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Day 1

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

And so it begins…..

Today is the first day of school for my kids. My son will be in 11th grade and my daughter will be in 10th grade. Where, o where, has the time gone?

It is my prayer today that they be an example of Christ through their service to others. They are both in student government and and in another club that focuses on service. I am blessed that we are able to send them to a Christ-centered school. I know that today they will pray and be encouraged in God’s word.

I have this verse on a chalkboard at the top of the stairs at my house. I know that it has been there so long that they probably rarely see it. But it is something that they need to remember. It is something that we all need to remember.

In fact, let me relate this to another matter. I went back to see a patient yesterday that I had not seen in a couple of months. He was expressing to me that his arm strength just wasn’t enough to help him do what he wanted to do. When I asked him if he was completing the arm exercises I gave him when I left, he replied “no”. Now, how in the world did he expect to get any stronger if he didn’t complete the exercises I gave him?

How in the world do we expect to get any stronger in our faith if we don’t study? How in the world do I expect my children to be successful in school if I don’t encourage them to study and do their homework?

It takes work and effort to be successful. It takes work and effort to make time to be in God’s word. It takes work and effort to apply the information that we learn in our studying. It takes work and effort.

I think that is a point of break down in things. Too many people don’t want to put in the work and effort – at school or in their relationship with Christ. If it doesn’t come easy, then some people just don’t want it. And that is sad. There is great reward and encouragement in a relationship with Jesus Christ. There is great reward and satisfaction in a job well done and/or a goal accomplished.

So this year, as kids all across the nation get ready to go back to school, let’s take this time to use their new start as a new start of our own. Let’s make a commitment to get more into His Word and more into His will for our life. Let’s put in the work and effort that we so easily shy away from into our relationship with Him. Let’s make this Day 1.

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Balm for my soul

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭122:1‬ ‭KJV – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I was tired from traveling all weekend. I had lots of work to do. But also, yesterday was the one year anniversary of the home-going of my grandpa. It was also the day that we had a funeral at our church for a local family whose 2 year old daughter drowned last week. My heart was super heavy.

Yet, we had Ladies’ Meeting last night. I brought a lesson on Hannah. We shared some laughs while getting God’s work done. It was good.

As I was sitting there listening to the wrap up of the meeting, my heart was just overwhelmed at God’s love toward me. He knew that I was tired. In fact, we were all tired. The majority of the ladies there had served at the church all day long trying to provide a meal for the huge amount of people who attended the funeral. God knew that we were all spend – physically and emotionally. Yet, He brought us all together to give balm to our souls.

Some people have the misconception that church is boring and doesn’t do anything but tell you all the ways that you are wrong. Well, that’s not true. Church is a “called out body of believers”. Church is a place where your additional family abides. Church is a place to be lifted up and encouraged. It is a place to share your burdens with others and receive comfort in knowing that someone is praying with you and for you. Church is a place to develop eternal relationships – with God and His people. And sometimes, church is the place where God brings us to remind us where we have gone wrong but at the same time to provide us with the opportunity to make things right.

You see, I have found that when I am obedient to His Word and attend a service of some sort whenever it is offered, I am blessed in one way or another. Even when things are tough or down-cast or joyful or bewildering, I am brought closer to Him when I am with His people in our local New Testament church. And that makes me want to say – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Becoming

‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”

Last night, one of the guys at my church brought a message partially centered around this verse. He did a great job.

I had listened to a podcast earlier in the day about becoming who you are. Of course, it was a secular thing and there was really no spiritual meaning attached to anything they said, but I believe that God brings things into your life to teach you and grow who you are, no matter the source.

So, those things together got me to thinking about becoming. What does it actually mean? Off to Dictionary.com I went. Here is the definition I found – “to come, change, or grow to be (as specified)”. The 1828 Webster’s definition is this – “to pass from one state to another; to enter into some state or condition, or by assuming or receiving new properties or qualities, additional matter, or a new character”.

I am not the same person I was yesterday. I will not be the same person tomorrow that I am today. I should be growing and changing and becoming closer to the person God would have me to be.

When Jesus called out His first disciples, they were a ragtag bunch of men that really had no significant background. They were fishermen who had probably been fishermen since they came into that area. It was what they did and who they were. They weren’t great scholars or problem solvers or men of renown. But Jesus saw something in them that made Him call them away from their nets and everything that they had ever known.

And they weren’t great missionaries straight off the starting line. It was something they had to grow into. It was a pattern of growth from one state to another by the learning of new qualities and the refining of pre-existing qualities. But it required challenges and choices and being thrusted into situations that were confusing and combative. It wasn’t an easy growth period to be sure. But each one became someone different, someone better, someone who would advance the Kingdom of God beyond all human comprehension.

Where does that leave me? Have you ever heard that song “He’s still working on me”? That’s where I am. I am still becoming. I am still becoming the wife, mother, employee, blogger, daughter, friend, occupational therapist (and whatever other word to describe me that I’m currently leaving out) that He wants me to be. I’m a process – a work in progress. I need a sign some days.

I guess what I want to send out to everyone is this – be patient with yourself and with others. We are all becoming. We are all works in progress. It might take a while to get where God wants us to be, but one day, we will get there.

All of me

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
We were challenged this weekend to love God with all that we are. Easy concept, right? Umm, no. Not so much. Not when you really take a good hard look at yourself. And that, my friend, is no fun. 

The challenge began with “Who is #1 in your life?” Well, I’m at church, on a Sunday night. The Sunday school answer is “God”, right? But when the question was asked again at the end of the challenge…the answer wasn’t God, if I was being honest with myself. And that is tough stuff right there. 

Love God with all my heart. What does that mean? As I have thought about it, I see it as loving God with all my emotion. Our heart is the center of our emotional state. When I love God with all my emotion, I make everything about Him. I choose to see His hand at work in my life. I allow Him to change and mold my attitude. Now, does that mean that I go around gushing and acting all cheesy? No. I believe that you can love God with all your heart by acknowledging Him every opportunity you get. You are deferring your emotion to Him. You are choosing to allow Him to guard and guide how you feel and respond. Loving God with all my heart.

Love God with all my soul. I think about this in this way – loving God with my eternity. My soul is something I can’t see; I can’t touch; but it is something I can give. I can give my soul back to it’s Creator by choosing Jesus as my Savior. I can allow God to have control over my eternity. Loving God with all my soul.

Love God with all my mind. Some days, I do okay with this and others days, it’s just plain ugly. In my way of thinking, this is loving God with thoughts. This is allowing God to control my thoughts. This is choosing to see things in the scope of eternity. “What would Jesus do?” It’s not wearing your heart on your shirt sleeve but rather seeing all things in the light of the love of Christ. Letting Jesus control my thoughts. Loving God with all my mind.

Love God with all my strength. To me, this is my actions. These are the things that I do or don’t do on a daily basis. This is reading my Bible. This is going to church when the doors are open. This is preparing for VBS. This is the physical action of the group. This is loving God with all my strength.

There are times when I get parts of this challenge spot on and there are times when I fail miserably. But you know what, God wants me to try my hardest. He wants me to make the choices to do things right and to seek Him daily. He knows when I am doing the best I can and when I am doing just enough to get by. This is where grace and mercy come into play. This is where I really need grace and mercy. And praise God, they never run out.

So this week, ask yourself “Who is #1 in my life?” And don’t just give the Sunday school answer. Really look hard at yourself. Ponder where your priorities really are. Happy Tuesday. 

Identity Crisis

1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭KJV – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”‭‭‬‬

I have an exercise for you today – get out a piece of paper and write “I AM” on the top of it. Then below that, I want you to write words that describe you – character traits, career choices, hobbies – anything and everything that describe you. Then, I want you to cross out all the words that describe your personality, your career, your hobbies and anything else that describes you. Now, I know that you are thinking, “Good grief Melissa, that was dumb to write it all down and then cross it all out.”

Here is the point –

We tend to think of ourself in certain ways. We see ourself as defined by words that man has made up to describe things and actions. But is that really who you are? Are you really nice? If I had to guess, if you’re like me, not all the time. Are you really hard-working? If you’re like me, laziness creeps into your life sometimes. You see, the words that we describe ourself with are temporary and unreliable. In reality, they limit us. They put us in a box or in a column that restricts who we can truly be. 

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, oh dear, you are so much more than adjectives on a page. You have been created and designed for a special purpose that it is your duty to fulfill in this life we live on a daily basis. Adjectives on a page don’t begin to describe the beauty and purpose that God has in store for you.

BUT, you have to make a choice. You see, you can see yourself as the world sees you all day long. Or, you can see yourself in the Light of Heaven and find freedom. 

Those adjectives you used to describe yourself are bars around you that keep you from reaching your full potential. The world will tell you – “It’s your life. Live it how you want to live it.” Oh, that may sound like freedom and options and all sorts of wonderful things, but in reality, when you are in control of your life and you are trying to figure out how to live it, things get messy and restrictive. 

But when you let Jesus drive your life, when you let Him describe who you are and what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it, things begin to loosen up. You are no longer bound by the limits the world places on you. You are allowed to dream big and hope fully. And you can do this because you don’t have to worry about how things are going to work out. You know that when Jesus is in control that everything works out in His time and according to His will. You just have to follow and not stray onto your own path. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately trying to tell me how to be the best version of myself and how to improve my quality of life and so on. But the one thing that all of these “professionals” have failed to mention is the importance of Christ in my daily life. He is the One who makes every little thing I do worthwhile. 

So, today is Thursday. The weekend is just around the corner. Take some time to think about how you see yourself. And then, ask Jesus how He sees you. And then, make His perspective, your perspective. When you realize that your identity isn’t found in the limits of the world, you’re scope opens up in a whole new way. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭KJV)

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Chocolate cake

‭‭James‬ ‭4:13-17‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
It is a problem that we all are guilty of participating in at some time or another – choosing not to do what is right when we know better. Yes, I know, it is also known as sin – intentional sin, at that. 

Let me set up the situation.

Let’s say that you know that you have a few pounds you need to lose. It is not drastic, you just know that if you lost them (and never found them again) that you would feel better physically and emotionally. But you are at an event and they are serving chocolate cake – your all time favorite dessert. You know that you should not eat that cake. You know that it will show up on the scale tomorrow morning. You know that it is too late at night and eating that cake will result in a restless night of sleep. You know all these things. You have rationalized it over and over again in your mind. Yet…you still eat it. You really, really, really want that chocolate cake. You know the consequences and yet you do it anyway. Sin has caught you with a fork!

I tell you this to say intentional sin is tough. We can push unintentional sin under the blanket of a forgiveness prayer. But when it comes to the sins we commit knowingly, well, that requires more effort to get rid of. Yes, I know, I’m stepping on your toes, but guess what, mine are paining too!

The problem is that it is these sins that are keeping us from a closer walk with Christ. These sins will build a wall between you and Him that if left unchecked will cause serious problems down the road. That is why it is so incredibly vital that we keep that wall destroyed. It’s like letting weeds grow in a garden. If you don’t stay on top of them and get rid of them when they pop up, before you know it, the garden is overtaken with weeds and you have to spend an enormous amount of time locating what it is that you planted one day, way back when. 

So my challenge to you, and to me, is to keep those intentional sins in check. Or better yet, when you hear that still, small voice saying “don’t do it…don’t do it”, then…don’t do it. God wants you listen to Him. He wants to guide you on the path of righteousness but He won’t make you make the right decision. He wants you to do that on your own. Gotta love free will. 

But it can be done. You can say “no” to that chocolate cake. You can walk away knowing that tonight there will be no consequences because you made the right choice! 

Gifts

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
This last weekend, my daughter was in a school performance of “The Little Mermaid”. There were so many talents displayed – song, dance, prop prep, costumes, sound management, makeup, acting – just to name a few.

And these kids had worked hard. They had been practicing for weeks and weeks to prepare for these few nights in April. They had long rehersals, extra time at home and an occasional Saturday meeting. There were lines to memorize. Dances to learn. Props to prepare. Costumes to fit to people. Seriously…hard work.

They presented this hard work beautifully. These young people are incredibly talented. They are hard working and dedicated to the task at hand. I have seen this over and over again in the last 3 years that my daughter has participated in the spring play. There may have been a year that they weren’t too excited to present the play, but they still gave it their all and didn’t quit until the curtain went down on the last night. 

They were all using their gifts. 

When we think of gifts, we think of big things like presenting God’s Word or teaching or being a missionary or singing in services. But our gifts can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are obvious while others are inconspicuous. But regardless of the attention they receive (or don’t receive), they are important. And we must use them – daily. 

For example – I am a planner and an organizer. I like to know what is coming, when it will get here and how I will handle it. I plan out lunch and dinner every day. I have the menu listed in my kitchen for everyone to see. I do this to serve my family and to provide a sense of stability to our day – things may be crazy today but at least I know what is for dinner. Crazy, I know, but this is how my brain works. Not everyone can plan things. For me, this is a gift. 

You see, I think that we overlook little details like planning and chalk them up to just being able to do things like that. But I choose to see it as a gift that I can give my family. Occasionally, I will let that gift seep over into other areas of my life. I have been known to plan events at church. I create treatment plans for my patients all the time. I help plan vacations for the family.  I organize the house on (what seems like) a daily basis. 

But in all these instances, I am serving someone. That’s the part I think we miss – the reason behind what we are doing. Yes, I do it to make my life feel easier but the main purpose is serving. And in serving, I am helping the people around me. I am showing them Christ in my life. 

I don’t know what gift(s) God has given you. I don’t know if they are flashy or private, obvious or inconspicuous but I do know that your gift(s) are important and God means for you to use them to bring Him honor and glory. I know that He is disappointed when you don’t use them. I know that He gave them to you for a reason. And I do know that you and I both need to get out there and use them more and more. You never know when His gift He has bestowed upon you might lead someone to the greatest Gift anyone could receive – salvation through Jesus Christ.