Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Missing The Mark - Part 2

I have received permission from my friend to disclose any personal information she has shared with me. I will give you a little background of the conversations we were having, before I post the e-mail. Over the years we have discussed our struggles with people pleasing, trying to "Obey God" in our own strength, insecurity, judging others, etc. etc. The list can go on. We share everything. Often times we say, if anyone knew this stuff about us, they would think we were awful. We often times confess the motives of our hearts as to why we do the things we do - if we are even aware of those motives. We challenge each other to dig deeper into our hearts to search the things that God sees, and not just what WE WANT to see. The bible says in Jeremiah 17:9

"The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?"

So we have come to a place where we understand that we would be foolish if we thought we knew the motives behind our actions. The Bible is pretty clear here that the heart is deceitful and beyond cure. We understand that ONLY God understands the heart, so we fully trust that HE and only HE will reveal our sin to us - not others view of sin. We will use God's Word as the standard for revealing our sin and not others standards. We know this to be true and yet we still struggle with comparing ourselves to others (whether in a good way OR a bad way). That is a whole other journey the Lord has taken me on and has revealed many scriptures that have pierced my heart, but I do not want to stray too far off the topic of this post.

One particular day my friend called me to confess a sin she felt toward a friend. She confessed of her jealousy over something her friend was blessed with that she could not have. She confessed of the evil thoughts that she had toward her friend. She asked me why I thought it is so easy for our minds to go so astray and think such evil thoughts. I can tell this was really bothering her. Several days prior to this conversation, I had been thinking a lot about sin and my wheels were turning. I was really seeking and praying for God to shed His light on the truth of all this. The next morning I woke up with a flood of thoughts, and when that happens, I know it is God and typically I will journal those thoughts. I do not have anything worthy of writing unless I feel the Lord pressing something on my heart. My journals pretty much consist of writings of when I am extremely frustrated about something, or it is something the Lord had revealed to me - otherwise I feel I have nothing in me. So this particular morning, since the revelation had to do with my friends question, I decided to turn my journal entry into an e-mail to her and then print it out and staple it in my journal. This is the e-mail/journal entry from

April 18, 2007:

"The Lord has brought me to a new level of realization of my sin this morning (and I know it is only the tip of the iceberg). After thinking a little about what sin is and talking a little about it with (friends) last night, my mind was really challenged. I asked (friend) what he thought the definition of sin was, and he said he heard it once said, "Anything that falls short of the holiness of God". That's exactly what I was thinking. SO then if that is our definition, why do we categorize sin the way we do? Just like you felt yesterday about the evil thoughts you had about your friend, and how you were beating yourself up over it. Why do we beat ourselves up over that, but not about witnessing to someone when given the opportunity, or not praying, or reading the Bible, or maybe even just missing an opportunity to serve someone.

I checked out the definition of sin this morning in the Greek. Do you know what it is? It says, "Missing the mark (and so not share in the prize)." You know what that means? It means ANYTHING short of perfection is sin.

I had this awareness of my sin and it brought me to tears while I was praying. I just saw the pride of my past (and my present), to think that I'm not as sinful as I am.

I was thinking about your situation that we talked about yesterday with your friend and why we feel the guilt over stuff like that, and this is what came to mind: Satan wants us to feel guilt over those types of sins because he wants us to BELIEVE we are acting holy when we are not having those thoughts - when in actuality, there is NO part of the day that we are holy, not even if we are in church with our hands lifted high and singing in awe of God - we still miss the mark even then. I talked to Dave about it this morning and his first thought was that we're not ALWAYS sinning, like those times when we are worshiping, but I disagreed. I asked him if at that time of worship, is he loving the Lord with ALL his heart (and that love means loving others as well - love is patient, kind, not self-seeking, not boastful, keeps no record of wrong, etc.). In our flesh, even in those times when we are worshiping and serving, our hearts are still not holy, therefore we have missed the mark, and are sinful.

This verse came to mind:

Romans 12:3

"For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

This verse came to mind months ago, and I knew there was so much more to it than I was seeing. Today, those words jump off the page to me. I see how I have thought more highly of myself than I ought. In relation to the situations like we talked about yesterday (wanting bad things for others), ,we think of ourselves too highly when we think THAT is more sinful than anything else we do. We say sin is sin to God, but we live and feel and act differently. If we had an understanding that just standing there doing nothing (even without any thoughts in our mind) is sinful, because at that moment we still fall short of the glory (holiness) of God.

Check out the surrounding verses:

Romans 12:2-5
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

God has given us a measure of grace (exactly what that means I do not know, but I understand in part), and I realized once again that it is only His Spirit that reveals truth. When our minds are transformed into the likeness of Christ, and not our opinions, then we will be able to understand God's will. When we understand God's will and His grace, we will not think of ourselves so highly, and understand the sinful flesh we are in. In accordance to the faith that we have at this moment, we need to sow into the Spirit and learn more. This just confirms to me how much we need to just press into God, and stop trying so hard to attain some level of holiness. We will never reach it. God brought to mind the verse in Galatians that says, "It is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20). It was brought home a little more today than usual. It showed me how much of ME tries to live out this walk instead of Christ through me. When I recognize HOW sinful I am, I realize no matter how much effort I put forth, I will always fall short. So there is only one solution - and it is not to feel guilt - but to recognize that that is why Christ died, and if I just humble myself before Him, and sow into the Spirit, He will work through me - I cannot attain holiness in my own effort. This verse just came to mind:

Galatians 3:2-5

2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

I feel so humbled today - and yet I just know based on past experiences how prideful I actually still am. : ) God is so good, and I am grateful for His Word!"

Well, that ended my e-mail to my friend. As I re-type all those words again, I feel yet humbled some more, and I say again, I know I have so far to go. I want to explain, that although I know it is Christ THROUGH me that completes the work He has called me to do, I began to wonder WHY I felt the conviction to perform so much. I would read the Word and feel convicted that I was NOT living up to holiness, but felt powerless to perform the Lord's commands. The Lord reminded me once again of His precious Word.

Galatians 3:24

24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

I realized that God's laws are good, and He meant for us to follow them, but He never meant for them to put guilt on us. He never meant for us to perform them in our own strength. He gave them to us to show us HOW far we fall short, so we can see how desperate we need to be for His power to work through us to complete them. Trusting in God does not mean ignoring our sin, nor does it mean to strive harder. It means to submit to His authority and confess every area where we fall short and desperately desire the power that He so graciously gives to every one who accepts Him as Savior and Lord. When I have fallen short of God's glory, I realize that I need His power in me. When others fall short, it is that same power that THEY need. We are so foolish when we judge others for their lack of performance, or judge ourselves for OUR lacking; as if there was anything in our own power that will get us to reach the holiness of God.

My failures are so clearly before me, and as I sit at the throne of grace, I know God in His infinite wisdom and perfect timing, will empower me to perform every task He has called me to do - but He will not empower me until I humble myself and confess my sin. When we see ourselves in light of a holy God, we will not see others sin as the log, but our own. Then, and only then, can we truly see others the way Christ sees them, and love others the way Christ loves them. I am making a habit of confessing every known sin and making a choice to take myself off the throne of my heart, and place Christ back in His rightful place.

I desperately desire to know God and His will for my life, so I will do what His Word says, and seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness. I continue to pray that the Lord will reveal the thoughts and attitudes of my heart, and I know it would be in my best interest to confess and repent and not try to act like I have it all together. I am SO far from having it all together. This is such an incredible journey and I am eternally grateful for every thing the Lord has allowed to come into my path to teach me who He really is.

~~Trusting that He is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do~~

Monday, August 20, 2007

Missing the Mark - Part 1

“God is doing an indescribable work in my heart. When I look back, this revival in my life actually began 19 months ago, sped up last fall and then went into overdrive at the beginning of this year. I have been a Christian for 34 years and yet this is by far the most intense season of grace I have ever encountered. It feels more like a born again experience than when I was saved at the age of ten. That is the reason I have decided to get rebaptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. I’m sure I will eventually write more details sometime in the future but part of the work God is doing is revealing my sin of self-suffiency and self-protection. I have lived much of my life attempting to gain as much knowledge as possible, so I would make the right choices, in order to stay in control, so I could protect myself from getting hurt. In essence, I have desired to be my own god, rather than trust God with my wounded heart. Now, nobody would have seen this on the outside. I didn’t even recognize it in myself until recently.”

"I am learning so much about the freedom to really enter into the rest of God by grace rather than striving to earn God’s love and approval through the law. "

I copied this from Lisa Welchel's (you know....Blair from the facts of life) journal. I know you were thinking......"you have been a Christian for 34 years???????" I know I am only 33. And I suppose you knew that I was not getting baptized in the Jordan River tomorrow. : ) So as you can see, I did not write that.....however, it captured so much of what I have been feeling, and I too have felt that God is stripping me of my old way of thinking and transforming my mind. It is amazing how much more sinful I see myself now, than I did when I was not so close to God.

I was looking back in my journal to find an e-mail that was sent to my friend about this very topic. I had woken up one morning to a new level of realization of my sin, and I felt overwhelmed by it, and e-mailed my friend to share it with her. I will not share the e-mail, but one thing that I shared with her, was that I looked up the definition of sin, and it really pierced my heart. It is "missing the mark (and so not share in the prize)". You know what that means? It means ANYTHING short of perfection is sin. I continued to tell her how I had this awareness of my sin and it brought me to tears while I was praying. I just saw the pride of my past (and my present), to think that I am not as sinful as I am.

I wish I could share the whole e-mail with you but I cannot betray a friend's confidence. If she gives me permission than I will. I would love to write more, but I will wait to see if I have permission to share more. If I do not, than I will try to make the rest make sense.

....Trusting the Lord to complete the work He has started in me...


Friday, August 10, 2007

Answer to a friends comment

My friend "Toknowhim" commented on the "Worship - part 2" post, to explain about the mountain top analogy the Lord gave me awhile ago. It is difficult for me to post JUST this analogy without giving the details of how I got to that point, but I will try. : ) Several years ago, when I really began my intimate journey with the Lord, He began to reveal himself to me in a way that overwhelmed me - in a good way. In the past I was very critical and had very high expectations, not only for others, but myself as well. I thought it was good to have those expectations. I felt I had discernment and could see clear into certain situations. The very first scripture that I can remember the Lord waking me up to (back in 1999) was Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Now back in my legalistic state, I obsessed over HOW I was conforming. If God could just reveal it to me, I would change. Well, it wasn't that easy. He began to take me on a journey that truly renewed the way I think. A journey that revealed the sin in my heart that resulted in sin, as opposed to just working on the sin. You see, if I just stopped the sin on the outside, my heart would not have changed. (Oh I am SO tempted to go off that topic and explain that - my journals have years of stuff on that alone). OK, back on track - so one of the first bible verses that I read that literally jumped off the page to me were in Romans 11. The whole chapter really, but I will highlight verse 6 "If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches." I cannot explain what happened in my heart that day - I was amazed that the Word of God came alive to me and showed me how the root is my heart and the branches are my works. See, I was so focused on my works, but I needed to be focused on my heart. OK, so now I understood this concept in my head, but it took years to transfer to my heart. I also had much opposition to face from leaders, teachers and friends who felt I was not being biblical for focusing so much on the love relationship and not on obedience. It was so fresh and new to me but I was CONFIDENT of what God showed me. SO I think because I was being opposed by others, and seeing clearly that they were not getting it either, there was a spiritual pride that came over me. I had no clue at that time of how far I needed to go, I just knew I was not in the right place.

So as time went on over the years, the Lord would of course humble me, and then reveal Himself again-in a new way. I often felt so alone on this journey because I felt like no one understood me. I actually remember one day thinking to myself, "life is pretty good right now, I feel like I have things pretty much together" Oh, I had so much to learn. Of course the process was always the same - I felt pride with every new revelation, and then the Lord continued to humble me. One day in my quiet time, I had a very specific vision so to speak of two people . I felt SO burdened and thought, "God, if you are teaching me to love others and not see their flaws, and not be critical, then why are you allowing me to see this?" His answer was so clear AND overwhelming. He revealed how He Had indeed given me a gift of discernment, but what He intended for good, I abused. What God intended was for me to pray for others and share truth in a loving way, but I used the knowledge as judgement. It took me so many years to work through this process. One big obstacle I had, was I had so much false doctrine in my head that had to be purified by the truth of God's Word. I still could not let go of the whole works salvation - I still put so much attention on performance instead of the heart.

So I had a season of my life where I felt like the Lord clearly told me that I needed to take a step back from ALL ministry and that we were going to go on a "humbling" journey. Of course at the beginning of all that I wanted God to just tell me the areas I was being prideful in, but He had to SHOW me; He had to TEACH me. Oh, it is so painful - but what a genuine love I have for Him and others.

During this whole humbling process, I began to see that the closer I grew to Christ, the further I had to go to be like Him. I thought as I was growing, I saw myself getting closer, but when God humbled me I saw how much further I had to go. He is so gracious, and I love that He is sovereign, and His ways are perfect. I can trust in that now - without so many questions.

So to the mountain top analogy. During this process, my eyes began to open and the Lord gave me a picture of myself on the top of a mountain (during those sweet times when He revealed Himself to me), but He didn't forget to remind me that that was clearly NOT the top! He now allows me to enjoy the mountain top experience, but with great humility, I know that in His sovereign time, He will show me the top. Back in March 2006, this is a part of my journal entry:

"I can't even express the freedom I feel in my heart. I feel like I've climbed a mile high mountain and endured the pain and suffering to get to the top and what a thrill it is to get there. BUT my pride has been broken TOO many times to know this is NOT the top. But God lets me feel like it is and lets me enjoy the moment and I only see below, but in due time, I will look up again, and His mighty hand will sweep across and move those clouds that were in my view and allow me to once again see that I am CLEARLY not at the top."

I am confident that during this journey I have hurt others with my pride. I wish I could personally repent to each one, if I only knew who each one was. Often times it is difficult to let go of past hurts, and I would not want to be responsible for someones broken fellowship with God because of my sin. I pray if that is the case with anyone, that the Lord will put it on their hearts to tell me. I will readily repent. There are some, that as I type, that I already know I have hurt that I need to go to.

God is so good, and worthy of the hardships we have to go through to truly bring Him glory with our purified lives. I know we will not be sanctified until heaven, but I pray I remember to keep short accounts of sin - repent each moment I sin - and bring Him glory in my journey.

Praising Jesus for His loving kindness, grace, and forgiveness........

Monday, August 6, 2007

First Support Goal Trip

As something to look forward to, we told our boys that when we hit certain goals in our support, we would do something fun as a family. This past weekend, we celebrated our first goal. We took a family trip to my brothers home in Alabama. The boys had SO much fun. They all got to ride jet skis, go tubing, and go 4 wheeling through trails in the woods. We even played Hide and Go Seek on 4 wheelers! It was SO fun! There were two mishaps over the weekend. My 2 year old niece got second degree burns on her foot by stepping on a VERY hot piece of metal in front of the fire place. She did not skip a beat though. She was so good and happy even though her little feet were all bandaged up. The second thing was that David was SO excited that he learned how to ride a 4 wheeler ALL BY HIMSELF, so I followed him on another quad around the lake. He did great! He wanted to go again, so I asked my sister Gina if she could follow him this time. As I went in the house to wash my hands, and I look out the window and I just said, "UH- OH" You have to keep in mind that my mom was worried about EVERYTHING and EVERY safety issue you can imagine. She obsessed over life jackets, and helmets, and you name it, she worried about it. So my sister Nicole asks if this is an "Emergency UH-OH" and I look at my mom and she is looking right at me so I shake my head no and then quickly YES - I think this is tragic! I looked out the window and I see David IN THE LAKE. It actually was quite funny. I don't know how he managed it, but he drove the quad right into the lake. We came in and told my mom that I guess she would make a new rule that you not only had to wear helmets on the quads, but life jackets as well! : )

Samuel, me & Jonathan. When I was riding just me & Samuel, he
looked back several times with great excitement and said, "Mommy this
feels like a DREEEEAAAM! But it's not, right mommy?"

Jonathan learned to ride the Jet Ski by himself. He was SO excited.
He just gave us a big grin every time he passed.

Dave, David, Samuel, & My niece Toni-Leigh

My brother-in-law Ron gave everyone tube rides. That was SO fun!




My sweet sisters, Nicole & Maria, my niece Stephanie, My niece
Adrianna and her dog Hunter. Jonathan up front, my nephew
Anthony to the right and my niece Toni-Leigh on the jet ski.

Jonathan riding the quad ALL BY HIMSELF.
Thankfully he stayed out of the lake. : )

We have our next goal trip planned, we just don't know when we will reach that goal. This gives the boys something to look forward to. I think they are each excited in their own way about what the Lord is doing, and I know they are blessed with every new supporter. It is such a joy to share with them how God's people are so faithful. We can see their faith grow right along side ours. David actually told me some things the other day that he was LOOKING FORWARD TO about our move. The presence of God is so apparent in this whole process, we just rejoice with every passing day. God is so good and we are thankful for this time away with our family. It was much needed!

True Worship - part 2

My mind has been spinning in so many directions the last couple of weeks, that I don't know where to begin. Even more since the last "True worship" post. So I will just add to the last one and go from there.

I had asked for you to read those statements from John Piper and think about what thoughts came to mind when reading those particular verses, because when I read them, I definitely had a reaction. Years ago, I felt I was falling very short from living the joyful, abundant life that God had promised in His Word. I did not feel like I was living much different from the rest of the world. I knew I should be obedient, and I tried so hard to obey the commands I knew. One very evident command for believers is what we call "The great Commission." This command is to go and make disciples of all nations. Yet it is the command that is most neglected among believers. I became very involved with the evangelism program at our church, but something in my heart was not right. I felt I was acting out of a sense of "duty" as opposed to joy. The Lord brought to mind an analogy of a salesperson. If I were a salesperson selling a particular product, how effective would I be if I did not believe in the product I was selling? By no means am I (or was God) comparing a relationship with Jesus to any product, but the point was that I was not experiencing Jesus in a way that made me excited to share Him. When Dave goes out to sell kitchens, he MUST believe in the product he is selling. There have been lots of ups and downs in his job, and I have frequently asked him how he stays motivated to sell during those frustrating times. His answer is always the same, "Because I believe that Cornerstone is the best cabinet company out there. I believe they will do the best job." I asked him how he would do it if he didn't believe that. He simply said he couldn't. So I ask myself the same question. What is motivating me to share Jesus? Is He not worth sharing? I knew He was, but in my heart, I obviously did not feel that way.

At that time several years ago, I was not enjoying God's Word either. I would read things like, "Your love is better than life" and yet I did not feel that. The bible says God's Word is LIVING and ACTIVE, yet I was not experiencing that. What I WAS experiencing was a conviction that I was not living up to His word. I love how Paul says that Jesus came to fulfill the law, but we are not exempt from it. He asks the question, "So what was the purpose of the law?" It was to lead us to Christ. (Gal. 3) The law shows us our inadequacy. Having the law shows us how we fall short of the holiness of God. My problem was that I tried to obey the law, instead of the power of the Holy Spirit in me to obey the law. I just didn't know how to access that power, even though I knew that power was in me. The bible says, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you". (Acts 1:8) I knew I had asked Jesus into my heart, but I felt powerless to obey His commands.

I will add more at another time, but I will end with this: Those quotes from John Piper really stirred my soul. Maybe some Christians will read that and think it is extreme, or they think they cannot love God that way. Or they feel that intimacy with Christ is not supposed to be that real. Oh how I ache for those believers who miss the abundant life that God has promised for each of us. God has revealed Himself to me so much over the past several years that I have been accused of being over zealous. And at times I have been - not that you can really be too zealous for God, but it was more of a zealousness for the truth. I was on a mission to have a relationship that I knew God promised in His Word, yet I did not see it being lived out around me. So I think that zealousness came out in a way that was critical of the believer, because I knew people weren't getting it. I wasn't getting it either. As my eyes opened to the truth, I thought I WAS getting it. Unfortunately, every time I had this so called mountain top experience, God would move the clouds away from my eyes and show me where the mountain top really was. I am learning to enjoy those so called mountain top experiences, but still knowing that I have SO far to go.

When I read God's Word now, I truly love it. I can honestly say His love is better than life. I feel affection for Him in my heart, even on the bad days. What a process it has been to get to that point, and yet I truly see how far I have to go. That love I have for Him now, has nothing to do with maturity on my part, or any thing I have done, but just learning to trust and believe Him for who He says He is, and surrendering my will to Him. Next post, I will talk about that word "Surrender." What a process that continues to be.....

Pursue His heart. He promises that if you seek Him with all your heart, you WILL find Him.....