Bloom Where You’re Planted

My mom always told me, “bloom where you’re planted.”  It seems similar to being “willing.”

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Image Credit: LessonsFromHome.co

When you’re willing, you want to.  You’re inclined to.  You’re ready to.  It sounds positive.  Like maybe you’re cheerful about whatever it is you’re willing to do.

To bloom where you’re planted means you’re willing to make the best of a situation – even flourish in that situation.

I think of Esther, a Jewish woman who became a queen of Persia and saved her people from a plot to have them all killed.  She bloomed where she was planted.  She was willing to act on what was right, use the position God placed her in, and save an entire group of people…even if it meant losing her own life.  (Spoiler alert – she lived!  Shew!  Read her story in the Old Testament book of Esther).

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Image Credit: SermonCentral.com

I think of Samuel, a young boy serving in the temple when the Lord came and stood and called out to him.  Samuel was willing to bring a word of prophecy from the Lord, even though the first word pointed to the death of his mentor, Eli, the priest.  Samuel bloomed where he was planted and eventually ushered in the monarchy in Israel when he anointed Saul as king.  Samuel was willing to be an obedient servant of the Lord. (Read this part of Samuel’s story in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel chapter 3).

When we find ourselves in situations that aren’t of our choosing – a job, a move, a social situation – it is our Christian responsibility to represent our God and our relationship with Him.  We must be willing to choose Christ-like behaviors, to treat others kindly, to do the best job possible…to make the most or the best of the situation…to bloom where we are planted.

 

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }

In It, Not Of It

Being a Christian who lives in the world but isn’t conformed to it isn’t the easiest job I’ve ever had.  I’m sad to say that I have conformed to the world and what it says is right.  Thankfully, I turned to God again and let Him and His Word renew my mind.

Satan is crafty, isn’t he?  He knows how to make sin look good.  Fun.  Exciting.  He knows how to twist things aroundHe knows our weaknesses.  He has been allowed some power in the world.  Don’t believe me?  Look around.  Read the newspaper.  Watch the evening news.  Walk through the mall.

But the world can’t have me anymore.  I have made Jesus the Lord of my life.  I have given control to Him.  I see the world through Christ-centered lenses now.

I know that I am not home here, and I won’t be conformed to it or by it anymore.  Not with Jesus in my heart and His Word in my hand.

{ This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up }

The Cliche Question

Why do bad things happen to good people?

A friend who desperately wanted to have a second child finally got pregnant after about three years.  When she and her husband went to the 18 week ultrasound, eager to learn the sex of the baby, there was no heartbeat.  She had to go to the hospital later that week to deliver a little boy who they’d never take home.  They named him Benjamin, held him a few minutes, and that was that.

I didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  We took them dinner a week or so later, and they asked us to stay and eat with them.  It was awkward, to say the least.

What do you say to someone who’s just had to give up their heart’s desire?

She told me, “I’ve been praying for God to use me.  I can’t get mad at Him when He does what I’ve been praying for him to do.”

That’s when I realized why this was happening to her.  It happened so she and her family could bring glory to God through their response.

We search and search for answers when bad things happen.  Why did this happen?  Why me?  Why us?  Did I do something wrong?  Is God mad at me?

But the answer is simple: all things – even the tough, the crappy, the hard, the ugly, the terrible – are an opportunity for us to glorify God.

{ This post was written a part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up – https://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/ }

 

You Are Kept For Christ

Follower of Christ, did you know that you are “kept for Christ”?

In the greeting of his letter to early Christians, Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers, wrote:

“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” Jude 1:1

The original word used for “kept” in this verse is “téréo”, and it means to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard, to keep, to observe, to reserve.

God’s Promise

We are kept for Him, guarded for Him, reserved for Him.  Even better, He’s the one doing the keeping, guarding, and reserving. This means we are carefully attended to and taken care of by God. 

Notice that the word “kept” is in the past tense; the keeping and guarding was completed in the past.  God has already set us apart to carefully attend to us for Himself.  This is a task that is accomplished when we accept salvation.

In the closing of the letter, Jude writes, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” The original word used for “to keep” here is “phylassó” – another verb similar in meaning to “téréo.”  (This verb has a stronger emphasis on keeping someone or something safe).  Not only are we kept by God, for God – something completed in the past – but God is able to keep us – something He will continue to do.  He kept us in the past and will continue to keep us into the future.

Our Responsibility

Within Jude’s letter, he implores readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:21)

This implies that Christians have a responsibility in the keeping and guarding as well.  So, although we are kept by God, we are also to keep ourselves in God’s love.

kept by God – God already did it when we accepted Jesus as our Savior

God is able to keep – God will continue to do it into the future

keep yourselves – Christians continue to do it

Ultimately, scripture teaches that true believers do not lose their salvation, but that doesn’t mean we have a free ride.  We must keep our eyes on God so that we don’t fall away into sin rendering ourselves useless to God.

This brings up an important question: How do we keep ourselves for Christ?

We find clues for that by doing a Biblical word study and looking for the words “kept” or “keep” in other parts of scripture.  Here are a few examples:

In Exodus 20:6, God, speaking to Moses, uses the word to explain that He will show lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commands.

In Leviticus 23:32, God talks to Moses about the Sabbath, describing how the people should behave on that day.

In John 14:23, Jesus tells the 12 disciples that anyone who loves him will keep his commands.

In these passages, God urges us to live as He said, to behave a certain way, to observe His words and do what He said to do.  This is how we keep ourselves for Christ.

Still, how do we know how He said to live or behave?  We have to study the Word and pray. We have to strengthen ourselves by reading our Bibles so we will know what God commanded. Then, we have to talk with Him daily to establish an intimate relationship with Him so we can know His heart.

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Image Credit:

Say this prayer with me:

Father, I am grateful that I am kept for you and kept by you.  Thank you, Lord, that this part is finished. Done. In the past. Thank you for your lovingkindness.  But, Lord, your word also tells me that you are “able to keep,” which means that your care and attention continues.  I am grateful that, not only have you kept me for yourself in the past, but you are able to keep me today and forevermore.  You’re able to keep me from falling into sin.  I am kept, so my salvation is secure, forever.  More than ever, I want to study your Word, pray to you, and wait for you.  I want to live like I know you’re coming back.  I will keep myself in your love.

Amen

 

The Purpose of Sin

Sin points me toward a relationship with God.

Apart from God, I am a slave to sin.  I am powerless against it.

But with Christ, I am free from the chains of it.  I can resist it.  I don’t have to do it – whatever it is.  I am able to say no.

So, why do I still sin even though Christ’s death set me free from it?

My sin nature is what shows me my need for God.

When I speech doesn’t glorify God, I am reminded of my need for Him.

When I have impure thoughts, I am turned back toward a relationship with Him.

When I fuss and complain about people or situations, I see why I need a relationship with God.

When I have to fight off Satan’s attempts to distract and discourage me, I am pointed toward God.

When I lose my temper with my children, I realize I need God in my life.

When I sin, the Holy Spirit within me convicts me, and that conviction calls me to repent and turn back to God.

So, the purpose of sin is to point me back to Him, to remind me why I need Him.

Let me stop and say that I am not advocating for sin here.  I am not rationalizing that it is acceptable to sin because the sin will make me turn to Him.

I cannot ignore the pain and suffering Jesus endured on the cross and say it is ok to freely sin and go without repenting.

What I am saying is this is why sin exists – to remind the Christian that we can’t do it on our own.

Our sin shows us that we need God…an intimate, personal, relationship with Him.

We need to spend time reading the Bible so we’ll know who God is.  We need to spend time in prayer so we can know His heart.  We need to spend time listening to Him so we will know His voice.

His voice will convict us.

His voice will lead us down the righteous path.

Make in Me a Clean Mouth, O God

Confession: I have had a terribly filthy mouth in my day.

I guess having a “potty-mouth,” as it’s sometimes called, felt like a safe thing to do to be rebellious 🙂 Would keep me from being a complete goodie-two-shoesWouldn’t get me in a ton of trouble

That’s totally lame.  I know it now.

Anyway, a combination of being married to someone who wasn’t much for cussing, having children and not wanting to talk like that around them, and beginning to walk with God cleaned up the filth, for the most part.

But sometimes I have, shall we say, relapses, and my tongue gets a little loose.

I had one such relapse a few weekends ago when Bill and I spent the weekend at the beach with my sister, Tiffany, and her husband, Josh. We went to celebrate my 40th birthday, and it was just what I hoped it would be: we laughed a lot. I took naps when I wanted.  We went out to eat at “adult” times.  We walked on the beach.  We rode in the Jeep Wrangler…it was perfect.

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Photo Credit: Tiffany Manley – Tiff and me in the back seat of the Jeep on the way to dinner.  Call me crazy, but I have only ridden in a Wrangler a handful of times in my life…so it was on my list of things I wanted to do while I was at the beach celebrating my 40th 🙂

 

But, when I am around Tiffany…I might cuss a little…ok, I might cuss a lot. I guess I feel comfortable with her; I know she won’t think I’m a bad person.

Of course I knew at the time it was wrong, but I kept doing it.

Once the weekend was over and we got home, God began convicting me about my unholy talk.

During our morning devotion the Monday after our beach weekend, my director used some verses from Colossians, and one of them talked about how Christians needed to avoid filthy talk.

There were 15 or 16 verses in the devotion that morning, but I zeroed in on that one. I knew God was talking to me.

 

 

That afternoon, I texted Josh and Tiffany and apologized to them. I apologized to Bill as well.

A few days later during my quiet time, I read 2 Corinthians 2:15 about our lives being a sacrifice to God to use to reach people around us. This made me think of my mouth again. Everything I do and say reflects God to others. My life is how I worship Him.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

What God was saying to me was obvious: I cannot have a filthy mouth and be a tool for God to use to draw people to Himself.

I worship God with my whole life – it is my sacrifice, and it is on display for all to see (and hear). There shouldn’t be any unholy talk.

No inappropriate jokes.

No foul language.

 

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Image Credit: pinimg.com

Since I’ve taken the first two steps – acknowledged the conviction and apologized for my wrongdoing – I have to complete the journey. To fully repent, I must turn to God and away from the sin.

What does that look like?

Maybe I have fewer relapses.

Maybe I stop cussing altogether.

Maybe I don’t even think in cuss words anymore!

That would mean that I have truly and completely allowed God to change me – what I say and what I think.

And if those words don’t come out of my mouth, then they aren’t in my heart.

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Image Credit: flickr.com

That is truly what I want to give back to God. A changed heart.

Pray this with me:

Thank you, Father for choosing me, and thank you for loving me. Thank you for sending your Son to die for me so that I could spend eternity with you in Heaven.

I want to be a tool for you to use, Father. Change me so you can use me.

My life is my worship, Lord; everything I do and say points to you once I say I am a Christian.

Continue to convict me. Continue to show me things in my life that need to be given over to you. Continue to make me more like you.

I want my life to be a sweet-smelling sacrifice to you – every part of it. Do this in me today, Father.

Amen

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Life is NOT What You Make of It

Life isn’t what you make of it although that’s what the world wants you to believe. Life is what you allow God to make of it! You have to give your life over to Him and let Him do with it what He wills.

Sure, you can make something of your life apart from God. That’s entirely possible. But that’s too much work. Work in the wrong direction. Work for the wrong reason. Work for no eternal benefit…

I am more content with the last 8 or so years of my life than I was with the first 32. Although the first 32 seemed alright, there wasn’t much walking with God going on then…so it had little eternal value. I did very little to further God’s kingdom. I did little to bring glory to His name. I was making my own life rather than giving it to Him to make.

But that’s what He asks for – a life surrendered and handed to Him.

I’ve done that in the last 8 years. Surrendered my life. Handed it over to Him. He is making my life what He wants it to be.

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About the time I started listening to God’s voice for the first time in my life…

What DOES He want it to be?

I’m not sure yet – although I am confident that He will use it for His glory.

He’s mostly been pruning so far. There’s been a lot of dead limbs, excess leaves, and unripened fruit to get rid of first.

All that extra stuff came from 32 years of trying to make my own life what I wanted it to be.

So, there’s been a lot of work. It’s been painful. There’s been some sacrifice. Some things have had to go. Other things had to change. Priorities had to shift.

He’s not done, so I’m still here, letting Him make my life what He wants it to be.

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from My Mama

“You get out of it what you put into it.”

Mama didn’t always say this aloud, but she taught me this with her life.

And she’s right.

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Me, my mom, and my sister – 2011

Much of the time, if you take a crappy attitude into an experience, the experience will be crappy.  If you go into something with a positive attitude, the experience can be positive.

There are always exceptions we could discuss.  I’m sure you have stories to the contrary as do I.  But I am confident in saying that my mom’s lesson holds true the majority of the time.

It has to do with the fact that what we expect to happen is usually what happens: We make our expectations reality.  It’s called self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you tell yourself beforehand that something is going to suck, that you’re going to hate it, then that’s probably what will happen.

You’ve mentally set yourself up for it. You’ve predisposed yourself for it to happen.

Mentally, you’ve shut down or closed-off – expecting the worst.  You’re less likely to hear and properly receive things that are said.  Your body language is communicating negativity, and that will influence your interactions with other people, too.

It’s just all-around a bad deal.

But the opposite is true as well.  If you tell yourself this thing you’re about to do might be fun, you might learn something new or meet some new people, or at least get to see a new place, the outcome is probably going to be much more positive.

You set yourself up for a favorable outcome because that is what you expect – that the experience will be positive.  Since you’re in a positive mind-frame, that will physically show in your body which will have an influence on other people around you.

You’ll probably have a positive experience.

Don’t believe me?  Try it next time you have to do something – especially something new.  Give yourself a pep talk.  Tell yourself it’ll be interesting.  You’ll learn something new.  You’ll meet some interesting people.  Maybe the food will be really good or the scenery will be pretty.

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Image Credit: TheBible.com

Think of positive things and your frame of mind has to respond.  It will have a good influence over your experience.

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Image Credit: KLove

Read another Everything I Ever Needed to Know post

 

Why “Venting” Won’t Cut It

When God shows us our sin, we have to repent and turn from that sin back to God.  That means we aren’t supposed to go back to that sin.

Easier said than done, right?  YES!

Some things I turned from and never looked back.  Some things I turned from, and God had to work on me a while.  Some things God convicted me about, and I still struggle to turn from them.

You probably have a similar experience although the sins you struggle with – the things you do that do separate you from God – may be different from mine.

Lately, God has been convicting me about my talk.  He reminded me that we have to be holy in our behavior.  He also reminded me that what comes out of my mouth reflects what’s in my heart.

 

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Image Credit: Instagram

He reminded me that I should come to Him when I get frustrated with someone else’s behavior rather than “venting” to another person about what has made me angry or hurt my feelings.

“Venting” is what we call it when we complain or fuss to a third party about our frustrations.

For example, I could vent to my sister when I’m frustrated with my husband; I could go to her (and sometimes do) to complain or fuss about something he said that hurt my feelings or something he did that made me angry.

So, I vent to blow off steam, to let off the pressure, and then it’s all over, and I can move on, right?

But really this is just talking behind my husband’s back, isn’t it?

And it didn’t really fix anything, did it?

In fact, the only thing I’ve succeeded in doing is making it worse.

If we honestly look at it, venting is dangerous.  It changes our mind and heart toward the person or thing we are venting about.  It hardens our hearts more toward the situation and the people involved.

It also hardens the heart of the person we vent to.  It literally changes how that person perceives the person we’re venting about.  So, it causes the confidant or third party to sin, too.

So, what the heck do I do when I’ve been wronged, and I’m angry?  When I need to fuss about what someone’s done to me?  When I need to vent my frustrations?

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Image Credit: Les Feldick Bible Study 

Go to God.  Pray to Him.  Talk to Him about what that person said or did.  How the person made me angry.  How I want God to change that person.

You can do this, too, when you need to vent.

You can yell at Him.  You can cry.  Be angry.  Be hurt.  Be heart-broken.  He can handle it.

Warning – God might not change that person who wronged you.  But, He’s very likely to change your heart toward that person.

I know you don’t want that.  You aren’t the problem, right?  The other person is…so you may have to “get right with God,” as they say, before you can do this – knowing you’re more likely to be changed and the other person might not be.  Wrestle with Him about that, too.  God will speak to you in that wrestling. He wants you to bring it to Him.

And maybe God can use the change in you to bring about change in the person who wronged you after all.  Maybe the other person sees the change in you and how you treat them, and God uses that to soften their heart so He can change them…kinda crazy, huh?  But that’s how God works.  His kingdom is upside-down, and His ways are not our ways.

So let’s try it.

I’m working on it, too.

The next time I am angry or hurt and feel the need to talk to someone about my issue with someone else, I’m going to talk to God instead.  I’m going to take my frustration or anger to Him and allow Him to have His way with my heart.

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Image Credit: Klove.com

Pray this prayer with me…

Dear God,

Living in the world as your child seems difficult sometimes.  Your ways aren’t my ways.  You call me to be different, and I want to do your will.  You are wise.  You are love.  You are the Creator.  You know how this is supposed to work.  You see how it is meant to go.  You know how it is going to end up.

You have control, and I thank you for taking that from me.  You take my burdens and ask me to simply rest in you.  You ask me to take your yoke which is light.  You ask me to live according to your commands.  Help me to do that.

Take my life, Father.  Have your way with it.

Amen

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Read more posts about how to handle hurt feelings.  Also, read more posts about how to handle Satan’s attacks.  The temptation to vent to someone other than Jesus comes from Satan, and you can combat that temptation the same way I discussed combating other temptation from the enemy.

Change Your Mind and Turn, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand

“Sorry,” Ethan mumbles.  He’s just knocked his cup of water onto the floor while talking and flailing his arms. We reminded him several times to move his cup away from the edge of the table.

“Sorry, mommy,” Emery says and scurries back to the bathroom.  She’s left her dirty clothes on the floor…again.

“I messed up,” I confess to Bill after I discover that I didn’t pay a bill last month.  As a result, this month’s bill is doubled AND we owe a late fee.  Now we have to adjust our budget.

In each scenario, we said we were sorry for something we did wrong.  In each scenario, we felt badly because of what happened.

This is what I always thought repentance was – feeling sorry when you did something wrong…maybe even taking it a step further and confessing your sin and asking someone to forgive you.

But my understanding of the word missed the mark.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that some of the richness of the word was lost in translation.

In English, the word is typically used to mean feeling regret or feeling sorry and asking forgiveness.  That’s how I always used it.

Then, I encountered another, richer meaning when I read Matthew’s gospel. In Chapter 3, Matthew introduces John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who prepares the way for Jesus’ coming.

John said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

When I read commentary on this verse, I saw that, in the original Greek, the meaning of the word translated “repent” was “to change one’s mind.”

Also, I read that, when the Greek word for repent was used in the Old Testament, it meant to change your attitude toward God, to “turn from one way of thinking and living to a different way.”

The same commentary said when John the Baptist used it in Matthew 3:2, he was calling “for people to remove obstacles from their lives that might hinder their reception of the Messiah and his Kingdom.”

The discussion caught my attention; repenting went deeper than I realized.

To repent meant much more than simply saying I was sorry.  It meant more even than asking someone to forgive me.

I kept repeating what I read:

Repent – change your attitude toward God

Repent – turn from your old way of thinking and living

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

I fixated on that word – repent; I wanted to know more.  So, I turned to a strategy I learned called word study: I look up the word in the concordances of my Bibles so I can read other verses where it’s used.  This usually gives me a fuller understanding of the word as I read how it is used in scripture and as I read the discussion of that scripture in other commentaries.

During my word study on repentance, I read another commentary that explained that the word can refer to “the desire to turn from sin and restore one’s relationship with God.” 2 Corinthians 7:9

You see, sin separates us from God.  I cannot come before God with unrepentant sin in my life. So when I am convicted of my sin, I have to repent – not just feel bad, not just ask for forgiveness, but change my mind about the sin and turn from it toward God.

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Photo Credit: Truth For Life Blog

Repenting isn’t just a feeling I have.

Repenting is something I must do – an action; I have to change, and I have to turn.

It’s the whole “turning to God” piece that really convicts me, I think.  To truly get rid of the sin, I have to change my mind about the sin and then look to God.

Since I have been walking with God, I have been asking Him to show my sin to me, to convict me of it.  Since learning about the true meaning of repentance, I have started asking Him to not only show it to me, but to help me change my mind about it and then to tell me what to do instead.

The funny thing about talking to God and asking Him to do things is that He sometimes does what we ask 🙂  Especially the part about showing your sin to you and telling you what to do instead.

Next week, I’ll share a sin-trap I am falling into and how I am turning from it toward God.