Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wholly Committed

Is God calling you to a deeper level of commitment?  

When I first read this question, my immediate answer in my head was "No!  There is no way I could possibly BE more committed to God!  I read the Bible every morning, pray daily, attend church and Bible study regularly, and love Him more than anything else!"  

Of course, that was when I felt the twinge in my heart.  The small twinge, accompanied by a thought: Am I really completely and deeply committed to God, all day every day?  

Then I knew what I would be reflecting upon and blogging about this week :) Once I realized God is calling me to be more committed, I have contemplated how to grow deeper in my relationship with God.  Various scriptures popped into my head throughout the week:  
  • Philippians 4:8 - "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." (NIV)  Could I categorize every thought I have into one of these categories?  If not, am I able to quickly change my thought to fit in one of these categories?  
  • Colossians 3:23 - "And don't just do the minimum that will get you by.  Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance.  Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ." (MSG)  Am I always doing my best for God?  Am I more worried about my work as a means to collect a paycheck, or as a means to glorify God and serve others?  
  • Colossians 1:10 - "...So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God..." (NIV)  Am I growing in my knowledge of God?  I think many times I do not try to "get to know him" better, or learn more about Him.  Instead, I tend to be focused on how His Word and how my prayers can improve my life, or the lives of those around me, while neglecting to get to know Him more.  
Another thing I need to improve upon is responding to Him whenever he calls me (immediately say YES GOD!).  Sometimes I just need to make a choice to walk away from gossiping, trust Him with situations that are making me anxious, or many other things I try to handle myself.  I feel like I need God to put one of these little signs in front of me when I am in these situations, but I need to learn to recognize them for myself! 

Other times, I feel a gentle nudging that makes me think I should share my faith with the person I am conversing with, talk to a stranger, or some other "random" act that is out of my comfort zone.  I want to get better at immediately recognizing that it is God nudging me, and respond cheerfully and without fear!  

I also want to focus on constantly loving others, even when I am do not feel like it.  I found this list (I love lists!) that has some good points and scripture references that I can focus on, as I know that loving and serving others will help me grow in Christ!  

And now I need your help - I can definitely use some more ideas on how to become wholly committed to God, and to grow deeper in my relationship with Him!  How have you been able to achieve a deeper level of commitment with God?  How have you been able to get to know Him better?  I pray you are always able to grow more with Him! God bless :)  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Radical Obedience

Addicted - Physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects; enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.  

This week in our online Bible study, we were asked, "Is there something God is asking you to give up?  What specific steps do you need to take to fulfill this obedience?"  

While it feels and seems silly to me, I struggle immensely with sugar.  Sweet, delicious, wonderful sugar.  What is supposed to be a fun and enjoyable treat is something I am truly addicted to. As I tend to eat quite a bit of sugar on a regular basis, I do feel physically and mentally dependent on it.  If it has been a few hours since consuming some sugar, I "crash" and feel irritable and jittery.  This in turn makes me want more sugary substances, and I become consumed with acquiring it.  Examples: 

  • Cookies brought to our office by a patient - My focus on the tasks at hand becomes disrupted as my brain shifts to an immense desire to go eat the cookies.  Sadly, the desire is not to just have one, but all of them - even at the expense of not leaving any for others.  
  • Spending time with friends and family - Many people enjoy having treats around their home, as they have some level of self-control.  When I go to visit, if I detect any sweets, my focus shifts from enjoying the company to getting some (ok, all!) of treats.  After I eat all the treats, I am miserable and feel both mentally and physically ill, and my focus is still not on the great company!  
Instead of appreciating the kindness of a patient, enjoying time with friends and family, or enjoying any other experiences, I lose out on this precious time because I am consumed with filling my body with a chemical that is destructive.  I am also not being obedient to what God is asking me to do, as when I do not feel well I do not serve Him well.  

The worst part, however is that this is a sin - gluttony.      

All throughout grad school, we were taught all the negative effects processed sugars have on the body:  

And yet I continue to consume this horrible substance in mass quantities.  We also learned the physiology behind the effects of sugar and negative effects:  

This chart reminds me of a chart of anything that can become an idol (defined by Priscilla Shirer as anything in the visible, created realm that begins to operate in a role that should be reserved for God) in our lives.  We start with something in this world that gives us pleasure and happiness due to increased serotonin and endorphins.  When we are without it for an amount of time, we begin to go through withdrawals.  In order to combat the withdrawals, we seek out more of it to give ourselves that sense of satisfaction again.  We may call them obsessions or bad habits; however, they are still idols!  For me, sugary treats give me comfort and pleasure when I am stressed or lonely.   Unfortunately, God should be the One we turn to when we are stressed, lonely, or struggling with temptation.  

I have no doubt that giving up sugar is something God wants me to do for my health and for my happiness. While He may not require I give it up forever, I know He does want me to give it up for a season.  I have felt this urging in my heart for a long time now, but while reading "What Happens When Women Say Yes to God" I realized it is something I must do NOW, if I want to truly be obedient to Him!  In order to become obedient, I have several "steps" I am taking:  
  • Surrounding myself with scripture - This is the best tool EVER!  Some scriptures I have committed to memory and have posted all around my apartment and at the office include: 
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:4 - "Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God." (MSG)  
    • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - "Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?  The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you.  God owns the whole works.  So let people see God in and through your body."  (MSG)  
    • Here are some other great self-control scriptures!  
  • Prayer - Praying for help and strength is crucial to any success in life.  I have let God know I am ready for this mission, and will seek Him constantly for strength. 
  • Friends and family - I have let them know of my goals and my mission, and I am so blessed that they are more than happy to help! 
  • Food - I am only keeping healthy foods in my apartment, and I have enlisted the help of my mom to go to the grocery store with me so I am not tempted to purchase sugary treats.   
  • Practicing mindful eating - Taking the time to thank the Lord for the good food he has blessed me with, and slowing down to truly enjoy what I am eating.  
  • Sleep - I know adequate sleep is essential to feeling my best so I have the strength to make good choices.  When I want to stay up late, I must remember my commitment to obedience and hit the hay!  
  • Exercise - Raising the endorphins without sugar!  When I exercise, I feel better, and less prone to eating sugar.  
  • List of health benefits - I have a list (via Evernote, this is a great app that keeps me super organized, and you can access it via phone, computer, or tablet) that I reference when I am feeling a craving coming on.  It is a list of the benefits of not eating sugar - strengthened immunity, better skin, more energy, hormonal balance, etc.  
I truly hope I can combat this demon, and give all the glory to God.  I know through His strength and help, I can do anything!  :)  I pray you have strength in whatever struggles you are facing too!  Thank you for reading about my "silly" addiction, and God bless!!!  :)  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Soul Longing For More

YAY for Online Bible Studies!!!  We are back in session :)

In Chapter 1 of her book "What Happens When Women Say Yes To God," Lysa TerKeurst talks about how we've become "so familiar with God yet so unaware."  One of our blog topics is to address what are some action steps we can take each day to become more away of God's presence, and how we can intentionally pursue God even in the middle of "life's mundane activities."

One of the best ways I have been able to become more aware of God throughout my daily life is to post scriptures wherever I spend a lot of time: on my bathroom mirror, on my desk at work, by my computer, and on my fridge.  I try to rotate them out weekly, but there are some favorites that I use over and over again!  This really helps me continually turn back to God throughout my day!  (Note: This is something I learned in the previous online Bible study, "Stressed-Less Living," and it has been one of the biggest blessings I took away from that study!)

I was excited to see this topic, because I recently finished Priscilla Shirer's "Gideon" Bible Study, in which she address this exact topic!  Priscilla writes the following:

  • "God often comes to us in our 'boring' days, veiled in the most ordinary of circumstances.  In fact, 'ordinary' is often the disguise of the divine.  If we are constantly anticipating a grandiose event to accompany the times when we encounter Him or hear His voice, we will miss out on many intimate moments in our relationship with God.  The mundane, the routine, the commonplace - these are often the contexts in which He will reveal Himself to humanity."  
  • "Having your spiritual radar up in consistent anticipation of His presence - even in the midst of the joyful chaos and regular rhythms of your everyday living - is paramount in hearing God, because sometimes the place and manner you find Him is the lease spectacular you'd expect."  
  • "Knowing God's purpose requires first being aware of God's presence."  
  • "Most of our days are filled with routine duties required for life to continue with any sort of sanity.  But if we take the time to look closely, we might discover that God is using these normal activities to prepare us for future tasks, each duty pointing to His blessings in our lives."
  • "If we'll look around, we might also find Him preparing us as He works through our daily lives.  Today's tasks - even the most mundane of them - are often preparation for tomorrow's calling.  They can carry clues to what He is leading us to learn and accomplish as we faithfully serve Him.  While it might seem comical to find spiritual principles in washing dishes or answering phones at your desk job, God is teaching you faithfulness, diligence, and integrity through every task."  
As someone who answers the phone many times during the days at work, this helped me realize that everything we do is important in the kingdom of God!  Now whenever I hear the phone ring, it reminds me of Christ, and I quickly make sure I am ready to help whoever is on the other end in a very caring and compassionate way, so that they may hear the light of God through me (even if they don't realize it!).  Whenever I go to get the mail at work and there is a huge stack to go through, instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated I turn back to God and thank Him that the practice I work in is thriving.  Whenever I go to get my personal mail and there are bills, I thank God that I have a place to live.  Whenever I see the scripture on my fridge, I am reminded that I am blessed beyond measure to have healthy foods to prepare and consume - sometimes I am even blessed enough to prepare meals to share with other people!  :)  

We are so blessed, and I pray that we can all be continually reminded of His good works, and do everything to the glory of the One who made us!  Love this song by Steven Curtis Chapman, it is a wonderful reminder that everything we do matters!

I am always reminded of all my blessings when I run across this:  
Dear Lord,
Thank you for this sink of dirty dishes; we have plenty of food to eat.
Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry; we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.
And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds; they were so warm and comfortable last night. I know that many have no bed.
My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom, complete with all the splattered mess, soggy, grimy towels and the dirty lavatory; they are all so convenient.
Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator that needs defrosting so badly; it has served us faithfully for many years. It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers for two or three meals.
Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely must be cleaned today; it has baked so many things over the years.
The whole family is grateful for that tall grass that needs mowing and lawn that needs raking; we all enjoy the yard.
Thank you, Lord, even for that slamming screen door. My kids are healthy and able to run and play. Many children cannot.
Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says You have richly blessed my family. I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings… Thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible…Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.
Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising…Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.
Even though the first hour of my day is hectic with socks that are lost, toast that is burned, tempers that are short, and my children that are so loud…Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.
Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times not balanced…Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.
Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous…Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who are jobless.
Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest…Thank you, Lord, for life.
~Author Unknown 
Thank you for reading, and God bless!!!  :)