Monthly Archives: February 2015

Bless You (“Christian Redefined” part 2)

“They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began”

What is Hawk Nelson talking about?  Sounds like a riddle between Gollum and Bilbo Baggins from “The Hobbit“.  The first several times I heard this song, I didn’t listen close enough to hear the words.  Then I found out that’s exactly what it’s about:  “Words“:

“Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out”

Yep, our words are packed with power.  Deuteronomy 30:19 says that we have a choice to make: we can bless or we can curse.   I think that, next to saying “Thank you” (click on the red words to read that post), the next best habit we can develop is that of blessing.   This post is about saying bless you:

Proverbs 18:21 says that “the tongue has the power of life and death” (check out Speak Life for more on that).  Joyce Meyer spoke about this in her broadcast on 2-4-15 called “The Power of Words“.  She said, “Your words can carry your faith to the Kingdom of God and release angels to help you, or your words can carry your fears to the Kingdom of Darkness and release more trouble in your life.”

I remember taking Jordan Rose to a service project in a questionable neighborhood a few years back.  I parked my car and we walked to the house where we were working that morning.  My mind kept going back to my car, worrying that someone might break in.  I believe that God spoke to me through His Holy Spirit and said, “Do you want your worries to strengthen the power of darkness or do you want your prayers to strengthen the power of God?”  A switch went off in my brain and I started praying that God would bless the whole area.  Everyone was safe that day and our cars were untouched.  Was that a coincidence?  Or did prayer make a difference?  I may never know, but I know I wouldn’t give up the peace I felt in offering prayers and blessings instead of being wrapped up in a bundle of nerves.

You might call me a “blessing fanatic”, as I’ve spent many years training myself to bless everything I can think of.  I bless the house when I leave; I bless the dog and the basement; I bless the people walking down the street as I see them; I bless the car that’s tailgating me and the one that cut me off (hey, that could have been me and I pray that the person I cut off would bless me too); I bless the people I’ve met and the people I’ve yet to meet; I bless the people who can see the gorgeous sunrise and the people who can’t see the gorgeous sunrise because they’re stuck in a building at work (boy, I guess that covers just about everyone!).  If you’re reading this, I’ve probably blessed you too.  I believe that living a life of blessing is not only good for those being blessed, but it’s also good medicine for my brain.  The more I can focus on blessing you, the more I get my mind off of myself.

Joshua just said the other day, “Dad yells at the traffic. Mom just blesses everyone.”  I loved that.  It was beautiful confirmation that it’s not all talk, but that I’m actually practicing what I’m preaching.  And God bless my husband.  May he learn to bless the traffic as well.  🙂

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Thank You (“Christian Redefined” part 1)

Our church is getting ready to start a weekend message series called “Christian Redefined“, looking at what Jesus really said about the religion that bears his name.  What was he expecting from us when he came to visit this planet?

I’m not in on the church’s planning meetings, but the new series announcement got me thinking about what it really means to be a Christian.  I’ve written a lot about the importance of our posture towards God.  We can either live our lives turned away from Him or turned towards Him.  But what does that look like in practical terms?

In my post Moment by Moment, I talked about how I had turned away from God and stopped saying “forgive me”, but ended the post talking about thankfulness.  It wasn’t until I did a “mini-series” on Forgiveness that I realized what was really going on.

We only ask for God’s forgiveness one time: at the moment that we acknowledge that Jesus has saved us from ourselves by dying for us and coming back to life again.  In that “lightbulb” moment where it all comes clear, we see that we need God’s forgiveness.  But God forgave us long before we turned away from Him.  He forgave us before we were even born.  Now, I don’t understand how all of that worked, and I wrote about that, if you’d like to read more: A Forgiven Atheist?  What I do know is that we don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness over and over again, and I wrote about that here: Garbage Truck Confession

So, if Christianity isn’t about asking forgiveness over and over, what is it about?  I think it’s about developing new habits, not “trying harder”, but training our minds to respond wisely.  I’d like to talk about 3 specific training areas:

1) saying thank you

2) saying bless you

3) asking “what am I to do?”

I have too much to say about each of those, so I’m going to break them up into 3 different posts.  Let’s start here, with saying thank you:

Yes, we’re human, so we’re selfish and we want to be in control.   We’re going to turn away from God and do what we want to do.  Over and over and over again.  But God did something really beautiful.  When Jesus died and was resurrected, he said it was good that he was going away because he would send us his Holy Spirit (John 6:7-11).  He calls his Spirit the Advocate, the Counselor, the Helper, because He will help us and counsel us.  What happens if we go to a counselor for help and then don’t listen to them?  Can they help us if we’re not listening?  Nope.  The Holy Spirit will tell us when we have turned away from God, but we have to be listening.  And when we hear Him and turn back to God the Father, what’s the most appropriate response?  “Thank you!”  All day long, every time our thoughts are turned to God, thank Him.

I was driving to get my taxes done yesterday, which is almost an hour drive each way.  Thankfully, the roads were clear, but there were a few snow showers that seemed to come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly as they started.  There were big trucks that were entirely too close to my car for my liking.  And there was a headache behind my eyes that just wouldn’t go away.  But every time my thoughts came back to “Thank you, Lord”, “Thank you, Jesus” or “Thank you, Lord Jesus”, my body calmed down and the drive was smoother.  There is something healing and freeing in the words “thank you”, especially when they’re directed towards God.

When I was in counseling 3 years ago, working through the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, my counselor told me, “Stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “Thank you”.” I had gotten myself into a crazy pattern of needing help, getting help, feeling guilty for being a bother, falling apart and saying “I’m sorry” over and over and over again.  I was surrounded by people who wanted to help me, but I felt so guilty for causing such a mess.  But my counselor was absolutely correct.  If I someone helped me and I immediately said, “Thank you”, the guilt never came , I stopped falling apart and my pitiful, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” cycle never started.  Thank you, Jesus!!

In the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Thessalonica, he gives them these instructions:

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If we don’t know what God’s will is for our lives, now we do:  joyful, thankful prayer in all circumstances, all day long, no matter what happens.  “Happiness” depends on what “happens” to us.  Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  And what does the Holy Spirit remind us to do?  Turn around and say “Thank you!”

As I’m writing this post, this song is playing on WOW  Cable’s Music Choice channel 534.  Something tells me I should include it here.  🙂

33 Miles – “Thank You”

What if I looked at my life in a different way
Took a little more time to stop and pray
I know it would change all the moments in between

Garbage Truck Confession (part 3)

A few weeks ago, Pastor Chris Zarbaugh gave what was, in my opinion, the best message on confession that I had ever heard.  Here’s the link to that message: Get Rid of Your Baggage.  Chris taught on 1 John 1:9, which says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (ESV)

After hearing that message, I was inspired to write about forgiveness, reconciliation and repentance.  I wrote about them from a person to person point of view and from what I believe is God’s point of view.  Last year, I wrote on repenting (turning to God) but I had yet to address the subject of confession.  What does confession have to do with all of this?

In that message a few weeks back, Chris said that to “confess” means “to agree with”.   When we go to God in confession, we are agreeing with God.  The verse above from the 1st Book of John (1 John 1:9) talks about the very first time that we went to God to ask His forgiveness.  That was the time that we decided to follow Jesus.  That only happened once.

Every other time that we confess to God, it has nothing to do with forgiveness, but we think it does.  We mistakenly think that there is a transaction occurring when we confess.  We think we’re bringing our “bucket of sin” to God, which He empties and hands back to us.  We live our lives and the bucket fills up again, so we go back to God in confession.  And the cycle continues, as if God is a Heavenly Garbage Man, taking our junk week after week after week, right on schedule.

But that’s not what’s happening at all.  Chris stressed the fact that no transaction is taking place in confession.  There is no bucket to empty.  God forgave us 2000 years ago when Jesus died and was resurrected.  That “bucket of sin” was emptied and thrown away long before we were born.  In confession, we are simply agreeing with God that we turned away from Him and thanking Him for having already forgiven us.  In thankfulness, we can turn back to God, knowing that we are in good standing with Him.

All Sons & Daughters say it so beautifully in their song, “Brokenness Aside“:

Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run

‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful

Don’t like that word “sinner”?  I didn’t either, but here’s what I found out:  A Forgiven Atheist?