Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year in Review

Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I hope it is helpful to you!

I am going to try something new this month, a book give-away. If you comment on this month's blog posts, you will have a chance to win a copy of Jesus Calling - the devotional book that changed my life. So, leave a comment and check back the first week of January to see the winner!

Now on to my topic:
It is fitting to say that 2010 has been a year of miraculous change for me.  My New Year's resolution for  2010 was a simple commitment to pray.  I didn't even know for what I was going to pray or how to pray, but the story that unfolded  from that day in January until today is nothing short of miraculous. 

I awoke at 6AM as I had planned.  It was very dark outside, the temperature about 10 degrees.  I felt I was the only one awake in world.  All was quiet and still, but there was someone else awake in the house that morning and He was sitting at the table waiting to meet me for coffee.  And meet me He did!  God met me that day and everyday.  He was always there ready and waiting.  If we didn't meet, it was because I didn't show up.  But there were very few mornings that I didn't show up.  It became such a delight to me, I actually couldn't wait for our time together!

Now, I have to tell you, for my whole Christian life daily devotions were a struggle for me, no, let me be honest, they were non-existent!  The problem was, I didn't know how to have devotions.  I am ashamed to say that unless I was involved in a Bible study which required homework, I never cracked my Bible at home. 

Does reading the Bible and praying sound so borrrring you might not be able to stay awake?  Somewhere in the back of your mind do you have this idea that you must read through the Bible in a year?  Does the thought of plowing through several chapters in the Old Testament, several chapters in the New Testament plus 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb a day give you paralysis?  Yes, those were my sentiments exactly.  And yet, I knew I was supposed to be in the Word of God daily.  Secretly, I was envious of people who had the discipline to do this, but maybe you, like me, find that too overwhelming.  But it doesn't have to be like that!

When I was in college, a new song was released by Larnelle Harris called "I Miss My Time With You".  This song is written in first person with Jesus talking.  Every time I heard it, I felt a whisper across my heart from the Holy Spirit.  Many times I was so convicted I would turn it off when it came on the radio.  Here are the words that whispered across my heart:

I miss my time with you
Those moments together
I need to be with you each day
And it hurts me when you say
You're too busy
Busy trying to serve Me
But how can you serve Me
When your spirit's empty?
There's a longing in my heart
Wanting more than just a part
Of you.  It's true
I miss my time with you!

Have you noticed a common thread through all my December posts?  Christmas?  No, the common thread is about being in the presence of God in your "sacred place".  Until this year, I never had a sacred place.  So I want to describe how I found mine (the kitchen table) and what I do there.  In all my years as a believer, no one ever told me how to have a sacred time with God, but I want to share with you what I now know.
  • Set a time - be committed.  It's helpful if it's the same time each day.  Allow 30 min.
  •  Determine a place - you will need a place to write, so I recommend a table
  • Get a devotional book with daily readings - "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young is what I used
  • Read the daily reading
  • Look up and read the related Scriptures
  • Contemplate how God is speaking to your heart in regard to these verses
  • Journal - write your questions for God, your thoughts and your prayers (and don't forget to go back a write the answers God gives you
Truth be told,  we all want to see miracles in our lives.  We desire good health, both physically and mentally, loving marriages, and happy, vibrant children.  Do you want God to give you the desires of your heart?  Considering the verse below, what is the one thing we must do in order for God to fulfill His promise?
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4
Do you know what it means to delight yourself in the Lord?  When you meet with God each day, you will find that it becomes a delight, it becomes a part of your day that you look forward to, that you can't wait for.  As he fills you with joy, peace and strength and reveals the areas that need to change, you will find a God who longs to give you the desires of your heart...and things begin to change.
"Even now", declares the Lord, "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning."
Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.  Who knows?  He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing!  Joel 2:12,13
Before the clock strikes 12:00 on New Year's Day, make a commitment that 2011 will be a year of miraculous change for you.  Get ready!  Show up!  Be engaged!  Expect miracles!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance today~
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peace and Joy

outside my front door

Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I hope it is helpful to you!

I am going to try something new this month, a book give-away. If you comment on this month's blog posts, you will have a chance to win a copy of Jesus Calling - the devotional book that changed my life. So, leave a comment and check back on Jan 1st to see the winner!

Now on to my topic:

Did you drag yourself out of bed this morning feeling exhausted and sluggish?  Here we are, the final countdown to Christmas, 3 days left.  There is shopping to be done, gifts to be wrapped, baking, cooking, house cleaning and school parties to attend.  You may be wondering where is all the JOY???  Have you ever felt, at this time of year, a gaping emptiness inside even though your days are filled with busy activities?

Often times the holidays exaggerate the emptiness in our lives: our unfulfilled dreams, our disappointments, our struggles and our lack of Joy and Peace.  For years I studied the Christmas cards and pictures of my friends from around the country.  Their lives seemed so successful, their families so beautiful and perfect.  Then I would look at my own circumstances and I would go through my list of "if onlys":  if only I were married to someone else, if only we had more income, if only my husband had a better job, if only I had a better job, if only I didn't have so many children, if only, if only...  For five years I never sent Christmas cards because I thought everyone could see right through our family picture into all our problems, and I certainly wasn't going to write a Christmas  letter and erase all doubt.

Little did I know that facing my emptiness was the prelude to being filled with all the fullness of Christ.
Colossians 2: 9 & 10
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
It usually isn't our natural response to look to God to fulfill our neediness.  Usually, we call a friend who will listen to us vent and will sympathize with our complaints.  Be careful of venting with someone whose eyes are not fixed on God.  Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians  15:33), but God speaks in the language of Love.  His words will fill you with Life and Peace, Joy and hope.

This filling is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is the counselor, the Spirit of Truth who will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he speaks only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He brings glory to Jesus by taking what is His and making it known to you!  (John 16:13)  Isn't that an amazing thought?  He takes what belongs to Jesus and makes it known to you!  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  The Holy Spirit takes that peace and gives it to you!  Jesus also said, "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name... Ask and you will receive, and your JOY will be complete! (John 16:23,24)

Do you believe this?  I know, you're thinking, "I've asked for many things that I've never received!"  That may be true and there are reasons for this.  God has put certain "laws" into effect that He usually does not override when giving us what we ask for (topic for another post).  On the other hand, there are some things that God gives liberally.  Two of the things He longs to give liberally are Peace and Joy.  Most of the things we ask for are not necessary for our Joy to be complete.  Read that again, most of the things we ask for are not necessary for our Joy to be complete! 

When we ask God for the things we want, we are seeking God's hand.  But when we live close to God and make Him your highest priority, we are seeking God's face.  As you seek God's face above all else, you will experience Peace and Joy in full measure.
  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.  (Matthew 5:4,6)
Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4: 4-7) 
In her book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes:
"If you persevere in dependence upon God as you go through the day, you will discover at bedtime that Joy and Peace have become your companions.  You may not realize at what point they joined you on your journey, but you will feel the beneficial effects of their presence."
Joy and Peace be yours in abundance today~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Duct Tape and Christmas Cookies

Welcome friends!  I am glad you found my blog and I hope it is helpful to you!

I am going to try something new this month, a book give-away. If you comment on this month's blog posts, you will have a chance to win a copy of Jesus Calling - the devotional book that changed my life. So, leave a comment and check back on Jan 1st to see the winner!

Now, on to my topic:

Saturday was the perfect day for baking Christmas cookies.  The wind was furiously swirling snowflakes outside my window; we were expecting about 20 inches.  Inside my house was warm and cozy; so I turned on the Christmas music, turned on the oven and got out all the ingredients for spritz cookies.  My kids love to make these.  I live in a house full of boys and anything with a gun is fun...nothing could be better than a cookie-shooting gun!!!  Unfortunately, after a couple of shots with the cookie gun, it broke.  My twelve-year-old son was quick to say, "Mom, I can fix it with duct tape!"  Yes, duct tape to the rescue!  I am still amazed that I was able to make many batches of spritz cookies and the cookie gun is still holding fast!  Yeah!

You may be wondering what duct tape has to do with the Battle Mind Blog, right?  Well, duct tape is good for fixing a lot of things, but it doesn't fix a broken heart or frazzled emotions.  At this time of year, we are expected to put on a smile and show extra love and kindness, lest we steal anyone else's joy, right?  Truth be told, we all struggle with the emotions of anger, depression, confusion, anxiety, worry, loneliness, and sorrow that prevent us from living the abundant and free life that is ours in Christ Jesus. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past, that my bag of frazzled emotions: anger, rage, worry and self-pity was so heavy I was being crushed under the weight of them.  And the one emotion that bothered me most was anger.  Why couldn't I get this one under control?  I would find myself spewing poisonous words on my children and my husband and it was slowly, but surely, killing us all.  And yet, I felt especially entitled to my anger.  After all, I had good reason to be angry.

Do you know how dangerous unresolved anger can be?
Ephesians 4: 26 & 27 says, "In your anger, do not sin. do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold!"
If we don't resolve our anger before we go to bed each night, we open the door for the devil to stick in his foot and gain access to our lives.  I can't tell you how many nights I went to bed, not only angry, but furious!  I opened the door wide open for the devil to walk right in and take me captive.   You see, we are kept in bondage by the lies we believe and the lie I believed was that I had a right to be angry.  So I coddled, nurtured and protected my right to be angry.  But anger is not our friend, it will betray us and hold us captive if we protect our right to it!  So finally, I cried out, "God, please take away my anger!"

As so often happens, I was aghast at God's answer to my prayer.  I heard Him say, "My child, I don't take away anger!  I have made you an emotional being.  All of your emotions, anger, joy, sorrow, worry, excitement, etc. are all intricately intertwined and are inseparable!" 

How often have you prayed for something and God gave you an answer completely different than you expected?  I was so hopeful that God would just take away my anger and I wouldn't have to build my muscles of self-control!
Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers (and sisters) throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  1 Peter 5: 8&9
Anger is neither good nor bad, it is a warning signal to alert us to something deeper.  The emotion of anger has been likened to a warning light on the dashboard of your car.  When the engine light comes on, you can either put a piece of duct tape over it and ignore it or you can take the car to the shop and look under the hood to determine the problem.  I certainly don't recommend using duct tape!

Often times, the warning light of anger signals us to a certain mistrust of God.  If we truly trusted God with every aspect of our lives, we wouldn't need to hold on to our anger for comfort and protection against the imperfect people in our lives that disappoint us, hurt us, even devastate us.  So, if God doesn't take away our anger, how can we disarm this explosive that threatens to blow us to smithereens?

First, we need to claim back any ground given to the enemy through our anger and unforgiveness by praying a prayer like this:
Lord Jesus, I confess that I have been deceived by the enemy by believing that I should hold on to my anger and bitterness toward those who have hurt me.  I choose not to hold on to my anger any longer and  I relinquish my right to seek revenge.  I ask You to heal my damaged emotions.  Thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness.
 Please also see my previous post on forgiveness God Wouldn't Do That, Would He? and go through the process of breaking free from unforgiveness as well.

Now that you have been set free from the bondage of anger that has held you captive, you now need to strengthen your self-control muscles by going to your sacred spot where God can transform you by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2)  Remember,
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to your goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in you knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1: 3-8

Isn't is great to know that God, through His divine power, has given us all that we need to live a godly life and to exercise those muscles of self-control!  God's power is always available to flow into a yielded heart!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance today~