Transforming Thoughts and Attitudes

What does a godly life look like? The Bible is full of answers to that question. Many books, magazine articles, and even movies have been written on the subject. If I were to boil it down to one sentence I think it would look something like…Humble yourself in obedience to God, giving up your ways for His ways.

My husband is not a believer. When we were first married I knew I had to be the spiritual leader of our family, because he was not, but I wound up taking the lead in everything. I think in some ways I devalued him in our children’s eyes and my own. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I thought I was doing the right thing. 

I regret to say that it was about 22 years or so into our now 37 years of marriage God really started to shake me up about what it means to be a godly wife. I was starting a small group for unequally yoked women. If I was going to lead, I needed to learn how to follow. Not something that this control-freak of a woman wanted to hear. That meant learning to follow God more closely and following my husband. Being married to a non-believer did not exempt me from being what God commanded me to be as a wife, including submitting to my husband. I had allowed myself to believe, because he is an unbeliever, I did not need to submit to him. Some of the women in our unequally yoked study group didn’t want to hear this, either. They just wanted the 12-step plan to fix their husbands, but all God [and I] were offering were the steps to growing ourselves into godliness.

We cannot change our husbands. We cannot choose salvation or anything else for them. We are not their keepers. We were created to be their helpmates. That word does not do justice to the original Hebrew words ezer and neged meaning helper and opposite or compliment  respectively. We were created to help, but also to compliment or complete the man. Before anyone starts getting upset with me let me say I am not being sexist. God created men and women to be different in many ways. We are designed to compliment and complete each other. That is the way God created us and why God said that a husband and wife become one flesh. Together we are a whole unit. We each have God-given roles to fill in the family. Instead of fighting that in the name of equality we should embrace our role as woman, wife, and mother.

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I could not grasp how I could submit to my husband when he was not a believer and he was not being the godly husband described in Ephesians 5. God told me that I needed to submit to hubby in everything, so long as it did not cause me to sin. That was a real eye opener and a real paradigm changer. God set me on a path to change my thoughts, attitudes,  and behavior.

It had taken a long time for us to get into the pattern of behavior we had toward each other. We were almost emptynesters and at times it felt like we were more like roommates than a married couple. 

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It was not an easy thing to make these changes. It took a whole lot of seeking God and perseverance. When God is at work we need to have patience and not give up (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thessalomians 3:13. I know, that word, patience, has become a bad word to many. I/We don’t like having to be patient, but it is one of the nine parts of the Fruit of the Spirit  (Galatians 5:22-23) and as such is a key component to godly living. God’s Word is full of commands to wait and be patient on God’s timing. His ways and His thoughts are not like our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yes, He loves us as we are, but too much to leave us where we are. Our words and actions in everyday interactions are the true witness to the power of God at work within us. We can try to witness to others (even within our own family) with all the right Christian lingo and Bible verses, but if our lives don’t match up with that it will mean nothing. The legacy we want to leave with our family and friends is one that shows how having faith and living in Jesus with Him as Savior AND Lord is The Way of Life.

The first thing I had to learn was to put hubby second only to God. He had to come first even before me. Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” Mark 9:35b ESV.

Next I needed to learn about my hubby. For example, hubby works a 50 hour week and needs his down time. When we were first married I didn’t understand that and I felt neglected and got angry. God taught me to stop thinking selfishly. He helped me to realize how my hardworking hubby needed that time to decompress after a long day. When I started looking at it as a gift to him and stopped complaining, he started spending more time with me, even if it is a fairly silent dinner or sitting side-by-side watching TV.

I learned that men bond in different ways than women do. Men bond side by side with other men watching a sport or doing an activity, while women bond over face to face conversations (and food). When I start looking at how God created us differently I stopped taking those differences as a personal offense and instead started learning to understand and embrace our differences.

I read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I could not get hubby to read it, but I did talk to him about what I learned from it and what I learned helped me understand him even more. I figured out that his love language is acts of service and mine are physical touch and words of affirmation. He uses his own love language more than mine to “speak” love to me. So, now I have learned to recognize, appreciate, and receive his acts of service as a gift of love, even though he is using his love language and not mine. It may sound like I do a lot of accommodating for him, but in some ways he does a lot of accommodating for me, too.

Confession time. I am a pack rat and not a very good housekeeper. I would rather do anything else besides clean house,  do dishes, or do laundry. Since I am currently a homemaker (as I pursue a speaking and writing ministry) I do not expect a lot from hubby at home with chores. When I make sure he has clean clothes and good food to eat, these acts of service speak love to him. I am still working on the clean and uncluttered home. I’ve discovered that clutter stresses him out and that is one of the reasons he will hide out in his den. If I want him around me more I need to be more diligent with keeping a tidy home.

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I once dressed up as a social butterfly for Halloween at work ( butterfly wings, and I hung a phone, calendar, etc. all over me). That’s me. A very social person. I like to talk. I like to do things and go places. Hubby is more of a homebody when he isn’t working. I have friends with whom I love to hang out. Some weeks I am out nearly every day. That’s out of balance. I know that. I am working on it. But it’s hard because it’s fun. Housework isn’t fun, it’s work. But when I start thinking about how it affects how hubby perceives my love for him, it should change my attitude towards it. I say should because it hasn’t translated into a regular course of action yet. 

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When God began working this all out in me our small group was going through a study on the dreaded Proverbs 31 woman (Proverbs 31:10-31). It definitely was a God-thing, because I didn’t like her very much. She just seemed too perfect. But as we went through the study I realized a few things.

1) A husband  needs to feel he can trust his wife to feel secure, especially in regards to fidelity and finances.

2) A husband needs to know his wife appreciates him and respects him.

3) A wife needs to look after the welfare of her husband, family, and her home (The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV). Instead of being the unattainably perfect woman we dread hearing about, the Proverbs 31 woman is a guide to us in how to be a godly woman and wife.

It’s all a matter of perspective and attitude. Our lives and our marriages are what we make of them. We can only change and control ourselves,  but when we change we will often see change in our spouses as well. This isn’t just a marriage concept either. I have seen it work with co-workers and my children.

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These changes and any other real, godly changes in me have all stemed from the fact that I am a child of God and I want to please and obey Him. It is part of growing in the relationship I have with Him. But I have to really want the relationship more than whatever “rights or attitudes” He wants to pull out of me, so He can fill me with the Fruit of His Spirit. If I want more of His presence I need to present myself as a humble servant, just as Jesus did when He humbled Himself in taking human flesh to serve us and die in our place.  Real, lasting change has to be in God’s timing and power. I fail miserably when I try to do things in my own power. I am too weak, but God’s power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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I had to learn to put away selfish desires and look at the needs of others first Philippians 2:4). It is a hard thing to shift from the “I am number one” attitude that the world shouts out at the top of its lungs to the J.O.Y. mindset.

Jesus first
Others
Yourself

Life in Christ is not about our rights, but about being righteous in His strength and power (2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 4:13). Isn’t it such a relief to know that God is okay with our weaknesses, because it allows His grace and power to work in and through us. It is a witness to others around us. But God also requires us to take a step in faith, in obedience, and sometimes even in fear and He will show up and help, guide, and strengthen us in it. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it IS worth the effort. And since God is completely trustworthy we can trust Him with the outcome of our obedience.

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Other things I am learning from our friend, the Proverbs 31 woman, are about setting priorities, money and time management. She is a hard worker and she makes wise decisions (v. 25-26). She makes their home beautiful and her family is well dressed (v. 21-22). She runs her household well and takes good care of her children (v. 27).

Part of this is making sure they are raised in a godly way. Making sure to instruct them in prayer and the ways of the Lord. This should come before extracurricular activities and those activites should not interfere with attending church, youth group,  etc. I have seen it too many times in the years I spent working with youth. The children of parents who allowed sports and other activities to take precedence over godly things were the children who wandered away from the Lord as they grew up. Our family activities centered around church, youth groups, etc. and family. Despite the fact they only had one believing parent all of our children are serving the Lord and raising their children to do the same. It is so important to raise them with the right priorities and help them to develop their own faith. That’s something else I have seen often. Children taken to church and Sunday school, but not taught prayer, reading the Bible or any other faith-building activities at home. We cannot rely upon church and Sunday school attendance to change our children alone. They need parental guidance and examples to form their own faith and relationship with God in Jesus.

Becoming a believer is not the end of the road, but just the beginning. We are made a new creation when we become a believer, but the transformation of our minds – thoughts and attitudes – is just beginning. But Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is right there to walk us through it, teach, correct, and encourage us on our way. Praise the Lord!

How is Jesus working in your life to change your thoughts and attitudes? Please share in the comments section.

Blessings and peace,

Julia

 

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An Ostrich or a Lion?

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I have been getting a lot of inspiration from Pinterest lately. This adorable photo made me smile and question myself,  “Do I ever do this?” Yes, I believe I do, on ovcasion, but I would like to do it a whole lot more! What about you?

We should wake up in the morning smiling because we know our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25) and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). If the things of life are weighing us down we need to give it all to Jesus and stop trying to do life in our own power. Jesus offers us an exchange – our heavy load for His light yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). His yoke is not a yoke of slavery, but a yoke of help and guidance, so we don’t have to do anything in our own strength, but in Jesus’ strength (Philippians 4:13).

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Just knowing we belong to God, that He has adopted us into His family, should be enough to plaster a permanent smile on our faces. We need to train ourselves to be constantly aware of God’s presence with us. He has promised to never leave us alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8). If you would like a book to read on this,  I highly recommend, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. We can know God’s presence every moment and be in constant communication with Him if we choose to open our spiritual eyes to see.

Jesus has promised His rest, joy, and peace to us despite our circumstances (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27, 15:11, 16:24 & 33, 17:13). So why do we so often become frustrated, stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed by life?

A) Sometimes we don’t start our day with the Lord and even if we do way be rushing through without taking time to just soak in His presence and listen to His voice.

B) We take our focus off of Jesus and look at the storm around us instead of taking the trouble to the Lord in prayer and leaving it in His hands.

C) We try to handle things, especially “little” things, in our own power. Big or small God wants to be a part of it. It may seem small at first, but it could become a bigger problem later, specially if we aren’t operating in God’s wiadom, power and timing. Also, we never know how God will use even the small things in our lives for His glory, so it is better to do everything in Him and get it right the first time.

No matter what is going on in our lives just knowing we belong to Jesus is enough to keep us at peace. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience pain, but Jesus is in the pain with us, He surrounds us, and He fills us with His presence and power to go through it with His peace and the joy of His presence  (the Joy of the Lord is our strength – Nehemiah 8:10). In Him we can be strong and courageous.

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Finally, don’t be an ostrich with your head buried in the sand. Be a lion! Acknowledge that there are evil spiritual forces at work in this world (Ephesians 6:10-13, 1 Peter 5:8-11). Denying they exist won’t make them go away, but it will make us unprepared for the inevitable battles ahead. If we arm ourselves with God’s armor (Ephesians 6:14-18), humble ourselves and submit to God (1 Peter 5:6-7, James 4:7) we can stand against all the devil’s schemes and attacks without fear or worry and make the devil flee from us.

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Have you ever noticed that there is no armor for the back? That’s because with God on our side there is no reason to fear. We are not to turn and run or hide. We are to stand firm and face the enemy. We are strong and courageous with God on our side.

I know that when I take the time to seek God’s presence, His wisdom, and His strength I feel it and know I can face whatever it is in His peace. I had a scare about 3 years ago with a suspicious mammogram. I had to go for a follow-up ultrasound which led to a biopsy. I had determined in the waiting between each appointment that I was not.going to worry. I knew God had me. When I went in for the biopsy the staff and the doctor were all being so caring and encouraging. They were also very puzzled by my calm demeanor. That’s not what they usually see. I was able to shine some light that day by explaining that I was not worried or afraid because I had God’s peace in heart. Praise God it was benign! But it was a huge deal for me, because I am by nature a big time worrier. In Christ we are new creations. Our old nature is gone and is replaced with a godly nature of courage and strength. Can I get an amen?

Blessings and peace,

Julia

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Creator, Lord, Savior

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I was reading Psalm 33 this morning and I don’t know when I have ever wanted to underline every verse in a chapter before. Amazingly this Psalm is annonymous.

I get sad when I am in a worship service and the people are standing still and some aren’t even singing. Most of the time when I worship I want to sing, clap, dance, and shout for joy! Of course there are times when worship is more quiet and contemplative, but when it is an upbeat song I just want to clap and dance my heart out like David before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14ź16,21-22)!

I remember a song I love about this passage in 2 Samuel, “Undignified” by Matt Redman. I can’t sit still when I hear this one, can you?

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I find verses 4 and 5 so reassuring. God’s Word is true, there’s no denying it! God is utterly [completely and without qualification] trustworthy! His love is unfailing,  we know this, but do you ever think about His love filling the whole earth? His love is a gift available to everyone everywhere. He does not hide it from some and lavish it on others. If we don’t know His love it is because we have not reached out to Him to receive it. He loves us whether we acknowledge and accept it or not.

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Psalm 33 moves on to talk about the power of God being so great that all of creation was formed by the Lord by merely speaking the Words and it came into existence. When we are conceived in our mother’s womb He speaks over us as well. He places into our DNA everything we will need to be the person He created us to be, with the personality, gifts, and talents we will need to fulfill His plan and purpose for our life (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 139:13-18, Jeremiah 1:5)…with HIS help. We must learn to trust and follow Jesus, His plan and timing.  When we doubt ourselves we are really doubting God. God did not create us to do life alone in our own power. The Fruit of the Spirit is produced in us as we learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to learn how to properly use our personality, gifts, and talents in the way God intended. He wants us to work with and through Him to fulfill His plan and purpose for our lives. As long as we draw breath there is a purpose to our lives. Not one of us is useless in God’s Kingdom. And not one of us is ever alone. Not only do we have the Holy Spirit living inside us we have a whole family of brothers and sisters around the world. Awesome God!

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Yesterday being the 4th of July brings this verse front and center. Our country was founded on biblical principles and faith in Almighty God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oh how we have strayed from that foundation in our society today. Please join me in praying daily for our country to return to the Lord and turn from our wicked ways, before God completely lifts His hand of blessing and protection from the U.S.A.

Holy God, Mighty Lord, Gracious Father, we lift up America before Your throne confessing the sins of her people. We have not treasured the lives of the unborn and elderly. We have twisted Your Word to allow us to live in sin and call it good. We have lifted up idols of self, money, “toys”, sex, drugs…. and called it good. We have done unspeakable things in your name and called it right. Bring us to repentance and forgive us Lord. Bring revival among believers and fill us with a passion for Your name, that we would go into the world shining the light of Jesus with Your love and grace in every word and action.  May we once more become one nation under God! Thank You Lord! Be glorified in our lives and land! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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When we put our faith and trust in the Lord He takes care of us. We have no need to fear anything, even death itself, because to be absent from the body is to be present with our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).

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What can I say about these last 3 verses? Waiting. We have to learn to be good wait-ers. God’s timing is not like ours. We become impatient, but God uses these times of waiting to ripen in us the fruit of peace, patience, and also joy, because our peace and joy should not depend upon our circumstances,  but solely upon the fact we belong to God and no one can snatched us from His hands (see John 10:27-30 below). 

I pray the last verse over each of you…Let Your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon  __ [insert your name in all blanks], even as she hopes in You! And may __ know the depth and breadth of your love for her. May ___ put her complete faith and trust in You to absolutely depend upon You in all things. And that ____would  know wothout a doubt that Your plan is not to bring her harm, but to bring her hope and a future. Help ___ to fine tune her ears to hear Your voice, Good Shepherd, and follow only You. In Your name, Jesus, amen.

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I would.love to hear from you in the comments below!

Blessings, grace, and peace,

Julia

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Seek The Lord and Be Glad

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A Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving
By Julia Melatis 

Look unto the Lord, all you people;
Seek Him with all your heart and be glad!
For the Lord is the Everlasting God
He gave His Son’s life for yours.
He loves you with an unfailing love.
He wants to be your Father, to adopt you as His child.
Turn to the Lord and repent of your sins and He will wash away the stain.
He will clothe you in robes of righteousness washed in Jesus’ blood.

Selah (pause and think about that.)

Love Him with all your heart!
Seek His wisdom and guidance.
His Word stand true forever.
Of His Kingdom there is no end.
He loved YOU and chose YOU before creation.
His wisdom and power are beyond our comprehension.

He set the sun, moon and stars into motion and aligned the planets. 
He created every living thing. 

He governs the universe and yet He knows each of us by name. 

Holy and just in our God. 

There is no one else like Him.

Selah

He offers peace and joy to the faint of heart.
He gives comfort and healing to the broken and abused.
He satisfies our hunger with The Bread of Life and quenches our thirst with His Living Water.
Come to Him all you who are weary and worn and you will find rest for your souls.
Those who trust in Him with all things, will sleep sweet without worry or fear.
The Everlasting God is always with those who trust in His name. He never grows tired nor does He slumber.
He fights on our behalf and gives us HIS strength in our weakness, to defeat our enemy the devil, the father of lies.

Selah

Praise the Lord, all you His people!
Shout aloud and clap your hands! 
Rejoice and be glad for He has rescued us from the fires of hell and blessed us with His indwelling Holy Spirit, to teach us, guide us, comfort and correct us.

He has adopted us as His children and made us co-heirs with Christ Jesus to His Kingdom and eternal life.

Praise be to the Lord our God!
His love endures forever and of His Kingdom there is no end!

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Navigating Life’s Storms

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This canvas spoke to me when I first saw it in of all places, the “Icing” jewelry and accessories store in the mall. I just had to buy it. It reminds me of so any Bible verses, including the story of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV).

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long wayb from the land,c beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind,d he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus did not calm the sea before telling Peter to come to him. He called Peter to walk to Him on the stormy sea. Peter stepped out in faith, but he faltered when he saw the wind. Why? He took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the problem. How often do we do that? We start out strong with our eyes on Jesus, but when troubles arise our gaze goes to the troubles and we begin to worry, fear, and doubt. We become so fixated on the problem we forget to turn to the problem solver. Jesus promises us that though we have troubles we can take heart,  because he has overcome the world (John 16:33).

The thing I love about Peter is his heart.
Peter was the only disciple to step out of the boat. He wanted to be a man of great faith. He did have faith enough to get out of the boat and take some steps before sinking, and he was the only disciple that made it out of the boat.

I also identify with Peter. I think many people do. He had a habit of acting and speaking without thinking, aka “foot-in-mouth disease.” He sometimes had a problem with pride. Though these things are negatives, they do show he had a heart that wanted to do right. His biggest failure was the night Jesus was betrayed.

27And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”29Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. Mark 14:27-31 ESV

Pride. Short lived pride. Peter wanted to be everything he said to Jesus, but fear overtook him. On the water. In the Garden of Gethsemane. When he denied Jesus not once, or twice, but three times outside of Jesus’ trial. When Peter heard the rooster crow twice after his third denial he wept bitterly (Mark 14:72), because he knew he failed, again. Can you imagine how Peter must have felt, denying His Lord that way?

I have beaten myself up emotionally over past failures. There was a point in my life I was sure that God could never love me or forgive me for the things I had done. And when that point came, God spoke life and hope to me through my Father. He said, quite loudly, “How dare you?! How dare you not forgive yourself when God already has?! Are you better than God?!” That was a turning point for me, my faith, and my whole life, and my children’s lives and their children’s lives (Psalm 103:17).

I am sure that Peter must have felt so ashamed of himself.  It must have been a hard three days while Jesus was buried. And what must have been going through Peter’s mind when he first saw the resurrected Jesus? How could he possibly look Him in the eye? How could Jesus forgive him for denying Him?

Jesus knew Peter’s heart and his weaknesses. It didn’t stop Him from calling Peter as His disciple. Some of the disciples had a not so savory past. But Jesus called them, too. Jesus is not so much concerned with where we’ve been as He is where we’re going. Before Jesus ascended to heaven He reinstated Peter.
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17The third time he said to him,“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” John 21:15-19 NIV

Jesus wanted Peter and us to know that He knows we will mess up from time to time, but He does not define us by those things and we should not either. By nature we have weaknesses, but God spoke these words to Paul, and they echo down through the centuries to speak to us as well…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

If we repent of our failures and submit to God’s leading, His grace will make us stronger and better able to serve Him and those He brings into our lives. He makes us overcomers by His power at work within us. The only way we truly fail is if we don’t learn from our mistakes and allow them by God’s grace to help us overcome future temptations and to speak life and hope to others in need of Jesus’ love, grace, and forgiveness.

So, don’t beat yourself up and define yourself by the times you stumble and fall.  Take the mess to the Creator and let Him turn it into a beautiful message of hope for others.

If a sailor never face a stormy sea, he would never truly know what kind of sailor he is, because his skills are not tested. It is the same for us as believers. It’s easy to profess a deep faith when life is calm and trouble free, but when trouble comes and we feel tossed about, does our faith carry us through or do we lose control and sink our boats? If we turn over the helm of our boats to Jesus the wind may toss us about and some water may lap over into the boat, but we will not lose control and sink. He will help us bail-out the boat and sail us into a safe port.

Blessings and peace,

Julia

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Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

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I saw this meme on Pinterest and it got me thinking. Our thoughts and our words can keep us from living in the freedom Jesus died to give us.

Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewing our minds, changing our thinking, is so important! When we receive Jesus as our Savior He releases us from the past and we become a new creation. We receive the Holy Spirit who guides us, teaches us, and convicts us of new sins.  It takes longer for our thoughts to change. We have a history of thinking certain things about ourselves. We need to train our thoughts to think the things God says about us. We need to become intimate with Scripture, so it can work to transform the way we think. All to often we think negatively.  Certainly the majority of our entertainment contains negative, violent, and crude images and language. Commercials, magazines, and the like are full of ads and images telling us we don’t measure up. That we will be happy if we only buy this product, lose weight…whatever it is they are trying to sell. It’s no wonder we have trouble with our thoughts. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” This is how we transform our minds, by changing what we think about. Just as our bodies are what we eat, so our thoughts are what we see and hear. The things we watch, listen to, and read influence our thoughts and therefore our actions. The best place to start is with Scripture. Reading studying, and memorizing (hiding it in your heart) the Word helps us to change our thoughts. 

When we allow the lies, fears, and doubts the enemy plants in our thoughts to stick around they can render us ineffective for God’s kingdom. Perhaps you’ve been told you’re worthless. Jesus says you are valuable. Maybe you feel lonely and unlovable. Jesus loves you and He is always near you! Whatever lies you’ve been told about who you are,  Jesus says, I gave My life for YOU! 

Stop owning things by calling them “mine.” My attitude, my anger (I’m Irish or ____, so I can’t help it), my illness, my______, whatever it is, and give it to Jesus. He is waiting to take it all away from you. He says give your burdens to me and rest in my presence. Let me be your Provider, your Healer, your Refuge, and most of all your King. He wants us to let His love, joy, peace, and hope rule in our hearts and minds.

Whether you have been a follower of Jesus for just a short time or many years I would venture to say that there are probably some thoughts,  habits, or other things in your life that you have not surrendered to God. Jesus wants every part of us. When we hold back parts of our lives from God we are essentially saying we don’t trust Him with it and making it an idol. Ouch! Maybe you’ve never considered it that way before. When we hold back on God we are only hurting ourselves and our relationship with Him.  Jesus is waiting with arms wide open for you to give those things to Him, so you can find rest for your soul. Reach out to him today with your arms outstretched and hands wide open, so He can take those burdens from you and fill you with Himself – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control (fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23). 

Blessings, grace, and peace,

Julia

The First Easter

A few friends and I started a journaling group last October. We only meet once a month, but it is very interesting. We start with one or more possible journaling prompts, or we can just write a prayer or about whatever is on our minds. Then we share what we write. Yesterday I wrote about what I think I would have felt if I were at the first Easter.

What would it have been like if I would have been one of Jesus’ closest followers – a woman who followed and helped provide and care for Him (Mark 15:41).

I am standing back with some of the other women who are followers of Jesus. The soldiers are nailing our Master to a rough, wooden cross. With each swing of the hammer He screams in agony. I can barely see anymore through all the tears as they lift the cross and in lands with a jolt in the hole in the ground. He screams again!

I don’t understand why this is happening. What did He do, except love people, heal them, feed them, and bless them. He taught about repentance. He taught us to call God, Daddy. He taught us a lot of things and promised that His kingdom was still to come. Now He is slowly dying on a cross like a criminal. That dream of His kingdom is all but gone.

I love Him so much! It is so hard to stand here and watch Him suffering so much. Each breath is so painful! He speaks, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). I know Jesus loves people, but how can He forgive these soldiers for what they are doing to Him? I just don’t understand.

There are two thieves also being crucified. One of them is just mocking Jesus. Unbelievable, that even as he is dying he doesn’t repent of his sins, and instead he mocks the one who has done no wrong. The crowd joins in hurling insults at Jesus. But, the other thief rebukes the first one and then says, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” I can’t believe Jesus’ answer, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43). Amazing! Jesus is still ministering to people as He Himself dies a slow, painful death.

It seems like such a long time He has been hanging there. It is only about noon, but the sky is so dark. The sunlight hides from this terrible thing that is happening!

It’s about three o’clock now, and He is getting so weak, He can hardly lift Himself to breath anymore. He cries out again, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God, how can this be happening? Isn’t Jesus Your Son? Jesus says, “I’m thirsty.” (John 19:28). Those mean soldiers put some vinegar on a sponge and hold it up to His mouth. Then with a very labored breath He says, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:29-30).

I thought I was cried out, but the tears flow again. I can’t stop screaming. This man, this wonderful man who loved me when no one else cared. This man who said my many sins were forgiven and that I would have a new life with Him. Now what? How can I have any life with Him? He’s gone!  Why God?! Why?!

Some men come and take His body down. They take Him and place Him in a borrowed tomb. It’s almost the Sabbath. They must hurry.

The agony and hopelessness are unbearable as we go through the motions of our Sabbath prayers and meal. I can’t eat. My heart is broken. I am so confused. Is this the end? What is the point? Jesus had talked of His kingdom to come, but now He is dead? How can this be? I don’t understand.

It’s late. I am all cried out. It’s been a long couple of days. I am hiding in the upper room with the disciples and the other women. We are worried that the soldiers will come looking for us next. The sun is starting to come up. It’s been another sleepless night. Suddenly, Mary Magdalene comes bursting into the room! She’s shouting something about Jesus being gone! We know He’s gone, Mary. We watched Him die. But she says, NO! He’s alive! I saw Him! He is alive!! I think she must be so overcome with grief and with little sleep, she is hallucinating. She continues, He told me to tell you, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10).

Peter and John ran to the tomb. When they came back they told us the tomb was empty as Mary had said. They found His grave clothes lying there and the cloth that was on His face was folded by itself. (John 20:3-10). We remembered that Jesus said He must die and rise again. I am excited, but scared to believe it is really true. We decide to go to Galilee as Mary told us and wait for Jesus there.

We traveled as fast as we could. Lack of sleep was overcome by our excitement at the thought that Jesus is really alive again!

We were still afraid of the authorities, so we gathered in a locked room. Jesus appeared to us there. He said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed us His hands and side. We were overjoyed when we saw the Lord! (John 20:19-20). Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on us and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22). I’m not really sure what He meant by that, but my outlook as really changed. A warm feeling of peace fills my heart. All my fears are gone! Jesus is alive! This is a new day! Life for me will never be the same again!

I wish you a very blessed Resurrection Day this Sunday! Everyday is Resurrection day when you are a Jesus follower. Jesus has really changed my life forever! How about you?