Choked

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S – “The seeds that fell among the thorns are those who hear, but as they go their way, they are choked by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life, and their fruit does not mature.” Luke 8:14

O – The seeds – the Word of God. Some hear and believe and follow. But they are surrounded by thorns:

worries: bills, health, safety, world events, to do lists, opinions….

riches: money, possessions, taking care of possessions, buying, maintaining, shopping…

pleasures: food, drink, sleep, warmth, comfort, entertainment, devices, social media…

All of these grow up like thorn bushes and choke the word of God in our hearts.

Then the fruit – which is there, does not mature. We become stunted, stuck, immature

The mature are those with a noble and good heart who hear, cling, and persevere. They produce a crop. v. 15

A – I’ve been letting myself be choked. Choked with possessions, money, shopping, things. Pleasure, entertainment, comforts. Maintaining this body in an effort to find health and safety here on earth. These have grown up around me. I feel stunted. I feel stuck. I have been behaving immaturely. My fruit is not maturing.

I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to let the concerns, cares, and pleasures of this world rob me of what has eternal value.

P – Jesus, help me refocus. Help me re-calibrate. Help me refresh my brain and my soul. Help me not only hear your word, but cling to it and persevere in obeying, living, and applying it. I’m so helpless on my own. I can do nothing without you Jesus. I can’t be good, loving, or kind without you. Without you, I choose the selfish way. The self-destructive way. I need you every minute, every hour, every day. Please take all that I am Jesus. Work your will in and through me by the power of your Holy Spirit. I love you Lord. I want my life to show that.

Time to push the refresh button.

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Do Not Give Up

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S – “The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:14

“Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith.” Gal 6:9-10

O – Love fulfills the law. Why is it so difficult to live by that? Love is good. Why do we grow weary in well-doing? Why do we give up? Because the flesh fights us every step of the way. We have to resist the flesh and the devil in order to live a life of love. We have to walk in submission to the Father through the Holy Spirit or our flesh compels us to live for self. But any time we are walking in love, serving others in His name, we are fulfilling the entire law.

A/P – Jesus, my flesh is weak as you know. I stumble so easily and live for self. Help me through the power of your Spirit to love others as you have loved me. Help me to love my neighbor as myself. Please help me not to grow weary in doing good. To everyone. Please help me persevere and not give up. I love you Father. Thank you that You will bring the harvest.

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I’m Willing to Fight But Will I Submit Without a Fight?

S – “Peter replied, ‘Even if I must die with You, I will never deny You.’And the rest of the disciples said the same.” Matthew 26:35

“At this, one of Jesus’ companions drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.” Matthew 26:51 (John 18:10 tells us this was Peter)

“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75 (having denied Jesus 3 times)

O – It seems that Peter was willing to die for Jesus, if he could fight to the death. His immediate reaction when the soldiers came was to fight. But when he realized that Jesus’ intention was to willingly submit to pain and death, that he could not do. He ended up denying Jesus, just as he had been told he would. Peter was willing to fight to the death but not willing to submit not knowing what might happen.

A – Peter was depending on his own strength and ability. If he could defend himself, he would stand by Jesus. But to submit to the soldiers and open himself up without a fight, trusting God with the outcome. That he could not do. This situation allowed him to see how he was depending on himself, not God.

Am I living in dependence on God or own my own strength? Do I make decisions based on how I can handle it? Or do I say, “God will give me what I need to take this step.” What am I not doing because I’m depending on my own strength and ability?

P – Jesus open my eyes to see where I’m behaving as Peter did. Thinking that as long as I can take care of myself I will stand with you. Help me to see where I need to willingly submit to the death of self and self-protection and leave myself in your hands.

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Learning to Hear from God

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I’m waiting for that phone call from God.

Moses, the man God called to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, spoke to God face to face. Saul, who wrote much of the New Testament, met Jesus on the road to Damascus and heard Him speak audibly. How often do we wish God would communicate so directly with us? We want clear directions.

We do have detailed guidance from Him is His word, the Bible. To truly understand God and His will it’s crucial to know and comprehend Scripture. God never leads us contradictory to His word and His revelation to us is complete.

The first step to hear from God is to know the Bible well. He most often speaks to us through its message.

We don’t see God’s face but we can still talk to Him directly. We can pray anytime, anywhere, and tell Him whatever is on our hearts bringing any request to Him. He tells us to pray about everything and to ask Him for anything. (Philippians 4:6-7) That doesn’t mean He’ll always answer as we want but He’ll do what’s best.

With faith, we study and obey His word seeking Him in prayer, and He directs our steps.

What about those who say, “God told me to do such and such,” God told them how much to give, where to serve, or whom they needed to reach out to? He does speak to our hearts when we are open to Him. But how do we know when it’s Him?

The Holy Spirit moves and speaks to us as He wills. But we need to be listening with open hearts and believe it is Him by faith.

As I was singing praise to God in church one Sunday, the thought came, “I want you to come early on Sunday mornings to pray for the church.” I dismissed it because I enjoyed attending church with my husband and son. I didn’t want to get up earlier and come alone. But I heard the message again the next week and the week after that. I felt God telling me to invite others to join me each Sunday morning to pray. By the third time, I started bargaining, “What if no one else comes?” God answered, “I want you to pray even if you’re the only one.”

These were thoughts. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God. How did I know it was Him speaking? First, it was in line with His word. Second, it was persistent. I would never come up with that plan on my own. And finally, I knew it was God because He gave me the grace to follow through.

I think we make hearing from God more difficult than it needs to be. He’s always speaking to us through the Bible, nature, other believers, and in our thoughts. The problem is we’re often distracted, not listening, or avoiding His message out of fear.

We can come to Him in faith, trusting Him to speak, and knowing He is good.

Scripture tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 ESV

In other words, when we seek Him, through prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading, we can trust He’ll reveal Himself and His will to us.

How has God spoken to you recently?

Are you willing to hear what He has to say?

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Originally published on Wholly Loved

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Peace vs. Anxiety

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S – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25, 27

O – Anxious – “a part as opposed to the whole” – “properly, drawn in opposite directions; divided into parts” figuratively “to go to pieces” pulled apart in different directions (https://biblehub.com/greek/3309.htm)

Luke 7:50 – Jesus told the woman to “go in peace”. “peace” – “to join, tie together into a whole. ie- when all essential parts are joined together – peace (God’s gift of wholeness) (https://biblehub.com/greek/1515.htm)

Anxiety is the opposite of peace. When we are anxious, we “go to pieces”, we are divided in mind and heart. When we are at peace, we are whole. All our pieces are joined together.

Anxiety never solved a problem, added days to a life, or accomplished anything good. Anxiety hinders our walk.

A/P – Father, please bring all my pieces together and help me to walk in peace. Help me to let go of all anxiety.

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Living in a Glass Box

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As an extremely shy, introverted, and fearful youth I often retreated into my easily controlled fantasy world. I was reluctant to open up or talk to people or didn’t know how. I’d sit in a high school classroom and fantasize about putting a glass box around myself. A place where I could read, observe, or do what I wanted unseen by others.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t a fantasy. I succeeded but my hiding resulted in the reverse of what I thought. I put myself in a box that blinded me to others. I shut myself away so I became almost unreachable.

I escaped into a self-protective mindset that caused me to avoid eye contact, especially with strangers and to engage in non-committal conversations. It caused me, as someone once told me, to be “like a knight in impenetrable armor.” I felt safe in that armor. I could look out and determine when and where to let someone in. The problem is I isolated myself and prevented others from knowing me. I developed the habit of keeping people at an emotional distance.

Thankfully, God began to open my eyes in my early twenties and He’s been helping me since to learn. I’m in my sixties and continue to see what I’ve reaped from that box. I still avoid eye contact with strangers and honestly have to be intentional about looking friends in the eye.

I’ve come a long way since high school and I’ve had some great moments over the years of opening up to others. But, I’m still learning and always will be. The awesome news is my heavenly Father loves me exactly as I am and always has. But He also loves me enough to help me change. The grace of Jesus Christ covers every moment I ever shut someone out even though I still reap consequences. His love for me is eternal and secure. In spite of my weaknesses I have a husband and a son who love and respect me, and many faithful friends and loved ones.

My prayer is that my Father will help me take a sledgehammer and smash the rest of that glass box and crush the armor to pieces.

Is it possible I can live being who I am and stop trying to manage perceptions or keep people at a distance? No one can live perfectly open and free. Hey, we’re human! But with the help of Jesus, I’m learning to walk freely knowing He loves me as I am, knows all my sin and weakness, has already covered them on the cross, and has called me to walk in freedom.

And when I’m tempted to retreat, I can remember Psalm 32:7, which says, “You” God “are my hiding place…”

I don’t need a box, a suit of armor or any other self-protective stance.

God is my hiding place.

I first published this at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud

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He Cares!

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S – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

O – Humble yourself – bring low, submit, do not resist, as opposed to lifting yourself up or demanding your way or resisting His will. Submit willingly to Him and His will for you. Humble yourself under His mighty hand (knowing He has all power and that He will bless you) and
cast – throw, let go of all at once, your anxieties (fears, worries) throw it on Him – get rid of them. Throw them like a hot potato into His capable hands. BECAUSE He cares for you. He loves you. He cares about every worry. He can take care of you.

A – He cares for me. He CARES for me! The Almighty, All-Powerful, Creator, God of the universe cares for ME. Words cannot express what that means. That is everything. I want to throw all my worries onto Him. He is able to take care of me.

P – Thank you Dear Father for loving me. Thank you that you care. I love you so much!

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