Tuesday, December 30, 2014

100 things 2014

100 things from 2014

  1. Started "directing" Children's Choir with 10 sweet kiddos. (Graci Lou, Izzy, Kendall, Nate, Katie, Emma, Addy, Kirsten, Tristan, & Chase)
  2. Started teaching Preschool Sunday School with 4 sweet kiddos (Jonah, Kenzie, Myles, and Jaylen).
  3. Shellie came back to Brandon and works beside me.
  4. Children's Choir put on an "Unplugged Christmas" and did an AMAZING JOB!!!!!!
  5. Got to go to Heaven in Heaven's Gates / Hell's Flames.
  6. Izzy got baptized.
  7. Brian got his Learner's permit.
  8. Got my gallbladder out.
  9. Was hospitalized for 8 days due to a bile leakage after I got my gallbladder out.
  10. Brian got his first truck (1997 Dodge Ram).
  11. Got my sister back.
  12. David moved up from the Coast and was added to the list of people I assist.
  13. I learned to crochet
  14. I crossed FIVE things off my bucket list
  15. Started my first Red Journal
  16. LOVE my Christmas tree this year! not sure why...all the same decorations and the same tree as last year...but it is sooooo pretty!
  17. Mrs. Pauline had cancer...and beat it.
  18. Mr. Mickey had cancer and didn't
  19. Mr. Denom died
  20. Mr. Jack died
  21. Mr. Lloyd died
  22. Jason Guess died, leaving behind a wife, 2 daughters, and an unborn son.
  23. I'm 3 years cancer free!
  24. I cleaned out the front flowerbed (after 5 years of neglect)
  25. Si no longer chews on my house
  26. Ebola
  27. http://www.newsweek.com/2015/01/02/thats-not-what-bible-says-294018.html?piano_t=1 is an article from the front page of the 12.23.2014 Newsweek claiming that the Bible is not accurate
  28. discovered Pentatonix and Home Free Vocal Band and FELL IN LOVE with acapela music!!
  29. had my 42nd birthday
  30. Met Christie Moore and encouraged her as she battled cancer
  31. Learned how to use a jigsaw
  32. Bought my own drill
  33. had our 17th anniversary
  34. did the Ice Water Challenge
  35. Went to New Orleans for Mission work with Suburban Baptist Church
  36. Taught a ladies Bible Study in New Orleans
  37. Met a homeless child
  38. izzy went to camp at Central Hills
  39. led the music rotation in VBS
  40. Co-directed VBS
  41. Brian had his first job - at the Pearl Pool
  42. Brian was certified as a lifeguard
  43. Calvin took Izzy to the Daddy/Daughter dance at Pearl High School
  44. Had a "glow in the dark" party for Izzy's 9th birthday - she said it was the best ever!
  45. Brian went to Super Summer Leadership Camp at Mississippi College
  46. Went to see Skillet and Third Day in concert
  47. 20 people were baptized after Heavens Gates/ Hells Flames
  48. Jennifer Mcinnis had a baby!
  49. Robin Williams committed suicide
  50. ISIS
  51. Malaysia Airline flight MH370 disappeared
  52. Ferguson - Michael Brown
  53. Obamacare
  54. Legal Marijuana
  55. Gas Prices back down to 1.99
  56. Discovered Fly Lady
  57. Shirley Temple died
  58. Joan Rivers Died
  59. Flappy Birds
  60. My Singing Monsters
  61. Words With Friends
  62. iPhone 6
  63. Landed on a comet
  64. Do you want to Build a Snowman? - Frozen
  65. Favorite TV shows - Criminal Minds and NCIS
  66. Favorite Food - Deep Dish Pizza from Little Cesar's
  67. The last LOTR movie was released - The Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies - went to see it with Brian and Izzy
  68. Brian killed his first deer
  69. Same sex marriage legalized in some states
  70. fast food workers strike in hopes of receiving $15 minimum wage
  71. Bill Cosby accused of raping multiple women in the 80s and 90s
  72. "Enhanced interrogation techniques"
  73. Scotland tries to separate from England. Scottish voters vote to stay with England.
  74. ISIS released several videos of hostages being beheaded
  75. Polar Vortex - Burrrrrr!
  76. Favorite song - Lord I'm Ready Now- Plumb
  77. Favorite Movie - The Hobbit - Battle of 5 Armies
  78. Read the Divergent Series - LOVED IT
  79. Read The Hunger Games Series - LOVED IT!
  80. Something in the Water - Carrie Underwood
  81. Oceans - Hillsong United
  82. Ricky and Amy and the kids moved into Great Nan's house
  83. Mom and Rick moved in with Grandma Jackie
  84. Jesus Loves Me - Chris Tomlin
  85. Happy - Pharrell Williams
  86. Ray Rice - Domestic Violence
  87. Wore a swimsuit for the first time in 9 years
  88. God has given me new amazing Christian girlfriends!
  89. Got really nice Christmas presents from my friends at work and realize that I need to plan better for them at Christmas!
  90. Kept one of my New Year's Resolutions
  91. Watched Elf for the first time
  92. Izzy and Brian BOTH told me that their favorite Christmas song is Little Drummer Boy
  93. Watched Miracle on 34th Street for the first time.
  94. Izzy was a zookeeper on Halloween and went trick or treating with Chase Copeland, who was a gorilla!
  95. Brian learned to play the drums
  96. Realized that I am tired of just getting by, that I want to live intentionally
  97. Realized that I have a pretty boring little life
  98. Made my resolutions for 2015
  99. Mr. Ken Bailey had surgery for a brain aneurism.
  100. Completed my first "List of 100 things"


I want to have abundant life

Here we are at the end of 2014 and I realize that I have let another year go by without "living".
I'm not even sure what exactly I mean by that, only to say that it seems like this year has just sorta "happened".  Get up, go to work, go home, go to bed, get up and do it all over again. Pay bills... Go to church...one foot in front of the other.
There was a time not so long ago when life was so overwhelming that the very best I could do was to put one foot in front of the other...just survive....don't give up...just get thru one more day. It seems that this mindset has lingered far too long. I am well. I am whole. It is time to start living again.
"Living" got lost somewhere between marriage and babies and cancer and work and laundry. I  doubt that I am the only one who feels like this.
I so admire those women who seem to squeeze as much as possible out of each day, but I am not one of them... and I want to be one of those women.
I have "put one foot in front of the other" for so long that I honestly don't even know what "living" will look like for me. Honestly, I don't even know where to start. I suppose this train of thought started when I remembered that one of my 2014 resolutions was to mark 5 things off my bucket list. I broke out the ol bucket list and looked over it for things that I'd done this year. I did mark 4 off and will be able to mark another off before New Year's Eve. (That will be the ONLY resolution I kept!) Still, there were LOTS of things on the list that I could have marked off, had I only been striving to get as much out of this year as possible. If I'd been focused on making memories instead of just getting through each day, more things would be crossed off. If I'd looked for opportunities to make a difference, opportunities to do something big, opportunities to "live" instead of just getting by...
I'm really tired of just getting by.
After I looking over my bucket list and lamenting over how many things are not marked off and how time is starting to run out on some of them (like rock climbing or rafting the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon), a friend told me about a friend of hers who makes a list of "100 things" each December. 100 things she did and things that happened that year, good and not so good. I'm not sure I can even think of 100 things I did this year. I'm not sure that I did 100 things worth remembering.
I want the rest of my years to be note-worthy.
I want to live big for God.
I want to see lives radically changed, including mine.
I want to have breath taking moments.
I want to start in 2015.
Some think that you cannot live 100% sold out for Jesus Christ and  live life to the fullest, push the envelope, expand one's boundaries, and explore new things...
In John 10:10, Jesus says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
I do not believe for one minute that Jesus' idea of abundant life is simply putting one foot in front of the other, barely getting by, or just surviving. I don't think that any of Jesus' followers in the New Testament could say that their lives were boring. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to drink it all in, both good and bad.
So, as the New Year approaches, I am going to spend time over the next few days working on my Resolutions for 2015. I'm also going to make a list of 100 things that happened in 2014. I may even post all of it here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3 years (almost) post- cancer (the second time)

3 years ago, I couldn't talk above a whisper. My neck was burned and my throat was scalded from the radiation that was killing the cancer growing on my vocal cords. All I could eat was soup and I drank liquid Loratab like it was nothing more than cough syrup. I was scared, terrified even, that my life would never return to normal.  Just thinking back to that time makes my chest tighten and my pulse race.
I always regret not putting my thoughts and feelings in print. It is so hard to remember everything the way it really was. I wish I'd felt like writing more then, even if it was only to record my fear, hopelessness, and despair. It would have made today's post even sweeter.
It has been a long time since I've written anything about having cancer. The end of this month will mark my 3 year anniversary of completing radiation. 3 years. I only had 2 years between my 1st and 2nd bouts with cancer, so 3 years sounds really good to me.
So, how are things now? After 2 battles with cancer,  10 (give or take 1 or 2) surgeries on my vocal cords, a neck dissection, 28 rounds of radiation to my throat, steroid shots in my larynx, and collagen injections (I think) into my "bad" cord...
To the best of my knowledge, I am still cancer free. The anxiety associated with the possibility of recurrence has all but subsided. I no longer take any anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications. (I am so thankful that they were available when I needed them and am equally thankful that I am now able to move on without them.)
I can talk. My voice is a bit "raspy", and I do get hoarse easily. The slightest sinus drainage will cause me to sound really sick. I do still have a random stranger ask if I have a cold occasionally, but almost never have anyone say "Oh! Bless your heart! Your voice sounds terrible!" and waitresses no longer consistently offer me tea with lemon and honey to soothe my "sore throat" after I order.  I can teach, I can work, I can order in restaurants or at a drive thru. Carrying on a long conversation in a noisy room is challenging, but I have learned to let the person I am speaking to compensate by paying closer attention rather than trying to raise my voice. I cannot scream or yell. If I try, my voice refuses to work. So, I suppose I seem more pleasant than I did prior to all of this.
I am singing in the choir at church and am now in the praise team rotation. I sang a solo at Easter. I do not have the range I once had, and my singing voice has a raspy quality to it, but my pitch is good. I get winded because it takes a lot of air and control to stay on pitch, but the sound that comes out of my mouth IS the sound I expect to come out. I am able to control my voice and work with it. I do lots of vocal exercises in an effort to continuously expand my range. I stretch my neck and chest muscles / tendons and work to keep the scar tissue in my neck under control. I am SO thankful for all my years in choral music prior to this because I learned so many things that are necessary now- like vocal exercises and stretching and breath control. I use many of the techniques I learned in voice therapy prior to singing, like gargling to break through the raspiness and get a clearer tone.
I have some pain and stiffness in my neck due to scar tissue, but it is tolerable as long as I stretch. I have to be careful swallowing or I will get strangled. If I get a cold, it turns to a cough and productive coughing is difficult at best. Even so, it is nothing that a little time and mucinex can't help. I don't "suffer" with dry mouth, but my throat is dry and my mouth is drier than I'd like. I've had 5 root canals and crowns in the past year.  That's fun stuff. That's it though. All in all, its not much to deal with.
I love to tell my story from this side. God used some absolutely amazing people to heal me and I am TRULY thankful to be healed. It still amazes me that HE would take time to put everything together to allow me to meet the people I met, make the friends I made, and walk away from all of this with a few scars and a slightly raspy voice.
I am thankful for where I am now, but, no matter how unbearably happy it makes me to be able to sing with the radio as I drive home from work each afternoon or to read to my sweet little Izzy or to tell my family I love them or to be able to sing with the choir on Sundays, I will always say - because I truly believe- that the most beautiful part of my story is not found in the healing I celebrate today.
The most beautiful part of my story was recorded here 5 years ago, when the Creator of the heavens and the earth took time to carry me through the darkest valley of my life.
It was in the darkness of the valley that I learned that God is trustworthy, He is good, He is loving...even when I am terrified and  things are impossibly hard and life refuses to make sense. He taught me to take His hand and follow His lead and focus on HIM rather than my circumstances. I am thankful to be healed and whole, but I am immeasurably more thankful for the valley, for it was there that The Lord Of All Creation took time to remind me that He never sleeps, that He hears my cries, and that I am completely and totally His....no matter what this life brings.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:19-20

I love that Paul is bold here and asks for prayer for himself.
Please use this as a reminder....Pray for the Spiritual leaders in your life.
It is safe to say that anyone openly, actively, and intentionally sharing the love of Christ and the message of the Gospel is in Satan's Cross hairs.
When you pray for your own guidance, your own protection, your own discernment, your own endurance, please remember the others who have chosen to dedicate their lives to boldly share the message of Jesus Christ and His Saving Grace.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:18

Paul reminds us that Prayer is not an option.
Pray at ALL times in the Spirit.
I see no need for further explanation. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 
Ephesians 6:14-17
In the past post, we looked at the desired outcome of a battle with Satan. Paul reminds us again in verse 14, that our goal is to stand. Remember, this is not a casual standing to watch something go by. Paul is  emphasizing the need for immovable steadfastness in the face of a relentless, ruthless foe.
He uses a key phrase to introduce the Armor of God: "Therefore, having".
  • therefore - because of everything Paul has told us thus far
  • having - assuming we have sense enough to do what he is about to tell us to do
Lets look at the Armor...
"Girded your waist with TRUTH"
Since Satan is a liar, we must oppose him with God’s truth. In Paul's day the people wore belts or girdles to bind up their flowing garments and hold everything together. It is God’s truth that must hold everything together in our lives. As Christians, we must love truth and live truth.
Breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS
Righteousness is not what I do for God. Righteousness is a result of my surrender to Him and my adherence to His truth. It is the deeds that come from that surrender to the Spirit Who then fills and controls me. Adhering to truth affects the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate was used by a Roman soldier to cover him from the shoulders to the loins covering the vital organs. Paul is saying, "It is like that Roman soldier. He wouldn’t go into battle without his loins girded. But secondly, he wouldn’t go into battle without that breastplate on, because that breastplate is what protects the vital things of his life."
"Shod your feet with the preparation of the GOSPEL OF PEACE"
The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery; so the good news of peace keeps us upright and firm.
Shield of FAITH
So far  there is no moveable equipment. In other words, these are immoveable pieces that we have put on. Now we come to something that can be moved. It is a weapon, but it is a defensive weapon. In ancient warfare, the enemy would wrap the arrows with flammable material, dip it in pitch, set it on fire and shoot these flaming arrows at the enemy. Now here is the picture Paul is drawing for us. First, I am to obey God. Then when the devil throws his flaming missiles at me, because I have purposed to obey the Lord Jesus at all costs in everything, that obedience becomes like a shield to ward off the flaming missiles coming in, even extinguishing those flaming missiles.
Roman soldier would be foolish to enter a battle without his helmet. He knew that the helmet would protect his head from arrows, but that it's primary function was to ward off blows from the enemy's broadsword, which was from three to four-feet long with a massive handle that was held with both hands like a baseball bat.The helmet on one's head was the only way to deflect it. 
Satan’s broadsword has two sides to it: discouragement and doubt.  Many people suffer from doubt and discouragement, but the helmet of salvation is our protection.  A good hope of salvation, a Scriptural expectation of victory, will purify the soul, and keep it from being defiled by Satan.
Sword of the SPIRIT
To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without.
A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:13

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand
Ephesians 6:13
When we mention Spiritual Warfare, it seems that the only things we want to discuss are demons, angels, and The Armor of God. While these certainly are the main topics in Spiritual Warfare, Paul reveals other important things that are just as necessary for us to know. Ephesians 6:13 is contains one of those gems of information. 
What is our goal? When we say we are "in battle against Satan", or when we are "experiencing Spiritual Warfare", what is the outcome we are aiming for?
According to Paul, our goal is to stand. Our goal is to WITSTAND and having done all, STAND.
This tells me (and this is only MY personal feeling), a few very important things about Spiritual Warfare:
  • This is not a battle for the timid, weak, immature, or semi-committed.
    • If our BEST, if what God expects of us, is to simply stand when its all over, then this is serious stuff.
  • We are not battling for our salvation.
    • Christ took care of that. We are battling for our WITNESS, our TESTIMONY, our INTEGRITY.
  • Our goal is to STAND against Satan.
    • Resist him and his tactics and protect that which we have been given.
It is important to understand what it is that we are fighting for, and what the desired outcome is to be.
When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit equips us with everything we need. Salvation is a free gift to us, paid for by Jesus Christ. We do not battle Satan for our Salvation. We defend what God has given us. Satan will attack.  The day of evil will come. Our job as Christians is to be prepared when that day comes and to stand against whatever Satan attacks us with.
Our goal is that, when each attack is over, we remain standing, having lost none of our witness, integrity, or testimony to Satan.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spirtual Warfare - Ephesians 6:12

I LOVE this verse!
Oh! I have used it and used it and used it, in my own struggles and in ministering to others.

I have learned that I am much better able to deal with difficult people when I remember that my battle is not against THEM, but against Satan working in them! It is easier to blame circumstances on Satan than to blame Satan when someone acts all crazy. Why? Because of my OWN sinful nature. (ouch) It is MY sinful nature that wants to set someone straight, get revenge, tell them what I think, and retaliate. It is MY sinful nature that finds joy and satisfaction in letting everyone know "What goes around comes around," and "You make your bed, you lie in it," and "You reap what you sow". Satan gets a 2 for 1 deal when he can make someone treat me poorly and then can in turn make me retaliate in kind.

Oh my goodness. What a mess.

When we remember that our enemy is not the person who has wronged us, but Satan, a few things happen:
  • we trust God to take care of the situation
  • we take away Satan's opportunity to cause US to sin,
  • we protect and preserve our witness,
  • we show the love of Christ to the person who wronged us. 
  • we grow spiritually
  • our integrity remains intact
  • Satan's grip on us is loosened
I've learned that this is a huge part of understanding "In your anger, do not sin."

So if "that" person is not your enemy, then who is? Satan of course. I will let you do your own research on how Satan works. There are a few earlier posts here about it...
Satan is truly the craftiest of all God's creation. His methods have not changed since the Garden of Eden. As we discussed in an earlier post, he has no real power so he relies on deceit to keep you in bondage. Let's look at how this applies specifically to today's discussion before we part ways...
That obsessive feeling you get when someone wrongs you....you want revenge, you want to make them hurt the same way they hurt you, you wait expectantly for God to strike them, etc. ... all this is from Satan. Satan uses this to keep you angry, keep you hurting, keep you focused on the one who wronged you because as long as he can keep you focused on your anger and your pain, he knows that you will not seek God for healing. Satan knows that only God can heal wounded people. If you "just can't get over it", then Satan is having his way with you.
God can heal wounded people, but Satan deceives us into believing that we are better off being wounded. Satan keeps multitudes of people in bondage by simply deceiving them into believing that they cannot forgive someone who has done wrong to them. If you believe this lie, then you are in bondage to Satan. Any reason that comes to mind for NOT forgiving someone is from Satan.
How do I know? Because Jesus says forgive.
I am not in anyway saying that anyone should subject themselves to abuse. There are people in my own life who I have forgiven for hurting me... but will never allow them to be close enough to me to ever hurt me again. This has nothing to do with forgiveness....its just being smart. 
As we move forward and look at the armor God has given us to fight Satan, please take a moment to make sure that Satan does not already have you in bondage because of unforgiveness.
Remember, We aren't battling people. We are battling Satan. And those people who hurt you....they are battling Satan too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:11

When we visited last, we discussed the importance of tapping into the Lord's Mighty Strength. I want to stress again the importance of becoming a spiritually strong Christian. Without the Lord's Mighty Power, the armor of God will only get you part way through the battle. If you are not spiritually strong, you will not be able to stand against Satan. There is no way to sugar coat this. Without the Lord's Mighty Power, the Armor of God is little more than behavior modification. When you face temptation, changing your behavior will only buy you some time. In order to defeat Satan, you must allow God to change your heart, what you desire, what you love, what you crave...who you are.
Verse 11 speaks of 3 things: The Full Armor of GOD, Taking a stand, and the Devil's (or Satan's) schemes.
It is noteworthy that Paul instructs us to take on the FULL armor of God. To leave out any piece of the armor is to create a spot of weakness. Satan will attack you at your weakest point. With that, notice that Paul tells us to take on the full armor of GOD, and nothing else. This is GOD's armor. He knows how best to defend us against Satan, and the armor He offers is all we need. So, take on the FULL armor of GOD, which He prepares and gives to His children. Nothing more, nothing less.
We put on the armor of God so that we CAN stand. The original word translated "can" is "dunamai" which is the root of words like dynamite and dynamic. In this context, it is the enablement by supernatural power. (The Lord's Mighty Power). Note that this is written in the passive voice...this is an internal enablement by an outside source. What does all this mean? Simply that we must be WILLING to let God enable us. We must surrender, yield our "rights", let Him have His way, and allow His spirit to strengthen and control us. Attitudes such as self confidence, self sufficiency, and self assurance have no place in the life of a mature Christian.
We put on the full armor of God so that we can STAND. This portrays the image of standing one's ground, as opposed to rushing forward in a fight. This is not a picture of casual standing, but of "digging in ones heels" and bracing oneself against a coming onslaught... Hold your ground, don't be knocked off course,  don't give a single inch to the enemy.
Finally, we are to stand against the DEVIL'S SCHEMES.  Please understand this... this is not a battle of power against power. Satan has no POWER. This is a battle of TRUTH. Satan hates you and has an evil plan for your life. Satan wishes nothing on us but evil. The tactics of intimidation and insinuation alternate in Satan’s plan of campaign. He plays both the bully and the beguiler. Force and fraud form his chief offensive against the camp of the saints. His only weapons are deceit, distraction, and distortion.
Next time we will look at the different parts of the Armor of God and delve into the use and meaning of each.
Until then,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:10

Paul has spent an entire letter establishing our place in Jesus Christ and the basics of the Christian walk. This passage comes at the end of the letter....
  • In light of all that God has done for you. 
  • In light of the glorious standing you have as a child of God. 
  • In light of His great plan of the ages that God has made you part of. 
  • In light of the plan for Christian maturity and growth He gives to you. 
  • In light of the conduct God calls every believer to live. 
  • In light of the filling of the Spirit and our walk in the Spirit.
 In light of all this, there is a battle to fight in the Christian life.
This passage is broken up into 2 basic parts, "Be strong in the Lord and in His might and power" and "put on the full armor of God". Many pass over the first and move on to the second, but we are starting with the first because I truly believe that, even if you put a weak man in the best armor,  he is still a weak man, and weak person is an ineffective soldier.

Where does the Christian get his strength? From the Lord of course. This is not a natural happening. One can't simply name it and claim it. Our strength comes from the LORD's Mighty Power. It comes from a personal, deep, rich relationship with our Creator. It grows over time as we learn more and more about our Lord and His ways. It grows as we focus on His Word and spend time in Bible Study and Prayer. It grows as we seek his strength to help us through hard times.

Might is reserved strength. Power is strength in motion. A "mighty" person is one whose strength is apparent. A muscular man's big muscles display his might, even if he does not use them. When that muscular man uses his muscles to lift weight, he uses his power...that reserved strength is put to use.

Tapping into God's mighty Power is relying on His MIGHT more and more and then moving forward in His Power.
In my studying on these verses, I found one commentary that mentioned the misuse of God's might. The author said that it is as if people receive a bit of God's might and then let it seep away like water leaking from a bucket with holes in it. Here are some things he mentioned that will cause God's Might to "leak out of you":
  •  Committing to too many spiritual works or things
  • Too much conversation
  • Arguments, debates, wrangling
  • Laziness
  • Too much time in the wrong company
  • Too much foolish talk and joking
  • Love of money and career
  • A desire for respectability and image
  • An unequal yoking with an unbeliever
  • Ungodly entertainment
  • A wrong attitude toward or doubting the Word of God
Beware of these seemingly harmless things in your life, for they will surely drain you of the strength you will need when the day comes for you to stand against temptation.

Before we can put on the Full Armor of GOD, we have to "Be strong in the Lord's Mighty Power."   Know Him, Believe Him, Put all your trust and faith in Him, confess and turn away from known sin in your life so that it does not separate you from Him, submit fully to Him...then move forward in His Power.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - introduction

In all areas of our lives, we prepare for "battle", whether it be a war in the desert, the football state championship, competition for a job; firemen train before pulling someone out of a car wreck or fire, lifeguards train before saving someone who is drowning, police officers train before being sent out to arrest a criminal. Point is, all these men and women must be prepared before they go to work. To send someone into battle without training is to doom them to fail.

Why then, do we not prepare to fight Satan? Is it because we really don't believe that Satan is a real enemy? Do we not believe that he is seeking to destroy us? Do we think that we can fight him with no preparation?

Satan is the root of ALL sin, of ALL evil. Yet, we dismiss him as nothing more than a Sunday School lesson topic.

Satan wants to destroy every part of you and all that you hold dear. Your marriage, your children, your spouse, your friendships, your career, your integrity, your finances, your home, your family, your body, your emotions, anything and everything that you love. He will use any means necessary to destroy you. Not just you, but everyone you love. Not just everyone you love, but everyone on earth.

So, how do we prepare for battle?
Paul lays the plan out before us in Ephesians 6:

Christian Warfare

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Over the next several posts, we will look into this passage. It is my prayer that you will put on the full armor of God and, when the time comes,  be prepared to stand.

Friday, July 11, 2014

From time to time I am reminded why I chose "In the Battle" as the title for this blog. Our recent ministry trip to New Orleans, LA, and a few things that have happened since we returned have reminded me once again that we are in a battle...every one of us.
In New Orleans, I met several people who, through various circumstances, have found themselves living on the street. There are more people in my life who have recently been diagnosed with cancer than I want to think about. One of our church members has a chronically ill 4 month old son. I have a friend facing bankruptcy and another facing divorce. At any given time, we can all make a long list of people in our lives who are obviously struggling with something.
You may read this and count yourself lucky. You may be thankful that you are not in the middle of a battle. Perhaps you are not fighting a battle for all the world to see. To me, unseen battles are much harder to fight than the types listed above. Perhaps you fight depression, anxiety, addiction, loneliness, anger, hatred, unforgivness, or bitterness. Perhaps you fight jealousy, lust, pride, envy, greed, or selfishness. Maybe you feel insignificant or left out.
There is a common thread that runs through all of these...the enemy who heaps these troubles on us. We are in battle, every one of us, but our battle is not against people or sickness or circumstance. I was reminded of this earlier today. My brother was telling me about an encounter my nephew had in Africa last summer. He came face to face with a demonic force and was so terrified that he stayed up all night praying. The comment was made that we don't see spiritual warfare here in the USA like they do in other places.
This has had me thinking all morning.
No, we don't experience spiritual warfare here in the States like they do elsewhere, but that is not because there is none going on. When someone like my nephew spends a summer as a missionary in Africa, his focus is on Christ and only Christ; His prayer life is rich; he is dependent on God's provision; he looks for any opportunity to share the love of Christ; he is completely separated from distractions like television, cell phone, laptop, etc...how very different from how we spend most of our days here in the States. How often do we stay up all night praying for God's protection against Satan and his minions? Truth be told, most days we are no threat to Satan. Most days. we are too busy living our lives to threaten his plans for anyone's eternity. I truly believe that we would see Spiritual warfare unleashed in full force if we, as Christians, made the commitment to live like missionaries. I believe it strongly enough that I admit I am hesitant to do so. I have in the past and suffered greatly. While I know that ultimately the Battle is the Lord's, I also know that no battle is without it's wounded.
All this is just a simple reminder of the importance of the battle....
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of
God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.  Ephesians 6:10-13

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are you giving a carrot or a horse?

Sometime over the past year, I read the following illustration by Charles Spurgeon.....
“Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing. But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
The gardener gave me the carrot, you gave yourself the horse…
I have been reminded of this principle time and time again. When I find myself upset with someone's lack of appreciation or lack of acknowledgment for something I have done, that still small voice asks me "Did you give / do that for that person or for yourself?" If I am upset, it is almost certain that I gave / did it for my own gain.
We are to give selflessly and sacrificially just as God gives.
How does God give?
 “He who did not spare he own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” Romans 8:32
I don't know about you, but I am a work in progress. Thankfully, I am aware of this and have learned to ask myself if I am giving a carrot or a horse. That silly question helps me check my heart and my motives.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mission New Orleans 2014

Last week I spent time in New Orleans with 45 members of my church family. We worked with Suburban Baptist Church and spent time ministering to the homeless community. The picture above is most of our group with some of the Youth from Suburban Baptist. I suppose I will be writing about this trip for several days, as things come to me. For now, let me say that it was a wonderful experience. My heart was broken, my soul encouraged, and my faith in God's plan and purpose renewed.
I can't express how exciting it is to work alongside my children and the rest of these amazing children and teens!
Below is a picture of us getting ready to deliver bags to the homeless community. The drawstring bags were donated by one of our church members. They contained a New Testament, a sandwich, a bottle of water, a pack of crackers, chap stick, sun block, a new pair of socks, a clean t-shirt, a bar of soap, a tooth brush and toothpaste, a pack of Kleenex, and some peppermint candy. It was beautiful to see those bags in the hands of so many people all over Jackson Square when we were done!
It always amazes me that God can do so much with just a small effort on my part. If I seek Him in the slightest way, He reveals Himself to me. If I look for just a glimpse of His hand at work, He opens my eyes to the majesty of His creation. If I make the smallest effort to see humanity through His eyes, He breaks my heart for our utter  brokenness.
I am eternally grateful for the privilege to serve such a mighty God!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't give up!

I love the saying "if you don't like the weather in the south, just wait a little bit...it will change".  The same is true for most anything.

The question is not whether or not something will change, but whether or not we will hang on until it does.

One of my favorite "go to" Bible verses is Exodus 14:14. The Israelites have escaped slavery in Egypt. They are standing on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian Soldiers closing in behind them. They are trapped and all looks quite hopeless. Moses tells the people. "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still".
Sure enough, God parts the Red Sea, the Israelites walk across on DRY land, and, as they reach the safety of the far shore, God releases the waters and drowns the Egyptians that were chasing His people. Wow. Of ALL the things that the Israelites imagined God might do to save them, I bet no one guessed he would part the sea!

Another favorite go-to verse is Psalms 121:3(b), "The one who  watches over you does not sleep."  The picture of God watching over me gives me such comfort.

Sometimes we need be still and let the LORD fight for us. Other times we need to trust Him to watch over a troubling situation so that we can get some much needed rest.

The Bible is full of stories of people who faced troubling times and did not give up. How tragic it would have been if:
  • Moses' mother had simply thrown her hands up in desperation when Pharaoh decreed that all male babies be killed. story of Moses's birth
  • David had given up on life because he'd sinned against God and his life was falling apart. David's fall
  • Noah had been overwhelmed by what God asked of him and succumbed to anxiety. Noah's story
  • Joseph was too devastated by Mary's apparent betrayal to be a father to Jesus. Joseph's story
There are so many others...what if the Disciples had given up hope after Jesus was crucified? What if Peter had succumbed to despair and depression after denying Christ 3 times? What if Saul had wallowed in regret and despair after Christ revealed Himself on the Road to Damascus? I wonder what story of redemption could have been told through the life of Judas...if he hadn't hung himself.
My point is this...life is hard. There are definitely times that we feel like giving up. BUT when we give up, we end our story in the worst part. Hang in there. Give God time to change things...to change YOU. Rest in knowing that He is in control. Trust Him even when things look bad and life doesn't make sense. The Bible is full of folks who hung on through the tough times.
If you give up, you won't know what God had in mind for the end of your story...and neither will anyone else.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MY God....

Yesterday my mind was on how we turn things that remind us of God into idols.

Today, I remembered another aspect of "images of God" that we discussed last week in Sunday School. Not only are we not to create images of God, but included in that command is to not create our own image of God. Let me give you an example...

My friend is engaged to be married. She says that sex before marriage is okay because they are in love and are going to get married. She says that God knows her heart and that He understands. Besides, "marriage" is just a sheet of paper.

The fact of the matter is, God forbids sex outside of marriage. Period.

There are other things that we as Christians do and say to modify God to meet our needs. Can you think of any?
My God understands my situation....
My God knows my heart....
My God made me this way....
My God knows the circumstances that lead up to my decision....
My God would not allow more than you can bear....
My God.....

We sin. That is a fact. We live in a broken world full of sinful people and bad things happen, even things that are too much for us to bear apart from Christ. This isn't going to change this side of Heaven.

To accept that I sin and ask forgiveness for my sin is one thing. To deny responsibility for my sin by altering my perception of God so that I believe He overlooks my sin or even makes allowances for my sin is all together different. It goes completely against the character of God to say that He will tolerate or permit any sin.  He takes sin so seriously that He sent Jesus to be crucified to atone for our sin.

God does understand our situations and he does know our hearts, but He did not make us this way. He created mankind to be perfect, but He understands the sinful world we have created and the circumstances that lead up to the sinful decisions we make. Still, they are sinful decisions and He knows the penalty we must pay for our sin and that this is more than we can bear, so He sent Christ to pay that penalty for us. He understands that sin separates us from Him and will never condone thoughts, words, or actions that lead to the heartache and consequences that are attached to sinful behavior.

MY God loves us too much to condone any behavior that will separate us from Him.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Idols and Images

Do not make an idol for yourself in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.   You must not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands. Deuteronomy 5:8-10

THANKFULLY,  this is a commandment that most of us can just overlook. I know that I am not going to make a little statue of a bird, cow, or even a man and worship it, and
I've always been rather harsh in my judgment of the Israelites concerning their worship of the golden calf. (you can read about it here) Until last week, I thought that they had turned their back on God and chosen instead to worship a calf...who would do that?? As usual, there is more to the story than I first believed.
The Israelites  simply wanted something to focus their worship on since Moses was MIA. (Moses was on Mt Sinai getting the 10 Commandments from God.) They were afraid and were seeking God's strength. Initially, they worshiped the calf as a representation of the One True God... not a separate god.
I'm going to stop there and leave you to research the event and the speculation surrounding it for yourself.
My point is this....The Israelites did not intend to worship a bull instead of God. They initially worshiped the bull as a representation of God.
In light of this, the 2nd Commandment is maybe not one we can just overlook. While I am sure that few, if any, Christians would worship some "thing" other than God, would we by chance unintentionally worship some "thing" that represents God to us?
It is a valid question.
A precious, God fearing, Christ loving friend of mine carries a cross with her when she speaks to groups. It is called a Clinging Cross and fits nicely in the palm of your hand.
She told me on more than one occasion that she will not attempt to speak in public without her cross because it reminds her that this is all about God, that He is with her, that He is the source of her strength and that He gives her the words to say. I have to wonder if this is much different than what the Calf was for the Israelites.  In the beginning, my friend received the cross as a gift...a reminder of God's love for her. Over the course of a few years, she grew to depend on the cross, feeling that she "must" have it with her in order to speak. She did not realize that she had grown to put more faith in the actual cross than in the God it represents.
Are there representations of God in your life that you value, treasure, protect, even worship more than God Himself?
Do you have an item, like my friend's cross,  that represents God?
Do you have to be in a certain location to worship God?
Do you have to listen to or sing certain music to worship God?
Do you seek the words of a person (pastor, Sunday school teacher, parent, friend) rather than seeking God's Word?
God is enough. He is with you always. He is all knowing and all powerful. We do not need to attach things to Him in order for Him to be real to us. We only need to seek HIM.