Monday, June 20, 2011

Your Past Is Calling. Should You Answer?

This entry was inspired by a message preached at my church yesterday. I wasn't there for the service, however the gist of the message was that your ex is calling you but you should leave your past behind. Your ex in this case would be past experiences in your life. So I'm reframing the message to ask should you answer when your past is calling you?

What do I mean by your past? Well, I'm thinking of the reminders of your faults and mistakes. The things that you should or shouldn't have done and the things that you should or shouldn't have said. And oh yeah, what about when you let go of your standard(s)? Your past is calling to make you reflect on the times that you've failed--be it others, yourself, or God. Are you going to take the time to stop and answer the call by wasting time thinking on your past?

I said it's a waste of time to think on your past because, as the old saying goes, there is nothing that can be done about it. Granted you can try to correct some of your mistakes, but the actions that took place cannot be changed. It's helpful to learn from your mistakes and failures. When you do that, you know what roads not to take when it comes to making decisions or choices in your life. However, dwelling on your past failures only keeps you bogged down in the present. Your desire may be to move forward, but how can you when you're so busy looking at the past?

I'll talk about me and may be that will help. I've made mistakes that I've dwelt on over and over and over again. In other words, my past was calling and I took the time to answer. I thought about, "Well, if I hadn't done that, maybe this would have been different," or, "Why did you let that happen? You knew better." Yet, the one thought that has tripped me up the most is, "Now I can't look down on others." Yep, I said it. In my recent past, the idea that as long as you stay focused you won't make certain mistakes has not been my reality. But when I stop to look at it, how sad is that? How sad is it to have a standard not so much to help others but to be able to look down on others and judge in your head and your heart internally (although you may never judge them verbally)?

Okay, this post may not be for everybody, and I may respin it to make it more general another day. But to those who can relate, let me say this. Stop answering the call of your past. You and I have made mistakes, and guess what we've learned? We're human. That's what humans do. However, do we use our humanity to continue to make intentional mistakes? No, we do not. Nor do we continue to try and live a life that allows us to look down on those who aren't living up to our standard. We take the mistakes, learn from them, leave them in the past, and move on with life. The lessons learned from them have the ability to make us stronger because now we have a better understanding of our weaknesses. We no longer depend upon our integrity because we realize we're just as human as the next person. Perfection doesn't stop here, and we should no longer expect it to.

So when your past comes calling, don't answer. It's not worth your time.

John 8:1-11 KJV

v. 1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
v. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
v. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
v. 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
v. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
v. 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
v. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
v. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
v. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
v. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
v. 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When We Fall...

This was yesterday's Encouragement For Today devotional. It was written by Renee Swope.
Getting Up Again

"...though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again..." Proverbs 24:16a, (NIV)

I've always admired people who aren't afraid to fail. You know the ones who don't even consider defeat when they blow it; people who see a personal setback as just another goal to conquer.

I'm not always so courageous. In fact, I can be really hard on myself when I fail, and it doesn't even have to be a biggie. You see, I have what I call a "meanie in me" who replays my mistakes over and over, reminding me of how badly I've disappointed someone, or how impatient I was with my husband, or how harsh I was with my kids, or all sorts of ways that I fell short that day.

But the greatest defeat comes when I allow a mistake, a bad decision, sin, or a broken relationship to convince me that I might as well give up. Perhaps you have also allowed failure to knock you down, tie you up with the ropes of regret and hold you hostage like I have.

When I surveyed over 1200 women for my upcoming book, A Confident Heart, I discovered that our past failures, and our fear of failing again, are two of the biggest triggers that make us doubt ourselves.

Today's key verse, Proverbs 24:16, has helped me release the regret, guilt, fear and shame that have weighed me down and held me back. Take a minute to read it now and notice how it says the righteous will fall. That is right. Even those of us who have received the gift of Christ's righteousness and redemption will fall down. But we were never intended to stay down.

Instead of giving up Jesus empowers us to get up again.

In getting up, we can apologize and ask for forgiveness. In getting up, we can choose to try again with our kids, in our jobs, in our ministries, in our marriages, and in all of our mistakes. Because we trust that although we fall, God will help us up. Listen to His promise in Psalm 37:23-24 and as you read it insert your name in the blanks: "The steps of ____________ are established by the Lord, and He delights in ____________ way. When ____________ falls, __________ will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds ________ hand." (NASB)

When we get up again failure can actually help us become the confident women God created us to be because it makes us stronger and better — when we go to God for help. Failure can stretch us to do more than we think we can and push us to try other methods of doing things when one way doesn't work.

Yes, failure can be hurtful but it can also be beneficial. Failure produces wisdom when we ask for it and maturity when we learn from it.

The truth is, following Jesus is not about avoiding failures and being perfect. It's about accepting our weaknesses and becoming more dependent on God's perfect love and power at work in us. So the next time you fail to be the woman He calls you to be, or the woman you expect yourself to be, ask God to remind you of this truth.

We will sometimes fail to be who we want to be but we will get closer to who we are meant to be every time we fall and then choose to take God's hand so we can get up again!

Lord, I'm so thankful for Your grace that reminds me there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because my steps are established by You, Lord, I will believe that You delight in me even when I fail or fall. Today, I want to take Your hand and trust Your heart as You pull me back up again and use my failures to help me become the confident woman You created me to be. In Jesus' Name, amen.

Application Steps:
List one or two areas of your life where you have felt like you were failing and wanted to give up — mainly on yourself. Then ask God to show you how you can get back up with His help.

Have I ever wanted to give up? What got me to that hard place and how can I receive God's grace and rely on His strength instead of my own?

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:23-24, "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand." (NASB)

Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (NIV)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Coming Attractions by Marybeth Whalen

This was today's devotional for Encouragement Today on
Coming Attractions
by Marybeth Whalen

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow." James 4:13-14a (NIV)

I live life on fast forward, racing around with my to-do list in hand, eyes on the next thing that needs doing. I love setting goals and achieving them. Very little makes me as happy as crossing off something on my to-do list with a satisfying line of ink.

One day this summer I spent a lazy afternoon watching tv with my niece. She had a feature on her entertainment system that let you watch movie trailers to preview the movies first. We had started out the afternoon intending to select a movie but ended up spending quite a bit of time just watching the trailers. "Sometimes I spend all my time just watching what's coming and never getting to the main feature," she giggled.

Her words hit me as I realized that — too often — that's how I live my life. I focus on what's ahead and don't allow myself the simple pleasure of truly enjoying the main feature: this day, this moment, I've been given.

In my new novel, She Makes It Look Easy, the main character is someone who lives on fast forward too. She has set her sights on the kind of house she wants to live in, the kind of life she wants to have, the perfection she hopes to obtain. She seeks the advice of an influential neighbor in hopes of getting herself to that perfection all the faster. She doesn't stop to think that perhaps in her zeal to do more and better and faster she is losing the gifts and blessings that are in her midst right now.

Sad to say, this novel was born largely from my own experience. My life has been a continual learning process of reveling in today and suppressing the urge to try to lay hold of that elusive tomorrow.

A few months ago I got the very first speeding ticket of my life. As the officer who issued the ticket went back to his car I sat in stunned silence, unable to process what had just happened. My perfect record was tarnished by my inability to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Ever racing to the next thing, my habits had caught up to me. Instead of enjoying the scenery I had reduced it to a dull blur flying past my window. After the shock wore off, I realized the lesson: slowing down, pressing pause, will not only add to the life I live, it can also keep me from harm.

I have endeavored recently to be more deliberate about choosing to pause and see God at work, to catch the little winks He sends my way if I will only look up. I keep a list of these gifts He gives. I write in my journal about what I am learning. I seek Him through His Word and ask Him each morning to bring these truths to mind throughout my day. Sometimes in the roar of my life I stand perfectly still and just listen and smile and say Thank You, Lord. I am learning to focus on the main feature and quit speeding towards the coming attractions.

Dear Lord, today is a blessing from You. Help me to seek out what You have for me in it. I know that You hold my tomorrows in Your hand and in the meantime I can rest in the moment I've been given. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Instead of focusing on a to-do list today, create a "to enjoy" list and check those things off instead.

What am I missing today because I'm focused on tomorrow? What gifts has God given me that are rushing past me as I race ahead?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 27:1, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." (NIV)

Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (NIV)