Monday, September 16, 2019

It Takes Time to Grow


By Andrea Merrell

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going 
through labor pains for you again, and they will continue 
until Christ is fully developed in your lives.
Galatians 4:19 NLT 

A young mother expressed concern because her baby boy wasn’t progressing as fast as her sister’s child. “Jill is already saying words and walking, and she’s younger than Mark. Do you think there’s something wrong with my son?”

The answer was no. Statistics say that girls generally progress faster than boys but in truth, everyone and everything matures at a different rate. Whether plant, animal, or person, it takes time to grow.

Too many times when we see another believer still living a carnal lifestyle, we’re tempted to criticize and judge. “He should be a more mature Christian by now. What’s wrong with him?”

Probably nothing. Maybe he’s having “growing pains.”

There will always be the proverbial battle between the flesh and the spirit. That’s why we’re told to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). It’s a process, not an event. A marathon, not a sprint. And it takes time and effort.

Paul said his labor pains would continue until Christ was fully developed in the life of the early believers. God is the only one who knows how long that will take in each one of us. Until that time, He will patiently and lovingly nurture us as we become more and more Christlike.

If you’re not where you want to be—or think you should be—spiritually, don’t be discouraged. Keep on seeking the Lord with all your heart. And remember ...

It takes time to grow.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and domdeen.)




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Monday, September 9, 2019

Please Behave


By Andrea Merrell

 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.
O when wilt thou come unto me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
Psalm 101:2 KJV 
 
“Can you just please behave?”

We all say that to our kids. Once when I said it to one of my granddaughters, I heard this in my spirit: Can you?

David said, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way … I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” Those are some powerful words: behave, wisely, perfect. Does God really expect perfection?

Let’s break the verse down a little. The NLT says, “I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.” Integrity. That’s our key. It simply means doing what’s right even when no one else is looking or will ever know—except, of course, God.

We’re not expected to be perfect, but as we grow and mature, we are warned to stay away from:
  • Looking at things that are vile and vulgar
  • Dishonest people
  • Perverse/evil people and ideas
  • Those who gossip and slander
  • Conceit and pride

It’s easy to get caught up in these ungodly behaviors, especially when we’re alone, thinking we’re hurting no one. But the truth is we hurt ourselves. And we hurt God.

When we allow ourselves to entertain and dwell on behaviors such as these, we fill our heart and mind with perversity. Sin is seductive. It lures us in, promising pleasure. But the Bible tells us that sin’s pleasure is fleeting and temporary (Hebrews 11:25). Then it drops us, leaving us empty and unfulfilled, riddled with guilt and shame.

How do we overcome? By submitting ourselves to God and inviting Holy Spirit to guard our mind and heart. The best solution is found in Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (NLT).

That's how we learn to behave.
  

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Clare Bloomfield.)



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Monday, September 2, 2019

Where's the Fruit?


By Andrea Merrell

 
My tree was bare—not a fruit of the Spirit in sight.

I love early mornings, but I enjoy the quiet. I start out in first gear and work my way forward. My engine is pretty sluggish until after my coffee and devotions.

One of my granddaughters, however, starts the day in fifth gear—both moving and talking—and never slows down until she crashes at bedtime. On this particular morning, we tried to strike a balance, but our oil and water were not mixing very well.

After a very frustrating half hour, I finally sent her outside with her grandpa so I could grab a few minutes to myself. When I opened my devotional book, the topic was … you guessed it … the Fruit of the Spirit. Or in my case that morning, the lack thereof.

How disappointing to approach a blackberry vine and find no blackberries. Or to go apple picking to find no apples on the tree. But how much more disappointing are we to others when they can’t find the godly attributes they expect to find in us.

I love the way the Passion Translation explains the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22:

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
ü  Joy that overflows
ü  Peace that subdues
ü  Patience that endures
ü  Kindness in action
ü  A life full of virtue
ü  Faith that prevails
ü  Gentleness of heart
ü  Strength of spirit


The Scripture goes on to say these qualities are “meant to be limitless.”

The old television commercial asked the question, “Where’s the beef?” In my case I had to ask, “Where’s the fruit?” It was definitely missing. Time to regroup, repent, and spend some time getting my fruit tree in better shape.

Is your tree producing fruit?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and kateen2528.)



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Monday, August 26, 2019

Are You Making a Difference?


By Andrea Merrell

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back,
but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing.
Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.
Luke 6:38 MSG


The adages are many: You live until you die. Go for the gusto. It doesn’t get any better than this. Climb that ladder and make it to the top. The one with the most toys wins. Carpe diem.

We all have to make a living and honor our commitments, but when that’s all we do, we find ourselves living a shallow existence. Some call it the treadmill of life: we work, we eat, we sleep. Then we repeat the cycle … over and over.


How do we change that? Instead of making a living, let’s make a difference. God created each of us with a unique set of talents, abilities, personality traits, and resources. These gifts are meant to be shared.

We’re told throughout the Bible to love, give, share, prefer, and minister to others. This life is not “all about me” or “us four and no more.” It’s about being part of God’s family and reaching out to others in whatever way He leads.

Whether you give someone a million dollars or just a smile and a warm hug, you leave a fingerprint in their heart. The more we give—expecting nothing in return—the more God pours back into our lives. Our legacy will not be about how many degrees we earned or how much money we made. It will be about how many people we touched.

What will your legacy be? Are you just making a living or are you making a difference?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)


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Monday, August 19, 2019

Are You All In?


By Andrea Merrell

 
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways, penned Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

For too much of my life, I tried to love God by counting all the things I thought He wanted me to do: go to church, tithe, serve, share my faith, read my Bible, and worship Him.

While all these are noble—and needed—they cause us to develop more of a work mentality than a grace mentality. We constantly feel we need to do things for God, while He longs to do things for us. That takes consecration. It’s a matter of submission. Of being sold out to God. Of being all in.

Pastor and author Bob Gass puts it this way:

Consecration means dethroning yourself and enthroning Jesus as Lord of your life. It’s the complete divestiture of all self-interest. It’s giving God veto power. It’s surrendering all of you to all of Him. It’s a simple recognition that every second of your time, every ounce of your energy, and every penny of your money is a gift from God and for God. Consecration is an ever-deepening love for Jesus, a childlike trust in your heavenly Father, and a blind obedience to the Holy Spirit.

When God says How do I love thee? He only has to count one way—sending His Son to pay the price for our salvation. Our redemption. Our eternal hope.

God wants all of us—spirit, soul, and body. In light of His own sacrifice, that’s a very small price to pay.

Are you all in?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and yodiyim.)





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