Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sin Less

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 
Galatians 5:24

Christians are not sinless, but they should sin less.
Dr. Mike Fabarez

Believers are responsible to crucify their sinful nature. Since Roman crucifixion was a merciless, painful means of execution, Paul's statement describes an absolute and irreversible renunciation of means that Christians have said an absolute, unconditional "no" to all of their sinful desires and is a practical every day discipline. When my sinful nature subtly suggests paging through a pornographic magazine, I shout a defiant "no" to my sinful nature. When I hear a juicy bit of gossip and start to repeat it, I close my mouth and say "no way" to my sinful desire. When another Christian criticizes me unfairly and my flesh screams for revenge, I say "absolutely not" to my sinful passion.
The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Galatians

If you are a Christian, you are at war. 

You may not feel that way, but it is the absolute truth.  As long as we live on this earth, our war will never end.

It is the war against our flesh.  No, not our skin.  In Greek, the word for flesh describes the part of us that is "prone to sin and opposed to God." (Strong's Lexicon)

Fighting sin is more than just resolving to end a bad habit.  This is an every-day-for-the-rest-of-your-life commitment to saying no. 

No, I will not envy my neighbor.

No, I will not say whatever I want to my husband.

No, I will not be bitter over what I want but do not have.
You and I will never perfectly defeat sin to the point where our lives are perfected.  That won't happen until we get to heaven.  But, as it says in the last quote above, we are responsible to continually fight the sin in our lives, moment-by-moment, sometimes second-by-second.

It will not be easy, and sometimes we will lose the skirmish, but with commitment, time, and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to see evidence of less sin in our lives.

Thank You, God, that You do not ask me to do anything that You do not equip me to do.  Thank You that just as a baby falls when she is learning to walk, as a good parent You want to help me learn to walk without falling.  Thank You for responding to my requests for forgiveness with love and grace.  Equip me as I strive to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
In Jesus' Name,

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thankful, Prayerful, Joyful

Long ago, my husband and I chose 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 as our life verse.  It says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 

Did you catch that last phrase?  “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  In every situation I find myself, I am to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful.  At every single crossroads I find myself, no matter how big or small, I know I am to rejoice, talk to God, and give God my thanks.

The notes in the ESV Study Bible elaborate on the meaning of these verses by stating that joyfulness is the basic mark of the Christian.  Those same notes also say that Christians should be conscious of being in God's presence throughout the day.  In other words, we should have continual personal fellowship with Him. 

Isn't that amazing?  If you have repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ alone to save you, then God is always with you.  That thought alone makes me joyful and thankful this very moment!   

Thank You, Lord, for the power of Your word and the encouragement it gives me.  Please help me to be continually conscious that You are with me and that I can - and should - talk with You about everything I'm thinking and feeling.  Thank You for every good thing I have in my life.  It's all from you (James 1:17).
In Jesus Name,


Discussion Question: Do you have a life verse?  If so, what is it?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jump In - The Water's Fine

If you've somehow stumbled across this blog, you may have noticed that it's been a while since my last post.  A week ago I thought I'd given up on blogging.  I honestly wanted to give up blogging.  "I've already got too much going on in my life without adding the pressure of writing a blog."

Sadly, over the last few years, I've often sensed God asking me to start blogging again.  I was usually able to talk myself out of doing it. "It's too much commitment. Who am I to think I have something worth reading?"

Maybe I don't have anything to write that's worth reading.  However, I'm learning every day that saying "no" to God is the same as despising Him (1 Samuel 15:23).  I want to serve the Lord with fear and understand God's promise that "Blessed are all who take refuge in Him" (Psalm 2:11-12).

So, I'm jumping in with both feet.

The water feels fine!

God, I want to serve You wholeheartedly.  You are beautiful beyond description.  Please help me to see tangible affirmation that obeying You is better than anything else this world has to offer.
In Jesus Name, Amen 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

He Knows...

I've been going through a medical trial since last Saturday night. I'm not at death's door (that I know of), but when I read this post today on Beth Moore's blog, I knew I had to share it.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Thinking About Death and Healing

Hey, my Darling Ones!

I'm sitting in the bed in my jammies with pillows propped up behind my back on a rare morning off. I've just finished my quiet time and on my second cup of coffee. (I'm obviously a little behind on the coffee.) Keith's still sound asleep and the dogs are in the backyard playing in some fresh mud. Oh, what they have done to my beautiful garden yard! But that's another story. My mind is full of other things and I know a few good friends who might help me process it.

It's Good Friday. I tend to have lots of heavy thoughts around this day every year. I do love Christmas so very much but I am far more moved by the season of reflection on the Cross of Christ and the celebration of our only true hope: His glorious resurrection. We are obviously so much surer of the timing of His Passion than we are His birth. We really can say, "Approximately this many years ago, this happened right around this exact time." Anniversaries are a powerful thing.

Yesterday I served at the memorial service of a fellow servant of Christ. She was just a few years older than me and her children, both boys, are the same ages of my girls. Belinda and I don't really have a family history together, though. We have a shared history of faith. Years ago, I suppose somewhere around 1990, I started teaching my first ungraded women's Sunday School class. I'd been teaching for years by that time but was a constant source of irritation to my department head because women came to the class who weren't the right age and some of them were even "single!" (To be fair, it really was supposed to be a class of young marrieds from 29-32.) I'd finally even been reported to my pastor, Brother John Bisagno, who called me into his office, laughed his head off and said, "I'm about to set you free." And Dayspring Class was born. Any woman of any age could come.

I cut my Biblical teeth on that class. I really did. I've told my beloved Curtis many times that there's nothing like being thrown out there to teach week after week after week. (He's doing that very thing, by the way.) Blowing it over and over then having the courage and the humility to get back up there again. It gets a communicator out of the habit of delivering a few overly-perfected speeches with just the right punch lines but a dwindling anointing - and pitches them out there into the world of high risk and steady criticism. Separates the men from the boys, so to speak. It is HARD WORK. Make no mistake. Don't ever wish for it. Do it only if you must because it is your God-given gift and not to use it would be disobedience. It's too hard otherwise and too much flesh can get tangled up in it. "Be ye not many teachers, because you will be more harshly judged," James warned us. But back to Belinda.

Early on in our class, this darling, petite blonde (bleached, like yours truly) entered our ranks with a personality that stole the hearts of every person in the class. Or, then again, it was her story that stole our hearts. She became quite a center of attention because she'd battled breast cancer several years before and it had come back with a vengeance. By the time I got to know Belinda, the doctors had told her that cancer had spread to her bones all the way from her skull to her knees. She was covered. Almost hopeless. Only that wild woman absolutely refused to give up. Her boys were still young and she intended to see them to manhood.

I have no idea why things work the way they do. I've seen mothers just as determined to raise their children yet die of cancer in only a few months. These things are only for the fathomless mind of God. We can't figure them out for the life of us. But if I were to offer a little conjecture, with His permission and patience, I'd tell you that maybe He gave Belinda those extra years (somewhat like Hezekiah) so that she could teach a tight-knit group of women how to put their faith where their big mouths were. She sought the Lord for Scriptures then told us what to pray for her and how to pray and that, if we were going to doubt, not to bother. And all of this in the most winsome way. She had the cutest personality ever. Several in our class nicknamed her Bubbles. I never could bring myself to do it. Too cool, maybe. But I tell you what I did call her. I called her a warrior. As I told them yesterday, I have never known a more courageous woman in all my life.

Some years later, I was asked to move to a different Sunday school hour to teach and I left my beloved Dayspring Class to the plans God had for them. Most of those women stayed intact and still study and worship together today. Belinda came to my new class many times but it was so large that it did not lend itself to the closeness we'd all enjoyed before. By this time, we no longer had the same need to pray for Belinda anyway. She was thriving. God had indeed given her what she'd so vehemently asked. There were others who moved to the top of our prayer lists.

Then about six months ago, at a Tuesday night Bible study, I saw Belinda at the altar weeping during praise and worship. (Our worship time is also an open-altar time and it is very, very special.) I went to her with haste and she looked up at me with an expression I'll never forget. "Beth, it's back. And if the Lord doesn't heal me, I'm going to die."

I felt it in my gut. I knew this time He was going to take her Home. That somehow her job was done. Though her assignment was undoubtedly much broader than this, God had used her to teach a group of women (of all ages, praise His Name!) how to pray with wild faith. Our lives had been changed forever. We'd seen first hand a little of what God could do.

Yesterday morning I grabbed my Bible, my black purse, and a prayer journal from 1994 that I'd taped a precious blonde woman's picture on and headed to my church. We celebrated Belinda Edgerton's life in a chapel packed full of people from all dimensions of her life. She'd made a mark on everybody from her coworkers at Shell Oil to her neighbors right there on her cul-de-sac. As I reflected on her life and thought about what I wanted to share, God brought the woman out of Luke 8 to my mind who pressed through the crowd to get to Jesus. She reached through the push-and-shove of public spectacle with the purity and simplicity of desperation. She somehow latched on to the hem of His garment and, let this fall afresh, she was healed.

We don't hear any more about that woman. Lord have mercy, she must have told her story a jillion times to anybody who would listen. But somewhere over there in Israel, her body has turned to ashes just like all her friends. It occurred to me that, while we are here on earth in these flesh-and-blood mortal bodies, all we can hope for is a hem of healing. Even if Belinda had been completely healed of her cancer, she would still have gotten sinus infections, stomach viruses, bad knees, and, one day, her sons still would have gone to her funeral. She just might have been a tad older. These bodies of ours are fashioned for a flash of time on this planet. God has healed all of us of many things but, in His great purposes, we can only grab the hem. Even a miracle of instant restoration from a terminal disease is still just a hem of healing.

One day we will trade the hem for the real Him. No more pressing through the crowd wondering if we're going to be among the few that see that kind of miracle. We will see Him. Jesus Christ, the risen King. We won't just touch the edge of His cloak. We will touch the God-man Himself in His spectacular immortal body but, significantly, one still bearing the scars of His visitation here. His wholeness is so utterly complete and infinitely perfect that we, upon the very sight of Him, will be made whole as well.

This, Beloved, is what we live for. Not for just another day here. But for that very day there.

Several months ago, Melissa had insisted upon going with me to have a dye test to follow up a suspicious mammogram. (No rumors please. I do not have breast cancer. Because my mother died with it, however, I never get the luxury of drama-less annual check-ups.) We were sitting in the waiting room and a rack was within arms reach offering all manner of brochure on various cancers. Melissa took one out after another and glanced over them, shaking her head. She looked up at me with that classic expression of hers and said, "Life is brutal, man."

I nodded.

We both sat silently for just a moment.

Then she said one of the most profound things I've ever heard.

"He knows it's scary to be us."

Yes, He does. Yes, He does. He does NOT take the fact lightly that we go through medical tests to see if we have a raging cancer. He does NOT take lightly that some of you are secretly fearing that the monster has come back. He does NOT take lightly that some of you are going through the cancer treatments of your own children. I had to pause and put my hand over my mouth on that one. Holding back the tears.

Son of David, have mercy on us! You know it's scary to be us! It's almost too much here, Lord. It's almost too much.

And the thunder crashes in the heavens and the earth grows dark in the middle of the afternoon and a man, beaten to a bloody pulp, cries from a cross between two thieves, "It is finished!"

And death is overcome.

One day, Sweet Darling. ONE DAY. We will trade that hem for the real Him and there will be no more sickness. No more death. No more sadness. We will all be healed.



Monday, April 13, 2009

It's Not Up to Me

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Does God really direct our paths? Does He have a specific will for our lives? I believe He does.

The Holman Bible Dictionary says, "God's sovereignty means He is in all and over all." "God's sovereignty moves toward a particular end, a specific purpose (Philippians 2:13)."

Sometimes it's easy to believe God doesn't have a specific plan for our lives. We struggle because our lives haven't become what we had hoped. So instead of believing God has a plan, we stop expecting so much. Pretty soon we wonder if He cares. Loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength becomes impossible because we feel so let down. (Mark 12:30)

But, God does have a plan and He always carries His plans out. He says so in His word.

"My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."
Isaiah 46:10

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

But, we always need to remember this about God:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8

My waking hours for the last few weeks have been consumed with searching for a new job. I've not experienced the kind of job security the previous generation enjoyed. My last job search was less than six months ago.

Because I'm wiser (older) and more experienced (older), I felt I could be a little more particular during this recent job hunt. I was open to just about any job God might lead me to take. Unless... that job was in a particular town, was for a specific kind of boss, or required a pay cut. None of those things were options I wanted to consider.

I recently accepted a job I feel God has clearly led me to take - in that particular town, for that specific kind of boss, and for a small pay cut. I took this job because I could clearly see God leading me to this position.

Circumstances aren't always a clear indicator we're in God's will, but the way I found out about this job and the way I landed it are so extraordinary, I know God was directing my path. I had recently met the right people, at the right time, and was given just the right offer I needed in order to feel peace about accepting this position.

God's path for my life hasn't fit my preconceived notions. I would never have imagined I would be doing what I'm doing at this stage of my life. But, He is fulfilling Psalm 16:11 in my life. He has made known the path of LIFE, and I am learning that real joy comes only through His presence, not through my circumstances.

Each of the twists and turns in my life give me new opportunities to hold on to Him more tightly. Sometimes I completely let go, but He never leaves me (Hebrews 13:5). He is always there, ready for me to confess my sin so our relationship can be restored.

He shows me the path for my life in His word. As I live in obedience to Scripture, I experience some of those eternal pleasures mentioned in Psalm 16:11.

If my life plan was up to me, I would never cling to Him or experience the joy of walking with Him. Thankfully, my life plan is up to the One whose will can never be thwarted.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for choosing to show me the path of eternal life. Please help me to hear Your still small voice over everything else in my life. Cause me to cling tightly to You in both good times and bad. Thank You for having ways and thoughts that are higher than my ways and thoughts.
In Jesus' Name,

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gathered Chick Tip - KLOVE

The more I dig into God's Word and study it, the more I realize how important it is to fill my mind and heart with good stuff (Philippians 4:8-9, James 1:21). One of the ways I accomplish this goal is to make sure the music I listen to is glorifying to God.

Now that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a Coldplay album every once in a while, but I try to make sure my musical diet consists mostly of lyrics that reflect Scripture.

One of my favorite ways to listen to good stuff is to visit This incredible Christian radio station might be playing on the air in your area. But if it isn't, you can listen by visiting the website.

Because it's listener supported, everything you hear on air is truly positive and encouraging. This is a Christian radio station that isn't afraid to be called Christian. They pray for listener requests on-air, and even feature a Bible verse of the day.

Check it out. This is a fantastic way to nourish your spirit while you work at your computer. You might even find yourself visiting your computer just to listen!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Ticket

"When I was a little girl, " I said, "I went to my father and said, "Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ."

"Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?"

"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."

"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need—just in time…"

Corrie ten Boom - from a letter she wrote in 1974

I could tell it was happening again. Something just wasn't right. It got to the point where I started mentioning it to my husband, and lying awake at night thinking about it. I'd been through this before, and thought it wouldn't happen again. But, to my astonishment, it was happening. And there was nothing I could do about it.

My entire adult life seems to have been littered with this occurrence. It has been the great road block that has kept me from going where I want to go. Anyone close to me knows exactly to what I'm referring. If you don't know, I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say it is has been tough to swallow.

Like I said, I've been through it before enough times to see the warning signs, and those signs scared me. I got to the point where I would burst into tears any moment when I was alone - in the car, in the restroom. I was so afraid I didn't have the strength to endure it again. I had plans that had to be fulfilled NOW in order for them to happen at all. This might be the final road block preventing these plans from ever coming to fruition. I'm getting older, and more tired, and just didn't think I had it in me to tackle this trial once more.

But, to my great surprise, when it happened, I actually experienced relief. I saw the miraculous hand of God handle the details for me. The first time I found myself alone in my car, not too long after it happened, I did cry a little, but found myself singing and even smiling. Me and Hall & Oates "You make-a my dreams come true. Woo oo oo oo." Our stereo iPod was on autoshuffle. This isn't the song I would have chosen for that moment, but I think it was the soundtrack God sovereignly chose for that moment.

I wasn't asked to be a martyr like Corrie ten Boom describes, but I was asked to handle something I didn't think I had the strength to endure. My Heavenly Father gave me the ticket—the strength I needed to endure having this difficult thing happen to me.

Oh, I still cry about it every so often, but fear is no longer my overwhelming emotion. I'm learning to be content in this circumstance. Yes, I pray this never happens to me again, but my hope doesn't come from what the future might hold. My hope comes from knowing I have a God who will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). He will give me the strength to endure anything that comes my way, when it comes my way.

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for providing the strength we need, when we need it. Thank You for never giving us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Please give each of us the courage, wisdom and determination to do whatever You've allowed in our lives for Your glory and our good.
In Jesus' Name,

A special thank you to Stephanie Schwartz who first shared the story of the ticket with me in her talk, The Secret of Contentment.