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Accurate Perceptions

 

“What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.” 

A.W. Tozer 

I worked with a doctoral student while attaining my master’s degree in counseling and guidance. He came to my fourth grade classroom and taught the students how what we believe directly affects our feelings and actions. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 gives an example of how important it is to have an accurate perception of God. 

“But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (verse 18) Why did the one talent man bury his money, when the five and two talent men put their money to work? We can find the answer in verses 24b-25a. “‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.'” The entrusted servant’s impression of his master dictated his emotions and determined his actions. His thoughts directed his steps.  

I’m reading Brennan Manning’s “Abba’s Child.” In it, he writes that we sometimes “unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves. If we feel hateful toward ourselves, we assume that God feels hateful toward us.” Our misconceptions about God and ourselves cause a knee-jerk reaction in how we feel and what we do. 

If we’ve had a difficult relationship with our earthly Dad, we may think our heavenly Daddy is just like him. Satan tries to deceive us by distorting the truth about what God is like. If we believe lies about God and how He feels toward us, then we will act out of those beliefs. 

If I believe God is loving, kind, generous, and good, then I will trust Him and have an intimate relationship with Him. But if I believe God is demanding, harsh, and out to get me, then I will be afraid of Him and keep Him at a distance. When I believe lies, I glorify the enemy, but when I believe the truth found in the Word, I glorify the Lord. 

Whether we believe lies or truth, our beliefs will affect our relationship with God. And that is why it’s so important to have accurate perceptions. 

“The real tragedy of life is not in being limited to one talent, but in the failure to use the one talent.” 

Edgar W. Work 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. How have your beliefs about God affected your relationship with God? 
  2. Take a few minutes and write down your thoughts about God, who He is to you. What will you feel and do as a result of the lies or truth that you believe? 
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We Are What We Eat

 

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” 

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin – 1826 

I read the book “You Are What You Eat” several years ago. The book suggested if we eat good food, then we’ll be healthy. What we ingest has a direct correlation to how well we feel. What we put into ourselves comes out. Like the old computer adage implies, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” We will become whatever we feast on and put into ourselves. Input affects output. Galatians 6:7b says, “A man reaps what he sows.” 

The principal of sowing and reaping doesn’t just apply to food. What our eyes watch or read, what we listen to, and how we spend our time, each has an effect on our spiritual life. We become like the people we spend the most time with, so we need to choose our friends wisely. Where we place our affections and what has our attention, correlates to the health of our soul. 

Fasting helps break the control food has on me. When we want to weaken something, we starve it. If we struggle with fear, then we need to limit that which makes us more anxious – what we listen to, watch, or read. Likewise, the opposite is true. We feed what we want to strengthen and develop. If we want to build our faith, then we need to read biographies of men and women of faith and listen to testimonies which tones up our trust. 

We are all consumers. Everything we consume are like seeds planted inside of us and one day there will be a harvest. We choose what we want to harvest by the type of seeds we plant. We decide who we want to become, by intentionally planting that which will reap a good crop.  

Galatians 6:8-9 goes on to say: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” For the sake of our spirits, let’s be mindful with what we put inside of us. After all, we are what we eat.  

“We reap what we sow. Choose what you nourish carefully.” 

Anonymous 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. What seeds are you planting? 
  2. How has your harvest of who you’ve become, been a direct result of what you’ve sown? 
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Unsatisfied Passion

 

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” 

Charles Hadden Spurgeon 

I recently wrote about Mary of Bethany and how she was never in a hurry when she sat and listened to Jesus speak. Last week the Holy Spirit said, She couldn’t get enough of me. Mary was like a lovesick bride who lingered and delayed leaving God’s presence. 

When I first met my husband at the University of Arizona, we would meet at the Student Union in the morning to have bear claws and coffee. We met at the library with the intention of studying, yet little was accomplished. Instead, we filled our study time with asking a million questions in our quest to get to know each other. No matter how much time I spent with John, it was never enough. I wanted more.  

God loves it when we feel that way toward Him, when our passion for Him is never satisfied. The psalmist David described his lovesickness for God in Psalm 63:1. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” David’s intense longing for God was during a time of need when his enemies threatened his life.  

God allows our circumstances to get us to a point of desperation where we run to Him and fling ourselves onto His lap, for protection and provision. Bob Sorge writes, “…hardship produces desperation, which in turn produces intense intimacy.” On our first trip to the Brownsville revival, there was a woman lying on the floor, pounding her fists into the carpet and crying out to God over and over, “I have to have You!” It delights God’s heart when we’re desperate for Him, for He is a Bridegroom who enjoys taking care of His Bride’s deepest needs. 

I periodically ask the Holy Spirit to help me fall more madly in love with Him. Any depth of my intimacy with God was initiated by God. He woos me to Himself, holds my heart in His hands, and entices me to want more of Him. I never want my passion for God satisfied. May I always earnestly seek Him, even when I’m not desperate. 

“Let thy desire be the vision of God, thy fear the loss of Him, thy sorrow His absence, and thy joy in that which may take thee to Him; and thy life shall be in great peace.” 

Teresa of Avila 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. Describe a time when your desperation for God deepened your intimacy with God. 
  2. Ask God to cause you to fall more madly in love with Him, to the point you can’t get enough of Him. 
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The God Who Sees Me

 

“God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us as we are.” 

Tim Keller 

God has given me such grace for this time of transition. I’m not in any rush to discover why He sent us to Wichita, or where we best fit for His purposes. There is a level of peace and contentment within that can only be His doing. And yet, while waiting to see what God has up His sleeve for me, I’ve seen His faithfulness to answer prayer and fulfill what He has promised. Such as providing not one, but two churches, to attend. 

Often at the Saturday night ministry, the pastor will prophesy over people, as God directs him. A few weeks ago, the pastor asked John and me to come forward and to introduce ourselves and tell a little about us. We met the pastor two months ago, but he doesn’t know us. The pastor opened it up to the Body to pray for us and to minister encouragement through prophetic words. Then the pastor spoke a word that hit the bulls-eye mark within my heart. It was a Spirit-to-Spirit connection. More people approached us afterward to welcome us and share God’s heart with us. 

We left that evening feeling encouraged and embraced by the Body of Christ there. It was as if we entered that place unknown and left feeling known. God saw us and introduced us that night to some of His children. 

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories in Genesis, where Hagar, Abram’s servant, runs away because of being mistreated by her mistress, Sarai. Then “the angel of the Lord found Hagar” (Genesis 16:7). The angel gave instructions and a promise to Hagar. She named the Lord who spoke to her, El Roi. In Genesis 16:13 she says, “You are the God who sees me.” 

When we were introduced to the Body of Christ that Saturday night, our hearts were strengthened because we knew God saw us. He had not forgotten us in the midst of our move to Kansas. He is still working out His desires for us here and He did it by speaking to the pastor to prophesy over us.  

God sees you. You are never forgotten by God. You’re always remembered in His thoughts and plans. Place your trust in the One who’s got this and knows what He’s doing.  

“Faith is trusttrust that God sees what we cannot and that He knows what we do not.” 

Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

Relevant Reflection: 

In what situation do you need to be comforted by El Roi, the God who sees you? 

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Come to Me

 

“If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony with my real desires.” 

Oswald Chambers 

One of the most comforting passages in Scripture is Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” My heart is encouraged by these three verses. 

The pace of a busy life full of commitments, illness, a lack of sleep, emotionally strained relationships and the struggle with sin, can make us feel tired and overwhelmed. But our God, who is humble and gentle, desires to give us rest. He doesn’t require us to first repent and be cleansed from sin. God doesn’t say to eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. He doesn’t instruct us to reconsider all we’ve said yes to, or to get our relationships right, before we’re blessed with His rest. These things would benefit us, but all God demands is that we come to Him. We start by going to Him, just as we are. 

At first that may seem like a simple request, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Coming to Jesus requires humility and a teachable heart. Pride tends to say, I’ve got this. I can do it on my own. Besides, God doesn’t want me to come to Him when I’m struggling with sin. I have learned that is precisely the time God wants me to come to Him. Our heavenly Daddy is all about restoring relationship and deepening our intimacy with Him. He wants to come alongside of us, enlightening us with his wisdom to help us grow spiritually and emotionally. 

The first step I need to take in order to have my burdens relieved, is to go to Jesus. Jesus needs to be the knee-jerk response to my weariness. Climbing upon my Daddy’s lap is the primary way to experience rest. Then I need to take His yoke and be joined to Him, so I’m not carrying the burden all by myself. God wants to help bear my burden by taking one of the yoke, while I take the other. A shared yoke is a lighter yoke. 

Whatever burden you’re trying to carry in your own strength, humble yourself and lay it down, by going to Jesus. You’ll be so glad you did, as you receive rest for your weary soul. 

“The only way to know the strength of God is to take the yoke of Jesus upon us and to learn from Him.” 

Oswald Chambers 

Relevant Reflection: 

Spend time laying down your burden by climbing onto your Daddy’s lap and receive His rest. 

 

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The Art of Listening

 

“Listening means responding to what you hear.” 

Jennifer Dean 

The Lord has drawn me to become more like Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus’ feet. I’ve asked Him to show me what she looks like. A few weeks ago while praying, Holy Spirit whispered, She wasn’t in a hurry.  

He took me to Luke 10:39 and unpacked that statement. “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.” Mary sat. Sitting is a position of stability and waiting. She didn’t stand and listen as if she was ready to go on to the next thing on her to do list. Mary sat. She gazed and focused on Jesus. Mary wasn’t distracted by the good, but focused on the BEST, the words of God. 

Mary’s posture of sitting, displayed to Jesus that He had her full attention, much like when a parent squats down eye level to their child and holds their face in their hands. When that happens, the child knows their parent is listening and they have their complete attention.  

I confess, I’m not a good listener. I’m easily distracted by the next question I want to ask those I’m listening to and blurt out what I want to say, before I forget the thought. I hear their words, but my inattentiveness prevents me from remembering what they said.  

Mary of Bethany listened to remember. Listen means “to pay attention in order to hear.” Mary sat to listen in order to remember what Jesus said. When she recalled His words, then she could do what He talked about. Mary listened to obey. We hear, to heed. Hearing God’s voice proceeds obedience. We listen to Jesus speak to align our lives with His thoughts in order to do what He says.  

Mary wasn’t in a hurry. She sat to give her attention to the One who loved and accepted her the most: Jesus. Mary of Bethany listened to His words in order to remember them so she could obey them. Could we do anything less? 

“Before we can hear the Divine Voice we must shut out all other voices, so that we may be able to listen, to discern its faintest whisper. 

Mark Rutherford 

Relevant Reflections: 

  1. What is the posture of your heart, when you spend time with Jesus-sitting or standing? 
  2. Spend at least five minutes sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to remember His words in order to obey. 
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I Choose You

 

“We cannot have a change in behavior without a change in the way we think.” 

Steve Backlund 

Christmas celebrations have come and gone, but the pleasant memories still linger in my mind. One of my favorite Christmas songs is called “I Choose You” by Matthew West and Jayme Thompson. The lyrics are addressed to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Even though others saw her life as ordinary, God still chose her to bring the Savior into the world. “I have called you to leave your fears behind, to walk by faith and not by sight. Mary, I know it’s all a mystery, My hand is leading if you’ll only believe.” 

Like Mary, you may consider yourself ordinary, but God sees you as extraordinary, because you’re His child. God chose Mary to give birth to the Messiah, and He chose you to _______ in 2018. He’s given each of us an assignment-not because we’re worthy, but because of His worthiness. A few years ago, the Holy Spirit brought tears to my eyes when He whispered, You were created for greatness.  

Mary became the mother of the Son of God because she believed. She declared, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) What promises of God do you need to believe? What if we made New Year’s declarations, instead of New Year’s resolutions?  

Declarations build our faith and increase our anticipation to see God’s goodness. Our faith is determined by what we believe. But like a cold car that needs a jump start, declarations warm our faith up.  

I used to struggle with God’s call to write, thinking I wasn’t creative. Then I began to say out loud, “I am a creative writer because the Creative One lives in me.” Eventually, my head knowledge of that truth, dropped down into my heart and revelation turned to faith. 

Declarations help us to believe God has chosen us. When faith is released, we are then able to fulfill God’s destiny. Start 2018 by making New Year’s declarations and believe God’s promises for your life. He chose you for greatness! 

What we believe is the determining factor of whether our lives move forward or backward. We can have a ‘Super Christian‘ pray for us, but ultimately our own beliefs are the key to spiritual advancement.” 

Steve Backlund 

Relevant Reflection: 

Make a list of God’s promises for your life and declare them out loud. 

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