Lazy Christianity

wake_upContinued from here.

The reason that so many Christians are living in defeat is that they are spiritually lazy. Priscilla Shirer says that God does not place His blessings directly into our hands. Instead, He puts them in our reach. We must reach – stretch ourselves – to grab hold of them. Thus, numerous Christians are living in day-to-day defeat because they are unwilling to stretch themselves and develop the muscles needed to reach the blessings. How God’s heart must break to see our deliverance hanging overhead but never grasped because we refuse to engage in spiritual disciplines and awaken long enough to see the deliverance that is within our reach.

The enemy is happy to continue playing soft lullabies to lull us into a state of spiritual sleep. As long as we are asleep to the realities of the spiritual world, he need not fear God’s children. A sword left in its sheath does not provide protection.

So, stop being a lazy Christian and WAKE UP! God did not place you where you are to take a long nap. He placed you there to accomplish a Kingdom purpose, and you need to WAKE UP to do it! Wake yourself up by DOING WHAT GOD TELLS YOU TO DO.

In which area of your life are you struggling the most? What does the Bible say to do about it? Then DO IT!! Is your heart broken in two? God says to pray for the person you broke your heart and forgive him or her. As you do this, you’ll receive the healing you seek. Is your bank account empty? God says to tithe, and he will open the floodgates of heaven into your life.

The Bible is a weapon – a sword! – that empowers you to break free from all that ensnares you, but your sword isn’t going to do you any good while it’s sheathed. Pull it out. Meditate on God’s Word. Do what the Bible tells you to do, and WAKE UP!!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace playing a drum and yelling, “Wake up!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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How to Keep your Joy and Peace during Spiritual Warfare

this_is_not_happeningContinued from here.

I’m not sure I am fully qualified to write on this particular topic, but I’m making headway, so I’ll give it a shot. The bottom line is that I either trust God or I don’t, and the tests he allows in my life – spiritual warfare that seeks to distract me and prevent me from making progress for the Kingdom of God – show Him whether or not I am ready for promotion. While most of us want to do big things for God, He is kind in not promoting us to doing big things for Him until after we have proven ourselves faithful in little things. If I cannot hold onto my joy & peace and trust that God is in control when my printer stops working, I’m not going to be able to do so when I am publicly persecuted for following God. The tests He allows into my life are not to “punish” me – they are to determine my level of maturity. Until I can be faithful in smaller things, God is not going to entrust me with bigger things.

What does it mean to be faithful through God’s tests? I believe there are many layers to this question. Interestingly, I tend to do well with the hardest tests but fail at the easier ones. For example, Meyer said that two of the most difficult tests are (1) whether you will continue devoting daily one-on-one time with God, no matter what; and (2) whether you will continue forgiving those who hurt you. I have learned both of these lessons very well and have passed them with flying colors. I would add a third that I don’t recall her mentioning in that sermon: whether you will continue to follow God even when mountain after mountain blocks your way. I continually told God that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how many mountains I encounter, and no matter how little sense any of this journey makes, I will continue to obey Him. I need Him to remove some of the mountains to make this possible to do, but I will never, ever stop giving all I have to obey Him.

However, I struggled with some of the smaller tests within those bigger ones. I did not remain joyful and peaceful. I was tempted to complain, although I did less complaining than I used to do. I was tempted to feel sorry for myself rather than focus on God, although I did this less than I used to. So, did I pass this test or fail? I guess I’ll know for sure when the next test rolls around!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace spinning in a vortex and saying, “This is not happening.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Dealing with Spiritual Warfare

viseLast week was a difficult one for me spiritually. To be honest, the last two years have been tough. Ever since we learned in March 2016 that our son needed major back surgery, my life has been filled with one pounding after another. I have no question that this is all spiritual attack. What I do question is when it will ever end!

The purpose of this blog series is not to whine about my problems. Instead, I want to give you a snapshot into what spiritual attack looks like in the life of a believer so you will recognize it when this is happening in your life and so you will have some tools to fight back.

I’m going to give you a glimpse into my life from last week, which you might find amusing since it’s not happening to you. I assure you that none of it felt amusing as I was living through it! Also, I am only sharing one snapshot. I had already been enduring spiritual attack from multiple directions and in much more difficult ways before these events unfolded.

My husband felt strongly about my not participating in a ministry-related endeavor, which is my job that I have no question that God has called me to. I prayed for God to show me how to balance submitting to my husband in everything while being obedient to God’s call in this ministry. I awoke the next morning with a milder version of my husband’s cold. When I tried to print an email on my personal computer, my email program crashed. I tried to fix the program and got a new error that I couldn’t find a solution for online. After I repaired the program, I ran into software registration issues. Once those were resolved, I got the email program open, but when I opened my last backup, none of my electronic to-do list had been saved – I lost a year’s worth of electronic to-do’s that I rely on in my personal life, despite backing them up multiple times.

I logged into work, and anything I tried to print came out illegible. Then, my work computer froze up. I could only “unfreeze” it by unplugging it, and it made scary sounds when it booted back up. After work, I received a package for an electronic device I had been waiting for. I set it up, and it simply stopped working. I decided to drive to a local store that is two miles away to exchange it, but that turned into an 8-mile drive because the main road was closed down for an unexpected reason, and I had to get to the other side of that road to get to the store.

None of what I just wrote about is earth-shattering, but the succession of one obstacle after another can be very frustrating and distract my attention from what God has called me to do, which is the point of spiritual warfare. I had a choice to make – would I allow this series of frustrations to steal my joy and peace?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her head in a vise. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Maturity Series Wrap Up

doneContinued from here.

I have a feeling that this blog series might have stepped on some toes. To quote a pastor I respect, before God steps on your toes through what I write on this blog, He clobbers me with it first. Everything I have shared in this series is what God has taught me over the years, and I certainly don’t do it perfectly. I fall, and then I get up, and then I fall again. I tell God that I am not capable to living as He commands me to live, so I am fully dependent upon Him to empower me to do so. Otherwise, I will keep falling. And then I get up and try again.

To quote Beth Moore, I learned all I have written on a “field trip,” which is much harder than reading about someone else’s experiences and making changes without God messing with my circumstances. I have had to learn much of what God has taught me the “hard way.” This blog is my gift to you so you can learn through reading what I learned through experience.

Far too many Christians want just enough of God to avoid going to hell when they die. Eternal life with God is not the only reason Christ died for us – He came to restore us into relationship with God, and that starts now, not after we die. There’s not much attractive to those who are separated from God when we don’t transform into Christ’s image. Perpetually immature Christians don’t seem much different from the World around them other than going to a church service on Sundays.

If the Church would grow up into Christlikeness, many more people would be attracted to God. The Body of Christ needs to stop behaving like self-centered children and, instead, grow up into a “mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:15). I’m not claiming that becoming a disciple of Christ is easy, but it is simple. It happens by saying, “Yes, Lord,” and doing what God says to do in the Bible, regardless of how we feel about it and regardless of what anyone else thinks. Relatively few people choose to live as true disciples of Christ, but those who do are blessed beyond measure as they become a blessing to others.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace clapping her hands and saying, “Done and Done.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Mature People Disciple Others

need_an_adultContinued from here.

The most spiritually mature people disciple others. It’s no longer enough for them to grow in their own relationship with God – they deeply desire to help others grow as well. Spiritually mature people are not satisfied with a “selfish faith,” keeping the wonders and riches of an intimate relationship with God to themselves. They want others to experience this as well!

Because spiritually mature people have grown from being self-absorbed spiritual children to adulthood, they are able to recognize someone else’s level of spiritual maturity and guide them gently toward the next step in deepening their relationship with God. Speaking the truth in love, they guide less mature Christians to grow up and mature in Christ. This is what it means to fulfill the Great Commission, which were Jesus’ last instructions before ascending into heaven:

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” ~ Matt. 28:18-20

While some people believe the Great Commission is only about converting people to Christianity, it runs so much deeper than that. Jesus didn’t say to get people to accept him as Savior so they can avoid going to hell when they die. Instead, he said to “make disciples” and to teach them to obey God. That’s the Great Commission to all of us, and it’s our responsibility as we mature spiritually to care about the spiritual maturity of others. How will they learn to grow up in Christ without others teaching them how to do so?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “I need an adult.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Mature People Value God’s Opinion Over Everyone Else’s

carContinued from here.

Following God’s ways is not always popular, even among fellow Christians. As an example, when I share with fellow Christians that I no longer speed when I drive, they look at me like I have two heads, much in the same way that someone without a faith in God would. I don’t speed because God tells us to obey governing authorities. If the governing authority has determined that 35 MPH is the maximum speed limit for a four-lane divided road, I don’t have to agree with that determination, but I do have to obey it. If I don’t, I am not only disobeying the governing authority, but I am also disobeying God. It may be true that the governing authority really does not care and will not punish me for driving 38 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, but God cares. If He didn’t, He would not have told us in his Word to obey governing authorities, or He would have said to obey only when we agree with the decision.

My family mocks me for driving the speed limit, and some of my friends are downright annoyed by it, insisting on doing the driving so they can arrive at our destination faster. I don’t let others’ opinions sway me because only one person’s opinion matters, and that’s God. As long as He is pleased with my obedience, it really does not matter what anyone else thinks of my choices.

It took me a long time to reach this place of being at peace in situations where nobody other than God seems to agree with my decisions because I used to be a world-class people pleaser. I used to ask 5 people for advice before making any decisions because I had no confidence in myself. I deeply cared about other people’s opinions of me. Today, only one opinion matters. Interestingly, since I stopped caring about what other people think of me, others seem to like me better! But even when they don’t, I’m OK with that because only God’s opinion matters.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritually Mature People Don’t Let Their Feelings Drive Their Actions

godzillaContinued from here.

This area of spiritual maturity has been a real uphill battle for me … like climbing a cliff! Because of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from severe childhood abuse, my brain can flood me with all sorts of negative feelings without warning. I have learned over the years that when I allow those feelings to drive my actions, I’ll find myself at the bottom of an emotional pit, which is where I lived most of my adult life while I was a spiritually immature person. The only way for me to avoid living my life in an emotional pit is to choose obedience to God over what I feel.

Let me give you an example – I called my husband while he was driving home to ask him a question. He had a rough day at work and was irritable on the phone. My feelings were like the Greek sirens beckoning me to take a trip down memory lane of all the times in the past he was unfairly irritable with me. I know from many years of experience where this would have gone … I would not have stopped with being angry and hurt with him – this would have led to me also recounting the many times when others in my life were unfairly irritable with me. I then would have noted that I was the common denominator in all of these situations, and that would have sparked my deep-seated fear that I am fundamentally unlovable, that nobody has ever really cared about me, and that there is something fundamentally wrong with me. That would lead to days, or even weeks, of depression and anxiety. In past years, it would also have led to self-injury and suicidal urges

Instead, I chose to listen to God instead of my feelings. God says to forgive those who hurt you, so I poured my feelings out to God and prayed for my husband. I chose to believe that God loves me exactly as I am, even when others might find me annoying. I told God I was unable to behave in obedience to Him without His intervention, so I needed Him to carry me through my interaction when my husband walked in the door. Ten minutes later, my husband walked into the house to a smiling, peaceful wife, and he immediately apologized. We had a pleasant evening, which would not have happened if I had allowed my feelings to drive my actions.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a Godzilla costume. Courtesy Bitmoji.]