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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. 

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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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Still waters

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-2‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”
I have not been walking beside still waters lately. Oh, nothing has been terribly wrong. I have just been so busy that still waters seems to be a distant memory. 

Last weekend, we went to the beach. The place where we were at had some pretty energetic waves. My nephew and son took quite a face full of sand a few times while boogie boarding. Yet, as I walked along the beach, doing what I love to do – hunt for cool shells, I heard a jingling sound. When I looked, that jingling sound came from the amount of shells that the waves were dropping in this one particular location. They were congregating at this one spot but the waves were so rough that you couldn’t get in there to see what was being left behind. Trust me, I know. I would attempt to get to them and the wave would crash bringing with it pieces of coral and broken shells that rammed into my feet and legs. It was not pleasant, let me tell you.

But if I waited, if I stood there for a significant length of time watching the waves go in and out, a time would present itself, for just a short period, that I could run out there and view the plethora of shells that the ocean had left behind. I found 2 really large clam shells, a very old and small conch-type shell and many very pretty little shells. But I had to be fast. Those still waters didn’t last long.

That’s the way I feel my life has been since my last post. Nothing really exciting or earth shattering has occurred. My waves have just been energetic and and sometimes a bit rough. But when those still waters come and I’m able to be still, man, the things I find are beautiful and sweet. They are rare and beautiful treasures that I can store in my heart.

Flavor Enhancer or Grass Killer

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭KJV – “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”‬‬

I had a really good Sunday school lesson this week. I have shared it with my ladies’ group and with my husband’s Sunday school class. But I really feel that I should share it with you today. 

Salt. Yummy, yummy salt. It makes food taste good. But did you know that salt does more than make things taste good? I want to look at the purpose of salt and relate it to our walk with Christ.

1) Preservative – Salt has been used for many years to preserve food. People used to rub a ham with it and hang it in a smoke house to preserve the meat until they were ready to eat it. I know in my house, we use salt in our beef jerky to preserve the meat. Preservation is good. But what are we doing to preserve the teachings and statues of Christ in our life and in our world? You see, followers of Christ are supposed to be the ones restraining the movement toward moral, spiritual and political decline. Yet, too often, I fear that we are sitting on our hands and taking the back seat on way too many issues. We are letting things decay around us faster than we have ever seen in the past. We are not being salt.

2) Flavor – Salt adds flavor to whatever it is applied to. A good salty tortilla chip really adds zest to an already delightful salsa. Salt on a fresh, ripe, summertime tomato is hard to beat. When you leave salt out of a recipe, you can taste the difference. The food is bland. It may be palatable, but not enjoyable. And so is a life without Christ. We need to live our Christ-filled life in such a way that people will see how bland their life is without Him. We need to add flavor to the lives around us. 

3) Create thirst – Now, this one was the one that got me. When you eat those delightfully salty tortilla chips without the salsa, what happens? You are reaching for a glass of water because the salt makes you thirsty. We need to be showing Christ so much in our life that people are thirsty – for the Living Water. (This lovely analogy was brought to my attention by a young man we go to church with – thanks Luke!) ‭‭John‬ ‭4:10, 13-14‬ ‭KJV – “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus is that Living Water. When we come to Him thirsty, He gives us Water that will never leave us thirsty again. How beautiful and cool is that!

Salt has to be kept pure in order for it to remain useful. Have you ever been cooking and spilled some salt on the counter with all the other stuff you have spilled? You can’t separate the salt out and try to put it back in the bowl. Once it touches something else, you have deminished it’s usefulness. Yes, we a followers of Christ are supposed be in the world telling others about Him. But we can’t let the world tarnish our usefulness for Him. It is a delicate balance, for sure. But we have to remember to let Him lead us and not go where He doesn’t lead. 

I love how God uses the simple things in life to remind us of great spiritual truths. He knew that we would all understand salt, no matter when the Scripture is read or studied. So take to heart this little lesson on salt. And…be salty!

Lessons from Sunday morning

Psalms‬ ‭46:1-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”‭‭

This was our passage for the Sunday morning message. The preacher titled the message “Think About It”. Let me give you what I took away from the message.

The first thing I saw was the three “Selah”. Now then, what does that word mean? It means “to rest, ponder”. However, you can make an acronym out of it: S – Stop, E – Everyone, L – Listen, A – And, H – Hear. “Stop Everyone. Listen And Hear.” 

How often do we hear but not listen? I know I do it from time to time. I will hear someone speaking to me, but I am doing something else at the time and I don’t listen to them. How often do we read the Word of God and not listen to it? Ohhhh….that one hurt. I am the first in line to admit to reading dutifully but not listening dutifully. It is sad, really. I miss so much in the Word of God by simply not paying attention. I need to stop, listen and hear. 

Another thing I found in these verses is the reoccurant theme of “refuge”. 

Have you ever needed refuge? There was one time that we were at a theme park and it began to rain. No, the heavens opened up and we were caught in the midst of a deluge. We were seeking refuge from the storm. We found it under a bridge. It was kinda fun but also very humbling. We got to the point that we knew that we couldn’t handle the situation and we needed some protection.

We are bombarded out in the world with all kinds of yuck. We see it in the news, hear it on the radio, see it on the streets – yuck is everywhere. We need some place to get away, to escape. We need somewhere where the problems and issues of the world are taken away and dealt with. 

We need Jesus. He is our refuge. He is our strength. He is our strong tower. And when we decide to go to Him, He tells us to “be still”. Not my strong point. I’m always busy. Always doing something. Rarely do I give myself the opportunity to be still. But this is exactly where God wants us to be. We need to allow ourself to be still sometimes. 

Being still means that we make the choice to let Someone else handle things. We give over our perceived control to the One who is truly in control. And when we do this, we can find peace – that elusive peace we all desire. But it really isn’t elusive. It just requires us to return whatever control we thought we had to it’s original owner. It is attainable. 

Stop. Listen and hear. Seek refuge in Christ. 

Psalm 46 is one of encouragement. It is one that reminds us that stopping the chaos around us to listen to the Word of God provides more than just information. It provides peace. And if there is anything this world needs more of, it is the peace of God. 

Breaking through

Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:6‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”‭‭

It has been a while. Sorry. I have had some things on my mind – things that have been a bit troubling and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle them. 

I had some time this last week to think on them and pray about them. And here is what I determined – the devil is trying to keep me from doing what I know that God would have me to do.

We get like that from time to time, don’t we? We are plugging along, doing what we think and feel that God wants us to do, and then we hit some sort of invisible wall that all of the sudden this thing that you have been doing just doesn’t seem doable anymore. You start coming up with excuses and find reasons not to fulfill what you know that God wants you to do. Things begin to happen that make you question your reason, your purpose and your safety in completing what you know that God has laid on your heart to do. 

It happens to everyone – the pastor, the missionary, the teacher, the casual blogger. You have to find a way to break through. 

This last week, my husband was at a conference that I was blessed to be able to attend with him. There were several motivational speakers there that he heard. On the last day, he was asked to be a part of one of the seminars as a helper. Well, I had to see what this “helper” was going to help with – it was breaking a board with one’s hand. Sounds very ninja-like, right? Well, I saw people of all ages, sizes and abilities breaking an untampered board with their bear hand. The whole purpose of the activity was to write what it was that was holding you back from moving forward in your life on this board and then break through it – metaphorically and literally. 

We all need to break through something. Often times, that thing is fear. It is fear of failure, fear of starting, fear of change and sometimes, just plain old, flat out fear. It permeates us from time to time. It holds us back. It keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us from the blessings of God. Fear is one of the great tools of the devil. He uses it to control us, to keep us from serving God in such a way that could change the world. And we let him use that tool. We choose to see fear as something that protects us from the bad we perceive. Truth be told, that “bad” isn’t really “bad” at all. We should, instead, chose to see it as a challenge that forces us to move in a different direction. God put it there for a reason.

So this week, what is holding you back? What do you need to break through? What is it that is hindering your blessings from God? What is keeping you from serving Him like you know He is calling you to do? Together, let’s break through this thing!

A Long, Hard Look in the Mirror

James 1:22-25 – “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

Happy 2018!

I hope that your Christmas was lovely and your New Years was fun. We had a great time visiting with family and sharing memories together. 

One of the presents that I got this year was a vanity mirror – you know the ones that light up and magnify to show every imperfection on your face. I love it! Now I can really see time marching across my face! No, seriously, I really wanted one. I was practically sitting on my bathroom counter trying to put on eyeliner. This is going to be a great help.

But it made me consider another type of glass – the one mentioned here in James. Oh, this glass shows way more imperfections that my magnifying mirror will show. And these imperfections hurt. The ones I see in my mirror just remind me that I’m not 20 anymore. 

The imperfections I see in myself that are reflected by the Perfect Law of Liberty remind me that I’m not done growing yet. I have faults, failures and shortcomings that need to be addressed. I see opportunities missed and conversations squandered. But I also see successes and accomplishments. I see places where I have been obedient. I see times when Jesus was smiling on me.

Today is the first day of 2018. It is a time for goals and/or resolutions. It is a time for reflection and thinking ahead. Today is the perfect day to sit down and take a good, hard look in the mirror…of God’s Word. It is the perfect day to start a Bible study, begin reading through the Bible, start that journal you have been thinking about, begin that prayer time that has been convicting your heart – whatever the burden God has laid upon your heart to begin doing, do it today!

And when you get up to do the other things that this day is bringing, don’t forget what you saw in the mirror of God’s Word. Let it penetrate and change you. Let it open you up to His will for your life. Let Him have control this year. Live like you believe.