Saturday, October 1, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing on While Learning to be Blessed

     As I get older my perspective on things has changed.  When I was young justice, compassion, and making everyone feel loved and cared for was of great priority to me. I wanted deep, meaningful, “there for you through thick and thin” relationships.   I would get so frustrated when I would see people treating one another unfairly.  As I have experienced life, I see that God does not let us remain in innocence and idealism.  He makes us aware of humanity as he sees it.  He does not strip this innocent idealism from us to be mean but to give us an accurate perspective of the world and why He sent His son.  He wants us to have an accurate perspective of the world so we can better understand who He is and His love for us and so we can realistically love others.  He wants us to be blessed. 

     Let me explain a bit.  I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and Jesus is telling us who is going to be blessed and why.  To be blessed it so be fully satisfied in the spiritual realm.  It is an inner contentment that does not depend on our circumstances.  Many of the groups of people Christ says are blessed are groups to which we really do not want to belong.  What is more do we realize when we say, “God Bless you,” we are in reality saying become poor in spirit, mourn, be meek and submit to authority, be hungry and thirst for righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, be peacemakers and be persecuted, insulted and reviled.  I believe if people know that is what they were wishing on others they would be more cautious with that phrase and if those being blessed know what was being asked of them they might just punch us in the nose. 

     God has peeled away layer by layer the idealism I started life with.  I did not live in a place where I was content or blessed because I was certain if people saw the world the way I did there would be less problems.  At times I took it upon myself to correct others mistaken positions and this did not turn out well for anyone.  God has shown me that the world is not ideal and apart from Him it won’t be.  When we see or experience abuse, poverty, and injustice; see or experience the consequences of divorce, crime, and ignorance; or see or experience the hurt we humans can inflict on one another both physically and emotionally we begin to see others as God does.  God sees us in all our bad behavior and pain and chooses to love us anyway.  Seeing this has shown me that I am not the answer the above problems.  I am only an instrument to be used by God…His way, not mine… to achieve the outcome He has chosen.  That means that I must put my ideals aside and trust in God if I am to be blessed.  I must choose to trust God and love humanity at its worst if I am going to truly reflect the mind and heart of Christ.  I am blessed or spiritually satisfied when I trust that the situation a person is in is not defined by me, solved by me, or has anything to do with me.  I am to trust that even in the difficult things God works all things to His glory and our good. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On in God's Word....Part 2

     To continue from the last blog the question of,  "Why should I study the Bible?" is one I get frequently.  People are okay with talking about the Bible and reading it but what about deep in depth study.   I hear people say they do not have time or they do not know how or that it is overwhelming.  When you take and make the time and invest in learning to study you can gain great insight. I believe the most valuable use of ones time is studying and applying the Word of God.
     In our analogy, the sailors were given everything they needed to sail and according to 2 Peter 1:2-8 (NASB), we are given all we need for life and godliness through God's divine power and nature, of which we are partakers. So how do we understand this nature we are partakers of, and what's more is how do we make it work for us?
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord ; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in yur faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
     The first unwise sailor is where I know I was for some time after coming to Christ. I jumped in and tried to "live the life." I put the boat in the water with little to no accurate information.   I looked at others and emulated the way they lived the Christian life certain all I needed to do was to act like other Christians and things would go well and my problems would be solved.  I copied what others did but I had no discovery and application to sustain me when the storms came and there was no one to watch.  It was a very frightening and frustrating thing to know that I did not know how to navigate life.  I was so discouraged I stayed on those rocks for some time wondering about the reality of my salvation.  My lack of knowledge took me to a place where I questioned myself all the time and I began to question God. Lack of knowledge renders one useless.
     The second sailor is where I was for a time after I first learned to study God's Word. It seemed safer to gather all the information and not venture forward to see if it was going to be reliable.  It was a place I did not stay long because life happened and I needed to put into action those things I was learning.  I know I could still chose to get lazy and live in the place of head knowledge but there is nothing like experiencing God and knowing it is His power that sustains and propels me forward. Head knowledge alone renders one useless. 
      The third sailor is one a friend pointed out when I used this analogy at Bible study.  She said she would just hire some one.  I thought about that and how that manifests in people's Christian walk.  They think that because they come from a family of Christians, have friends who are Christians or because they go to church they are covered.  This falls apart when you find yourself in that lonely place of trials where no one else can walk with you.  You must go it alone. If you do not know what you believe and why and you are unable to back it up you will drift and be tossed around in the storm. Looking to others renders one useless. 
      Studying the Bible inductively is what caused me to become an effective "sailor".  I am finally headed toward my destination (being conformed to the image of Christ) and I am able to follow the Lord and deal with life because I know God's character and I understand the benefits of his grace.  I understand His nature that is in me. I have taken my faith and added to it action or moral excellence and with that knowledge.  The knowledge  in the above passage is a Greek work that means to know through experience not just intellectually.  As I have gained knowledge I have had more and more need to add self control so I am sober minded and not legalistic. Legalism is where I can default to so I have to ensure I am not doing what I am doing to get a check in the box or to please a person but because it is a true conviction and matter of personal obedience to God.  I am currently learning perseverance and to press on.  As I continue to endure I must also add brotherly kindness and love to my life.  As these qualities are found in my life I am rendered useful to God.  It is wonderful to know what makes me useful to God.
    Another aspect of that passage is "...applying all diligence" in the process of spiritual growth.  I do need to apply diligence to sleeping in or to reading a novel.  I do have to apply diligence to the in depth study of God's Word. We need diligence when something does not come easily or is not natural. This diligence puts us on the path to being useful. 
     As I see it the study of the Bible is a worthy pursuit because it gives me the ability to navigate toward my ultimate destination which is to be conformed to the image Christ so I can glorify God and be declared useful.

Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa

Monday, September 12, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On in God's Word....Part I

   I have lived near the ocean much of my married life.  This is not a surprise since my husband is in the Navy.  I have looked out and wondered what it would be like to live on the water.  To feel the power of the wind and tides and to be able to harness it.  I have not been out to sea myself but being a Navy wife I know it is a very different way of life.  As I prepared for Bible Study to begin this semester I was pondering why I do Bible Study and why I am so passionate to pass it on to others.  And this led me to analogy about God's Word.  As with all analogies there can be some things that do not track so do not get caught in the analogy and miss the teaching. 
     One day you decide you want to set sail and live your life on the sea, so you inquire about it and a benefactor provides  you with all you would need for a sailing journey as well as all the latest books on sailing right there in the harbor. It belongs to you and is all you need to be a sailor. It is now your responsibility to sail to the destination the benefactor chooses. What would you do? There are a few options you would have in this situation.  I am going to look at 4 types of "sailors" that could come out of this situation.
     The first sailor is the unwise sailor.  This sailor sees all that is in front of him and he is excited and enthusiastic.  He figures he will put the boat in the water and just see what happens.  It can't be that difficult to sail, he has been equipped with all he needs now he just has to jump in there and get going. He has watched others and read books about people who sail so he is certain he is prepared.   He wonders later why he has never left the harbor or why he is flung on the rocks and stranded. He is unable to reach his destination. 
     The second sailor is the one who gets the books and reads and reads and studies.  He can tell you about prevailing winds and tides and the stars for navigation.  He is very well versed on how to hoist the main sail and how to captain a sailing ship safely.  The only thing is he never actually unhooks the boat from the dock and sails.  He sits in the harbor very proud of all his information and yet he has not reached his destination.
     The third sailor is the one who decides he does not need to study and he really  accepts the fact that he can't push away from the dock so he tried to hire someone to do it for him.  He is from a long line of distinguished sailors if he can't get family he will get a friend.  He has friends and he knows people who are so amazing at sailing and he will just get them to do it.  It would be effective to get him to the destination.  As he tries to contact friends and family who could sail for him he discovers that they all have their own ships to sail and they can't do it for him.  He is left on the dock feeling rejected and unable to reach his destination.
      The fourth sailor is the one who studies, seeks information but applies what he learns.  He knows about hoisting the sail and pushing away from the dock he may move slowly as he learns and works simultaneously; but he is getting some where.  He has fellow sailors he sees along the way who help instruct him and who encourage him on his journey. He is not too proud to ask questions and seek answers. He is a fruitful sailor because he is actually prepared  and planned and began the journey that the benefactor planned for him.  . 
      You might ask, "How does this apply to Bible Study?"  Read the following passage from 2 Peter 1:2-8 (NASB) and I will explain the analogy in the next installment. 
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord ; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in yur faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa




  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On ...Still

I am not one to do much reflection on January 1st just because it is the New Year. Usually life is too busy.  For me the summer is the time when I do a self evaluation.  My birthday is in the summer and I grew up in a home with school teachers so the summer was always the time when we would change direction or make decisions that would impact the rest of the year.  This year has been no different.  I have evaluated my schedule, Caleb's curriculum, my fitness program,  our finances, and most importantly my spiritual, mental and emotional health.  During the course of this evaluation I debated and sought council on whether I really had anything to say via a blog.  I have gotten a very positive response so I am continuing to write and will allow it to be used and benefit others where it can.

My biggest concern with sharing is that I am not exciting and fun. I wonder if I am too boring.   I have been told I am dependable, steady, stable, and consistent.  To me that says..BORING.   I have been struggling with this self evaluation.  I have gone before the Lord and asked why I am not sparkly, charismatic, intriguing or mysterious.  As I have read and studied during the course of this summer I have realized I am who God made me for a reason.  I have always known that but I have been able to go to a deeper level of understanding.  There is a place for people like me who fall into that category of "no fun."

Biblically speaking, the words that are translated as steady are faithful and trustworthy.   In looking at the definitions used to describe one who is faithful. I found the following,  "...one who can be relied on, a pillar or support, firm, steady."  That does not inspire excitement any more than re-bar in a foundation.  I started looking at the verses and in Revelation 2:10 it says that the one who remains faithful will receive a crown of life.  In Psalms it says that the faithful will be preserved and will dwell with the Lord.  This is good to know.  It is great to think that there is a future reward for remaining faithful, steady, and true.  However, what about in this life?  I then looked at it form another perspective, the view of what being dependable brings to others.  According to Proverbs 13:17 the faithful messenger brings healing and in Proverbs 25:13 the faithful servant refreshes the soul.  There is also Proverbs 28:20 that says the faithful will abound with blessing.  I guess there are good things about being dependable. 

Here you see the result of the weight.  
As I was thinking about being boring and steady God gave me an analogy that just put who I am into perspective.  I am the weight for the balloons.  Now let me explain.  I have many friends and family who are shining stars.  They are balloons and they are admired,  they point to God and they do many wonderful things. So many times I wish I was a balloon enjoying wonderful heights but I am the weight.  I am the constant for many of them.  I think in particular of my family.  I am the anchor.  I am the one who is always there.  They are not afraid to try new things or to fail because I am always here to keep then grounded.   I keep them from danger in many ways because I keep them grounded and don't allow then to fly in whatever way the wind blows.  I share reality and then send off to try to reach new heights.  In the process of exercising my stability,  I have had friends whom God, for a season,  has put me in their life to provide an anchor.  I love seeing my friends fly and reach the grand things they are to do but at times they head in directions that are dangerous or could result in going too high.  When this has happened my grounding ability can become a problem.  I am considered a wet blanket, a fun sponge, or the goody two shoes (to borrow some clich├ęs).  In the past I have had many people who have chosen to cut the ribbon and depart.  I know this is a necessary process and many friendships are for only a season but it does not make it hurt less.It has at times made me question how valuable it is to be steady and dependable.  

I have learned that it is valuable because that is who God made me and I have a necessary role in the lives of  those in my family and those that God chooses to have cross my path.  It is also a place that requires dependence daily on God's grace.  I am learning to embrace who I am and not long to be what I am not.  I am also learning to accept that not everyone is going to be happy about who I am but my audience is God and not every one else.  I do not seek out balloons to anchor, I am not a self designed wet blanket, I just bring a different perspective to life. 

So when evaluating your life consider who God made you, embrace it and be grateful.  If you are a balloon thank the weights in your life.  If you are a weight be happy for the balloons in your life and know we all have a purpose. 

Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa


(References are from www.blueletterbible.org)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On through Memorials

     Yesterday was Memorial Day.  We have not always attended Memorial Day events but this year we took our children to a ceremony at the Ridgecrest Cemetery.  We were remembering our Veterans from past wars and their sacrifice for our country.  It was a good time to remember that our freedom was purchased by the hard work and determination and sense of duty of many great men and women.  Some of them giving their lives in the pursuit of freedom.  The military is our life so we are much more aware than most the sacrifices involved and want to teach our children to be grateful for the freedom they have.  
     I love how God works.  We were just discussing Memorials in the Bible Study I am teaching.  We are studying Joshua and how God wanted Joshua to build a memorial after the people crossed the Jordan River.  He wanted them to remember the mighty hand of God and most importantly that they tell their children.  As I have studied Memorials, I can see that God finds it very important that we remember.  Memorial is used in the Bible 32 times and remember 148 times in the KJV.  God instructs His people to remember what He has done for them. 
     I believe remembering God's hand in my life is very important.  There are many things people use as memorials, objects, ceremonies, journals; I chose to use pictures.  I am a scrap-booker and I come from a line of scrap-bookers.  My mom and grandmother have albums from years ago that document the journey of our family.  I have taken that form of remembering one step further and I have created scrap-books for each of my children telling them of what God has done in their lives.  I have created one using the names of God.  I collected pictures and scripture that reminded me of each aspect of God's character and I created a book I can go back to when I am discouraged.  One of the ways we overcome discouragement is by remembering the good things God has done in our lives. 

     I hope today you do something to create a memorial that reminds you of the mighty hand of God in your life and that you share it with your children.
Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa Draves

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On in God's Word

     I am very excited to be starting the study of Joshua, Precept Upon Precept.  I have been studying using the Inductive Study Method for 12 years now and I love it.  I first began this method of study because I wanted to understand what God said in the Bible in the original language,and not just accept people's interpretation.  It is easy to take scripture and turn it into a confirmation for our own will instead of having it be a guide to God's will. 
     I am studying Joshua with some faithful women of God and I am going through it at home with my 13 year old son.  This will be part of his history curriculum for homeschooling.  He is loving understanding the history of the Jewish people. We are also learning many things that can apply to day to day living.

     I believe the Bible provides us with the answers we need to succeed in life.  Studying it in the original language is an important endeavor. I would encourage everyone to do an indepth study of God's Word and see what He has to say to you personally.

     I will be starting a new blog tab labeled Joshua where you can go to read the insights God is revealing to me through the study of the book that has much to say about leadership and obedience. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holding Fast and Pressing On Without Results Part II

    There is much to learn about holding fast and pressing on when we are not seeing the end result. We saw this to be true of our physical life and we are now going to look at our spiritual life.  When we are saved we begin a journey toward Christ-likeness.  It is a journey that at times can be very frustrating because we will never arrive on this earth.  We will not achieve this until sin is removed.  Until then we will be presented every day with a choice.  That choice is sin or God.  Since anything apart from God is sin that leaves a broad range of choices we have to evaluate daily.  I think of the verses in Romans where Paul is talking about this very battle.  He is telling us why God gave the law but the bottom line is he desires to to right but ends up doing what is wrong.

                              Romans 7:15
                              For what I am doing, I do not understand;
                              for I am not practicing what I would like to
                              do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.

    Have you ever struggled with deeply desiring to do what is right and you end up caving to a fleshly desire or to laziness or procrastination?  I struggle with these daily.   I have a deep desire to pursue what God wants for me but at times the pull of my flesh is too strong.  I have come to a place where I realize that much like my physical journey, my spiritual journey is just that, a journey.  It is not the destination that matters as much as the humility of being willing to go through the process. 
     As human beings we have a desire to know we have accomplished a task and that we are achieving an intended outcome.  The outcome, though important, is not as important as the process.  Our progression is how we measure our success not our destination.  I can look back over my life and see that I have grown and matured and that I am walking more closely with the Lord more consistently than I ever have. I still have a long way to go to reach my destination but I look back to see how far I have come because that encourages me to press on to maturity.  As we go through this process of becoming more like Christ we can only fully participate in it when Christ is our center.  When we acknowledge that we can do nothing apart form Him growth can begin.  This is accomplished by changing our thinking.  Our minds must be renewed by the truth of God's Word.  We must go through the process of God's Word transforming our selfishness to sacrifice, our petty perspective to an eternal perceptive and our fleeting frustrations to firm foundations.  We will never achieve what God has for us if we do not go through the process.
     We must be willing to preserver and not quit.   Quitting is more than just saying I can't get there.  It is choosing to interrupt the journey.  It is stopping the process of transformation that is going on in our life.  It could be stopping, backing up, or taking an indirect route.  All of these choices interrupt the process.  The journey then becomes more tedious because you must get back on track where you got off.  God knows us better than we can imagine and when He has us going through something it is for our benefit. When we deviate from His plan He will make us repeat the lesson we tried to avoid.  
     How do we hold fast and press on in our journey? We must be consistent with our spiritual disciplines.  Reading and meditating on God's word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, attending and serving in your local church, reaching out to our community and demonstrating the love of Christ are all habits that will promote spiritual growth. The change will be accomplished because it was ordained from the beginning of time that we be conformed to the image of His Son. Our responsibility is to yield to the process, trust God and be consistent.  Your journey will look different than mine but our destination is the same.  Embrace your journey!

Holding Fast and Pressing On,
Teresa