Spiritual Fresh Air


fresh-air-female

 It’s a beautiful day here in Texas; bright sunlight surrounds us and the temperature is hovering around 72 degrees. I just came back from taking a walk and feeling the warm sun shine on my face. I opened all the windows to let the fresh air in, and the stale air out.

Sometimes we need to let the metaphorical fresh air into air out our lives too. We can get set in our ways and stumble into mundane habits, even in our spiritual walk. It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine and run the risk of not growing. If we fail to grow we might miss out on being a part of something remarkable.

Although I think I am growing my faith, it’s possible I might be in a rut. I get up, brew the coffee and start my daily devotional and prayer time. I’ve been able to make that a consistent part of my life for some time now. But it is routine. And my spiritual life has felt a little dull lately. Will God mind if I change things up a bit? Perhaps He wants to point me in a new direction.

Acts 2:1-4: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

How do we let the Holy Spirit breathe freshness into our lives? One answer is to take another look at our spiritual gifts and rethink the way we serve.

 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

 If it’s been a while since you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory, think about doing that exercise again. You might be surprised that your gifts have changed. There is an excellent resource at: http://www.gfc.org/shape. It expands upon the spiritual gifts inventory and takes into account your personality, experiences and passions.

Instead of looking at your top spiritual gift, look at what is listed second or third on your inventory. Consider serving in that area for a while. Just as the Disciples were given power to serve Christ in new ways, you may be empowered to serve the Lord in a way you hadn’t expected.

Blessings on your day.

Image: google images

Scripture: www.biblegateway.com

 

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Woman of Faith – Hannah


My wonderful Blog Friend Karina is doing a series on Women of Faith. As we have communicated back and forth, it was decided I would do a post about Hannah.  

 

Have you ever wanted something so deeply that your soul was troubled? Many years ago my husband and I wanted a second child, but it did not happen. I frequently turned to Samuel 1 to pray, and for peace and comfort, knowing God would answer my prayer in His way, in His time. 

The full text of the Scripture is 1 Samuel 1:1-19, but I have only reprinted verses 2 and 10-19 below. 

He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

Hannah’s prayer is an example of how to talk to God. We are to talk to him from our heart. Just tell God what is truly on your mind. Notice in verse 15 Hannah tells Eli that she was “pouring out her soul.” God wants us to give Him our whole heart, even when our heart is hurting. Hannah went to God for peace and comfort. Sometimes our soul hurts and the only person than can soothe us is God Himself.

Notice also that Hannah’s prayer was sharply focused. How often do our prayers go from one subject to another? Hannah talked to God earnestly about the primary issue on her heart.

Hannah’s prayer is also an expression of her faith. She knew that only God could answer her request. She was not bitter toward God, she was saddened by her condition. If she was bitter toward God she would not have gone to God in prayer.

Hannah was blessed by the priest Eli, and she went in peace. But it was God who answered her prayer. God answers our prayers too. We don’t always see our prayers answered the way we want them, like Hannah did. God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8), but we can count on God to respond to sincere prayers, and bless us in ways we could not have planned.

Eventually God answered my prayer for a child. He continues to bless me by answering many other prayers; some the way I expect, and some in ways I did not expect. But in every answer, God shows me the depth of His incredible love.

Blessings on your day.

FOLLOW FIRST


In our highly competitive world, everyone wants to be a leader. Leaders are the winners. They are the ones rewarded with fame, prestige and the bigger paycheck. But good leaders started out as good followers. A good leader must first know how to be a good follower.

Jesus taught that leadership is actually servant hood.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

I learned a lot about being a follower when I was in the Navy. Good followers have several traits in common. I’ve found there are Biblical truths to support these traits. Jesus is our King. He has the ultimate authority in our lives and this world. Therefore, we should all follow Him. We can learn to be better followers of our great King.

1.    A follower must be obedient.

Thousands of orders are given aboard ships every day. Captains need to know the sailors in their command will follow those orders, or the ship may be damaged, discovered by the enemy, or sailors won’t get their evening meal. Not following orders can have even more dire consequences. Failure to follow orders can mean people will die.

But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:14 

2.    A follower must be loyal.

Every serviceperson takes an oath when joining the military. Loyalty is very important in life. It goes beyond attachment and affection. It’s being faithful to commitments and responsibilities. 

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 

And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.1 Kings 8:61

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Luke 16:13 

3.    A follower must be respectful.

Back in my day, we learned to respect those in positions of authority. This life skill isn’t emphasized much anymore, but it really is critical for a successful life. We need to learn to be respectful of not just those who are in positions of leadership, but those who stand beside us. Respect goes a long way. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5


Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:32

 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

4.    A follower is a servant.

Being a servant goes beyond being obedient. Service is anticipating the needs of the one you serve and doing those tasks without being asked. When Joseph was sold to Potiphar Joseph was just a slave, but quickly rose to the role of an overseer of Potiphar’s entire house. How could this happen? He rose again to a position of power while he was in the prison. Why? Joseph did something that set him apart from others. Although Scripture doesn’t say exactly how Joseph rose to prominence in these two passages, it’s easy to infer. Joseph served.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

5.    A follower is humble.

Good followers don’t draw attention to themselves. Good followers are concerned about the overall team, not just themselves. Followers seldom work alone. They work with teams. Good followers make sure the team is taken care of, the team is noticed, or the team is helped.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalms 25:9

 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

Once you are a good follower, the military teaches you how to be an effective and respected leader. There are biblical examples of great leaders who were first great followers:

  1. Joshua followed Moses for more than 40 years before he led the Israelites into the promised land
  2. Elisha served Elijah for at least 10 years before he took up his master’s mantle and went on to perform even more miracles
  3. David first served King Saul, before he became King.
  4. Peter followed Jesus for 3 years before he and his fellow disciples turned the world upside down.

The military knows how to build leaders. If you want to be a Sargent, you must first be a Private. If you want to be a General, you start off as a 2nd Lieutenant. You start at the bottom and learn.

Learn to be a good follower first. God will place you in a leadership position, even if it is only by example.

 Walk in His Light,

Julie

THE REFINER’S FIRE


Some time ago, a few ladies met in a certain city to read the scriptures, and make them the subject of conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” One lady’s opinion was that is was intended to convey the view of the sanctifying influence of the grace of Christ. Then she proposed to visit a silversmith and report to them what he said on the subject.

She went accordingly and without telling the object of her errand, begged to know the process of refining silver, which he fully described to her. “But Sir” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes, madam,” replied the silversmith; “I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back, and said he had forgotten to mention that the only way that he knows when the process of purifying is complete when he sees his own image reflected in the silver….

–Author Unknown

“This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ ” Zechariah 13:9

Do We Know What “Holy” Means?


We live in a casual, familiar world. Our work attire is “business casual.” Outside of work, jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops are the norm. Dining is casual, often on the run. We are concerned with living comfortably. We sometimes fail to show respect for authority. Even our worship can take on this casual tone, if we aren’t careful.

Sometimes we approach God casually. I think I do – because it’s not possible to completely comprehend God. Rather than embrace the mystery that is God, we tend to “humanize” Him. We want to understand our Lord as we understand ourselves. This is to take away His Deity.

Exodus 15:11

Who among the gods is like you, Lord?
Who is like you— majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?

God is Holy. We are not. We can’t know what true holiness is because we can never be holy, apart from the work of Jesus at the cross. True worship accepts that we can’t comprehend this significant attribute of God. So we must come to God with child-like awe, constantly amazed at the majesty and holiness of our Creator. Consider all that God is, all of His attributes, as you come to Him in worship.

Walk in His Light,

Julie