future

A to Z: Overcoming Through Death

Death

a : a permanent cessation of all vital functions : the end of life b : the cause or occasion of loss of life

c : a cause of ruin
d: the state of being dead
: the passing or destruction of something inanimate

To say one can overcome through death appears to be the ultimate of oxymorons.  Death implies an end of power,  intellect, ability, and opportunity. When life leaves our soul, the opportunity to overcome exits with it, or does it?

Because I have been cleansed through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, I believe death is but the beginning of truly living and the ultimate act of overcoming. The day I confessed that Jesus Christ was Lord, yielding my life to Him, I died and yet the same instant I was reborn.

When I was buried with Christ, the chains of sin were broken, and the grip of death and damnation defeated. I am a new creation no longer bound by the law that both mandated my ruin but also guaranteed it. “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies” wasn’t just an unrealistic command, it was a gift and ability won for me at great expense.

Because of His death and my death, I can go to bed every evening, and reflect upon my day, my actions, my failures, and my successes and be filled with hope instead of depression. Each day is an opportunity to overcome. I may stumble along the way, and fail in an area I am striving to master, but with my eyes to heaven I know I am being transformed every day into his likeness.

I look forward to the day heaven and earth pass away, bringing with it the final death-blow to imperfect and corrupted flesh. On that day the need to overcome will come to an end, for I shall see Him face to face and be righteous even as He is Righteous.

   What shall we say then?

Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus

were baptized into his death?

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,

in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead

by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

Lottery Tickets and Life Lessons

How A lottery Ticket changed My Life! …………

Actually, it was the absence of a lottery ticket that changed my life…………….

I was standing in line at a local store, with my head in the clouds when the cashier abruptly asked “So are you buying a ticket?” It took a few seconds for his question to register, but the moment it did, a host of memories flooded my brain. The clerk was referring to the $600,000,000+ mega millions jackpot to be drawn Friday, but I was thinking back to one of the most vivid memory I have of my childhood.

I was out alone with my dad, and without explanation he looked down at me and exclaimed, “Jody, I want you to promise me that you will never buy a lottery ticket.” Lottery tickets ment nothing to me, so without hesitation, I made a promise that I believe altered the course of my life. Years later, I asked my dad what compelled him to ask me to make that promise and to this day, not only can he not tell me why, but he also can’t remember the incident.

When I made that promise, I barely understood what a lottery ticket was, and I most assuredly never felt the urge to buy one. With all my heart, I believe that day my heavenly Father stirred the heart of my earthly father to make that request, in order to protect me from a weakness neither of us knew I would have years down the road. Every time I pass an instant lottery machine, I think of that day. Every time I see a lottery grow and a frenzy erupt, I remember the promise I made to my dad and I praise the Lord for the gift of a parents spiritually prompted intuition. Now, thirty-seven years later, I have kept my promise and passed the story along to my kids. I have not asked them to make the same promise to me, I have never felt the Spirit leading me to do so but we have had many discussions about the foolishness of gambling and how destructive it can be. When we exit our local Drug Mart, often I will hear one of my kids exclaim to the others, “never put your money in that machine, it’s just like throwing it in the trash.” I feel no embarrassment, and I have never told them to be quiet because I know the lesson of the lottery machine trash can will be engraved into their heads, and that they will remember mommy’s story when they are tempted to part with their own hard-earned cash.

As parents, we can’t guarantee sin free, addiction free kids, by insisting they make a string of promises and vows to us, guaranteeing upright moral living, but we can vigilantly seek wisdom and direction from the Lord for each precious life he has given us. Parenting isn’t a mechanized process. My father never asked my sister or brother to make the same vow he did of me. My father never asked me to make promises to flee other sins I did struggle with as a teen and young adult. I do not know what compelled him to ask what he did, but my prayer is that the Lord would give me the same wisdom and insight for my kids. My time of teaching and instructing, protecting and building is quickly passing. Their eternity is in His hands, but He has seen fit to make me an instrument to be used to shape and mold them in preparation for the future that He has ordained for them from the beginning of time.

I pray the Lord continues to patiently mold and transform me into His likeness so that my kids see Him in me. As Gary Thomas so eloquently and wisely wrote, the purpose of my life, marriage, and family is to make me holy, not happy. My husband and I are responsible, not simply to make our kids happy, succesful, and without need, but to help maintain a sensitive heart that is willing to submit to the transforming power and authority of the Holy Spirit so He can make them holy, through God’s grace and mercy.

Will you join me and cry out to the Lord of Wisdom for wisdom? Will you choose daily to die to yourself in order to serve, teach, and train your children. May our hearts and minds be ever filled with the whispering of the Spirit. May the silence of His voice be deafening, quickly bringing our hearts and focus back to Him and the purpose and callings he has given to us through our children.

The Purpose of Pain

Why Is There Pain?

Have you ever heard a story that goes something like this?

While getting dressed one morning, a woman in perfect shape notices a seemingly insignificant mole on her skin that doesn’t look normal. Although she can’t remember the last time she had any health concerns, she schedules a Dr. Appointment to get the sore checked out. The woman’s life is shattered a few days later when she is informed she has melanoma. The disease has spread throughout ther body and though she appears healthy and feels fine, the prognosis is grim, she is dying.

Death is cruel, but a disease that eats at the body, silently stealing the precious life of the unsuspecting victim seems even more ruthless. No normal human enjoys pain. Our first reaction when we feel it is to recoil away from its source. The Creator made us this way as a means of physical preservation. Though pain is unpleasant, it becomes an alarm that captures our attention demanding change. When our physical bodies suffer, we immediately want to know what is wrong and how we can fix the problem. Without pain, our bodies would be broken and overcome before we ever had a chance to live. In this bizarre sense, Pain is a blessing.

In medicine, pain is approached in a methodical manner. Doctors look at symptoms, environment, and other factors to determine its source. They don’t simply treat the pain, they search for its origin.

When I broke my wrist, I told the Doctor I was playing basketball, was fouled making a jump-shot, and then broke my fall with my hand, which had absorbed the impact of my body when it hit the ground. With that information gathered, my pain was no longer the focal point. The Doctors focus shifted to the source of my pain, a bulging, disfigured, purple, swollen wrist. The doctor did not try to rid my wrist of the blue hue by applying makeup. He did not use a knife to cut the grotesque bulge away. He did not simply hand me medicine to make my brain and pain receptors oblivious to the discomfort. His job was to go as deep into the anatomy of my wrist as possible pinpointing the source of the pain, so he could fix what was wrong. In my case it was a broken ulna. Once the diagnosis of a break was made, a splint was not put on my foot, balm was not rubbed on my chest. The doctor did not sever the nerves in my wrist and arm so I could not sense the pain caused by the break. The goal was not to rid me of the pain but to deal with its source. The wisdom of the Doctor reasoning was this, “Fix the break and eventually you will get rid of the pain.” My wrist was straightened, the bone was set, and my entire arm from elbow to knuckles was wound inside a protective cast to protect and keep it immobile. I was given a sling, a list of do’s and don’ts, and four weeks later I walked out of the Dr. office with a weak, but perfectly healed wrist.

What Do I Do With My Pain?

Have you ever been held captive by any of the emotions below? Do you relate to any of them right now?

Lonelinees, Fear, Rejection, Sadness, Betrayal, Confused, Discouraged, Insignificant, Invisible, Rejected, Unimportant, Misunderstood, Angry, Worthless, Guilty, Forgotten, Powerless, Weak, Terrified, Skeptical, Violated, Taken Advantage of, Imprisoned, Unloved, Unwanted, Untrusting, Cynical, Cheated…..

All these are pains that torment our souls. As Beth Moore illustrated in her book, “Get Out of that Pit”, sometimes these pains are the result our own sinful actions. Sometimes they are wounds viciously inflicted at the hand of another. Other times they are the result of innocent decisions we have made.

No matter which emotions oppress and crush your heart, there is a reason for the pain, and there is a liberating hope and power at your disposal. It does no good to bury the pain, or to distract ourselves from an oppressive emotion. We can not swap out relationships, activities, and pursuits to find freedom. This pseudo releif from our pain is only a temporary respite. This season of quietness will only last until the disease we have ignored grows larg enough to destroy even those things capeable of still bringing joy, pleasure, and happiness.

When our hearts are broken, our spirits overwhelmed, and our emotions smothering us in a pit we can’t escape, there is but one thing to do, run to the Great Physician. Fall into the arms of your Abba Father, your Daddy. There is a purpose in the pain. There will be an end to the sorrow. Beauty will arise from the ashes. Pain screams there is a problem and the pain demands action.

Over the next few weeks I would like to focus on the topic of pain, it’s source, its purpose, and its cure. I know so many single women struggling with loneliness and the fear they will be alone for the rest of their lives. I am overwhelmed by the number of wives reeling and incapacitated by the pain of betrayal. Our churches are filled with brothers and sisters so weary from battle they wonder if there will be anything left, anything worth fighting for.

Merrit from Livesimplylove, will be joining us in our series about overcoming pain, and I am excited about other guests who have graciously agreed to share on this blog. If you are struggling with loneliness, fear, rejection, loss, or any other pain please feel free to ask questions. If you have been through a dark valley and the Lord has brought you through would you consider sharing your story or insight? If you have blogged on this topic please leave a comment with a link to your site. If you wouold like to guest blog on this topic please let me know and I will put you on the schedule.

My February giveaway will include some amazing books I have read which focus on overcoming the pain in our lives. Stay tuned for the start of the giveaway.

As you go, consider this promise, from God, the Righteous, the True, the Faithful.

Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

Presuming upon the Future……

Presuming upon the Future

In his book Seeking the Face of God, Gary Thomas recounts the story of William Nelson, a general serving in the Union Army during the Civil war. As he reposed in comfort, in a place seemingly safe and sheltered from the dangers of battle, this man found himself facing the reality of death, when an errant bullet entered into his his body draining in mere minutes the days, years, and a future life which up to that point he had presumed upon. In that moment, Thomas asks that we ponder the one final and desperate plea this man made when he realized his life was seconds away from ending, “Send for the clergy man; I wish to be baptized.” Caught unexpectedly at the gate of eternity, this man realized he had but a few precious seconds to accomplish all that mattered most in his life, and at that moment, everything took a back seat to preparing his heart to meet his maker.

In Psalm 90:12, A chapter in my Bible titled “A prayer of Moses, the man of God”, Moses implores “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” , and in James 4:14 James warns “Whereas ye know not what be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth way.” The truth about life is that in lite of eternity, our days on earth are limited and few, but even more important, their number is not guaranteed. Death isn’t a respecter of persons coming only for those who accomplished their fair share of success, wealth, purpose, or happiness, It snatches the old and the young, the “important” and the “insignificant”, the weak and the strong, The only restraint death knows comes from the hand of God and as scriptures says “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Heb 9:27 only God knows the day and hour.

As I read “Seeking the Face of God”, I was struck by the truth that often times we presume upon our future supposing we have years and even decades yet at our disposal and we live our life accordingly. Our priority’s are flipped upside down and we squander the day we live in assuming we have tomorrow in which to make it right. Thomas points out that “It is the only the denial of death that allows us to continue rebelling against God. It is only because we are presuming on some future time to set things right that we ever consider letting them go wrong.”

With balance and truth, we must consider this thought. As it is irresponsible of us to not allow the reality of our future and promised eternity to influence the present day in which we live, it would be just as irresponsible of us to stop providing for our family, caring for our body, paying bills, going to work……. thinking “what’s the use tomorrow I may die.” We have to place our dutys and responsibilities, our physical/worldly callings, as well as our spiritual calling in light of the fact that today may be our last opportunity to get “it” done, to do “it” right.

As a twenty seven year old single woman, I wish I had come across this truth. I have to confess that as I fought to trust the Lord, my focus was on a future I both longed for and feared. By this I mean I focused upon something I desired, expected, and presumed (most days) I would eventually get- Marriage. At the same time however, I was immobilized by a fear that kept me from gleaning all I could from each day the Lord gave me, fearing that one wrong choice or action would close that door of marriage forever. I was focusing on the future, but not far enough into the future and not upon a truth or calling capable of motivating, fulfilling, empowering, or convicting me like I needed. I had no idea if marriage was indeed a calling the Lord was going to grant me, but there was another calling he had given “Be ye holy, even as I am Holy” I Pet 1:16

If you are a woman, who like me looks(looked) for guidance and direction as you travel the uncertain road of singleness (or insert whatever season you are in) wondering if you are headed in the right direction, adequately preparing for what lies ahead, let me encourage you to take stock of where you have allowed your gaze to linger and fall upon. If your gaze is where it should be, upon “Eternity”, and reaching the place where you are prepared to meet Christ without any regrets or shame, all else will fall in line. If every decision, opportunity, fear, failure & triumph is viewed in the context of the death of my flesh and my transformation into the presence of Christ I can be confident I will respond, recover, and wisely make the right decisions. If I dare to ask moment by moment whether what I am doing prepares me spiritually to meet Christ or instead diminishes my impact for Christ and impoverishes my spiritual calling, then I will find the wisdom to make the right decisions and motivation to do what is not only best for me, but for others, and for Christ..

Our eminent death can empower us with great motivation and resolve or we can ignore the truth of the uncertainty of life, and find ourselves utterly shocked and filled with regret and shame when one day soon we realize heaven looms just minutes or seconds away.
Matthew 6:34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Learn to shed the cares, concerns, worries, and trifles that do nothing to usher you closer to the presence of God and the finish line he has appointed for you to cross. Ask for wisdom to discern between “the Needful” Luke 10:42 which can not be taken from you, and the trivial and hollow distractions that will blind you from seeking and finding the face of God where you can bask in the peace and power of his presence.
Phillippians 3:10
That I may know Him,
And the power of His resurrection,
And the fellowship of His Sufferings,
Being made conformable unto His death.


References:
SEEKING THE FACE OF GOD by Gary Thomas (Harvest House Publishers 1999)
Scripture quotations were taken from the KJV Bible