COLOSSIANS #16: GROW LIKE A TREE, NOT LIKE A WEED

This whole post by Pastor Tom really spoke to me. One of the things that really stood out was the idea that it is “Jesus who causes me to grow. One thing he said was, The growth comes not because we earn it, but because we trust” Jesus. He says not fight with Jesus about “basics like reading your Bible, praying and being involved in Christian community,” but only Jesus can make growth happen.

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Sometimes our  Christian culture can give us the idea that we ought to be constantly having amazing spiritual feelings and experiences. But at best, that idea is distorted. The message of this text – the message of the Bible – is that a lot of the growth we have in Jesus takes place below the surface. A lot of it is kind of ordinary. It is quiet and deep, and maybe even slow. This applies to both churches and individual Christians. Growth is something Jesus does in us and for us. He uses simple, straightforward means to grow us, and anyone can participate in those means.

COLOSSIANS
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Changing Thinking

When someone suggested I call customer support about one of our office machines, I grumbled, “They’re never any help.” I added in my mind: I’ve had nothing but trouble with that stupid machine from the beginning! Also, communicating with tech support totally frustrates me.

Really? Am I thinking that people should immediately solve the problems and if not, I need to get angry? Or do I believe that because I’ve had difficulties before, things can’t change? Maybe faulty thinking is behind my irritation. How can I change?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 New Living Translation).

I can start with prayer. Lord, please help me! I have harbored anger and frustration in my heart. which have come out in angry words. I also felt resentful toward people who seemed to get better service than I did. I confess these things as sin. Please forgive me.

I could follow up with choosing God’s way over mine. I choose to “cease from anger and forsake wrath because it tends only to evil-doing” (Psalm 37:8–Amplified Bible). I will “put on” the new me which is being re-created in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:24). Now I can forgive others and choose to overlook someone’s fault. I will walk in an attitude of generosity which rejoices when others are blessed.

As I follow Him, Jesus leads me to experience abundant life. What a relief to be able to accomplish my tasks without tripping over my old non-renewed mind!

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Learning in the Struggle – Journey Reblog #12

At one time when my anxiety symptoms intensified, I reached out for help. Through a series of misunderstandings, I ended up spending a night in a “suicide watch” unit, even though suicide has never been an issue for me. But while I was there, I met a young mother who had tried to take her own life. I wished I knew how to help her.

Since then I’ve learned of others with similar struggles. I prayed privately for one young woman: “Father, she can’t seem to grasp how much You love her or how precious she is to You or how faithful and mighty You are or how You are for her and not against her. Please help her.”

2015 San Francisco, CA

 

I understand where she’s coming from. I remember when I went through my own storm of anxiety. My troubled mind latched onto doubts and let truth slip out of my hands. I wrote wonderful verses in my journal, like Romans 5:5, “…For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Also, Psalm 56:9, “…This I know: God is on my side.” (Both are New Living Translation) Still I felt unable to trust and believe the truth.

Doubt pointed at me (and my focus followed his pointing finger) and whined: These things are true for others, but maybe not for me. I don’t have as much faith as other people. I might not love God enough, or perhaps I’m not good enough. There could be conditions on these promises that I’m not meeting.”

Two things that helped me were getting proper medication and understanding that I could choose to believe God no matter how I felt. Now that storm has passed, and I’m learning to turn my gaze away from me and back to God. It occurred to me that whatever I’m lacking, He is great enough to make up for. He calls me to believe Him, trust Him, and rest in Him.

 

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Paths of Peace

Speaking to his infant son John (John the Baptist), Zechariah said, “[You will give the Messiah’s] people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…[and the Messiah will] guide our feet into paths of peace.”

Thank You, Jesus, for guiding my feet into paths of peace.

When I go Your way regarding anxiety, I receive peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). If I trust You and anchor my mind in You, You keep me in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). You give real peace, not the shaky peace the world gives (John 14:27).

Jesus, You tell me not to let my heart be troubled or afraid. Sometimes I think I can’t prevent my heart from being troubled and afraid. But the truth is that with Your Holy Spirit in me, I have all the power I need to choose obedience, trust and peace instead of fear, agitation and anxiety.

Yes, thank You, Lord, for Your guidance into pathways of peace.

Amen.

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Hope in God – Journey Reblog 11

As my journey continued through the distress of almost constant panic, I journaled about my feelings. In mid-January I wrote:

The hours and days pass moment by moment, and I feel faithless and fearful. But I choose to trust in You, Lord Jesus Christ.

            I need sleep! I got very little last night. Lord, You are the One who sustains my body. You know what I need, and You determine how soon the meds will take effect. You are the One who gives sleep.

            I seek You. I need You, Lord! You alone can help me. I don’t feel faithful or trusting, but You alone are Lord, and I’m determined to believe and trust You. Please heal my body and mind. Amen.

When a godly friend prayed for me, I thought that would fix everything. I was disappointed that I still woke up every couple of hours at night and first thing in the morning in panic. I also feared that I would be a disappointment to her—as though it were my responsibility to make the answers come instead of God’s!

Maybe I’m trusting in my ability to believe God instead of trusting in God Himself.

            Father, I don’t know how to change. Please help me focus on You and really trust You. Amen.

The medicine did finally start helping me sleep. I came to the place where I didn’t wake up in panic mode each morning.  By balancing brain chemicals, the medicine also enabled more reasonable ways of thinking. And God is helping me to change my thoughts to healthier patterns (Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”)*

So I want to encourage anyone who is still thrashing through the forest of anxiety/depression symptoms to hope or keep hoping in God. He will lead you out of your distress at just the right time because His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 42:5 “Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.”*

1 Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His faithful love endures forever.”*

 

*Scriptures are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

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Source of Sabotage

In a conversation with a respected friend, one remark flew right past the logic center of my brain and poked a hole in my heart. My friend had said one thing and somewhere between my ears and my soul it got twisted so that I heard something entirely different.

I heard blame: “XYZ’s unpleasant behavior is all your fault,” and I heard put-down: “You are a bad person, worthy of rejection.”

Aha! Rejection! There’s a mental stronghold where the enemy twists thoughts, shreds meanings, and shoots out his lies. I see other strongholds in my soul too, but what can I do?

Asking the Holy Spirit to show me the truth might help. He points out a foundation stone of pride—thinking life should work the way I want it to. So I could start with humbling myself before God and remembering that He’s God and I’m not.

I’ve let past rejections and hurt feelings build up instead of dealing with them God’s way. Now fortress walls guard a breeding ground for grief and misunderstanding. They ought to come down as I choose to repent of my bitterness and to quit focusing on myself.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV).

(Picture by Colin Smith, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13083522)

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Encouragement for the Anxious – Journey Reblog 10

(Flowers on a Journey)

When did I begin this journey toward wholeness? I had thought I began in early November of 2016, but really, I’ve been on the journey all my Christian life. Likewise, I had thought it ended by the first of March 2017, but again, my walk toward wholeness won’t end until my life on earth is complete and I see Jesus face to face. (1 John 3:2–Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.”)

Nevertheless, during that 4-month period, I struggled with the brokenness of anxiety/ depression in a way that made that part of the journey particularly noticeable. So how can I encourage others who find themselves on the same road? There is one thing I could say to those who follow Christ yet feel overwhelmed with anxiety or depression symptoms: You can be sure that God is with you. I was so wrapped up in anxiety that I had trouble believing that. Frequent verbal reminders helped me. Many Scriptures tell us this truth, but because I couldn’t feel God’s presence, I wavered in unbelief. I hope you’ll do better at believing than I did, but even if you don’t, He’s still with you, loving and helping you through it all. And He will still be with you when you come out on the other side.

How do I know? First, because God has promised and He is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”) Second, because of what God did for me. How thankful I am for God’s faithfulness to me and His patience with me!

Psalm 139:5 “You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me.”      Psalm 23:4 “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 “…for [God] Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

 

(Scripture quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

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The Soul’s Delight

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:1-3a NIV).

“Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. [Other versions say, “and the unrighteous their thoughts.”] Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously” (Isaiah 55:6-7 New Living Translation or NLT). [Other versions—“freely pardon,” “freely forgive,” and “abundantly pardon.”]

Holy Spirit, I need Your help to forsake my old negative ways of thinking that I learned from the world and culture around me. I want to come and drink living water and partake of the bread of life. Please point out to me where I’ve chosen the wrong ways so I can repent. I will choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

Ephesians 4:22-24 instructs me to get rid of my old corrupted nature—my ways of thinking and doing which aren’t under Your control. Instead, I am to “let the Spirit renew [my] thoughts and attitudes,” and to “put on [my] new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (NLT). So with Your help, that is what I’ll do.

I’m determined to quit feeding the old me with its negative thought patterns and behaviors which have no life. I want to start feeding my new nature which is becoming more and more like Jesus. He is life and the Giver of life. I will partake of Him and His Word, and I will grow.

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The All-Sufficient Cross of Christ

This devotional by our pastor Randy Huddleston spoke to my heart, and I have his permission to share it with you.

The All-Sufficient Cross of Christ

Prepare yourself, take off your shoes because you are entering holy ground.

Sacrifice, selflessness, supreme, surprising, suffering, the Son of God nailed to a cross to die.

The injured party in the human drama was God.  His joy and desire were to delight in the people he had made, but they turned on him and aligned themselves with his archenemy.  God was stabbed in the back.  The relationship was broken, and separation led to consequences for the hurt they had done.  This was no small thing like spilled milk; this was the breakdown of divine and human connection, love, and the journey together.  That brilliant, beautiful pair’s act of rebellion rippled like a tsunami across the created order affecting the animate and inanimate.  It has come to you as part of creation and as a son or daughter of Adam and Eve.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Romans 5:12 (NLT2)

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. Romans 8:20-21 (NLT2)

A solution was needed to sin, curse, and death.  Neither human philosophy, self-made religion, or holier-than-thou living would be the solution.  The solution had to come from above, and God provided it.  He sent his Son.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 (NLT2)

Jesus, the God-man, Son of God, who lived a perfect and blameless life, humbled himself to be the sacrifice, the sufficient sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin.  No other could do it.  He knew the importance of what he did.  His suffering and death were not to impress or please you but to provide justice before the Supreme Court of Highest Heaven.  If the requirements of the highest law and Lawgiver were not met, there would be no future for humanity or this universe.  Jesus on the cross was the all-sufficient, permanent, and perfect payment.  He changed everything.

Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 (NLT2)

Adam freely took from the tree and disobeyed God leading to death.  Jesus willingly gave himself on the tree and fully obeyed God even to death.  Adam’s death led to death for all.  Jesus’ death leads to life.

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT2)

Jesus’ death on the cross did it, once for all, no need for continued animal sacrifices.  Jesus’ cross was God’s plan, and when it was finished, people could have new life in him.  Trying to earn points to get into God’s good graces is of no value by comparison to the once for all sacrifice of Christ.  Salvation is only by God’s grace; no one can earn it by what they think is good.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT2)

  • Have you ever considered Jesus’ death on the cross insufficient and tried to do good things to be saved? 
  • No other historical event has done more to set people free than this one selfless solitary sacrifice on the cross.  Has the cross of Christ enthralled you?

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Too Late? (Journey Re-Blog 9)

 

2016 GNP falls A

Twisted thoughts and fears aggravated my anxiety in the journey toward wholeness. I suspected that so far, I hadn’t lived very well the life God gave me. I’d been tangled in self-focus and tripped up by mixed motives and other things displeasing to the Lord. I feared that now it was too late, and I was too old to be useful to God.

I argued with the anxiety. I said, “Moses was 80 years old when he started leading the people of Israel,” and, “Surely one is never too old or too young to serve Jesus.” But neither my trembling body with its sweaty palms nor my panicky mind seemed to be listening to my logic.

So I asked God what to say to the doubts and fears. I think He told me to call them what they are—lies. God’s promises in His Word contradict these mental messages. For example:

“They [the righteous] will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14). [I am righteous in Christ.]

“…I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” (John 15:16). [Thank You, Jesus, for appointing me to go and bear lasting fruit. Let me fit into Your plans.]

“[For] it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

“Because of the Lord ‘s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

“…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (from Hebrews 4:7, emphasis mine).

TODAY!  It’s not too late! It’s still today. I won’t let my heart get hard. I will choose to listen to God and believe and obey Him today.

Thank You, Lord, for another day—today—to serve You and seek to bring honor to Your name. Amen.

At that time I still didn’t feel better, but now that I’m out of the valley, I have some ammunition against those “too old, too late” fears that sometimes attack.

(All Bible quotes are New International Version.)

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