Category Archives: Bible

De-Conform

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To all the wordaholics reading this, I am well aware that de-conform is not a word. I made it up for this blog post. Wordaholic, for that matter, isn’t a real word either. Just let your OCD tendencies slip a little for the sake of literary license, okay?

I read Romans 12:1-2 in The Message Bible, and this is what it says:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I know, I know. I’ve caused you more grief by using a paraphrase instead of an actual bible translation. Live with it. But don’t miss my point.

Which is to de-conform.

Remember my last post (click here) about the crowd-following bridge-jumpers? The whole de-conforming thing fits right in. Read the two verses above again and get a small glimpse of what the Apostle Paul is saying here. In a nutshell, THINK! Use your brain.

In a world gone berserk – come on, let’s call it what it is – going against the culture is unpopular, and can even get you in trouble if your attention isn’t fixed on God. But when you ask Him, hear Him and include Him in your life, He’s going to give you some pretty specific instructions. He will change you. He will bring out the best in you.

I had the opportunity to pray with and speak into the life of a young woman today. The details of the situation are hers to share, not mine, but the amazing and completely God thing about it all was that because I put aside my own comfort zone in order to do what the Holy Spirit directed me to do, this young woman got something she would have otherwise missed. It had nothing to do with me, except that I was obedient. It had everything to do with her receiving a gift that the Lord wanted to give her.

As it says in the above passage, readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. I clearly recognized God’s direction in that moment (believe me, I don’t always), and I acted on it immediately. As a result, a precious woman was blessed. How awesome is our God!

So, what does de-conform mean? (Again, my own word, so my own sort of definition.) Rather than chugging along with the crowd, I am striving to hear the voice of my Father so that when He tells me to move in a different direction, I won’t even hesitate. It’s a process. But He is so patiently teaching me, waiting for me to catch up, nudging me along, and scooping me out of the ditches when I stumble. Oh, He is good!

I don’t want to be a photocopy of everyone else. I want to be what God wants me to be – a reflection of His Son, Jesus Christ. I want to be obedient and faithful and true to what He has for me to do. To say. To be. Holy and acceptable to Him.

De-conform.

It’s a real thing.

 

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Take a Look

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When I was a young teenager desperate to do everything my friends were doing, my parents often asked the question, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Well, of course not, but I did want to do some bridge-jumping, despite the dangers of going along with the crowd.

Admit it. That was you, too, once upon a time.

As a matter of fact, we’ve grown up now and we’re still those crowd-following bridge-jumpers.

We live in a world where we carelessly rush into things before we’ve stopped to take a look at where we’re going and why. The general masses are headed in a particular direction, adhering to particular social norms, and behaving in a similar manner; so much so that you can hardly distinguish one personality from another. And we don’t dare disagree. But we keep going along with it because they must be right. Right? Because breaking away from that crowd would make us different. And we don’t want to be different.

It’s hard to be different.

It’s hard to stop and take a look around while you’re in the middle of a crowd that’s moving along at a rather alarming pace. You put yourself in danger of being trampled. Or yelled at. Or mocked. There is a strong likelihood that your friends and/or family won’t stop with you. They’ll probably urge you to get moving so you won’t be left behind.

So, we continue along, not even bothering to question why we do what we do. We see everything changing and we might even protest a little, but it’s hard to be different, remember.

This even happens in the Church.

Yup, I said it.

We really don’t want to stop to take a look while we’re in the middle of the Church crowd because in that context, the backlash could be even greater. We don’t want to say anything to rock the boat because the Church crowd can be harsh.  And it’s Church, after all. God must be in it, right?

Right . . ?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what the point of my point is. I can’t possibly get into it all in one blog post, but I will say that I am stopping more frequently to take a look – to take a look at how Church is being “done”, to take a look at the people around me who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ (not crowd-following bridge-jumpers), and most importantly, to take a look at my own relationship with Him. Why? Because there seems to be a big disconnect between what the Bible says and what I see around me – and what I see in myself.

I have been on a personal journey (that word has been so overused, but I can’t think of a better one right now) for the past few years, and I am convinced that we Christians are missing way, way, WAY too much because we are allowing the crowd to tell us what we believe and how to believe it instead of listening to what God says. Spiritual deafness, is that a term?

Time to pop the cork on your crowd-following. You’re not going to jump off the bridge with the rest of them. You’re going to stop and take a look, regardless of the consequences, and find out how deep and wide is the love our Father has for you. His plan has always been for you to follow Him, not the crowd filled with people who haven’t got time for Him.

Take a look in the Bible. Take a look at the Father in prayer. Take a look at where you’re going with Him.

It’s quite a ride.

Want to come with me?

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Shifting Gears

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I have to repent.

For years, I have stubbornly refused to use this blog as a forum to document my personal journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. Oh, I’ve posted smatterings, but I wanted to be careful to keep it generic enough to stay out of trouble, so to speak. I didn’t want the controversy or the potential criticism.

I don’t care anymore.

So, I repent. I am so sorry that I caved to the social correctness of the days we live in, despite the gentle coaxing of my Father to write what He wanted me to write. I tried to reason with Him, because He’s all over being reasoned with, right? Uh – no. I used the excuse that I had nothing of life-changing relevance to share. After all, who would listen to me anyway? Yeah, that didn’t go over so well with God either.

I’m shifting gears.

I’ve told the Lord that I want to write the words He’s given me, sharing the insights He’s revealed.

That’s scary.

Scary, because it means I am exposing myself in ways that I’m not entirely comfortable with. But then whoever said being a Christian was supposed to be comfortable?

Here’s the thing: life is short. Especially when you’re on the back end of middle age. I don’t have time to piddle around and make lame excuses anymore. I’m going to write what my Father tells me to write, in the way He wants it written. And I think He is smiling and heaving a great sigh of relief because I will finally use the gifts He has given me for the purpose He meant them to be used in the first place.

But this is hard. So hard. My brain is shouting at me, saying I’m crazy to even consider this. Well, Brain, get with the program.

We’re shifting gears.

Stay tuned.

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Fulfill Your Vision Despite Opposition

You’ve finally decided to go for it. The Vision. The Dream. The God-given Plan. You’ve thought about it for months, maybe even years, and now you’re ready and excited.

But the people in your life aren’t.

In fact, you get the feeling your family and friends would rather have  you stay right where you are. You try to convince them that this path is your true calling, but they remain skeptical. Their doubts sap your passion and resolve, and deep down you start to wonder if they are right.

Maybe you’re not cut out to be whatever it is you believe you’re cut out to be at all.

Instead of cheering you on in your quest to fulfill your vision, those closest to you may:

  • tell you that your dreams are unrealistic or even crazy
  • stress that a safe, reliable job is more important
  • remind you of past failures and warn against taking future risks
  • urge you to consider your dream a hobby, not a serious pursuit

These are common reactions. Because people feel threatened by change and uncertainty. Your new direction can be unsettling and worrisome for your friends and family. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed; they just don’t want to leave the familiar behind.

Whenever you embark upon something new, skepticism and doubt will follow. It’s inevitable.

But deep inside, you know that God has shown you exactly where He wants you to go, what He wants you to do, and how He wants you to do it. He has placed within you the dream, the VISION, to do that which only you can do.

It’s big. It’s scary. It’s just plain exciting!

It will take tenacity, focus, and determination to keep you from giving up.

Learning to press forward in faith, with God providing the direction, will make you stronger, more committed to succeed, and ultimately, the very person you were always meant to be.

When your favorite people aren’t supportive, moving forward with your plans can feel like trekking the outback with nothing but a rope and a knife on your belt. You’re attempting something you’ve never done before and you’ll face real dangers – possible financial struggles, work/life balance issues, and more. Yet you must press on. You can’t afford to let other people’s good intentions hold you back.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

1. Craft concise responses to questions about what you’re doing. Find simple, clear ways to explain what you do when asked. Create some basic scripts in advance if you have to. It’s great that your family and friends care about you, so tell them that. Give them general updates, but don’t get into a lot of detail. Volunteering too much information can create a slippery slope that invites interference.

2. Choose your confidants wisely. Pray about who would be the right people to ask for help, or just to lend a listening ear. These people will give it to you straight, but also make you feel encouraged and uplifted. They are the few with whom you can confidently share everything – even your fears and failures.

3. Prepare for negativity. If you have a particularly skeptical person in your life, try preparing some kind but firm responses in advance. Something like, “I appreciate your concern, and you’re right, things might be tough for a while, but I have help and a plan, and I’m confident that everything will be alright.”

4. Be on a mission. Keep your goal front and center. Write it down. Memorize it. Get a solid vision and purpose for yourself, strong enough to help you plow through on tough days. Don’t underestimate the importance of your “why”. And don’t be afraid to communicate your mission through everything you do. Passion is contagious and will draw supporters to you.

4. Find good mentors and teachers. Stick close to the people who believe in you and what you’re doing.

6. Find supportive groups and communities. Get involved in a good church. Join a small bible study group. Ask God to show you where you can plug in. Some of the relationships you build will benefit you for years to come.

7. Keep looking for and trying new avenues for learning and growth. You will outgrow learning opportunities. Give yourself permission to move on when you feel a particular person, program, approach or activity is not the right fit for you, or isn’t working any longer. Don’t waste valuable time due to indecision. Don’t feel bad about moving on, either. Keep the good connections you made and lessons you learned, and let go of the rest.

8. Defend your boundaries. Fiercely protect your attitude and your vision. If you can’t avoid vampires (the people who suck the life out of you), be nice to them, but not open or forthcoming. Remember that negative comments can ruin your confidence and mood for hours or even days. You owe it to yourself to avoid such comments so you can do your best work.

9. Take excellent care of yourself. Get enough sleep, revive that exercise routine, and be sure to eat healthily. Your physical and emotional state will benefit, and it’ll be great for your outlook and stamina.

10. Help someone else. Reach out to others, either through your work or otherwise. Unexpected blessings come when you put aside self-interest and focus on those who need you.

11. Pray. Be in the Word. Spend time with our loving Father who wants above all else for you to succeed.

When you shake things up in your own life, the people around you are bound to react. Don’t let their fears and frustrations hold you back from achieving your dreams. Persistence in the face of skepticism will strengthen you, and as you continue on the journey to your dreams.

The world needs your contribution. For every person who feels threatened when you step up your game, 20 to 100 others will likely be inspired.

Maybe, like me, you are blessed with family and friends who are on board with your vision. If that’s the case, stop right now and thank God for those wonderful people in your life. They are rare.

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The Numbers Business

Have you ever noticed how occupied with numbers we are?

For example: This is my 554th blog post. As of this moment, there are 302 followers. And  probably another time as many on Facebook and Twitter. Today, January 9th, is my birthday. I am 59 years old. I have 1 husband, 4 + 2 children, and 8 grandchildren.  The computer in my car told me this morning that I can drive another 603 kilometers before the gas tank is empty. My cell phone battery is at 69%. In 4 hours, choir rehearsal begins. I have written 4,762 words since Monday.

Get the picture?

We base much of our day to day living on numbers. Time. Distance. Measurements. And what does this have to do with anything, you ask? Well, I’m glad you did. Ask, that is.

God is in the numbers business. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head (Luke 12:7). He makes promises based on numbers (Matthew 13:3-23). He talks about numbers in church growth (Acts 16:5). And numbers are everywhere through the book of Revelation. Throughout the entire Bible, in fact.

So what?

This tells me that our God is concerned with order. He is interested in doing things properly and precisely.

I once had a manager whose favourite saying was, “if  you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. He drove me nuts every time he said it . . . until I understood what he meant. I had to pay attention to details. I had to plan ahead. I had to set goals and establish actions to reach them. I had to enlist the help of those working with me in order to accomplish what needed to be done. I had to mark the milestones along the way so that I could see the progress, define the improvement, and celebrate the success.

It’s no different in our faith walk.

1. Pay attention to the details. Watch for signs. God is speaking to us all the time. We need to learn to listen and to recognize His voice when He is telling us something.

2. Plan ahead. Where do you want to be next week, next month, next year? Pray and ask God to help you set goals based on where He wants to take you. Then write them down. And identify the changes you need to make or actions you need to take in order to make those goals reality.

3. People. Who are the people around you who can help you to achieve your goals? Don’t misunderstand; I’m not talking about using people for your own gain. I’m taking about looking for mentors, the wise ones, those who have talents and abilities you don’t. Encouragers, motivators, cheerleaders. Get what I mean? And you need the support of family or friends or your pastor or somebody who believes in you. And if you don’t have someone like that in your life, as the Lord to bring that person across your path.

4. Take action. As my sister-in-law said recently: “Taking the next step of faith: we may not see that much ground before us but there is a long road of God’s faithfulness behind us . . . He calls us to remember”. Be brave. Be daring. Measure your progress. Take note of the numbers.

5. Celebrate! And then move on to the next goal.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

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Done With Average

You’ve seen this curve before, right? That’s because the world around you is based on averages – education, industry, science, economy, everything. You name it, there are averages. This obsession with average has created a society that says it’s cool to go along with the crowd. To be just good enough to get by. To blend in. After all, if you’re average, you’re okay.

What a lie.

Being average was never God’s plan for us.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12 (NKJV)

Does that sound like average to you? I don’t think so. Jesus did some pretty awesome things during His time on earth, yet this scripture says that if we believe in Him, we will do the same things He did – and even greater.

I thought about this and decided to be done with average. No more mediocre, second-rate, or uninspired. Average does not reflect the person God created me to be.

When you read through the Bible, you see how much God has promised to those who serve Him – joy, peace, strength, power, blessings, abundance, forgiveness, confidence, wisdom, success. That’s a supernatural life. And definitely not average!

So, there’s a choice to make.

Will you continue along, frustrated and dissatisfied with where you’re at? Will you write your dreams off because you’re too afraid to pursue them? Or will you take a bold step of faith and leave average behind?

Get into the Word and read all of God’s promises you can find. Take them personally. Act on them. Ask God to reveal those things you need to do in order to walk away from average and become what He’s wanted you to be all along. Stay in really, really close touch with the Father. Talk to Him often. Listen to what He has to say.

You’re on your way to being done with average.

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Now What?

Although we’re nearly a week into 2014, today is the first day of the first full week of the new year. So, now what?

All those lovely resolutions and mental promises you made to yourself have either been put into play, or fallen into the ditch. Yeah, I know how that goes.

I spent a good portion of this past weekend reading, praying, and making notes to prepare myself for a journey. A life journey. A journey of growth, change, and incredible success.

When you embark upon a journey, whether it be a vacation, business trip, or to visit family, there are always preparations to be made. You to confirm travel arrangements and accommodation. You pack a suitcase. You make sure things at home will be taken care of in your absence. You do a little research to see what kinds of things you can do and see while on your trip. You’re filled with anticipation.

It would be ridiculous to simply show up at the airport one day with no ticket, no luggage, no plans, and expect to get on a plane for the best holiday ever.

So, why do we expect the best life ever when we haven’t got any plans to make it that way?

God had a plan when He created us. A very detailed plan. He didn’t just shrug His shoulders and wave His arms, hoping for the best. Jeremiah 29:11 says ” For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God thinks about us. He has a future for us. He has given us hope in Jesus Christ, His Son.

Now what?

Get yourself into God’s Word. Read what He says about you, what He thinks about you, what His plans are for you. Talk to Him every day. Let Him in on your dreams and ideas – it’s a pretty good chance that He gave them to you in the first place. He’s a little smarter than you are, so listen to what He has to say about how you need to go about making those dreams happen. He’s got some excellent suggestions. I know this.

Pray. Plan. Prepare.

And get ready for the journey of a lifetime.

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