Friday, February 29, 2008

Our hearts beating as one

Joel posted a comment on his blog post entitled "The letter of the New Testament - Part 2" that reminded me of a story I read several years ago. I don't remember where I read the story or who told it but I think it perfectly illustrates Joel's comments.

Joel said, "All of these things truly are the heartbeat of Jesus. I don't think He ever meant us to live by rules, but from His heart beating with ours. As we grow in grace and as we look at these New Covenant commands (and as you say, even the Old Covenant laws), and find that our lives aren't beating along with His heart, we don't need to feel condemned and we most certainly don't need to begin to start working on trying to follow the rules and commands, but we simply realize that we've been following the flesh and we turn our hearts and minds back to trusting in the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit." All of these things Joel refers to in the first sentence is a list of New Testament commands he had given in his blog post.

The man telling the story had been watching a television program of a surgeon performing a heart transplant. When the patient was ready to receive the new heart, it was removed from the container where it was being held and laid on a table. As the storyteller watched, he could see the heart beating. Then, the surgeon removed the patient's heart and laid it on the table next to the new heart so that they were touching. That heart was also beating but, as he watched the two hearts, they began to adjust themselves until they were beating together.

That's a picture of our union with Christ. Our heart adjusting itself until it beats with His heart. As our understanding of this union grows and as we rest in it, we'll find that our heart will begin to beat together with His and we'll automatically be changed to reflex more of His nature with no effort on our part. Perhaps, that's why He chose to live in us instead of being a distant God who issues orders from somewhere outside of His people. It's only because of our union with Him that this wonderful transformation can take place.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thoughts

Nicki, over at her Godblog, posted a great blog post about fear. I actually started this post last night before I read hers but I think they tie in together very well.

I've been more aware of my thoughts lately. Mostly, they're about Father and his love and grace, family and friends, work, different things I plan to do and, of course, blogging. Nothing unusual. Just the same ordinary thoughts that everyone has.

Occasionally, however, a thought will pass through my mind that shouldn't be there, something a follower of Christ shouldn't be thinking about. In the past, I would always feel guilt and shame and wonder how I could even think something like that. Since, I learned about the origin of thoughts, my reaction is now totally different. I've been working my way through Steve McVey's interactive study guide, "The Grace Walk Experience" and in it he explains the origin of thoughts.

He says, "Not every thought you have is your own. It is essential that you know this. Thoughts can be introduced to your mind that don't come from you. They don't belong to you."

He also explained that because I'm holy and have a holy nature, the nature of Jesus, unholy thoughts don't originate from me. "Holy people do not generate unholy thoughts." The enemy injects unholy thoughts into our minds and make them sound like our thoughts.

Steve also said that we have fallen into error by believing that there are three kinds of thoughts: holy thoughts, unholy thoughts and just regular thoughts. But that's not true. "When you're abiding in Christ, every thought you have is a holy thought. But not every thought that comes to you is your own. So when the power of indwelling sin introduces a thought, you take that thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ."

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."

Understanding that not every thought is mine has been a path to freedom. Unholy thoughts may pass through my mind but I can refuse to think about them and instead take them captive. I've discovered I'm not responsible for every thought that passes through my mind but I am responsible for what I think about. Thinking is an action word. It's something that I do. It's a choice that I can make. Sometimes, re-focusing my thoughts will not be easy. However, I'm learning to allow his life to flow through my mind and enable me to do what I would never be able to do in my own strength.

From time to time, I still have unholy thoughts but now I recognize that it's because of indwelling sin that is still in my body. Now, instead of reacting with guilt and shame, I think "That's not me!" and I immediately focus my thoughts on Father's love and grace.

I'm holy and righteous and the old me has been crucified with Christ. I've now been raised with him to enjoy a new life. He's given me his life and, as I'm learning to to live in union with him, I'm experiencing victory over unholy thoughts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A blast from my past

I'm having a lot of fun with blogging and learning a lot of new skills so I decided to try my hand at YouTube. I found this video from the 50's by a group called The Platters. It may not appeal to you younger ones but this is my kind of music - soft and relaxing and I can understand the words. I like this particular video because it shows the words so you can sing along or just follow along, if you prefer.

For some reason, this song has been going through my head the last few days and I've been singing it along with Jesus. I want to share this love song with you and I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fun stuff

If you haven't noticed, I added a list of fun stuff to my blog. Check it out, if you'd like. Lark News and the Family Room Media video clips are a lot of fun and you may be able to relate to some of the topics.

It's always good to laugh and I hope you enjoy them.

Learning to be Me

Ever since I can remember, I've been a people pleaser. I tried to please my parents, I tried to please my friends and teachers and I tried to please my husband and children. I've also tried to please God. The result was I was tired, frustrated and insecure. Somehow, in all of this, I got lost. I put on so many different faces that I never was really sure who I was.

These last few years, Father has been freeing me. He's been showing me that it's okay to be me. I've gotten to the place that I really like myself. Of course, there are things about myself that I would like to see change but I don't tend to stress about them any more. I know Father is still at work in me and, as I learn and grow in him, I'll see more and more freedom being released through my life.

I decided to blog about this because of some comments made by Joel and Livingsword on Joel's The answer is always B - 2/22/08 post. They discussed their blogs and the reason they blog. I thought it was interesting because I had never really thought about why I started blogging other than the fact that everyone seem to be having such a good time doing it. Joel made a statement that really resonated with me. He said, "The "extracurricular" things I put on my blog are not really an evangelism tool, so to speak, to attract others, but rather are simply things that represent a part of my personality."

That really stood out to me and, as I started thinking about the different blogs I keep up with, I can see pictures of the different personalities and interests. For example, Julie posted a recipe on her blog. Not only does the recipe sound yummy but it was an expression of the unique life of Jesus in her.

Blogging is an opportunity for me to express my unique personality. I'm free to be as serious or as unexpected as I want to be as the life of Jesus combined with my personality flows out of me. As with any adventure that Jesus initiates, I have no idea where this will lead but I do know that I'm glad he's invited me to go along with him on this journey of discovery.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts on prayer

As I continue growing in grace, I'm finding that every area of my life has been affected and is changing. One of those areas is prayer. Bino posted a blog entitled Rethinking ‘Prayer’ which has been very thought provoking. Originally, I intended to add a comment to his blog but since it kept getting longer and longer, I decided to do a blog and share some additional thoughts.

Prayer is one of the areas in my life where I still struggle as I seek to find the new thing that Father is bringing me into and I still, at times, operate in some of the formulas and rote prayers that Bino mentioned. This seems to be especially true in group prayers so right now I don't pray much with anyone else since I'm trying to unlearn the old so I can begin to experience the new.

Darin Hufford recently posted a blog about prayer on his website and at the end of it he commented, “Find Him in your own way.” That wasn't the main point of his blog but that's what stuck out to me so I emailed him and asked him about what I called my not praying type of prayers.

This is how I described it to him: "By nature, I tend to be a thinker. I think a lot and that's how I process things but I don't normally do it in conversation with God. It's mostly me thinking and, at times, I'll speak to him in my thoughts. I feel as though I should be speaking to him more instead of just thinking. I also feel that I should be speaking to him out loud. I’ve tried but normally it just doesn't seem to flow that way. It doesn’t always seem natural.

While I’ve been thinking things through, I’ve had some wonderful solutions and revelations come to my mind that I’m firmly convinced are from God. I assume that if Father can direct my thoughts when I ask him a question then he can direct my thoughts when I'm in thinking mode.

However, I still feel guilty about not praying more in the traditional manner. Am I wrong in the way I do it? Should I force myself to do more conversation even when it doesn’t feel right? I suppose if I did it long enough, it would seem more natural."

Darin was very gracious and encouraging. Steve McVey has said that Father speaks to us through our thoughts and Darin confirmed this. Now, I'm not saying that I never speak to Him because I do speak directly to him throughout the course of my day but most of it is through my thoughts.

I believe prayer is basically communication and I think the way we pray can change over time as our relationship grows. Also, I don't believe any one method is right for everyone. I do believe it's an individual thing because we are all unique. Religious prayers lead to regimentation and, as I said in A beautiful tapestry, they tend to produce little clones who all pray alike.

I'm really coming to believe that Darin's counsel to find God in our own way is the path to freedom and growth in this grace walk.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A beautiful tapestry

This morning, I was thinking about the teaching styles of two different grace teachers. One tends to be direct and to the point. His style is similar to someone who wields a sword in order to cut the shackles and set people free. Shock and awe is another way I would describe his style. I think this is a wonderful style of teaching. In my opinion, we definitely need people who are bold to speak the word of grace without regard to personal consequences.

The other teacher has a teaching style which is more encouraging. Once people have been set free, they are fearful and confused. Even though they are now free, they will often stay in the same place of bondage confused as to what to do next. I see this particular teacher as someone who encourages them to get up and move forward providing support as they grow confident in their grace walk.

In religion, the pastor is viewed as the model for ministry so people tend to copy his style. This tends to produce little clones who all talk alike and act alike. True Christianity, on the other hand, is made up of people with different personalities functioning in different styles of service. No particular personality or style is right since we've all been uniquely created by a Father who loves variety.

As I look at this grace community of bloggers, I am thankful for the variety of styles and temperaments. While I tend to lean towards the simple, others have styles that are different from mine and they all blend together into a beautiful tapestry of love and grace. Father never meant for us to all be the same. While religion encourages cloning, grace gives each of us the freedom to be who we really are.

As someone who for years has struggled to please everyone, it's wonderful to be experiencing the freedom to just be me. To learn to accept myself the way I am is a wonderful gift from Father that I am experiencing more and more as I'm growing more firmly established in grace.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

101 Lies Taught In Church Every Sunday - Lie #40 We Need A Revival

As someone who used to talk about revival, pray for revival and study and read about revivals, I think Steve McVey does a great job exposing the lie about the need for revival in the church. While revivals may be exciting while they last, why settle for less when Father has so much more he wants to give us?

Biblical elders

I just found this neat blog entitled I wonder if this is what a Biblical "Elder" looks like? The author makes some great observations.

"I wonder if this is what Biblical eldership is meant to be (in contrast to being an institutional authority/manager)? Senior members of the family of God (or at least those farther down the path than others) inviting/allowing younger members to come alongside them and experience their lives in all their reality. Then, younger ones who naturally look up to the older ones, can soak in the wealthy wisdom of a lifetime of love for God."

What a great description! I really like what he had to say on this subject. Elders who lead based on a position, is in my opinion, a poor substitute for elders who lead based on experience and wisdom. I also believe that true biblical eldership is not based on chronological age. I know I'm one of the older participants in this grace community of bloggers but I see wisdom coming forth from everyone no matter what age. After all, wisdom is really a fruit of a relationship with Father and is not on the basis of age or title.

Like other things of the Spirit, I believe eldership is fluid. Someone may have greater understanding about a particular subject and, out of their experience and knowledge, they are elders regarding that subject. In another subject, someone else may have more knowledge so eldership is transferred to the one who is more knowledgeable.

I believe the key is Father's love for us and his desire for us to come to know and experience that love. Whoever can lead us to a deeper relationship with Father through their example is, I believe, an elder in the truest form of the word.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let me introduce you

On his blog, Bino commented that while he was recovering from the flu, he listened to some of the audio teachings I have listed on the right side of my blog. He said that Darin Hufford's sermon Into the Wild is one of the greatest sermons he's ever heard. I agree wholeheartedly. Darin is probably my favorite teacher and this particular teaching is my absolute favorite. I also consider him to be a friend that I can go to for wise counsel.

Darin's passion is to see the people of God living in the freedom that Christ has provided and to teach us how to guard and maintain that freedom. He has written a book The God's Honest Truth which I would highly recommend. Although his website is currently under re-construction, he's got some great blogs on his MySpace. Hopefully, his website will be up this week. I'll put a link on my blog when it's up and running.

I know my life has definitely not been the same since I started reading and listening to Darin's teachings. I think you'd enjoy what he has to say.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Some great resources for the journey

Joel has posted on his blog a list of blog posts and articles about the church. I've read several and have found them to be very helpful. As I've combined the different ideas and thoughts presented in these articles, a clearer picture of the church that Jesus is building has emerged. Thanks, Joel for compiling this list.

For some time now, I've been slowly travelling through Joel's archived blogs and have found some great information. On June 19, 2007, he posted a chart listing what grace is and what it isn't. I've found this chart to be very helpful as I seek to get more established in grace so I decided to share it with all of you.

Since I wanted to keep this chart handy for future reference, I pasted it on a Word document, printed it out and then had it laminated. It's now in a permanent form which is readily available for future reference. I think it would also look nice on poster board or construction paper.

If you haven't seen it yet or it's been a while, I encourage everyone to check it out. It's a great resource.

The Starfish and the Spider

I'm getting ready to re-read a book that I think is one of the best books I've ever read about the church. I've decided to post here a review that I did then for another online group. This book is entitled "The Starfish and the Spider: the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations" written by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom. WOW! What a book! It really is one of the most exciting books I've ever read. Although this is a business book written for business leaders and not written for the church, I believe it is a wonderful description of the church that Jesus is building.

Spiders, as the authors explain, have a central body with a head which has a brain. Destroy the head and you destroy the spider. A starfish, however, is a set of neural networks with no central head. Cut off one of the arms and the starfish grows another arm. Some starfish can be cut into pieces and each piece will grow into another starfish.

The authors say there are two types of organizations - spider or starfish. Spider organizations have a head - a CEO, a president. They also have a headquarters where decisions are made. They have a rigid structure with rules and they have a hierarchical, command and control form of leadership. Starfish organizations, on the other hand, have no visible leader and no headquarters. Decisions are made by the members and the organization is policed by the members. The structure is flexible and can very easily mutate as necessary.

As I was reading this business book, I was thinking about the church the entire time. The early church met with leaders (apostles) in a set place (the temple) but because it had many starfish qualities, when persecution came, it was able to mutate into a predominately starfish organization. There was no longer a set headquarters and, when leaders were killed, new ones rose up to replace them. For example, when James was killed, Stephen and Philip rose up as new leaders and the church continued moving forward.

Another interesting characteristic is that starfish organizations are led by catalysts. A catalyst is a leader who leads by inspiration not by position. People follow him because they want to not because they have to. People respect this catalyst and, because they do, they'll follow his example even though he's not necessarily trying to get others to follow him. An example that came to mind while reading is the movie Braveheart. William Wallace started fighting and others followed him. He never sought to be a leader. He just inspired people to follow him. Also, catalysts just want to help people. They don't want to be in the limelight so, when the job is done, they leave.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this book. I kept reading portions of it to my hubby but there was so much I wanted to read to him. Maybe the whole book. This is a great book and I believe it is another example of how Father will often work through non-believers to reveal a truth that religion has kept hidden from the church.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jesus is building His church

Recently, I was reading Walking Church's blog about God's Perspective on the Church. The blog was great. I started thinking about the church that Jesus is building and I have some thoughts that I'd like to share.

According to Matthew 16:18, the church that Jesus is building is a prevailing, victorious church that's overcoming the works of the enemy. In John 3:8, Jesus also said that those born of the Spirit are like the wind that blows and can be heard but it can't be seen. Nobody knows where it comes from nor where it goes. Its effects are mighty but it's hard to pin down.

The church that Jesus is building can be anywhere. You never know where it will show up. It's a dynamic church that's on the move. It's not bound to a building or to a specific location.

Individual members may be in a building Sunday morning or they may be at their computers sharing with an online group of believers. Some may be in a park or at Starbucks. Some may be at home washing dishes or changing diapers while others may be working in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless.

The church that Jesus is building is a united church with no divisions or separations. Each member is focused on following Jesus wherever He leads. Therefore, there are no hidden agendas and there is no room for competition.

The church that Jesus is building is filled with love. Each member is committed to helping and encouraging the other members to move forward. It's a healthy church that is learning how to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. When the individual members come together, there's an instant connection as the life of Jesus flows among them.

These are exciting times as I look around and see this church springing up all around me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A little arsenic in the Kool-aid

I was talking to a friend on the phone last night about legalism vs. grace. We discussed the fact that anyone who still attends a local group is more than likely hearing legalism in some form or the other . Sometimes it's a little; sometimes it's a lot. In response I said, "A little arsenic in the Kool-aid . . . " I never got to finish the sentence because she was laughing so hard but she knew exactly what I meant.

It may look like Kool-aid and it may even taste like Kool-aid but it's not really Kool-aid. Anyone tasting it would probably think that it tasted a little funny and that it didn't smell quite right. If they ignore those warning signals and drink it anyway, they may end up dead or, at least, very sick.

Legalism is like arsenic. When a little is mixed with grace, we often have a sense that it's not quite right. Those of us who have been trained by religion for many years have learned to ignore those warning signals. The result has been the same as drinking a little arsenic . . . sick, unhealthy believers who never grow properly.

The only way to health is to be ruthless as far as legalism is concerned. I'm developing an allergy to legalism. When it comes near me, I start to itch all over and the only thing that helps is to immerse myself in Father's love and grace.

Since I got seriously involved in learning about grace several months ago, Father has set me free in many ways and now all I want is to continue this journey of knowing him and growing in grace.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Being led by the good Shepherd

Last night, my husband and I were watching the AKC dog show. I'm always amazed at the many different varieties that exist. The dogs are beautiful and I'm amazed that the judges can see so many beautiful dogs and make a choice. This year, I felt the judge made a wise decision in picking a terrier as "Best in Show."

Although I enjoyed watching all of the dogs, the working class group really caught my attention and started me thinking. That's the class that contains the sheep herding dogs such as collies and sheepdogs. I started thinking about the differences between the way sheep are herded in western countries and the way they are herded in the Middle East.

I think it's interesting that in the west, dogs such as the German Shepherd are called shepherds, while in the Middle East, people are called shepherds. Last year, I saw a demonstration of border collies herding sheep. It was fascinating to watch. The dog runs behind the sheep barking to make them move forward. If he wants them to turn in a particular direction, he'll go to the opposite side and force them in the direction he wants them to go.

This method is called driving the sheep. The dog by running and barking controls the sheep and they will run in the direction that he drives them to go. This method is based on fear and intimidation being used to manipulate behavior.

In the Middle East, the shepherd spends the entire day with the sheep and sometimes will actually sleep with them when the weather is warm or if there is a need to protect them from a predator. Herding the sheep is done differently. When the shepherd wants to move them, he will start walking and the sheep will follow him. I've never been to the Middle East but I've heard people who have described seeing a shepherd walking followed by his flock of sheep.

Since sheep herding can be a lonely profession, shepherds will sometimes gather to eat together or to just have conversation. When that happens, the sheep from the various flocks will mingle together so that they become one large flock. When one of the shepherds decides to leave, he whistles or makes a sound and then starts walking. His sheep have been listening for his voice and will separate themselves from the other sheep and start following him when they hear his call. They know his voice and will not follow another shepherd who may also be calling.

When herding is done with the aid of a dog, the sheep owner and the dog develop a close bond. They work as a team to move the sheep. The owner gives his directions to the dog and the dog then follows through by moving the sheep. The dog actually becomes a go-between or an intermediary between the sheep and the owner since the sheep do not receive their instructions directly from the owner but instead receive them from the dog. As a result, no type of relationship develops between the owner and his sheep.

There also is no real relationship between the dog and the sheep because how can anyone relate to someone who uses fear and intimidation to get their way. It doesn't work with people and it doesn't work with sheep.

Sheep in the Middle East, however, develop a strong bond with their shepherd because they know and trust him. He's always there to make sure they are fed and cared for. If predators are nearby, they are comforted by his presence. Since he has proven his love and care, they trust him and choose to follow wherever he leads without being coerced. No go-between is needed since he himself leads and cares for his flock.

This is a beautiful picture of the way our Shepherd leads us. He does it through the means of relationship and there is no need for Him to use fear or intimidation. It's a love relationship from start to finish and we choose to follow because he has proven His love for us. Like the sheep, we listen for His voice and follow Him when we hear Him call. Over time, our spiritual ears grow sensitive to His voice and we are not so easily deceived to follow a different voice.

There is no need for a go-between because He said that He Himself would lead His flock. (Ezekial 34:11-16 and John 10:1-6) We don't need a man who is really just another sheep to lead us and tell us what Father is saying. Jesus, our Shepherd, is well able to communicate with His sheep and He can and does enable us to recognize His voice.

I love how the Middle Eastern shepherd walks in front leading his sheep. What a beautiful picture of peace and serenity as the sheep walk peacefully along instead of running as they are being chased by a barking dog. This speaks to me of the rest we have in Christ as we follow after Him instead of the chaotic running that passes for Christianity in today's church.

This life in Christ is meant to be a walk of peace and contentment as we follow after our good Shepherd. Instead of fear and intimidation, it's a life based on relationship with a loving Shepherd who has already laid down His life for us. (John 10:11)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rethinking "Community"

Over at Bino's Branch of Vine blog, there's a new post entitled Rethinking ' Community'. Bino shares some great thoughts regarding what true community is. If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, I would highly recommend it. He'll challenge your thinking and may excite you about the possibilty of experiencing the real thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A major obstacle

I think about grace a lot. I've read several books about grace and am currently reading three books about grace. I enjoy reading websites and blogs that are primarily focused on grace as well as listening to podcasts and audio teachings about grace. Almost every free moment in my waking hours is spent reading or listening to something about grace.

One of the things I've learned is how little I actually understand about grace. I was thinking about that today so I said a quick prayer asking Father to give me a revelation regarding grace. I have a great job since I can spend time reading books and still be doing my job. Following that prayer, I picked up "Growing in Grace" by Bob George and began reading. He was discussing that, as believers, we have a new identity.

Then, he told a story about a man who was almost legally blind who received the eyes of a man who had been executed for murder. He emphasized that those eyes now belonged to the recipient. They were no longer the eyes of a murderer. They had been transplanted into the body of another man just as we have been transplanted into Jesus Christ. He then quoted Romans 6:3-4 which says:

"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Transplanted organs have no identity of their own. They now belong to the recipient. The union is complete in a successful transplant and the organ and recipient are now one. While the organ does a particular job to support the body, it now receives its life from the recipient.

All of a sudden, it made sense. We've been transplanted into Christ. I hadn't been able to connect with the picture of baptism but a transplant makes sense to me. It's something I can wrap my mind around and allow to grow.

I feel as though this has been a major obstacle on this journey of understanding grace that I am now passed. I know there will be other hurdles ahead but somehow things now seem a little less confusing.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Not living in the "what if's"

I am very slowly travelling through Joel's archived Grace Roots blog. I was recently reading his blog entitled Roots. The statement that caught my attention was when Joel said that he didn't live in the "what if's." I think that's a great way to put it.

We're really free when we don't live in the "what if's." Looking back to the past and staying there will always keep us in bondage. I've found that the only way to move forward is to turn away from the past and look to what's ahead. We all have regrets and wish we could go back and change some of the decisions we made back then but we can't. The past is what it is and it will never be different. When we spend time focused on the "what if's", that leads to regret which leads to frustration which will eventually lead to despondency.

Like everyone else, I've got lots of regrets. There are many things in my past that I wish had been different. I can use up a lot of energy thinking about what could have been but what a waste of time that is.

Approximately 10 years ago, Father started to teach me about grace but, for some reason, I didn't get it so I turned and went in a different direction. It's only been in the last few months that he has brought me back to studying grace and, this time, I'm getting it. It's actually making sense. These past 10 years have not been wasted years because he was building a strong foundation on which he wanted to build. Yet, at times, I've thought about how different my life would be today if I had only understood grace 10 years ago. I would be more established in grace and would be experiencing greater freedom today.

As odd as it may seem, the good things of the past can also hold us back. We can get so busy daydreaming about the good old days that we miss the new thing that Father wants us to experience. Each day has new opportunities to learn and to grow. Good or bad, we need to forget the former things so we can freely move into the new thing Father has for us.

Learning to live in the moment is something I've struggled with in the past but as I'm learning how to focus on the now and not be bond by the past, I've begun to experience greater peace and greater joy. So, I would encourage everyone to not allow the past to hold you back but to go forward excited about experiencing the adventures of the new day.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Trees planted and growing

A few days ago, as I got into my car to go to work, I happened to notice that one of the trees in my yard had roots that were at the surface. Water is necessary for a tree to grow so one of the functions of roots is to draw water into the tree. Without water , the tree will die. During a drought, roots in their attempt to find water will rise to the surface.

South Carolina tends to be in a dry zone and lately we haven't had much rain which explains why this particular tree had roots that were at the surface. Also, this tree is partially diseased so I'm sure the sickness made its need for water even greater.

Whenever I think about trees and water, I automatically think of Psalm 1 so that morning my mind went there again. Psalm 1 talks about believers being like trees planted by streams of waters. That is a picture of a normal Christian . . . leaves green and producing much fruit. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be true of a large portion of the church. In most cases, the church seems more like my poor sick tree desperately seeking a little water in order to make it another day.

At one time, that was also true of my life as a believer. I was very much like that tree. Running to different Bible studies, actively involved in the latest program, reading the latest fad book hoping to find a little water to keep me going another day. If someone gave a testimony telling how Father had worked in their lives, I tried to do the same thing hoping for the same results. However, no matter how much hype was attached to them, nothing produced the promised results and I would end up frustrated and thirstier than before.

It was only when Father began to reveal his grace to me that I began to understand that the things I was pursuing could never produce or sustain life. Jesus is the only one who can do that. Since I began this journey of growing in grace, I feel as though I've finally connected with a flowing source of water that is bringing life. I no longer experience the highs and lows that used to be part of my life. There is now a feeling of contentment that is more constant.

I love the title of Joel's podcast - Growing in Grace. That's my goal . . . to sink my roots deeper and deeper into grace and to grow and experience the life of Jesus in greater and greater measure.

What a beautiful picture of the life of a believer who has grown in grace and is living out of his union with Christ.