The Blue Mountain Shepherd

~Then he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19)~

Just a Thought...

Candid thoughts and discussions about a variety of topics facing today's Christian.  Let's walk with each other in Christ and help each other with our own experiences!

view:  full / summary

Have we forgotten?

Posted on November 23, 2014 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

It is no secret that this life can drag us down. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas not far behind, our mind begins to wander off to other places. Not to mention we all have bills, jobs, and families. But what about the church? Have our churches today lost their focus? After all, we have activities, committees, and meetings within the church. Have we forgotten what the Christian life is all about?

I believe that we must look back to the begining in order to get a good perspective of what "The Church" is all about. First, the word "Church" literally means "the called out ones". If the world can't tell the difference berween the lives of Christians and the lives of non-Christians, we have a problem. The model of a Christian life is described in Galatians 5:22-23.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Is this what we are showing our friends, families, and coworkers? The early church had one main focus above all else: the cross!  Everything led back to the cross. But part of Jesus'  concern when He died on the cross was His deep love for all people. I think the modern day church has shifted the focus away from the lost people of the world and put it on internal and external distractions. Our number one example to follow should be in the life and works of Jesus Christ! 

Notice that throughout His ministry He didn't schedule His witnessing around His activities or His vacations. Reaching lost souls was His number one priority. His main concern was always for the people. So, if we claim to be followers of Christ shouldn't the things that He was concerned about be the same things we are concerned about? Don't get me wrong, there is a time for - and even a need for - these other activities and committees within the church. Our first priority, however, should be serving the Lord. That means getting up off the pews and sharing Jesus with the world.

Not only was the life of Jesus an example of witnessing, He also commanded our obedience to actually follow His example in Matthew 28: 18-20

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

First, He establishes His ability to give this command by saying "All authority has been given unto me...". Next, He gives the command. Notice that the wording here demands action on the part of the reader. Jesus used the word "go," which demands action. This passage underlines the fact that Jesus knew that we won't reach others while sitting in a pew. It is important to go to church and take part in fellowship with others. However, going to church isn't the only part of what we are commanded to do. This passage doesn't say "if you can fit it in" or "if you feel like it." It is a command to all Christians - pastors, deacons, and newly saved believers alike.

Let's all strive to bring our focus back to Jesus' original intent by reaching out to others and sharing His love - and the Gospel - with them.


 - Travis

Procrastination

Posted on December 19, 2012 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Ahhh, procrastination.  Something I'm very familiar with.  It seems the busier life gets, the easier it is to put things off...to ignore that phone call that you should make...to postpone the dinner plans with that friend you haven't seen often enough...to play video games instead of homework.  As hard as it is to admit, I'm a horrible procrastinator.  This procrastination has gotten me into situations I'd never wish on anyone.


You see, the funny thing about putting things off is that you don't always get a chance to go back and re-do (or simply DO) what you know you're supposed to do.  You don't always get a second chance to have a relationship with someone when you put off calling for months at a time.  You don't always get a chance to develop a friendship and do something worthwhile when you let your thoughts get in the way of your action.  You don't always get to succeed if you never start, if you just take the easy way out.


Jesus had a few things to say about taking action, about doing what needs to be done.  The first place I noticed this was in Mark 4:24.  This verse really made me see how wrong I've been, putting things off and shelving all the things God wants me to do because they're "scary" or "not fun".  "Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given."


The other verse that stood out to me in thinking about procrastination actually talks about Jesus' return.  If we put off the things we know are right, we could miss the boat.  If we don't get our hearts, our homes, our relationships in line with God's plan...well, we don't get a second chance.  Mark 13:33 says "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is."  Jesus tells us to be ready.  Jesus does NOT tell us to make excuses, to let our fear get the best of us, to aim for what's comfortable - He says to take heed, because we don't know tomorrow.


If you aren't sure you really know how to get ready, pick up your Bible.  Read it, often, even if it's not the same as playing a video game.  Pray.  Every day, pray.  And don't worry about sounding like you're talking to yourself because you're not.  If you've never heard anything about this before, I urge you to click on our "Path to Salvation" link.  Please email us, or a friend, or ANYONE if you have questions or need help.  Just please, don't let it wait. 


You are loved.


Richelle



A Monumental Cause

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Recently, the two of us sat down as a family and watched Kirk Cameron’s new movie, Monumental. For those that don’t know, this movie explores the very foundation of the United States in great detail. While we didn’t know it at the time, we were in for a trip through history. We were stunned as we watched Kirk explore different things - the ordeal and travel of the pilgrims, to the true and Godly intent of the founding fathers, ending with the real roots of this nation’s education system. (Who knew that Harvard University was actually founded on principles of Christianity? I sure didn’t!)

 

What stood out to us the most was the absolute importance of equipping each other for the coming days. If we are not ready to stand up for Christ, for our faith, and for the truth of the Word of God, we are in trouble. The pilgrims and the founding fathers had one thing in common with each other that seems to be disappearing today. This common thread helped them face intense hardship, difficulties that many of us can’t imagine. These brave people had an unshakeable faith in God and a solid foundation in His Word. And remarkably, these people passed this strength down for many generations without fail.

 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says,

 

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

As we read these words together, it was clear to us that so many times we miss the mark in teaching and in learning God’s Word. What God gave us in His Word is supposed to be in our hearts the way breath is supposed to be in our lungs. What we have stored in our hearts is supposed to be taught without fail to our children, and to their children, and so on. God wants us to talk about His Word, to think about it, and to know it so well that we can apply it to our lives every moment. And even though God wants us to have His Word stored in our hearts, when we look around today we can see how God’s Word is instead slipping out of our hands.

 

How can we know if we’ve really been taking in God’s Word? Well, on one hand there is an old expression that states “you are what you eat.” If this is true, the more you read and study and learn (feeding our hunger for the Bible), the more you will begin to reflect Christ and what you’re learning. Another way that you can see for yourself what you’ve been learning is by searching inside your heart. Proverbs 20:27 says:

 

“The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart.”

It is true that when we pass on from this world, God will search our minds and hearts to see what is in them. Many passages tell us that He will be searching for what we did (or didn’t) do. We need to be 100% sure that we DO humble ourselves before God in confession and with a repentant heart, and we must be sure that we DO accept Christ into our hearts as our Savior, knowing full well that He was the only possible sacrifice that could have been made for our sins. Once we know that we did these things, we must be sure that we DO all we can to get God’s Word inside us! That’s where the passage in Proverbs comes in – we can look inside ourselves and check our thoughts, actions and motivations to make sure that we find God and His Truth moving through us.

 

If we have secured our foundations in God, we must make sure that our children receive this same foundation too. How can we do that? There are so many things that we can do as families that will only strengthen our homes and communities, shaping our world in ways that are pleasing to the Lord. Exposing our children to as much Biblical teaching as possible is so important. Sunday services, youth group services, prayer, home study and personal devotionals – all of these are things we can do to help form our future generations. Sitting down and talking with each other, asking questions and digging into Biblical concepts not only helps us see new ideas but also makes us stronger in the process.

The increasing burden on our hearts is to help however we can, doing what is needed to equip people with the tools to stand firm in today’s world. Our children, our church, and our country are too important to ignore!

 

Been a while

Posted on May 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello friends!

 

Just wanted to give an update, since I know it's been a long while since my last post.  Recent updates to our personal situation have taken over my free time, and at long last there's a light at the end of the tunnel!

 

As some of you may know, Travis and I do not share a house right now.  This is purely due to geography.  (More about that in a couple weeks.)  However, finally, we are nearing the end of our process and should know the outcome of our MONTHS of paperwork on May 22, 2012!

 

If you are in the praying mood, please consider this a formal request.  Please pray that all would go smoothly and the hoped-for move would go without a hitch.  We appreciate and thank every one of you that stands with us in prayer on this!

 

Blessings,

 

Richelle

Help a Worthy Cause!

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (2)

Hello friends,

 

Not sure how many of you know about this, but there is a museum devoted to creation in the US!  Located in Petersburg, KY, they are a solid ministry that teaches truth.  You can visit their website at http://creationmuseum.org

 

Now, as it turns out - they need our help!  They have been nominated in a contest dealing with the top 15 places in the US that children should see before they are 15.  I will agree that children should see this place, wholeheartedly.  With this in mind, it seems they've attracted a good deal of attention and are currently in 3rd place! 

 

However, they've also attracted a good bit of negative attention and have recently been getting blasted by a group of people that claims to embrace open mindedness while attacking those who would support the museum.  I, for one, feel strongly that this does not show a "better" way to live - it shows bitterness and competitiveness.  It breaks my heart.  This group has even claimed that taking your kids to the Creation Museum is equal to child abuse.  To this, I lovingly counter that subjecting your children to such vitriol is far worse than lovingly guiding and teaching your children the way you see fit.

 

With this in mind, please head over to this website:  http://www.budgettravel.com/contest/nominate-15-places-kids-should-see-before-15,10/.  This is where the contest is, and this is where you can vote for the Creation Museum if you feel that you'd like to stand with me in this.  Please, while you're there, take the time to leave a positive, uplifting comment - and please remember that you can vote every day.  All it takes is 30 seconds!

 

With Love in Christ,

 

Richelle

Living Like a New Creation

Posted on January 4, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

 

Matthew 27:42 – “He saved others”, they said, “but He can’t save Himself!”

 

The verse above from 2 Corinthians is one that I’ve been led to about 10 times in the last 4 days. It’s very specific, very clear – as a believer in Christ, I have a new life. I am a new person, and my past is my past – good lessons, but nothing more. I am to be led by new desires and follow a new path. Travis and I looked at this last night, for what won’t be the first time, and an interesting conversation took place around it. In our discussion, my sweet husband asked me a pointed question to make a point: You do believe in Him, right?

 

This question shook me to my core. At first I wasn’t sure why it got to me, but the more I thought about it the more it was obvious. I claim to believe in Jesus, but do I live like it? Do I really want more of Christ and less of the old me, or am I happy to keep to my old ways and only give God lip service?

 

When, in Matthew 27:42, it was said of Jesus that “He saved others but He can’t save himself”, they weren’t referring to anything obscure. Jesus was being crucified, and He wasn’t in a position to save Himself. Know why? It’s not because He couldn’t ask to be helped. Jesus couldn’t save Himself because His work on the cross was far too important, and He knew it. He couldn’t, He didn’t, save Himself because He needed to save US. What He was doing was not about Himself, it was not about what others thought of Him – it was about showing us the truth, showing us once and for all that He paid for our sins and that He was the only one that could.

 

This truth makes me realize something. No matter how many little things I think I need to be doing “for God”, the one thing I ACTUALLY need to be doing is showing others this same truth. No hiding behind excuses, no being too scared to tell others that I am a Christian, that I believe with all my heart that Jesus died for my sins, and that God’s word directs my life. No being ashamed, no worrying about what others may think of me, and no being afraid to say “I don’t know but I will find you the answer” if I feel my knowledge is inadequate. After all, we are always learning – right?

 

If I claim to love you, I am doing you a huge disservice by sugar coating or hiding what I know to be true. It keeps you from knowing the real me, and it keeps you from knowing the real Jesus. My pastor posed a unique challenge last Sunday – his message was composed of a number of Biblical concepts that he wished for us for the coming year. One of these, suffering for Christ, made me cringe at first – and it’s fast becoming clear that this is the most important thing for my new year (and maybe some of your years as well). At any rate, I pray for all of you to share the mercy of our God with others openly and unashamedly.

 

What do you feel is holding you back from being a new creation? Do you have anything keeping you from sharing Christ with others? Do you know Christ in your heart? Let’s discuss anything weighing on your hearts! Either reply here, or write to [email protected] – I’d love to hear from you!

 

- Richelle

Judging Others is Costly

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Luke 6:37 - Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

 

John 8:7 - So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

 

For all the things I’m really good about, there’s one thing that lately I’ve noticed I’m really bad for doing – and it’s something I do far too much. I make snap judgments of other people without knowing who they are or where they’ve come from. Maybe you’ve seen this type of action in your own lives, or maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, count yourself blessed because if you’re anything like me you'll feel bad every time it happens!

 

Each one of us has our own lessons to learn, our own lives to live, our own crosses to bear. It's worth bearing this in mind, because although we don't have long together on this earth we do have to live with and learn from each other, every day. It is my hope that in sharing my flaws, you can learn from what I've done wrong and you can choose the better way.

 

As an imperfect human being, there are many mistakes that I have made or will make every day. I don't communicate effectively, when I get worked up I don't always listen, I'm demanding on others and even harder on myself. I'm emotional and irrational and so independent I have trouble sharing my life with those I care about. How Trav puts up with me, I don't know - but I'm SO glad he does. Most of these things, I do out of fear. I'm scared to let anyone down. I'm scared to look less than perfect and I hate that I look imperfect every day. When I want to say something, I usually hold back for fear that I would come across as unintelligent and uninformed.

 

What is the good of all this fear? If we want God to move in our lives, can we keep ourselves afraid and timid and trembling? No, this is not possible. 2 Timothy 1:7 states “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Wow. So what does this mean? Simply this - if we are saved and living according to the Word of God, in all things, we can boldly face our fears. We can do what we thought we couldn't - worrying isn't needed, because our loving reactions will be what is needed.

 

This means a few new things should be evident in my own life. Where I've been independent and scared, I will be able stand my ground - and yet, I'll know it's OK to lean on people sometimes. When I speak, I won't need to second guess myself because I've got the backing of the Lord! When I deal with another person, I won't need to worry about being worked up and hateful and hard on others, because I will love them. When I'm emotional and irrational, I can relax and BREATHE instead of freaking out because God's helping me work out the details.

 

As for the judgments I make on others, what I've come to see is that if I love and value someone I wouldn't ever judge people before knowing them. I know that on a personal level, there are a few people I have missed the boat on. I judge some people every single day because my flawed thinking has me believing they're judging me right back. These people probably don't even know or care that I do this, but I do. What I have been doing is divisive and uncalled for, and I truly am sorry.  This was never my intent, but it happened. 

 

What I need you to learn from my mistake is this - every day you allow this negativity to continue in your own lives, you cause needless pain not only to others but to yourself. If you're hurting everyone you know, including yourself, how will you ever know real joy? How will you ever know peace with all the pain you're clinging to? Please, let it go today. Join me as I drop the false judgments I cling to, and instead hang on to what I know to be true. Learn with me as I learn to truly love others the way we all need to - unselfishly.

 

What are you tied to that's helping you make judgments on other people? Is there anything you need help with understanding before you can really let go? How can we help you today? Please, ask questions! Strive to understand, and let us help you. Write us at [email protected], or reply to this posting right here.

 

Love and blessings,

 

Richelle

A Disciple's Path to Discipline

Posted on December 8, 2011 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Luke 14:27 – “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

1 Corinthians 9:27 – “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

 

Is it any mistake that the word “disciple” is similar to the word “discipline”? I’ve been focused a bit on this for the past while, and for good reason – Travis has been teaching the youth in his church about being fearless disciples for Christ lately. As his wife I am a sounding board and help mate through this process. The more I think about it, the more I read through the lesson plans, and the more I believe the similarities between the two words are intentional.

 

Here’s my reasoning. To be a disciple means that one is a follower or student of a mentor (in the case of Christians, we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ). To be a student implies that one studies, which requires a certain amount of focus. The word discipline, when used as a verb, means “to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.” As children of God, we are held to new standards, new codes of conduct. As students of the Word, we are to study His word voraciously. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” As followers of Christ, we are new creations and should make every attempt to live accordingly.

 

What does this mean for us as believers? There is a certain amount of self-control required at times to overcome temptation. When I say self-control, I don’t mean we do it all alone. However, over the course of days/months/years, habits are formed. Sometimes these habits break instantly, while in other cases some effort is required to see results. These habits are formed as we repeatedly perform actions before we come to Christ, and it is these habits we sometimes must deal with as new spiritual beings. The things we once did freely are no longer things that we may want to do. These actions become things that get in the way of the new things we are trying to learn and share with the world. In fact, as believers we are to show the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives.

 

Galatians 5:22-24 states “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This pretty much tells me that once we are truly Christians, we are to give up the spoils of the world (greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, laziness, gluttony, lust, etc). I’m not saying that we need to live in perfect unbending control at all times. That’s not a good way to live, but it’s a good way to give yourself an ulcer, never-ending worry or a wonderful case of insomnia. What I am saying is that, much like an athlete training for their sport, so too should we as Christians be training for whatever may come our way. It should become our goal to REALLY live out the “fruit of the Spirit” in front of the world.

 

Whether we face a difficult debate, or a placement on the missions field, whether we are pastors or worshippers or closet-bound new Christians with no outlet that we can see for ourselves, we all must be ready. We all need to be able to cling to the promises of God, we all need to show that we’re giving God our best in all things – and the world needs to see this in us too, if we ever hope to reach anyone. 

 

I've noticed this in my life lately, as I've been letting myself feel blue. Two things I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember are overeating and laziness. I love food, and it shows (sadly). I also love sitting around and sleeping in – this shows, too. However, I also know what I need to eat and what to avoid. I know that I love the way exercise makes me feel. Since I am a Christian, is it a good idea for me to eat to excess when there are others who can’t eat even one meal a day? Is it wise of me to lay around doing nothing, letting my muscles die and my body wither from lack of use, and then expect to work hard at the drop of a hat? No! Since one day I would love to work on the mission field, I must be ready. I must be able to do whatever is needed of me with no hesitation. I must be capable of dealing with whatever the people around me are dealing with, so I need to train. I need to live more carefully and more deliberately, all the while clinging to God and His promises.

 

There’s another thought beyond even the idea that we must be ready, though. As it turns out, this body of mine that I’m mistreating is the vessel that God created to house my soul – and we are commanded to care for our bodies! 1 Corinthians 6:19 states “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” That pretty much tells me that this body is on loan. God put me here on earth to do His work in this body, and I must care for this body the same way I hope to care for others.

 

This is just one point in the whole, huge discussion of the discipline it takes to really be a disciple. Yes, we must take care of our physical selves. We also should be reading and studying the Bible and praying daily (both of these are huge keys and shouldn’t even be hesitated or argued – we just need to read and pray EVERY DAY – there’s no other way to learn). From being equipped to share God with others to fellowshipping with other believers to the above points, there are many more facets to this relationship with the Lord that we must be mindful of. This is the very stuff that makes the Christian life not boring, at least in my eyes. Just when it seems we’ve gone as far as we can or learned all that there is to learn, we turn a corner and see something else that needs our attention. If we one day hope to reflect the image of God, we must start right now on a path of obedience, love and devotion. Only then will we ever be ready to shine God’s light before others.

 

What about you? Are there areas in your Christian lives that you need to work on? What are some strategies that you’ve used to overcome your particular hurdles? How did you train yourself to perform certain behaviors, and how would you teach someone else to do the same? Let’s discuss!

 

Blessings, love and prayers to all of you!

 

- Richelle

A Lesson in Humility

Posted on November 18, 2011 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

James 4:10 - "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

 

Like most people living today, I've had my share of struggles for the past few months. Like many others, my struggles are things that can be overcome with hard work and true grit. And like it's so easy to do, I've fallen into the trap (yet again) of self pity. This seems to be a disappointing pattern for me - when life gets hard, I work hard for a time and then find myself sitting alone, crying and wondering "why me?!" However, this time around I've had the nagging suspicion that something's wrong with this picture. After reflecting and trying to figure out what's going wrong, as it turns out there are a lot of things that could stand an overhaul.

 

Everything that's gone wrong in my life boils down to pride. I had lifted myself up to a point of being proud of every little thing I had. I was proud of stuff. At one time, not long ago, I was able to run for an hour solid. I was earning a lot more money than I ever had, and was enjoying a convenient life. I was in a relationship that was mostly comfortable (even if it wasn't going anywhere in God's eyes). I could afford to spend $200 on a haircut and not feel it. There was never a question of a roof over my head or food on my table, I had everything in its place, and all I wanted was to launch myself even higher than where I was. Life was compartmentalized, life was tidy, and life was "good." And then, just as things started to be "perfect," I started to have a very real sense something was not as it should be.

 

When I was 15 I surrendered my life to Jesus without fully counting the cost. While Jesus surely did a work in me, I wasn't prepared to make the sacrifices I needed to for Him. I wanted to jump in and get my hands dirty on the mission field and at Bible college, but I didn't know to pray or read the Bible daily. I wanted to sing and write and do so many things that would earn me the spotlight, but I compared myself to everyone around me and gave in to bitterness. I gave in to pride, because I do have a decent singing voice and an ear for music. And yes, I was married before. That wasn't a good idea. My first husband was someone I married on a whim after 3 months because "good Christians don't have premarital sex." In hindsight, something tells me that if this is all I was after, the situation should never have happened to begin with and I should have acted in more maturity.

 

Then, things didn't go my way and I gave up. Pure and simple - and true to form because I'm a quitter when left to my own devices. I ran as hard as I could away from God for 8 years; after losing a baby, I stopped talking to my ex. As our communication broke down, he began to look elsewhere and from what I understand was quite successful in breaking the marriage vow of fidelity (I do take responsibility though, because I let him down too - and I did it first when I stopped talking). Church, prayer, and worship became too much of a burden so I stopped. I started seeking a life that wasn't ever what I truly wanted, a life of worldly gain no matter the cost to my dignity, my wallet, or my soul. This chase of immorality took me across the North American eastern seaboard and landed me in the city I live in now, nearly homeless on a couple occasions because I was too proud to admit my wrong.

 

Once here, I lived paycheck to paycheck (and barely able to survive on therapy, charity, and alcohol). I ended up, somehow, in a relationship with a person who had it all together, a person who is a great person (our core beliefs didn't line up but at the time this didn't matter). This person taught me a lot about thinking things through with a more level head, which helped me through my darkest times. He is still one of the most loyal friends imagineable, and I can only hope to be as good a friend to the rest of the people in my life. We went from one extreme of living paycheck-to-paycheck to the other, developing a life of near-excess. We were spending beyond our means on most days until one day, we could manage our spending habits. The spending has always been mostly my doing, as I am admittedly horrible managing finances even though I work in accounting.

 

It wasn't until we moved and had been settled in for just over a year that things started feeling off balance. Something wasn't right and I knew it. I began to want God in my life again, and my significant other was really uninterested. I was confused and probably needlessly hostile at times, which provoked him to angry/hurt reactions that he never intended. That, paired with the fact that we had both taken each other for granted for a couple years by this point, didn't bode well for us. My only regret in my decision to end that relationship is that I didn't talk more about the moves I made to rectify the situation. By not including him (or my family) in the negative feelings I'd been having, I've opened another can of worms that may be irreparable and I take responsibility for this as well. Only time will tell what happens in the future.

 

It was around this time that I began to seek God with more of my heart than I ever have. I began praying, reading my Bible, and listening to uplifting music (and singing again, which felt amazing since I had literally not sung in 4 years by this point). Shortly after I rededicated my life to following God, a friend of mine and I started talking and praying together more as well. This was something completely foreign to me in any relationship, platonic or romantic, and I wasn't prepared for how amazing it felt to share this with someone! As my friend and I did these things together, we both noticed a dramatic upswing in our lives. The closer we drew to God, the more we felt God's presence and saw Him move. Our relationship progressed from friendship to dating to engaged/married before we knew it. To hear my now-husband tell it, I've been the answer to prayers he's had since before we knew each other and quite honestly, he's been the same for me. There has never been a question, from March 18th, 2011 onward, that this person is the other (dare I say better) half of me in every way. He is the one person I should have waited for, and I am so happy he's here now.

 

After all that mouthful, it's time to dive into the part where I realized I need to be humble. This refocus on God has made it necessary to uproot the cause of my tendency to bitterness and quitting. What I've learned is simple - I am FULL to the brim of pride. Still...to this day...I am stuffed with it. However, we are NOT to be this way! God says, in Matthew 23:12 - "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Say what? In essence, for chasing after the world the way I had been, and for doing it with pride in myself and my achievements in my heart - my reward will be failure in the end. None of this "stuff" matters anyway, because we sure don't get to take it with us when we die! In this one moment, it was clear to me just what my wrong thinking has cost, and just why it needs to change now. I had been holding stuff more precious in my life than I'd been holding the One that saved me!

 

In tears again, it was time to take stock of my life and where it was going.  What I learned is that my life's successes boiled down to my job, my abilities, my career and my money becoming the very things I worshipped - all over again. There is a commandment against this too - Deuteronomy 5:7, the second of the Ten Commandments, says "you shall have no other gods before Me." Whoops...did I ever miss the mark! Did God say anything specific about His reaction to this? Yes, in fact, He did - in Leviticus 26:30, as a directive of what God would do to idolators, He said "I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you." Say what? I messed up, and huge.

 

It's no real surprise, then, why I'd been feeling my life in a tailspin lately. I'd been noticing for the last couple weeks that I'm blue a lot more, and living situations/money situations have been somewhat stressful. It's no coincidence that during this time, I'd been feeling more puffed up (again) in my abilities, and my job, and my money...and neglecting God just a little bit more every day (and yes, selfish prayers for what we can get don't really allow God to move, let alone shine through us). Before I can hope to do anything, I need to be sure that I - and you - get this one point right. God does not honor PRIDE! God does not want us to put anything before Him, and God DOES want our obedience! Therefore, if God wants your obedience, put your pride away now before it's too late, and don't hesitate even for a second to admit when you've been wrong and need God's help. 

 

As for me...Lord, I am so sorry for my actions lately. I know I've done wrong. I know I've been full of pride and it's starting to show. I've been bitter and angry and full of sorrow and tears, and this is not where You need me to be.  Please, forgive me. Lord, please let only Your light shine through me. Teach me daily to be a joyful vessel of Your truth on this earth.  Every good and perfect gift in our lives come from You, and no one else. I hate the pieces of me that shine through when I don't hold You tightly enough in my heart! Please, take this pride away. Take this selfish spirit away, and fill it instead with You. Please, let there be no doubt who I serve. Father, I love You and will follow You no matter what. Amen.

 

And as for you, my readers, know that you are loved. May God bless you!  Now, let's discuss.  Have you had a moment in your life (recently or not) where you've realized that God needed to teach you a lesson in humility?  How did you respond? 

 

 - Richelle

What is the Big Deal with Fasting?

Posted on October 28, 2011 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

This is a good question. I know that for a lot of people, the issue of fasting is a non-issue. Most people today don’t even think about whether or not they need to give up food for any reason, for any length of time. Is it wrong to not even think about it? I don’t think that our God, who only requires our true and heartfelt acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins, would condemn anyone for choosing to not give up food for Him. Is it a good thing to fast? I believe so. Let’s take a closer look at this.

 

I have given up food before. I’ve done the “30 Hour Famine” fundraiser in high school to raise funds for hungry children nationwide, sometimes it’s been necessary for me to skip meals for medical procedures, and on occasion I’ve even attempted to fast from a “Christian” perspective. The million-dollar questions I have are these: if it is so important to fast, why do some people instruct others to do it without providing any guidance as to WHY they should? Is this something that every Christian must do regardless of who they are or where they are in their journey with Christ?

 

Before we can even touch those questions, we first need to understand what it’s all about. What does it mean to fast, anyway? Fasting, as defined by Webster’s, means “abstaining from food.” Abstaining means “to keep one’s self from doing something.” What this means is that when we fast, we keep ourselves from food for a period of time. A period of fasting can last any amount of time that you’ve set aside for it; fasting can take place for anywhere from one meal to weeks at a time.

 

Fasting sure doesn’t sound like it’s very fun – why would humans fast today, in our culture of delicious and readily available meals and knowledge of God available on TV, the internet, books, and so on?  Further questions I had for myself after considering this are more intense.  We don't really need to give up our food, do we?  We don't need to worry about seeking Him on our own, right?  No, we don't have to do anything - even coming to Christ is a choice.  So if coming to Christ is a choice, we can just plug in and find Him and that will be enough, won't it?  We don't need to do anything further to get knowledge, right?  Well, not exactly.  Yes - it is good to tune into Christian broadcasting, it's important to attend a church (online or physical) that preaches the truth of Jesus' sacrifice for us, and there are some amazingly enriching resources all over the place that I love!  On the other hand, public worship in any form is good but where's the personal life application?  Where is the evidence that we are growing and our desires are changing even when we're alone with God?

 

All that being said, I know that personally I am even more enriched by simply digging into God's Word, or by praying from the depths of my heart, than I am from any other source - church, music, or anything.  View this in light of surrendering.  When a Christian fasts, we are essentially surrendering a desire we have so that we can spend time seeking God in a more intense way. We aren’t just doing what we normally would either; when a Christian fasts, the heart attitude is supposed to be that we are replacing our need to feed the physical hunger with our need to feed the spiritual hunger for God’s Word and His presence. 

 

After considering all the above points, we come to the main idea - that we are replacing our physical hunger in order to feed our spiritual hunger. This is one aspect I’ve never really considered before, and it sure opens my eyes! Sure, it feels good to do something we have been told is necessary. Knowing the “why” behind something helps a bit in understanding its place in the Christian’s life, it helps transform a mundane thing that people simply talk about doing into something beneficial and disciplined and freeing all at once.

 

There are many points in Scripture that show how often people fasted. When people were conflicted, burdened, or thankful – it didn’t really matter what was going on, it was understood that your priority at those times was to be seeking God no matter what. The Old Testament has many references to fasting, with a few descriptive ones found in Psalms. This is expected - the Psalms deal in depth with struggles and praising God. In light of the way our hearts are supposed to be aligned with God during a fast, it seems fitting that the Psalmists fasted. One description of what a true, God-focused fast can bring into someone’s life is found in Psalm 35:13 – “But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart.” If you read the whole of Psalm 35, you can’t help but see that David was pleading with God in this Psalm for salvation in the midst of a struggle. The point that I took away was that upon fasting, David found that his heart re-focused on God instead of on his troubles.

 

The best description of how we as Christians should fast is found in Matthew 6:17-18: “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” When we are surrendering our worldly desires to seek God with our whole heart, we are not to moan about how bad we feel and forget about our hygiene! We need to keep ourselves presentable and focused, and not boast or complain that we missed a meal or two for God. After all, we are feeding a deeper hunger. Remember, too, the pain Jesus experienced in our place on the cross. Remember that He, too, fasted – for 40 days in fact. He has been through so much for our sakes, so why can’t we skip even one day of fast food and empty calories to draw closer to Someone real that has saved us from an eternity in torment?

 

After considering these points, I feel that it can only strengthen my relationship with the Lord to set aside specific times of fasting and seeking Him. I know that it's not for everyone, but it is certainly important for me in drawing closer to God!  With that in mind, if my stomach growls during these times I will approach the noise as a challenge. If I can smile and remember that God has blessed me with abundant spiritual food in the Bible, then He will meet me there. If I return to His Word strengthened in this knowledge, if I allow the Spirit to make the Word come alive to me in a deeper way, it may just be that I can then share it better.

 

If you like, I have found a fairly comprehensive list of Scriptures that deal with fasting.  Please share with me if you find others!  http://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-2-fasting-scripture

 

What are your thoughts - have you fasted before? What was the mindset you approached it with? Did you notice any benefits to your spiritual life? Or do you think it is just an outdated practice that today’s Christian doesn’t need to bother with? Let’s discuss!

 

- Richelle

 


Rss_feed