About insightsandwonderings

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Savior AND LORD

I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 16.  I did not fully accept and embrace Him as my Lord until much later.

I think, for most people, accepting Him as Savior is far easier than accepting Him as Lord.

Accepting Him as Savior means accepting the free gift of salvation.  It means embracing the truths that:

  1. All have sinned, including me.
  2. I am not worthy to stand in God’s presence because of my sin.
  3. I need someone to pay the price for my sin and make me worthy
  4. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay that price.
  5. This is a gift of God’s grace, freely given. I am undeserving and can do nothing to earn my salvation.  I can only accept the gift that is offered.

Accepting Him as Lord means opening your heart and allowing Him to mold you into the person He created you to be.  Accepting Him as Lord means opening your life and allowing Him to mold it into something that glorifies Him.  It means going where He leads you, when you want to go in an entirely different direction.  It means doing that which He tells you to do, when what you want to do is something different entirely.  It means loving who and when He directs you to love, not who and when you feel like loving.

Easier said than done – at least for me.  I didn’t want to yield control of my heart or my life to ANYONE.  I accepted Him as Savior, but continued to live MY life on MY terms.

Then, one day, the Lord got through to me that I was NOT living a life that glorified Him.  I was fighting against His sovereignty over my life. I was on the WRONG side and was fighting against Him.  Silly, right?  Fighting God?  I mean, who’s going to win THAT contest?  It wasn’t until I was face down in the mud and asking, “Why me, God?” that I became aware that I was fighting His Lordship over my life.

It’s like a game of tug-of-war.  There are two sides.  Everyone must pick one:

  1. You can fight God. You can pull against Him and try to live YOUR life YOUR way.  You will, at some point, end up with your face in the mud.  You might think you are in control, but God can yank on the rope at any time and put you in the mud and muck.  The timing is different for different people.  When the time is right, He will yank that rope and you will end up face-down in mud and muck.
  1. You can go to His side, yield control to Him and hold onto the rope. He will pull it in the direction He wills.  He will direct your life in the way that glorifies Him. He will help you to grow and become stronger.  He will mold you into the person He created you to be.  He will bless you so mightily it will take your breath away!

Which side will you pick today?

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There is no such thing as a “little white lie”

A lie is a lie is a lie.  Calling it a “little white lie” just makes it sound cute and innocent.  That does not change the fact that it is a lie.  Calling it a “little white lie” does not make it any less a lie than any other lie.  Scripture does not define lies by severity.  It does not call some lies acceptable or “little white” or any other term.  A lie is a lie is a lie.

I was trapped in the stronghold of lying but, by the grace and mercy of God, I have broken free.  My lying originated as survival.  I am not saying that excuses it, I am just explaining the origins and what God taught me.  As a child, lying kept me from getting hit.  My mind was constantly weighing things, deciding what would make Dad angry and what would not.

Once that habit had been formed, at a very young age, I was trapped in the stronghold of habitual lies.  Once the habit is formed, it is difficult to break.  As a young adult, I frequently “colored” things to keep from looking foolish.  Played hooky from work, and made up symptoms, or used some nonspecific lie “not feeling well” which was not true.

There was a time when, If a friend asked me if I want to go to dinner, or a movie, or whatever, and I was broke, I would make up a story.  I couldn’t tell someone that I made a mistake in my checking account or that I made a foolish, impulsive purchase.  In the past, I would have made up something else I had to do.  Suppose I told them I had to go see someone who was sick.  Then, they run into that friend and ask if they are feeling better.  It’s exhausting thinking up lies that won’t get me caught, and trying to remember all of the “cover stories” so I don’t get tripped up when I see that person again.

It’s so FREEING and so much simpler to just tell the truth.  “I’m broke till payday”.  It doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would to admit my failings and weaknesses.  Transparency is GOOD for relationships.  I’m not saying that we need to tell everyone everything about us. “I’m broke until payday” is honest without revealing what is none of the other person’s business.  Just because someone is nosy and prying and asks for details, doesn’t mean they need to know.  Learning to say, “I don’t want to go into details” or “that’s private” or “that’s really none of you business” has helped me a great deal.

Once the Lord showed me that lying displeases Him, I spent time in prayer and he showed me where my lying originated and helped me break free from that stronghold.

Proverbs 6:16-19
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

God HATES a lying tongue.  Notice that it does not say “a lying tongue (LITTLE WHITE LIES EXCEPTED).”  Any lie displeases the Lord.

Lies create damage in many other ways.  Have you ever caught someone else lying?  It becomes impossible to believe anything they say.  When it is someone close to you, it hurts.  It is a betrayal of trust.  They don’t trust you with the truth.  You can’t trust them to tell the truth.  Trust is broken.  That is so very damaging to any relationship, be it spouses, siblings, friends, parent/child, etc.

Let’s stop being cutesy and calling them “little white lies”.  Let’s call them what they are.  LIES.  Admitting the problem is the first step to getting freed from the stronghold of habitual lying.  Break free and live in truth!

Unchained from the “Love Idol” – I feel FREE!

I recently finished reading the book “The Love Idol” by Jennifer Dukes Lee.  That book was transformational in my life.

I have often wondered why I am so crushed when I receive criticism, especially when I believe it be undeserved.  I’ve wondered why I feel a reflexive need to defend myself against criticism.

I have felt elated when complemented, praised, given an “atta-girl” by a boss, coworker, friend.  However, it does not last.  Soon, I am wondering when someone will notice my efforts again.

This book opened my eyes.  I had made approval from humans an idol.  It was too important to me.   God’s approval is what matters, and scripture tells us we are PRE-APPROVED!  Praise Jesus!

“We twist our desire for approval into a false god.  Instead of resting in the love and approval of an unseen God, we chase after the temporary pleasures of human validation.”  Love Idol – Introduction

This realization was so freeing to me.  I need not seek approval.  I need not feel down when I don’t get the appreciation I believe my efforts deserve.  I need not feel crushed when criticized.  I need not feel compelled to defend myself against criticism.

That does not mean it is never appropriate to defend oneself against criticism.  I am saying that I need not feel compelled as though if the criticism were left undefended it left a stain on me.  I can defend myself much more calmly and rationally when I do not feel compelled, when I know that it’s OK if I am unsuccessful in defending myself, because I am APPROVED BY CHRIST!

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (ESV) says, “ but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

When I defend myself, I need to speak to please God.  God knows whether I am deserving of the criticism.

The need for approval really can become an addiction.  We receive praise then in an hour, a day, a week, we are wondering when someone will notice us again.  I did X.  Why didn’t anyone notice?  There is always something for which we crave approval.  The cycle is never-ending.  The beast will never be satisfied.  The elation we receive from approval is temporary, then we need another fix.  Just like alcohol, drugs, sex, food, and other things.  It makes us feel good, but only for a while.  Then, we want more.  We crave more.  We convince ourselves (with a lot of help from the Enemy) that we NEED more.

Once we look UP instead of OUT, and realize that we have a never-ending font of love, acceptance and approval, we need never crave it again!  Once we realize that all of the love, joy and “feeling good” we could ever want or need is available to us, flowing from an outrageously loving God, we are freed from thinking we will obtain happiness from alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or any other temporary thing.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  This is the true self.  Every other identity is illusion.” Brannan Manning

I am beloved by God.  I am accepted by God.  I am APPROVED by God.

I still catch myself wondering whether people will approve of a choice I make.  However, I realize it far sooner and can squash it.  I look to God.  Whisper a quick prayer.  Focus on whether God would approve my choice.

I feel so FREE!  Praise God!  I have been unchained from the love idol!

Love_Idol_cover

Why Should I Go To Church?

I read this in a book called “God Moments” by “The Writers of encouraging.com”

“When we stay at home on Sunday morning, we are sending a strong signal that worshiping and praising God are not top priorities in our lives.”

It has been echoing in my mind, and brought me back to a time in my life where I stopped attending church.  I justified it by telling myself that I worked hard all week, and deserved to do what I want on Sunday.  I would spend my mornings reading the Sunday paper, reading books, and watching TV.  I read the Bible now and then, and read Christian books from time to time.  But, God was not my priority.  I was my priority.  What I was doing was putting me first, and God last.  I fit Him when it was convenient, when there was nothing I wanted to do more than to spend time with God.

The result of this choice that I made was that I got very weak and was essentially spiritually impoverished.

I began attending services after an absence of several years, and noticed a tremendous difference in me.  Not in the world around me.  There will be troubles as long as we are in this world.  The difference I noticed was in how I coped with the troubles of the world.

Attending a Sunday service where the Word of God is preached has the following effects on me:

  • It is is like a vitamin B shot for the soul.  It gives me strength to face what life throws at me during the week.
  • Worshiping the Lord in song makes life’s troubles fade, and puts my focus on Him.  It fills me with immeasurable joy and strength to face what may come.
  • Equips me to fight those spiritual battles that come. Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) says: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Verses 12-20 tell us how to equip ourselves – the full Armor of God.  We will be unable to fight the spiritual battles that come if we are not adequately equipped – by being fed the Word of God.
  • It instructs me on God’s Word and helps me to understand it better.  This enables me to make better life choices, and to not be swayed by the ever-changing morality of the world around us.
  • It helps me to grow spiritually, so that I may go from sipping milk to feasting on the meat from God’s Word.
  • It allows me to have fellowship with other believers, which encourages and strengthens me.
  • It provides a place to share the Lord’s Supper with other believers.  Participating in the Lord’s Supper with one’s church family is a beautiful, empowering, encouraging experience.  It is the command of Christ that we participate in the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.  Doing so is in obedience of his instructions in Luke 22:19 He says, “do this in remembrance of me”.
  • It allows me to rejoice when new believers join God’s kingdom and to have the privilege of seeing people receive believer’s baptism.

In summary, I attend services because it pleases God, and because it strengthens, equips and encourages me.

We can stay home, and relax and become spiritually weak, or we can join a church family and receive all of the blessings that come with that.  Spiritual strength, encouragement, food from God’s Word, and great joy!

Often, doing what God commands us to do turns out to be a great benefit to us, and brings is more joy than we ever imagined!

Searching for Truth and Examining Beliefs

I believe that it is essential to keep examining ones beliefs and searching for Truth. If one becomes too rooted in their convictions and certain that they are right, they are at risk of becoming arrogant and smug. That person ceases to grow.

As an avid reader, and a person who enjoys learning, I cannot imagine ceasing to learn and search and grow. To me, that sounds suffocating.

There are certain areas where my belief is solid:

I believe that God created the Earth, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that He died and rose again on the 3rd day, and ascended into Heaven. I believe He will return someday and bring believers into the place He is preparing for us. I believe that Jesus is THE way not A way to Heaven. I believe that once a person is saved, their sins are forgiven, and their place in eternity assured. I believe that their place in eternity was bought with the blood of Christ.

I have read many publications, secular and Christian, and have not been shaken one iota on those beliefs. On the contrary, everything I’ve read has served to solidify my beliefs.

There are other areas where I have recently begun to question my position, and am continually searching for Truth. I believe this is healthy, and necessary.

1. The rapture. While I an certain it will happen, I am not certain of the timing. Will it be Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation? I am hoping for Pre-Tribulation (perhaps this makes me chicken 🙂 ). I was at one time convinced of the rightness of the Pre-Trib position, but at this point, I am open and am continuing to search and investigate. Perhaps my position will remain the same, perhaps it will change.

2. Calvinism vs. Arminianism. I was solidly on the side of Arminianism. Recently, I’ve begun to question that position. I am reading, searching, and most importantly praying. I am currently reading this http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/reformed-theology/arminianism/calvinism-vs-arminianism-comparison-chart/ and have downloaded John Piper’s book “Five Points”. I am continuing to search and learn. I don’t know how it will come out – I may decide that I still hold an Arminian position, or I may determine that the Calvinist position is correct.

Just to be clear, I mentioned that I read both secular and Christian publications. While this is true, I recognize that the final authority is the Bible, because it is God’s inerrant Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 1 Thess 5:21

I love the way John Piper puts it in his book “Five Points”:

“And on one sense, we are all on the way. Even when we know things biblically and truly – things clear enough and precious enough to die for – we still see through a glass dimly (1 Cor 13:12). There can be many tears as we seek to put our idea through the testing fire of God’s Word. But all the wrestling to understand what the Bible teaches about God is worth it. God is a rock of strength in a world of quicksand. To know Him in His sovereignty is to become like an oak tree in the wind of adversity and confusion. And along with strength is sweetness and tenderness beyond imagination. The sovereign Lion of Judah is the sweet Lamb of God.”

About The Day God Spoke To Me On A Bus Bench

I was in my 20’s, and living in the LA area. I was young in my faith, and took great pride in what I thought of as an admirable “balancing act”. When I was at church, or around other Christians, I acted like a Christian. When I was around unbelievers, I acted like an unbeliever. I thought I was doing a great job of maintaining the two sides of my double life. From the way I acted around my unbelieving friends and coworkers, there was no way they could tell I was a Christian. From the way I acted in church and around fellow Jesus-followers, they would have no idea how far from Christlike my other life had become.

… until God spoke to me and made it clear that what I was not fooling Him.

One morning, I woke to a clock-radio that was playing static. Not surprisingly, I had slept through the static for sometime. A glance at the time showed what I suspected – I was going to be late for work. To add to the fun, I had a roaring headache. I scrambled around, throwing on the first outfit that caught my eye, and went out to my car. Battery dead. Swell. Called for a tow, and was told it would be 2-3 hours. Not wanting to miss at least a half day of work, I decided to take a bus to work and attend to my car later. As I left my apartment building, my sweater snagged on the heavy metal security gate. I disentangled my sweater, which began unraveling in one spot, slammed the door and yelled something like, “God, why aren’t you doing anything for me today?”

I stomped down to the corner, crossed the intersection (stomping, sulking, and full of attitude all the way) and sat down on the bus bench. A glance down the street showed that the bus was not yet in view, so I began rifling my purse for something to occupy my time. I found a small Bible with snap-closure and began rifling through it thinking, “I don’t even know where to start.”

Suddenly, I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming over my right shoulder. It said, “James!” in a very firm, clear tone. I jumped and looked behind me. No one. I looked at the woman sitting on the other end of the bench, and thought, “It doesn’t look like she heard anything. Get a grip, Theresa!”

Then, I heard the voice again, “James!”

“OK,OK, I’ll read James” I thought. Then, “Where is James?” After consulting the table of contents I found James. “Where do I start?” I thought. I started with chapter 1 verse 1 and began to read. When I read verses 7 and 8 I froze, I gulped and read verses 7 and 8 again.

“That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

My life was unstable. I was completely double-minded. Suddenly, things I had done for the purpose of “fitting in” with unbelievers came to my mind and I was ashamed. Clearly, I was not honoring God with my life and my choices. I was far more concerned with pleasing people than pleasing God.

I was like a person walking with one foot in a river and one foot on the bank. Sooner or late, you either pull your foot out, and commit to being fully on the bank, or you are driven downstream by the current.

I saw how my compromises were becoming more and more antithetical to the Christlike character that God’s Word tells us we are to strive toward. I was being pulled downriver, and I needed to pull my foot out and commit to the bank.

I recommitted my life to Christ and began to behave the same way regardless of who I was around. My behavior change made it clear to my unbelieving friends that I was a Christian. I no longer spent evenings and nights getting drunk in bars. I no longer watched movies that were explicitly sexual or contained rampant profanity. There were many other changes as well. The changes in my behavior meant that some friends didn’t understand me anymore, and couldn’t relate to my life or my choices. It also meant closer and deeper relationships with fellow Jesus-followers. More importantly, it began a season of growth in my spiritual walk and a much closer and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some people might try to convince me that I was hearing things. Or that I had heard someone preach from James and had forgotten it but it was in my subconscious. No matter how you try to explain it away, I know what I heard. The voice was unlike any other I have ever heard. Clear, firm, loving, powerful. More powerful and clear than any human voice.

I don’t know why God chose for me to hear His voice, when others have not. I only know that I heard Him and I am humbly and immeasurably grateful that He spoke to me on the bus bench that day.