Sunday, 1 September 2013

Plugged in – Songs of praise (Psalm 146)

I plug in and connect to God in many ways. Currently through and online Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 ministries called Stressed Less Living, also with an email devotional called The Word for You Today and a Joyce Meyer devotional called Trusting God Day by Day. I also meet in a small group bible study on a regular basis and listen to my local Christian radio station. While each provide encouragement and relevant insight into my life and circumstances I find, that God often touches the depth of my heart through songs of praise which prompt me to go to His word and seek to get to know him better.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to grow in Christ and share my vulnerabilities with people after God's heart. Here is an example of revelation I received after one of my bible study group meetings.
It still amazes me that once I confess a fear outloud just how easily God renders it powerless and it loses its grip on my mind, heart and actions. Glory to God.

Following my confession that my fear of not belonging was hindering me from taking bold steps- no sooner home, God began unravelling the lie and revealing his truth...I do belong. I belong to him. To his kingdom. To his people. No need to long for belonging or fear not belonging. Glory to God.
Then when I woke up the next morning, I was already praising him with the following; “I am not home yet-this is not where I belong-take this world and give me Jesus-I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find” (lyrics to where i belong from building 429)

By the end of the day and my his grace alone his words finally sunk in and dropped the short distance from my mind to my heart- a process that doesn't always happen so quickly. Glory to God.
Finally, he revealed to me the assurance of belonging no matter where I am or who I am with because he has blessed me with an eternal perspective on belonging- my heart is filled with joy and anticipation for a hope and a future of belonging eternally; afterall, life on earth passes in the blink of an eye. Glory to God.

As I sought deeper understanding of this fear and confirmation for his word I came across the following

It was particularly interesting to read about the fear of my own potential then to go on and complete an exercise asking God to help me identify fears I have, lies I believe and shame I carry. Then I searched Scripture for truth and posted it on my fridge, mirror, at my desk and in the car so that I could call it to mind often and allow it to soak in my heart.
I am so thankful to God for his unrelenting faithfulness and for pouring his word into my spirit through the sweet sweet sound of music and lyrics. I pray that God reveals the truth of your fear this week and that by his grace you can walk freely and boldly through the things he is calling you.
In the meantime, I share with you other songs that have personally touched my life- the experience of which have created such powerful joyful memories that when I hear these songs I am reminded of God’s unconditional love, faithfulness and grace.  By your side – Tenth Avenue North (at a time in my life when I was heartbroken over a lost love) Seventh Day Slumber – I am not the same (as I prepared to live a stressed less life in my job and immediately prior to my water baptism)
2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. We won’t be shaken – Building 429 (following a decision to explore a different path in my career and to grow in my commitment to Christ and God’s purpose for my life)

Psalm 62:2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress (a place of safety where the enemy cannot follow) where I will not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 16:8 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Already There – Casting Crowns (when anxious thoughts began to take over despite proclaiming that I am free from worry and anxiety)      
“God is not bound by time as I am. All I see is the here and now and things often look random and out of control-God is standing at the end of my life looking back on it. Jesus will bring this world together for good- it makes no sense from here but we have to remember that Jesus is Already There.” Mark Hall Casting Crowns.  Jeremiah 29:11| Romans 8:28|Matthew 25:14-30| 2 Timothy 1:9

This last one also ties into my take away from Chapter 5 of Stressed Less Living by Tracie Miles:

“The truth is, no matter how strong we think our faith is, we can never live up to the standards and perfection of Jesus. We will never be able to handle stress with holiness as he did. We will never be immune to the temptation of reacting to stress in negative ways, but we can rest in knowing that Jesus understands our shortcomings.”

May you be richly blessed.


Testimony from a pure heart and steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10)

So what’s new? I am a living, breathing testimony of a transformed life.

Finally after years of struggling with worry, anxiety and seasonal depression I can confidently say by God’s grace I am free. I know without a doubt that God loves me unconditionally, that his promises are fresh each day that he is faithful and I am finally able to trust him in all the areas of my life.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing
and perfect. Romans 12:2

The Holy Spirit, whispered this verse to my heart almost a year ago, and it has been stirring in my spirit gradually revealing to me the importance of disciplining my mind, filling it with the gospel and God’s promises. After all, as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 “I am a believer, and the light of the gospel shines in my mind” or in 1 Corinthians 2:16 “…but we have the mind of Christ.” The life application bible also states that “only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates and redirects our mind are we truly transformed.”

So, (analytical person that I am) I began to wonder if I have the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit stirring in me why am I still consumed by worry and anxiety? Then in a message from Joyce Meyer, I learned that all things Christ like already dwell in us- in our spirit; it is my responsibility to develop it, nurture it and tend to it so that it can bear fruit. It is a process (difficult to accept for a reformed perfectionist such as myself) that requires daily practice, discipline, vulnerability to cry out to God and a willingness to persevere and not give up despite unbearable circumstances.

So I began the daily practice of renewing my mind with God’s promises particularly when stress (this bible study on Stressed Less Living is such a blessing), worry and anxiety continued to touch me and I persevered although nothing seemed to change in my heart.

Finally, in desperation I cried out to God – “take this from me”. I surrendered control and gave God the reigns. I even prayed for a move of God. However, in my flesh I chose to maintain the status quo being familiar and comfortable in what I knew so well despite the pattern of anxiety I had created and couldn’t get free from. So I continued to do what I felt comfortable doing, renewing my mind, praying and hoping that God would move.

In the meantime, on April 21st I took a step of obedience and was water baptized declaring publically that I would no longer waiver and that I was choosing in to Jesus and 100% committed to God's purpose in my life. It wasn’t until I took ownership/responsibility for the stress and anxiety that I created that God got involved and fixed it by the power of the Holy Spirit – this shift allowed me to see things differently and begin to think differently.

Although I don't know exactly what's next for me, I am at peace, trusting and relying on God to lead me. I am grateful that by his grace I have been released from stress, anxiety and worry. It is a miracle and with all certainty I know that this is God’s will not mine. I firmly believe that God will direct my path and open the right door for me to walk through in his perfect timing.

In the past year God has opened the eyes of my heart revealing to me the depth of his love, his promises and his everlasting faithfulness; showing me that nothing is possible without his intervention. Finally, I recognized the truth of the living God and chose to have a relationship with him instead of being strictly bound by religion and the law.

Now I see that all that is required of me is an intimate relationship with the living God, a step of faith and a commitment to continue living a transformed life.

On a final note, often when I study a scripture verse, I also cross reference with other similar verses to gain a better understanding of God’s commands and promises. Here is what I found in reference to Romans 12:2; Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. “ Colossians 3:10 “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Ephesians 4:23-24

Knowing that God’s commands are active is comforting and reassuring and removes anxiety and worry about getting it perfect from the get go. We truly serve a merciful God.

I encourage you to invite Jesus to be Lord over your life and spend time with Him every day. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you through every moment of your day. Then wait and see what he has planned for you.

Thank you for reading my first blog. May it provide encouragement and reassurance of God’s promises.

May you be richly blessed and honored with favor.
With a grateful heart, yours in Christ

All text between quotation marks are taken directly from the NLT Life Application Bible

Friday, 24 May 2013

To think is to create - what is in our minds determines what comes out in our words and actions (Phil 4:6-9)

This week in Tracie Miles study on Stressed Less Living I was encouraged to meditate on Phil 4:7 and God in his faithfulness brought to mind a teaching that I shared with my church group a few years ago and prompted me to look at this verse in context with the surrounding verses.(see below) 

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:6-9The Message (MSG)

I was reminded that worry is futile and that God actually commands us not to do it.

So why do we choose to do it anyway? In my case it was familiar, it became part of my self talk; helping me figure out the outcome brought a sense of control to the situation - looking back now I realize that it did not however bring peace and joy.
Then in May of last year, a dear friend of mine sponsored me to attend a weekend retreat that greatly accelerated my personal growth. During that weekend I discovered that I was operating on auto-pilot most of the time responding to life based on self-limiting beliefs that I created along the journey. Although I had heard from Joyce Meyer, Charles Stanley and others the importance of a disciplined mind I didn't understand why it was so important or how to achieve it (the analytical in me wanted more information and evidence). However, I did choose to trust God and attempt to discipline my mind filling it with scripture and forward moving thoughts and when life happened I was better prepared to deal with it.
Recently, I attended an emotional intelligence workshop which reminded me of what I already knew (taking me out of auto-pilot again) and provided the understanding I was looking for. The average person thinks over 67,000 thoughts per day and to think is to create so if I am not managing my thoughts one thought can easily trigger another thought and cascade my mind into a spiral of stinking thinking and before I know it I am speaking and acting from a place of doubt, insecurity and possibly fear.

So practically speaking how do we actively, consciously manage our thoughts?
In my case, it has been a progressive learning curve that started with scripture and evolved to looking for the opportunity for growth.
1) meditate and pray with scripture such as;
2 Tim 1:7 I have not been given the spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind
2 Cor 10:5 Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ
Phil 4:7 Focus on all that is lovely
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart and renew in me a steadfast spirit
2) resist, redirect and renew my thoughts by praising the Lord and thanking him, finding wholesome entertainment, turning to solving a different problem. When a stinking thought enters my mind I picture a STOP sign, take the thought captive in my hands and nail it to the cross then praise God for allowing me to consciously and actively manage it.
3) Practice positive unconditional regard towards others; show love at every opportunity, share my heart with others, be an encourager, smile, give of myself and watch the response
4) when change comes that may cause stress I acknowledge it, accept it, adapt and adjust as required choosing to look at the opportunities for growth instead of the negative possibilities. Focus on what is instead of what if allows me to creatively find solutions to life's problems. Besides God is greater than my circumstances and I can trust Him to get me through.

Just this morning, in my alone time when I was struggling to quiet my mind God revealed to me that it is impossible to focus on two thoughts at the same time. As a result, I chose to let go of the stinking thinking and picture myself sitting with Jesus. How refreshing to know that I can choose my thoughts.

I encourage you to take your dreams and desires to God in prayer believing that He is greater than your circumstances. He has shown me that I can do anything with Christ and that the effort required to take captive my thoughts is more than worth it. I don't expect to get it right every time but I am willing to practice focusing on good and pure thoughts to quiet my mind and live out God's purpose for my life. I am trusting that my his grace and gentle nudging it will get easier with time.

May you be richly blessed.

PS- Because words are concepts that can trigger different responses based on our experiences or personalities I appreciate which at the convenient click of a button can help me change translations and dig deeper into the meaning of God's Word in my life.

This mindmap has some useful word concepts that have helped me out of stinking thinking. (