Tag Archive | Spiritual growth

Boundaries and the Christ-Controlled Life

I woke up at 6am today, with the pulse-oximeter alarm going off in our special needs son David’s room. He has drops in his oxygen level and changes in heart rate that require monitoring using an oximeter, and when his numbers go outside the pre-set boundaries an alarm sounds. It doesn’t mean he is in grave danger, but it is an indication he needs to be checked and possibly some treatment done. This morning he simply needed some oral suctioning – he was sound asleep with his mouth open and saliva was blocking his airway.

After taking care of this routine care of our son, something I’m well acquainted with during the hours when he doesn’t have nursing care, I sensed God speaking to my spirit. “Setting boundaries is necessary for David’s physical health and for your spiritual health.”

I have heard of the concept of establishing boundaries in Christian circles for many years, but during the last year it has become a daily part of my life through Taste For Truth, a Christian weight loss program I’ve been following. This program does not recommend a specific diet to follow, that is between you and God. Instead, it has two main emphases, renewing your mind to replace the lies you are believing with the truth of God’s Word, and prayerfully setting boundaries concerning eating and exercise. Through these two principles, an area of my life that has been a lifelong struggle is coming under God’s control.

But boundaries are needed in more than just eating. Any area that needs to come under God’s control in our lives requires these same two steps of renewing our mind and setting boundaries. This applies to our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, how we use our time and how we spend our money. Without renewing our minds to know what God says in His Word about each of these areas and then setting boundaries we will follow, change won’t consistently happen. These two principles are our part in being conformed to the image of Christ.

Boundaries alone do not result in change, but when we renew our minds according to the Word of God and yield our lives to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives within every person who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, transformation will come. It may not be overnight, but if we do our part in the transformation process it will result in change.

So what exactly are boundaries, and how do we set them? A boundary is something that indicates a border or a limit. With property, it may be marked by a fence that indicates the end of one piece of property and the beginning of another. Biblically speaking, boundaries are related to self-control. For example, as I set my boundaries in Taste For Truth, they limited how many calories I would eat per day and how many days per week I would exercise. With managing money, a budget sets boundaries concerning how we will spend our income. Relationship boundaries might include separating yourself from people who pull you down or ridicule your faith.

So how do we go about setting and keeping within wise boundaries? First, seek God’s will by praying about the area where you recognize a need to set boundaries. See what God has to say about the issue in His Word. Consider the consequences of failing to set boundaries in this area, and make a decision. Trust God to lead you and empower you to change this area of your life. For me concerning weight loss, having an accountability partner was also helpful, someone I could contact for encouragement when I was struggling.

Boundaries have been a part of life on earth since shortly after creation. The first boundary given to man mentioned in Scripture is in the second chapter of Genesis. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ ” (Genesis‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭NIV). ‬‬Living within this boundary would have brought Adam and Eve and their descendants blessing, but unfortunately they chose instead to overstep the one boundary God had given and as a result sin entered this world. Boundaries are an effective way to limit destructive behaviors and take personal responsibility for our lives. They are a key to overcoming besetting sins and learning to walk in freedom from bondage. Are there some boundaries God is calling you to set?

A Martha Becoming A Mary

Today, I am pleased to share a guest post with you from a new friend who is a member of God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, a Christian support, encouragement, Bible study and prayer group that I am privileged to help lead.

Deb Peabody describes herself as “a daughter of the King, wife, mom and Nana to the six most adorable grandkids.” While she has chronic illnesses, her desire is to live as a joyful, chosen, holy, blessed, redeemed and adopted daughter of God with a desire to glorify Him in the life He has ordained for her. She blogs at https://joyfulrefuge.wordpress.com/

A few weeks ago, I did a post on our God-Living Girls page about finding God’s purposes in the pain. Deb shared the following:

“I know God has conformed me more into the image of his Son through my chronic illnesses and have grown in ways I never would have before. Before such a Martha hostess with the mostest go, go, go sunrise to Way past sunset. Now I am learning to be more a Mary at his feet, I have learned greater dependency in God, I have experienced His character and know even in hard times He is faithful, Sovereign, wise and good whether or not I understand why. I rely so much more on Him and His Word rather than doing it all myself in my own strength. I have learned joy and gratitude in spite of hard circumstances.”

This caught both my interest and the interest of several of the ladies in our group, and I asked Deb if she would be willing to write a blog post on what God has done in her life in the area from changing her from a Martha to a Mary. This article is the answer to that request. Enjoy.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Before chronic illnesses slowed me down, my hubby called me the “Energizer Bunny” because I kept going and going and going. I was also very much a Martha go, go, go and do, do, do, the hostess with the mostest, involved in many church activities, walking, going to the gym, swimming, gardening, hosting smaller and all church events at our home that I also made sure were perfectly decorated.

In my Martha state, I was constantly fussing about how everything was done and worrying about the impressions I made on people. I spent time in the Word to prepare for Bible studies I attended to make sure I was more prepared and excelling more than others attending. I was forever concerned about what people thought of me, wanting to make the right impression with my looks, my actions, my words and my abilities. Life was frantic, distracted, fear filled and frenzied much more often than it was peaceful, focused, relaxed and faith filled.

My life suddenly changed in 2009. That November I fell while photographing fall leaves when I stepped into a pothole concealed by colorful autumn leaves. I ended up needing eleven stitches on my split open knee. After one dose of sulfa antibiotics I landed in ER with my first anaphylactic reaction. Next thing I knew I was reacting to all sorts of things I had previously tolerated. Fragrances, chemicals, cleaners, toothpastes and many foods suddenly were no longer tolerated. I began feeling like the girl in the bubble. After shuffling from doctors over the next few years received multiple diagnosis including chronic blood cancer, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome(MVAS) and a connective tissue disorder called Ehler Danlos.

As my symptoms increased and my energy ebbed, I really began seeking God, crying out to Him for answers and asking Him to show me how to live in this new normal. It was a really hard season of fading health, numerous unknowns and lack of strength to do all I did before. God met me through time in His Word and in prayer. Many sleepless nights due to insomnia, induced by high doses of steroids, were spent studying His Word and in prayer.

I began to desire to truly know God and His character. My dear hubby was faithful to often remind me that God has sovereignly ordained us to be together and that we will walk together as a couple through whatever He sovereignly allowed in our lives, including chronic illness, to glorify our God.

In this season, I began learning more and more about God’s character. I began to grasp He was sovereign, holy, faithful, wise, just and good no matter what my circumstances happened to be. God began to help me memorize scriptures and enabled me to apply them to my life. This really strengthened my walk and grew my love for Him. As I spent more time at His feet, He began transforming me from an ultra Martha to a bit of a Mary. During this time of unknown yet failing health, He revealed to me He is most concerned about my eternal good and my being conformed to the image of His Son.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 8:28-29

God met me in amazing ways through examples in family members and friends as well as in His word and prayer. One friend greatly impacted me fairly early in my chronic illness walk, as she and her hubby sat in our home crying tears of joy at all the many ways God has met them and blessed them as she went through surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer. That same spring I read two books that greatly impacted me One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Between my friends examples, personal Bible studies and my reading I saw the choice before me. I then purposed in March 2011 and asked God to enable me, regardless of my circumstances, to be a woman of joy and gratitude that ever sits at His feet. I am so grateful for the most part God has answered this request. At the time I did not think of it changing me into more of a Mary, but this was one result of that answered prayer.

I am thankful I can trust in His faithfulness and goodness and to know His plans are for my eternal best and realize our earthly life is just a blip in eternity. I honestly believe if God had not slowed me down with various chronic illnesses, I would still be the Energizer Bunny version of a Martha. While lack of energy and symptoms may prevent me from doing many things, most days I can sit at His precious feet, be fed by His Word and pray as the Holy Spirit directs. I am at peace, have joy and gratitude, laugh easily and am so much more relaxed. I am now grateful for any help and even if not done “my way” to accomplish the task as it truly no longer matters.

Our marriage is better than ever and we enjoy each other, appreciate each other and love each other more than before. Laughter is frequent and we joke about the plot twists in our life. Now when we have guests over the focus is how to bless them and make them feel our home is a safe, loving haven where before my focus was on how to impress. Sometimes my house is a bit messy and God has even used that to make people feel comfortable and makes me seem more approachable.

There are days when I take my eyes off of my precious Savior and put them on me and my circumstances. There are days I must fight for joy and gratitude. I have purposed on those days to think of at least three things I am grateful for and either say them aloud or write them down. That seems to redirect my gaze back to Him, the lover of my soul, the One who sustains me and fills me with His joy, peace and hope.

While I would love to be healed, my prayer is that if God allowed it, I would not forget His using chronic illness to slow me down to transform me into much more of a Mary. The joy, peace, laughter, confidence and freedom from fears I now have from my Lord are of much greater value to me than perfect health. My devotion to my Jesus, my gratitude, my love for the gospel of grace, my compassion for the sufferings of others, love of His Word and prayer have all grown immensely as a result of chronic illness. I can say as the Psalmist said:

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

I would honestly choose to be a chronically ill Mary any day over going back to my former healthy but fearful frantic Martha state. May His transforming grace continually be at work in all of us!

Blessings,

Deb

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Return to Me and I Will Return to You

As soon as I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt was RETURN, the current Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 study on the book of Zechariah came to mind. The theme of this book is found in the first chapter, “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

As I’ve studied this book, I’ve seen the call to RETURN more clearly. It is a call to three things. And in this verse, it is also a promise.

  • RETURN is a call to REPENTANCE. Repentance is a recognition I am on the wrong path and a decision to turn around and head in a different direction. It begins with a change of heart and is lived out with a change in how I live.
  • RETURN is a call to REVIVAL. Revival is a spiritual reawakening from a state of stagnation in the life of a believer. It is a continuing process.
  • RETURN is a call to REST. Rest is ceasing from our labor entering into the rest and peace of God. Jesus Christ invites us to enter rest as we take His yoke upon us and allow Him to help us carry the burdens of life.
  • Finally, RETURN is a PROMISE. Zechariah 1:3 makes it clear that RETURNING is a action that brings a response from the Lord. When we RETURN to Him, He has promised to RETURN to us.

Today, is anything causing spiritual stagnation in your life? If so, it’s time to RETURN in repentance. With repentance comes revival and rest, and we become recipients of God’s promise to reciprocate and RETURN to us.

When We Face Circumstances Beyond Our Control

All of us know what it is to feel overwhelmed by things that are happening in our lives over which we have no control. I was there yesterday, from some relatively simple circumstances that caused me to feel out of control.

It was time to file the quarterly sales tax report for my husband’s video production and editing business, a task this month that simply involved paperwork since during this quarter all of our projects were for tax exempt organizations. No big thing. A simple matter of logging onto Quickbooks, running off the income report for the past three months, then filling in the report and sending it.

Simple, and not a problem to fit it in my already busy day. I thought. Not so. Thanks to Microsoft’s recent Windows 10 update on my computer that has a very annoying feature of running updates whenever it wants to do so.

I had logged into Quickbooks, loaded the needed report, and was about to print it so I could file the sales tax report when Windows locked up Quickbooks and started uploading updates. Over three hours later, I finished a project that should have taken fifteen or twenty minutes at the most.

Situations that cause us to feel out of control, whether a relatively minor one such as the one I faced yesterday or a major problem for which we have no solution without God’s help, can cause us to feel frustrated and overwhelmed and make unwise choices. Yesterday, I dealt with the frustration I was feeling by setting aside the diet boundaries I’ve been using to lose some weight and comforted myself with some cookies. Only a small detour from one of my goals for 2018, but not one I wanted to repeat.

So I took some time this morning to prepare my heart so I wouldn’t repeat the poor choices I made yesterday. I knew the proper response in such a situation was to turn to the One who is in control, to the Lord, and receive His help and strength. In the process, I came across the following list of Bible verses from one of my favorite bloggers, Rachel Wojo, which I found helpful to meditate on when we feel frustrated and overwhelmed with circumstances beyond our control. I invite you to join me in using these verses to help you respond with wisdom to the next overwhelming situation you face.

http://rachelwojo.com/10-bible-verses-for-when-you-feel-overwhelmed/

Learning to RALLY

Life with chronic illness – or any of a variety of the many trials we face as a part of life on this fallen earth – can be difficult. And poor choices that open a door to the enemy make it even harder.

I’m currently doing a study of Rally: A Personal Growth Bible Study, written by Barb Raveling, with a Facebook group I’m a part of. I highly recommend this book.

“Do you ever wish you could escape your problems? Just jump on a ship and sail across the ocean?” If your answer to this question is yes, this study may be just what you’re looking for.

From the back cover of the book:

“The Bible tells us to count it all joy when we encounter trials, but that’s hard to do. It’s easier when we remember that trials have the potential to help us grow. Unfortunately, we’re often so busy stressing and obsessing that we miss out on growing.”

The focus of this Scripture based study is on learning to “slow down, take a deep breath, and spend some time visiting with God about your current struggles.” Barb gives five steps God’s Word teaches us, which form the acronym RALLY.

R – Renew your mind.

A – Ask Him for help and accept what you need to accept.

L – Let go of your have-to-haves.

L – Let go of “if only” and make a plan.

Y – Yay God! Thank Him in all situations.

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 4

Day 18: Psalm 96:1-6

Sing…bless…tell…declare…these verses are filled with action. The Christian life, lived the way God desires us to live it is not passive. Yes, Jesus has already made a way for us to be a part of the family of God. There is nothing we can do to earn His salvation. But once we have come to Him in faith and received salvation, He calls us to actively serve Him.

  • Sing to the Lord – repeated three times in these six verses. Even if you aren’t a skilled musician, God still delights in your songs of praise.
  • Bless His name. To bless the Lord is praise Him, to bend the knee in an act of adoration, to honor Him as holy, and to glorify Him through our words and actions.
  • Tell of His salvation. Remember the words of Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” You may not think of yourself as a preacher, but you can tell of His salvation by sharing what Jesus has done in your life.
  • Declare His glory. Declaring God’s glory is simply declaring His character, all He is, to others or even to yourself when circumstances cause doubt to creep in.
  • Declare His marvelous works. To declare is to proclaim and affirm something. Has the Lord done anything in your life? Tell others about it. Is there a promise of His Word that you’ve seen fulfilled? Share the promise and what God did to demonstrate His faithfulness to you.

Day 19: 1 Peter 2:1-9

What happens when you take a small taste of your favorite food? Do you simple say “that was good” and turn to something else? Or do you take another bite and slowly savor it’s flavor or smoothness or spiciness or whatever word best describes it’s appeal?

If you’ve had a taste of the Lord’s goodness, your response will be similar. You will want to know Him better. You will have a hunger that only the growing knowledge of God will satisfy.

I still recall the early days after I came to know Jesus Christ personally as my Lord and Savior. I was a kindergarten teacher at the time, needing to leave for school early in the morning, but it was no burden for me to wake up early to spend time with the Lord at the start of my day. I was hungry to know Him better.

I am no longer a spiritual babe, having walked with God for over forty-five years. But the desire to grow in my knowledge of Him is still a daily part of my life. I still set aside the first part of my day to spend time reading my Bible, praying, and often journaling. I crave this time in His presence more than I crave another bite of my favorite food, because the more I’ve come to know Him the more I’ve realized I’ve just cracked the surface into the fullness of all He desires to be in my life.

Day 20: isaiah 29:13-16

Father, help me to draw near to You with my heart, not just with my words. May my worship of You spring out of a heart fully committed to You. And above all, help me to remember You are the potter, I am the clay, not the other way around. I humble myself under Your mighty hand. To argue with what You are doing in my life is the height of foolishness.

Day 21: Isaiah 25:1-9

God is today and every day worthy of our praise. We sure to set aside some time today to praise Him for His faithfulness, His goodness, His steadfast love, His compassion, His righteousness, and whatever other characteristics come to mind. And give Him thanks for the wonderful things He has done and is still doing in your life.

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Day 22: Psalm 1:1-6

Being blessed sounds like something most of us would desire, and this passage gives clear instructions on how to be blessed, three negative “do not’s” and two positive commands:

  • Do not walk in step with the wicked.
  • Do not stand in the way that sinners take.
  • Do not sit in the company of mockers.
  • Delight in the law of the Lord.
  • Meditate on His law day and night.

Then it goes on to describe the one who follows these instructions, using the metaphor of a flourishing tree, planted by flowing streams of water.

Day 23: Ephesians 2:4-10

Our God is great in love, rich in mercy, and abundant in grace. This is seen clearly in the story of the Gospel. And those who belong to Him through faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece.

We live in a world that applauds self-made men and women. But as Christians, we understand that we are God-made men and women. We belong to Him. We live for Him. We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to do.

Day 24: Psalm 27:1-6

No beauty on this earth surpasses the beauty of the Lord. Seek Him with an undivided heart. Sing to Him. Bless His name. Declare His glory. Praise Him with your whole heart.

During this week leading up to Easter, as we focus on His sacrifice as the Lamb of God who took away our sin and on His victory as Risen Lord, take time daily to gaze on His beauty as you open His Word and get to know Him better.