Monday, July 27, 2015

A Godly Measure of Success



Success, according to Dictionary.com:




Do you notice the connotation? Success is something that you and I attain. We shape it, find it, and seize it as our own. It’s up to us to set the goals that, once accomplished, are considered success.

Hold this definition up to the Bible’s definition of success:
…..
……… there isn’t one.

Believe it or not, whenever we find the word “success” in Scripture, it’s very translated. If you look up success in a concordance and then trace back to the Hebrew or Greek, you’ll find definitions like “out,” “advance,” “prosper,” and “wisdom.”

You’ll also find that whenever “success” is used, it is accompanied by the clarifying words “from the Lord.”

Psalm 118 and Genesis 27:20 tell us that success is the Lord’s to grant. When examined more closely, the phrase in Hebrew is indicating that prosperity, also described in modern times as a blessing, is something given by the Lord.

In Nehemiah 2:20, we read the proclamation that God will give success. The Hebrew reads more closely “He will prosper to us.” Contemporarily “He will bless us with.”
David, as you likely know, “had great success, because the LORD was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14.) But the Hebrew more directly says that David “behaved in wise ways,” which led to the blessings of prosperity.

When Job cried out, “Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?” You see, success was never Job’s power or help…the Hebrew word here is “wisdom” (Job 6:13.)

Indeed, the popular Proverb 2:7, which reads “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless” uses the word success to describe what in Hebrew is “sound wisdom.” This sort of wisdom is called “helpful insight” and it advances a person, helping a person to abide in accomplishing that which they set out to do. Deliverance is involved.

And isn’t that right on?

Scriptural examples of success are all about receiving from the Lord and glorifying Him with that which is given.

Jesus’ success was measured by His Father being pleased. The disciples’ success was measured not by number of conversions or reach of message, but by responding to the call of the Lord accordingly.

Gain and attainment are merely the results of what Scripture calls success: wisdom and blessings. They are not the goal themselves.

Both wisdom and blessings are gifts from the Lord.

Doesn’t that change what you strive for?


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” –James 1:5

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sdayWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, andTellHisStory.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Looking through Thorn-Covered Glasses?




Imagine trying to live with a log in your eye. Think you’d have some blind spots?

Jesus seemed to think so, saying:

                “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? 
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

We all have blind spots. When we try to see without removing them, we see differently, as if through a filter. Instead of having “rose-colored glasses” at times, we have “thorn-covered” vision.

Our prejudices block out some of the truth of the matter. Assumptions we’ve made, beliefs we maintain, and feelings that we haven’t handed over to God obstruct our view, distorting our perspective.

That filter can cloud everything else we see.

Imagine if Old Testament Israel had not closed their eyes to the rule of the Lord and looked instead upon the reign of earthly kings.

Imagine if the New Testament Jews had seen that their perception of the coming Messiah –a blazing, mighty warrior- had not prejudiced them against the lion coming as a lamb.

The disciples, at times, revealed their blind spots, too. Peter was notorious for making his known, even earning himself the rebuke from Jesus “get behind me, Satan.”

Trouble comes swiftly when we, like the oh-so-human characters we witness in Scripture, begin to act on those distorted views.

Making decisions, forming opinions, and taking control of things we don’t understand, we are quick to become “the blind leading the blind” and find ourselves soon in the pits of judgment, hypocrisy, and offense.

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever made your mind up about someone or something based off of a prejudice you had? Ever ended up regretting that opinion or losing out on something because of that attitude?

It’s hard for us to accept what Proverbs 20:24 has to say:
A person's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

We’re not the captains of our own ships, ultimately. Praise the Lord for that.

Knowing that we have blind spots, it is best to truly “live by faith, not by sight.”

What does that mean?
·         Keeping our hearts tender toward those who frustrate us
·         Listening for the Spirit to prompt us
·         Acting with discernment, but not judgement
·         Submitting to commands, verses, and the Lord’s work even when we don’t understand
·         Relying on Him instead of our own understanding
·         Avoiding hypocrisy by examining our hearts and asking the Lord to cleanse us
·         Seeking forgiveness for our prejudices and resulting sins
·         Emphasizing other’s blind spots only as ours are dealt with too
·         Refreshing our hearts daily with His Word and wisdom, which corrects and teaches

Let’s take off our thorn-covered glasses and expose our blind spots to the light of the Lord. His view is always better than ours. We can trust His direction and remove the filters that we’ve created to protect us –even from that which we don’t understand about Him.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sdayWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, andTellHisStory.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37818606@N00/15017311821">DSC04452</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Apple Almond Scones



Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour + flour for dusting
  •  1/2 cup white sugar
  •  5 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  •  3/4 cup grated, frozen butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 Cup Finely chopped seasoned apples OR apples stewed and slightly crushed into almost applesauce OR leftover apple pie filling



Directions

  1. Sift together dry ingredients, including cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Add frozen, grated butter into the mix and gently blend in with pastry cutter until the dry mix is crumbly.
  3. In a separate bowl, measure out milk, beat in an egg, and add the almond extract.
  4. Slowly add the wet mixture into the dry, folding so as not to over mix.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough can be patted into a cohesive round.
  6. Divide dough into 8 slices and bake at 400 degrees or until slightly browned. 

For the Topping

Mix together powdered sugar and milk, whisking until a basic frosting forms. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat until mixture is sticky and thin. Spread over scones and sprinkle sliced 
almonds on top. 


Enjoyable with tea or coffee : )



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Do You Think About?


Try this little experiment with me. Set a timer to go off in 2 minutes, and then just sit and think. After 2 minutes, think about what you thought about.

Did you think about…

·         What you have to do today
·         Worries you have
·         Your plans this week
·         How someone else is doing
·         The show you watched last night
·         How you wish your blog were doing better
·         How your house got so messy….

We think all the time. Often our thoughts are numb, though. Frequently, our thoughts are all about the practical, about our feelings, and, well….me and mine.

God’s thoughts on our thoughts?

  • ·         Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5)
  • ·         Think on: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” (Phil 4:8)
  • ·         Meditate on His precepts and promises (Joshua 1:8, for one…)
  • ·         Bind His Words on our hearts and minds (Deut 6:8)
  • ·         Grow in knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18)


For you and I to obey these teachings, we have to start by getting our brains off of auto-pilot. Our thoughts have to become….thoughtful. Purposeful. Turned toward the Lord. Willing to learn and listen. Reflective. Focused less on earthly things and more on things above (Col 3:2.)

Unfortunately, just as our hearts don’t change because we tell them to our minds don’t either. To have thoughts that glorify, grow us, and put us in the presence of the Lord, we have to humbly ask. We have to see our error as our minds wander and switch into prayer.

That’s where praying without ceasing, setting our minds on things above, and thinking on “these things” all merge together and align.

We can begin by paying more attention to our thoughts. Pushed and pulled by the things we face and encounter moment by moment, our thoughts are often aimless and chaotic, lacking in direction and ultimate purpose.

Rather than “correcting our thinking” though, we can give the Lord our attention.

Remember in the moment that He is with you, hears you, and involved. The conversation can be constant, and as a result of being near to God, your thoughts will change. It’s inevitable.


Time your 2 minutes of thought again, but give your thoughts direction: turn them toward the Lord. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Breaking Down the Door


Photo from: workawesome.com

Above all else, guard your heart,
 for everything you do flows from it.” 

                I think most of us learn to live this way for a young age. A harsh teacher called life gives most of us lessons on disappointment, hurt, and betrayal from the time we’re little. Once adults, there are even labels for those who don’t learn to guard themselves well. We call these vulnerable people “gullible” and “na├»ve.”

                To keep our hearts safe, we put up walls. There’s a door you can enter with permission –that’s where loved ones get in to hear secrets and become knit together with us.

                Unfortunately, God often doesn’t get permission to pass through that door.

                Of all beings who can disappoint us, hurt us, and betray us, God –being all powerful as He is- is at the top of the list. Being a black and white ruler, an eternal judge, and the one who condemns, God is one to be weary of.

                From our place of fear, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, and more in the fortress of our hearts, we think it’s better to keep that kind of God distant.

                There are more reasons for guarding our hearts against God.

                On the days we feel guilty, unworthy, flawed, and insufficient, we believe it’s better for God to be on the outside. Keep that grace and love and mercy that we feel we don’t deserve far away, and guard the mess that’s in our hearts. It’s easier than the chaos and hurt that comes when our hearts get cleaned up.

                Praise the Lord that He breaks down the door.

                Praise the Lord that the prayer we’re taught in Psalm 51:10 reads:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

                The prayer isn’t “thank you God that I’ve got a clean heart.” These aren’t words we say when all is well and our hearts are tidy and safe.

                This is an invitation for God to open the door to the heart –pushing past all that mess and all our fortifications- to get to work. And it isn’t easy work.

                To get clean, things have to get taken out of place and put back in right order. Some things have to get thrown out completely, others thoroughly scrubbed. Secret piles have to be exposed.

In all this, notice that “O God” is the one cleaning: you and I have to trust that He knows how best to arrange our hearts, can get the ugly spots refreshed without rubbing us raw, and that He won’t walk in and out disgusted with what He found inside.

Here’s the catch: He already knows what’s inside. Long before He breaks down the door. Even before we issue the invitation. While we’re still fortifying the stronghold. Before we’ve turned from sin and invited the Lord to be our Savior, He knows what’s in those guarded hearts.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.Hebrews 4:13

So the question –when we can’t bring ourselves to open the door, when we can’t even find it in our hearts or in the hearts of those we love- is less “God, break in” and more “when He comes, will I go before Him in confidence?”

Because He will break in. Unlikely the thief who sneaks in or tricks us into welcoming him, our Lord enters through the door, or the gate. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2.)

Like the sheep, we are to know our Shepherd. We are to know that when He enters, we follow Him and trust in Him. “We can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence,” even as He enters our hearts, “because of Christ and our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12.)

Jesus isn’t just the one who breaks down our door and enters through the gate –He is the gate. He is the protector of our hearts, regardless of the fortifications we create. He is the way by which God’s reaches into us and the way by which we access Him.


Praise the Lord that our hearts are ultimately His.