Monday, February 8, 2016

Do Not Conform to the World - Part 2

Romans 12:2-3 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

The second part of verse two says, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Although I grew up going to church, I wasn’t concerned about God’s plan for my life.  After my parent’s divorced, I stopped going to church and grounded my feet in the world.  Most of you know my story so let me cut to the chase.  I lived a life that catered to the desires of my flesh.

I often look back at those days and still see God’s hand in my life, although I didn’t ask for His help.  He certainly led me to my husband.  We met on the other side of the world in Korea – not a chance meeting in my opinion.

Rick was not the type of person I thought I would marry.  He was confident and from a different world than the one I knew.  That was a big part of my attraction to him.  We both believed in God and thought that was all we needed.

So wrapped up in the world as a young married couple, Rick and I sought fun and adventure.  When our children came along, reality turned our world upside down.  We didn’t know how to thrive, together, with these additional responsibilities.  

At one point, I thought I married the wrong person; I truly believed I had made a mistake.  That’s how the old enemy gets us, though, by whispering lies into our minds.  He wants to destroy marriages.  Had I listened to him, I would have ruined an amazing family. 

I sometimes shudder when I think of how I almost threw my marriage away. Thanks to God, He wouldn’t allow me to easily walk away from it, though.  He had a plan for Rick and me, but we needed to be together to see it unfold.

The moment I turned my life to God, transformed myself by renewing my mind, my life changed.  I may never have done that had I not gone through the devastation of a failing marriage or the experience of being the child of a broken home.  A big factor in keeping me from divorce was my own children.  I did not want them to experience the pain that I had known after my own parents divorced.

It wasn’t until I turned my life over to God, and I began to renew my mind, that I could clearly see God’s plan unfolding for my life.  We can’t recognize that plan unless we are walking with Him every day, listening to what He has to say, and applying it to our lives.  We have to know God to be able to “test and approve” His will for us - His “good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I have to tell you, I don’t EVER want to go back to the way things were when I “lived in the world.”  I made such a mess of my life and almost destroyed my family.  With God in front, I know I am walking the right path for my life.  I am fulfilling the reason that He put me on this planet.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Rick and I were meant to be together.  God gave me the desire to marry him regardless of the trials we would face.  The trials were a necessary part of the transformation.   God knew that if we worked through those trials we would become stronger. We would become the people He desired us to be all along, and then He could use us to fulfill His plan for our lives.  What an amazing journey it has been!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Do Not Conform

Romans 12:2-3 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Romans 12 verse 2 was one of the first verses I memorized as a child.  I had no idea what it truly meant.  It wasn’t until after I went through my “desert experience” in my marriage that I understood the meaning.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world.”  Conform means to imitate, follow, adapt.  There was a time in our society, not so long ago, where Christians stood out from the people “of the world”.  That is not the case anymore.   Many churches have relaxed their teachings, delivering a “feel good” message so as to expand their numbers.  They turn a blind eye to the worldly behavior in the congregation.  And so, the line between Christians and non-Christians has become blurry with too many believers acting like non-believers. Anyone can say they believe, but are they walking the walk to have a relationship with Jesus?

It is extremely difficult to walk the straight and narrow path to the cross.  We have to live in this world and our flesh wants to be a part of it.  We face a spiritual battle every day to conform to the world.  Even when we think we have figured it out, one little word or incident can send us reeling into our sinful flesh.  

What’s even worse is that we look at many areas of the world that aren’t sinful, and we think that it’s okay to engage in them.  That’s fine and dandy; we do have to “live”.  But the problem lies with the panoply of choices vying for our time and attention, and our flesh wants to do it all. Everyone else does, right?  

Life becomes a silent competition with ourselves to keep up with everyone else.  Suddenly, our waking hours are filled with continuous activities, and we no longer have enough time for God or our own families.  It’s even worse when there are children involved because we want them to experience all they can.  Running off to activities every night and driving through McDonalds for dinner is not quality living.  

The world has us convinced that the more activities in the lives of our children, the more balanced they will be as adults.   This is a lie from the devil.  Oh, wait a second, doesn’t he rule the world?  It’s his plan to keep us from God and to keep us from developing a healthy, functional family. Just like marriage, you can’t have a healthy family if you aren’t spending time together.  Sitting in front of the television with computers and smartphones in hand does not make quality time either. 

I was just as guilty of getting caught up in worldly activities when my children were younger.  The closer I grew to God, though, the more I realized how unhealthy this lifestyle was for my family.  I limited my children to two activities, and dinner time as a family at the table became a staple for us.  My most precious memories as a family are those when we were all together just talking.  

Conversation and quality time builds up the intimacy that too many families are missing these days.  If you aren’t spending time with your children teaching them the values you want to pass on to them, someone else in the world is doing it for you.  If you’re not tied tightly into a church where your children are active, what they are learning from the world is drawing them farther and farther from the truth of God.

To be continued,,,

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Don't Understand

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that 2015 is over.  It was a difficult year for me.  Looking back, it has made me question a lot of my expectations of life.   I’m one who likes to know what’s coming.  I will keep on until I figure it out.  Unfortunately, this past year seemed to be full of too many unknowns which lead to ‘I don’t understands.’   

I don’t understand why my list of friends I pray for, with cancer, continues to grow rather than diminish.

I don’t understand why God would take a healthy baby girl from its mother in her fifth month of pregnancy and leave such a hole in our hearts.

I don’t understand why one of my best friends from high school died unexpectedly.  I didn’t think I was old enough to be losing classmates already, but it’s happening too frequently. You start re-evaluating life when people your own age begin to die.

I don’t understand why my closest friend, who is more like a sister than a cousin to me, would lose her husband, also my same age, when they had such a special relationship and so much to look forward to.

I don’t understand how the teenager of a friend decided life wasn’t worth living and ended it.  It seems like yesterday we excitedly anticipated his arrival into the world.

When I look at death, from a distance, I can rationalize it by saying that we don’t understand it like God sees it.  After all, this world is our temporary stopping ground.  Heaven is our real home, and He’s just calling someone home when they die.  But when it happens to someone close to me, that truth is of little comfort.  The pain of the death of someone you love is hell to go through.  I believe that’s what Hell is – a continuous feeling of grief.  What could be any worse?

Let’s face it, God never promised us a wonderful life here on Earth.  In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have troubles.”  It will certainly be filled with hardships.  We won't understand everything that happens.  We can't fully comprehend God.

Isaiah 55:8,9 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

 Living in the world is like going to school - continual learning, continual tests.  It’s how you get through the tests that determines how your life will go.  You can either choose to stay stuck in the trials and pain or learn from them and move on.  Depending on God will lessen those burdens and make it easier to move on.                                                                                                                                                                    
I don’t know how anyone gets through the troubles of life without God.   He gives us hope – for tomorrow and for eternity.   If it wasn’t for that, I think I would have given up a long time ago.   Oh wait, I almost did, many years ago.  But thank God, He was there to pick me up and help me through.  He taught me how to depend on Him.  He saved my life, my marriage, the life of my daughter.  He gave me purpose. 

You see, we are all here for a reason.  Believe it or not, that reason is not for our families, our jobs, or fame and fortune.  God has a plan or purpose for each and every one of us.  When we forget that, we can get so bogged down by the weight of the world that we lose sight of what is truly important.  People are what is important.  Whatever your purpose is (and I highly suggest you figure it out) it will be something to do with helping others and leading them to God in the process.  Usually, our purpose develops from the greatest trials we’ve faced.

Phillippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I can’t imagine thinking that this life is all there is.  You die…and then what?   Surely this can’t be it.  It makes so much sense to me to latch on to the idea of heaven that God promises us.  That’s what keeps me going - the promise of eternity in the heavenly realms where there are no tears or heartaches.  

I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want the promise of Heaven.  Besides, we get to reunite with our friends and family who are already there and spend eternity together. I will meet my first baby and my grandbaby in heaven.  I wouldn’t miss that for the world!

So in spite of the hardships and grief, I choose to keep on keeping on.  Even though I may not understand why things happen the way they do, I do know that God is there for me, to help me and give me His peace that surpasses all understanding.  The alternative is to believe in nothing.  Where is the hope in that?