 80 before leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
  • Noah was about 600 years old when he built the ark!

The point is – God wants to use all this experience and wisdom He has given you.  In reality, as we begin to slow down some physically, it gives us more time to think and ponder.  One of my older sisters has given me great hope by telling me some forgotten memories begin to surface again with age!

So…a penny for your thoughts.  Your experience and wisdom right now, right here, could make a difference in someone else’s life.  Let’s take time to share, and also time to let those older share their stories and thoughts with us too!  Each time you see a penny…remember your value and the value of age and experience.

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

Present in the Present

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God which is why we call it the present.”

– Author unknown

hummer

 

A hummingbird just zoomed past as I sit on our porch for my morning quiet time with the Lord. Sometimes I need that reminder of life being fleeting. It’s important to be aware of the moments, which seem to zoom by us.

Being present in the present is truly a gift. It’s a gift we receive from our Father above as well as a gift we can give to those around us.

I am terrible about allowing my thoughts to wander even as I am listening to someone conversing with me…so much so that I catch myself glancing beyond them with both my eyes and thoughts. It’s really such a shame.

Focus. Be aware. Moments pass too quickly. People pass too quickly.

My friend is beginning a journey of walking with their parent through the storm of cancer. Twenty-five years have now passed since my siblings and I walked that same path with our mom. She passed. In that journey though God gave gifts – gifts of memories, gifts of time, gifts of being present, focused on her.

One of the gifts He gave was the gift of hummingbirds. We saw their shadows through the shades on the window behind her hospital bed. They drank from the flowers on her patio. God even sent one to drink from the roses placed on her casket at the graveside. Today, twenty-five years later, He still sends them to remind me. They remind me of her with sweet memories. They remind me to be present in the present.

Today. This moment. Each is a gift from God. Who has He placed in front of us to share this moment with? Is it our toddler calling for attention? Is it a teenager needing a listening ear? Is it an elderly parent or friend wanting to share a bit of wisdom or a story? Is it our neighbor, coworker or even a stranger who needs to know they matter and are worthy of a moment of our time? Is it our spouse waiting to be reminded they are loved? Today is passing. This moment is passing. People are passing. Let’s make the most of this gift of the present.

God gave me this reminder in a hummingbird this morning. I share it here with you. What will we do with it? Will we share it with others? Who will we give the gift of being present in the present to today?

“ Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”   – Jesus (Matthew 6:27)

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” – Paul (Ephesians 5:15-16)

 

 

Beyond the Color & Candy Shell

mms5

Yep, it’s been a busy past year, but I am finally settling back into a little writing. 🙂 I just finished an object lesson using colorful candy such as M&Ms or Skittles to help students understand just how special and unique they are to Jesus.  It’s a lesson each of us probably need to be reminded of from time to time.

Many of us remember this song from childhood –

“Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world

Red, brown, yellow

Black and white

They are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children

Of the world.”

In reality though, no one’s skin matches anyone else’s perfectly.  We are a creative and beautiful variety of colors, shades and tints.  Like the M&Ms or Skittles, our skin, the way we look is just the candy shell; what’s really important is that God has created each of us in His image and to be filled with the the sweetness of His love. Our value comes from Him, and He says we are worth His only Son’s life!

A beautiful Bible verse written by David is Psalm 139:14 –

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

David points out that we have been made – “wonderfully” – the Hebrew word there ‘Pala’ (paw-law) translated means “to distinguish, put a difference, show marvelous, separate, set apart, sever, make wonderfully”.

David realized God had made him unique…different…a “one-of-a-kind”, and that was a wonderful thing! There is and never has been nor ever will be another me…another you! God never makes a duplicate! Even twins have differences!

Just as M&Ms and Skittles are all different looking on the outside with their various colors, so God has created us each unique and special.

We all look different, yet we are the same in that God created each of us to be filled with His love.

M&Ms are filled with chocolate – yum! Skittles are filled with sugary sweetness! And we are made to be filled with God’s love – even better! Without the chocolate, an M&M is just a fragile shell with really no taste. Even so, we, without God’s love, are fragile and empty too.

1 John 4:9-16 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”

Also, because of how M&Ms & Skittles are made, they are easily shared with others. God’s love is made to be shared too! We can share His love by sharing Jesus!

1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

 

Here’s the lesson on my website .

Thanks for reading!

– Susan    🙂

“New”…does not mean perfect

Recently we moved into a brand-new house. I have never lived in a new house and so have discovered I had a few misconceptions. You may be like me and have thought that “new” means “perfect.” I have since learned otherwise!

The first hint of non-perfection came the day we actually moved our things in…the washer and dryer didn’t fit! This was a surprise to us, to our movers, to our realtor, and even our builder! Somewhere in the building process someone had made a mistake. It happens. The builder came and made adjustments thinning out some trim work and making corrections, and now our washer and dryer are snug as a bug!

Other minor imperfections have become apparent too – such as a plate cover not quite fitting, a door not closing correctly, sink-stoppers installed incorrectly, paint spattering where it shouldn’t be. These have been small things, but have reinforced the truth that “new” does not mean “perfect.”

This brought an even more eye-opening realization that I believe can bring great comfort into our lives as believers in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” NASB

Nowhere in that verse does it say we are made instantly perfect; it says we are made new. I think many of us have the same misconception I had – that because we are made new, we should be perfect. We begin thinking we are “less of a Christian” when we compare ourselves to others.  We let Satan convince us we have failed yet again and God is going to give up on us.  That simply isn’t true though.

In Philippians 2:12, Paul challenges believers to “continue working out their salvation.”

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;”

Paul is NOT speaking of working to earn our salvation; Jesus paid that price in full by His death on the cross. He is referencing the continual process of the work God continues doing in us as we yield to Him, continue seeking & knowing Him, trying to walk as Jesus walked. (1 John 2:5)   If we back up to Philippians 1:6, we see this.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Although salvation begins at the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it does not end there. It is a process God continues in us as we yield to His working in our life to make us more and more like Jesus;  when Christ comes again, then we will be made perfect like Him.

This is of great relief to me, and I hope it is to you also! I am so NOT perfect. I make so many mistakes and still fail to make right choices. I disobey God. I still sin.

Satan wants me to feel hopeless when I fail and see all my flaws thinking I am supposed to be perfect just because I have been made new.  Yes, God has made me new, but not perfect yet! He is still working on me; it is a process. There is hope!

Now as I find flaws in our “new” house, I just have to smile and remember – “New does not mean perfect!” And for that I am eternally grateful!

 

1 Peter 1:3-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,  obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

1 John 3:1-3

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.   And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

 

 

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A Crisis in Identity… “The Name Tag Nanny”

This is one of my favorite pics from our Vacation Bible School this year!  We had water games and all our 5th & 6th graders stuck their name tags on Carrie and dubbed her “The Name Tag Nanny!”

She appeared to be having an identity crisis!  That got me to thinking…

How often do we have identity crises?  When life changes, as it often does, it may cause us to feel like our identity changes with it.  When our job changes, we may go from identifying ourselves as “employed” or a job title such as a “librarian” or “nurse”  to “unemployed” or  “retired.”  No longer does that skill or title define us.  When our family changes, we may go from “mom or dad of (insert child’s name)” to “empty-Nester” or “unknown.” Other family changes may be due to a change in marital status or a broken relationship.  Our health may change causing us to go from “able” to “dependent.”  Life brings so many changes – both natural and those caused by circumstances.  Many of these changes can bring feelings of fear and uncertainty.

But the Good News is that when we become a believer in Christ, our identity is made certain because God doesn’t change. (Hebrews 13:8)  No longer is our identity based on what we do or who we are, but on Whose we are.  We are now forgiven, accepted, redeemed, declared righteous, and so much more based on Who Jesus is.

We may know this in our heads, but how do we live this new identity out and not revert to our old ways of thinking?  God’s Word speaks to this!

Ephesians 4:23-24 says we are – “to be made new in the attitude of your minds.  And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Living out our new identity in Christ has to take root in our thinking – “our attitude of our minds.”  It must be based on Who God is – “His likeness,” not on ourselves.

Recently this has become an active part of my quiet time with God which has helped me.  As I read Scripture, I look for Who He is – a name, characteristic, or comparison.  Then I write who I am in contrast or who I am because of Who He is.  Here are just a few examples:

  • In John 4 Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well and speaks of living water.  He is the Living Water…in contrast, I am the one who is thirsty, the recipient of His refreshing.
  • In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World, and in Matthew 5:14-16 He says we are the light of the world.  He is the Light…because of that, I am to be His reflection and shine His light.
  • In 1 John 4 John tells us in verse 8 that “God is love.” Then he continues in verse 18 – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  He is love – the Fear Conqueror.  I am the one who takes refuge in Him.
  • Isaiah used this same identity clarification thinking when he calls God the Potter and we are the clay.
  • One of my favorites is found in Roman 15:13 where Paul refers to the God of hope filling us with joy, peace & hope.  He is the Filler…I am the filled.

When I focus on Who Christ is, it helps me accurately clarify who I am.

In Christ, I am God’s child!  John 1:12 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”

In Christ, I have been made new!  2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

In Christ,  I live for Him! Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

His love changes everything…even my identity!  We don’t have to be a “Name Tag Nanny” wearing everyone else’s name tags when we can wear one that says we belong to Jesus!

 

 

 

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