Category Archives: actions

Resentment

Am I the only one this week who feels the loving elbow of God nudging itself somewhat forcefully into her ribs?

 

It’s OK if I’m the only one.  Because I am in a season – or I guess more specifically a valley – where God and I are wrestling out another piece of my broken human spirit.

 

And as of today, this piece now has a name.  Resentment.

resentment 1

Getting to work this morning, the first thing I encountered was a message that exemplifies the spirit of my office – “that’s not my job … that’s your job”.

 

And upon reading that, the dark cloud hanging over my head for a few days (OK, maybe weeks), gloomy yet unnamed, suddenly had a name.  And that name is resentment.

 

What is weighing me down is resentment.  That darkness that creeps a few steps deeper into my consciousness is resentment.  And it is an overall ugliness of mind, tongue, and attitude that wants to consume me like the cloud that covers Pigpen in Peanuts cartoons.

resentment 2

So I never see clearly.

So I never think rationally.

So I never speak grace-fully.

 

And there resentment hangs a black cloud over my head, slowly blowing its breeze of depression and oppression over me.

 

And since I accept the breeze and breathe it in, I am slowly becoming a walking epitome of resentment.

 

I am angry.

I am mad.

I am furious.

I am upset.

I am anxious.

I am frustrated.

I am sad.

I am honestly a little disgusted.

 

I am all kinds of levels of crazy and messed up.  Because I have fed into the spirit of resentment.  I have given it a place.  I have allowed it space.  And therefore it is hindering my race.  I am off-track of God’s purpose and off-course of God’s grace.

 

Because I am letting “it is not my job” and “that is not my problem” attitudes affect me.  I am allowing resentment to come in, sit down, and participate in the day.

 

And this is the boom God dropped on me in just in a few minutes this morning.  God and I had a serious moment when I started seeing all of this clearly and when my angst was given a name.

 

And there was actually a moment of celebration.  Yes, really.  No joke.  Why?

 

Because now I can tame what has been named.  Because now I can claim God’s grace over what has been named.

 

I can now tame – and completely stop – the influence of resentment in my life.

I can now tame – and completely still – my agitated thoughts and careless tongue.

I can now tame – and completely silence – my bad/ugly/hostile attitudes.

 

Because my angst has a name.  And because it does, it is subject to God’s authority.  Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Everything on earth is subject to His glorious name.

 

Including resentment.

 

So now the challenge becomes how do I deal with it.

 

What’s the battlefield?  Every minute of every day of human life.

More narrowly?  The hours spent at work.

 

What’s the victory?

Not letting resentment consume me.

Not letting resentment define my emotional state.

Not letting resentment guide/influence my choices.

 

Because resentment is a valley.

 

And we aren’t supposed to live or stay in the valleys.  We aren’t supposed to bunk down or camp out in the valley.  Because the valley is only a testing ground.  It is the place of decision where we have to decide to put our faith into action.  It is the passageway from one victory to the next.  It is the place where we are strengthened by truth and encouraged by progress to continue our journey.  The valley is where we decide – and then declare – God is faithful and true.

 

So why am I stuck, mired down in resentment?  Because I have forgotten that we have to do what God says and to move in His direction when we are in the valley.  We have to keep moving toward the given way out instead of standing still.  We have to be like David and run in faith with the great hope of grace (1 Samuel 17:48).

 

But I have not been trying to get out of the valley of resentment.  Instead, I have been building walls and stacking them as high as they can go.  I have not been walking through.  Instead, I have planted my feet firmly and refused to move.  I have not tired to be or do better, in any way.  Instead, I have chosen to embrace resentment and wallow in her ways.

 

So what’s the hard truth this time?  Resentment is NOT God’s best for me.  It never will be.  Because resentment keeps me stuck, unmoving and unchanging, in its deadly quicksand-like vise.  Because resentment keeps me from letting go of what does not promote God’s goodness or propel God’s plans.

 

Hebrews 12:1 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

 

I am not running toward God.  I am clinging to resentment.  I am weighing myself down with foolishness and trapping myself in resentment’s sinful web.

 

And I own this.  Fully and completely.  Therefore, God’s grace can begin its healing and restorative work.

 

Because resentment cannot hide in the shadows or stay cloaked in darkness once it is named.  It has a name now.  It is known now.  Its effects are seen now.

 

Romans 5:3-5 – “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

Now hope can invade all resentment’s spaces and fill me up with grace.

Now hope can begin a new work.

 

Yes, I am still in the valley.

Yes, I am still finding resentment in spaces within my heart.

 

But God is with me.

God is for me.

God loves me.

 

So one day very soon I will be able to triumphantly declare my victory over resentment!

 

Marie Fremin.  5/18 and 5/21/17

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Battlelines

When was the last time you drew a battleline?  When was the last time you took a firm stand about something?

 

I remember distinctly drawing three battlelines.  All have been with long-time friends who questioned the depth of my faith and impugned my relationship with God.  My life philosophy is simple: agree to disagree respectfully.  In each of these relationships, that did not happen.  The first friend was blatant about how she felt – outright calling me a moron because of my beliefs.  When I called her out on her obvious disrespect, she stopped speaking to me.  She changed her email, moved out of state, and cut me off completely.  The second one started a conversation on my Facebook page because she disagreed with something I posted.  When I pointed out that the conversation could be viewed by all our friends and suggested we take it offline of the public Facebook arena, I became a judgmental, unevolved, and angry person.  I repeatedly tried to talk to her about it, showing her what I actually said and assuring her I was not maligning her.  I finally had to draw a battleline about her behavior and her accusations.  I was proclaimed unworthy and hostile, and thus I was banished from her life.  She changed her cell phone number, unfriended me, and moved.  The third was with a friend who made comments in response to emails discussing devotional readings and Bible verses.  Her commentary was that I was unable to read Scripture clearly or with rational interpretation.  At one point I was told that I was “reaching” to find verses to prove my weak point.  When I finally responded with my drawn line, I was positive but firm.  And I finally had a positive result – we are still speaking.  Now conversation is tenuous, but the door is open.

 

Looking back on all these events, I am sad.  I am sad for the friendships that could not withstand some pressure.  I am sad that there are once close friends who I haven’t spoken to in years by their choice.  I am sad that people once important to me chose not to do life with me.  I am sad that we could not find a way to stay friends – because it had to be all or nothing.

 

And then I start thinking about a recent episode where the line was drawn for me.  I kept telling myself I was crazy at the beginning of this year, when I felt a battleline was drawn in a group setting after a disagreement.  I told myself that surely I was imagining that teams were being formed and everyone would have to choose a side.  This morning I found out I was not wrong.  The situation was escalated to the point where people were asked to choose sides.  Feelings were hurt when someone refused to declare one of us the “winner”.

 

I didn’t want the battleline.  I didn’t want the battle.  I just wanted a chance to speak and the respect of being heard.  I wasn’t asking to be right, and I wasn’t trying to prove I was smarter.  I just had something to say, and it was supposed to be a setting where everyone was free to speak and share.  But there were boundaries, and the minute one person got uncomfortable, a battleline was drawn.  It was made clear to me where it was, and it was made clear to me that the support of the group was not on my side of the battleline.  So I chose, for my peace of heart and the peace of the group, to walk away.  To give everyone time to breathe, to think, to consider.

 

And again I had a moment of sadness.  Because the battleline was unnecessary.  The battleline isolated.  The battleline destroyed.  The battleline glorified the enemy’s schemes.  And we were all left wondering – why can’t we, as adults, get along?

 

Sometimes a battleline is necessary.  More often than not, a conversation is the better option, and mutual respect is the best way.

 

The Bible shows us the power of battlelines.  1 Samuel 17 says Israel had a clear battleline – “Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokohand Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.”  Two armies, each on their side of the battleline.  Israel was too afraid to move because the enemy was big and intimidating.  Instead of trusting God, they wallowed in fear and cowered behind the battleline, refusing to engage.  Until young and fearless David came along.  He threw off the borrowed armor of the army and charged the battleline with faith and a slingshot.  His meager size was not an obstacle.  The giant’s size was not a deterrent.  The battleline was the place where God was going to show up and show out.

 

Jesus also drew a line.  Not a battleline but a grace line.  A woman caught in adultery is dragged before Him, probably half dressed, “as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him” and separating Him from the people’s affections (John 8:6).  The religious leaders wanted Him to point an accusing finger at her or outright forgive her – so they could draw a battleline.  But Jesus knows our every thought, every breath, and every heartbeat.  He knew their scheme and refused to participate.  So “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger” (John 8:6).  Did He draw a line?  Maybe.  Did He make a point?  Definitely.  “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).  He sent the adulterous woman on her way, redeemed, forgiven, and (hopefully) changed.

 

So what’s the lesson?  There is always a line.  It will sometimes be your choice to draw the line.  You are always on one side of the line.  And as you stand at the line, you always have a choice.  What choice will you make today?  Will you forgive?  Or will you foster negativity?  Will you heal and hug?  Or will you hold onto the grudge?  Will you love?  Or will you linger in your pain and hurt?

 

God doesn’t draw a battleline with you.  He draws a circle of grace to encompass you.  Will you do the same for people today?

 

Marie Fremin. 7/17 and 7/23-24/16.

Offerings

Laying in bed in March 2013, my thoughts were drawn to this idea:  What do you have to offer God?

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One little boy among a crowd of over 5000 had two fish and five loaves (Matthew 14:17, Mark 6:38, Luke 9:13, John 6:9).

 What does Jesus ask?

He asks us to bring Him what we have.  Matthew 14:18 – “He said, ‘Bring them here to Me’”.

What does Jesus do?

He adds His super to our natural to produce supernatural miracles and provision.  Matthew 14:19 (Mark 6:41, Luke 9:16, John 6:11) – “Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.“

What happens?

There are enough leftovers to satisfy the doubt of each disciple.  Matthew 14:20 (Mark 6:43, Luke 9:17, John 6:13) – “And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.”

Three servants were given talents to invest (Matthew 25:15).

 How was each given?

God looks at our unique creation and gives us abilities and talents to use.  Matthew 25:15 – “each according to his own ability”.

What happens?

Two of the three doubled their investment (Matthew 25:16-17).  The third buried his in fear (Matthew 25:18,25).

How does the master respond?

Jesus is looking for faithfulness.  To the two faithful servants, recognition and reward were given.  Matthew 25:21,23 – “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”  But to the third (fearful) servant, what he had was taken away (Matthew 25:28) and he was greatly chastised for wasting his gift (Matthew 25:26-27).

One worshipful woman had a bottle of oil (John 12:3).

 Where is Jesus?

Jesus is celebrating His final days with His friends.  He is having supper with Lazarus (John 12:2) and His disciples at Simon the leper’s house (Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3).  Simon was a Pharisee (Luke 7:36).

A woman shows up.  What does she have?

She gives Jesus the best – and only – gift she has to give.  “Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard” (John 12:3, Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3, Luke 7:37).  Only John identifies her by name.  Matthew and Mark identify her as just “a woman” (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3).  Luke identifies her as “a woman in the city who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37).

What happens?

She expresses her love and gratitude for Him in a unique and worshipful way.  She washes Jesus’ head (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3) and feet with her oil, her hair (John 12:3), and her tears (Luke 7:38).

What is Jesus’ response?

Jesus acknowledges her loving gesture and praises her for caring about Him.  “But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’” (John 12:7-8, Matthew 26:11-12, Mark 14:7-8).  “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me” (Matthew 26:10, Mark 14:6).  “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Look at God’s response in each example.  He took what each person offered.  He then touched it, blessed it, and multiplied (or acknowledged) it.  Why?  Because each person – with the exception of the one talent servant – was willing to give what he had to the purposes of God.  And with the loaves and fishes, God rewarded both the giver of the offering and all those around him with abundance and satisfaction.

 

So too does God work with us.  God is compassionate to us.  He will take whatever we have to offer – our money, our words, our time, our talents, our gifts, our energy, our tears – and bless it.  He will multiply it.  He will use it to touch the world in a positive way.

 

So as I sat at work and considered how to respond in the middle of continued chaos, I remembered this thought.  What do I have to offer – in the middle of chaos?  When things aren’t going as quickly as I want?  When problems are more abundant than progress?

 

And the answer was simple – offer myself as an instrument of praise.  Allow the joy of the Lord to fill me and fuse the chaos into laughter.  Allow myself to focus on the blessings of God and try to see the good in all things and people.

 

With Jesus, no experience is wasted.  No offering is turned away.  He told the disciples in John 6:12 to “…gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  He tells us the same thing.  He asks us to pick up the pieces of our experiences and offer all of them to Him.  Nothing will be lost in His loving hands.  He will redeem every thing – every smile, every tear, every surety, every question – for our good and His glory, just as He promises in Romans 8:28.

 

So what do you have to offer God?  Give your resources (loaves and fishes).  Give your abilities and gifts (talents).  Give your praise and worship (oil).  He’s waiting for you to bring it to Him.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/6 and 4/8/16.

Contentment

2 Corinthians 4:7-10But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

 

This verse has been burning in my soul this past week.  I feel it is especially meaningful as I am in a season where I am struggling with contentment.  I am questioning everything about my life.  Am I working where I am supposed to work?  Am I working too hard?  Am I living in my full purpose?  Am I spending my time wisely?

 

I know as a Christ follower I am called to be content where I am.  Paul so elegantly models contentment in Philippians 4:11-12 – “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

 

Contentment.  To be satisfied with my daily portion while still hoping for the fullness of God’s blessings.  To be happy about my place in the world while seeking out opportunities to reach out to people.  To demonstrate love in even the most impossible circumstances.  To know that no matter what happens God is in control of all things.  To believe that God will work all circumstances, even the hard and distressing ones, for our good and His glory.  To not have a desire for extravagance simply for pride and prestige sake.

 

But how do we have contentment when there is a spiritual battle waging in our soul?  How do we surrender to peace when things look impossible to our human eyes?  How do we trust all to God when unfair and unreasonable things come at and attack us?

 

It isn’t always easy to “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).  Our faith gets stretched.  Our contentment gets challenged.  Our commitment gets questioned.  Do we stand firm, or do we waver?  Do we believe, or do we question?  What is true?  What is right?

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Yet 2 Corinthians 4:10 says we have the power of Jesus in us to sustain us, propel us, keep us, and protect us.  Because though we are challenged and wrongfully engaged, we are “not crushed”.  We are not so flat or so broken that God cannot restore and heal us.  Though we are accused and slandered, we are “not forsaken”.  God does not abandon us or leave us to fight alone.  God walks with us into the fight and stands with us until the battle’s end.  Though we are knocked down and pushed around, we are “not destroyed”.  We are able to get back up and continue to fight.  We have prayer, the power of God, and the compassion of friends to help us up and keep us going.  We may be devastated in the moment, but that moment isn’t the end or undoing of our faith journey.

And why?  Because God is with us, for us, and in us.

  • Romans 8:35,38-39 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake
  • Deuteronomy 31:8 – And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.
  • Joshua 1:5,9 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
  • Psalm 9:10 – And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.
  • Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

 

So let yourself live and feel beyond the moment to find His peace, joy, and security.  For though there are rough moments, they do not have to confine you.  They can define and refine you.

 

And as for me?  I will continue to question and to wonder.  Yet through it all, I will live as Hebrews 13:5 commands – “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  I will believe I am where I am supposed to be in this season.  And I will thank Him for every opportunity, every lesson, every miracle, and every good thing.  I will learn from every hard, difficult, and impossible moment, hopefully thanking Him for refining and polishing me.  I will do my best to make the most of my influence and be gracious and encouraging.  I will live fully and freely in the season.

 

And if the season is only temporary, I will trust God to help me know when the season is over.  And when it is, I will trust Him show me His open doors and new opportunities.

 

And through it all, I will try to be like Paul and be content.  For to be content is to believe that no matter what we go through and what happens to us that God is with us.  To be content is to be thankful for His unfailing love and amazing grace that covers a multitude of sins and bad choices.  To be content is to know that we are forever in His loving embrace.

 

So though I am jostled, challenged, alienated, pressed in, tripped up, overlooked, and unappreciated, I am loved.  I am cherished.  I am cared for.  And in this I can be content.  God, help me to believe this and carry it with me every step of my journey and every moment of my life.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin.  3/17 and 4/2/16.

Noises Off

Noise. It is a word I find myself thinking and saying quite a bit this last week.

 

I feel like I have had an excess of noise in my life this week. The noise of the fight that ensued Wednesday night while trying to clean up the kitchen. Loud voices to express flaring tempers resulted in a flurry of unpleasant noise. The noise of the conversation Thursday night in discussing a recent incident. Disappointed voices trying to find healing (common) ground in actions and reactions, resulting in unresolved issues after hurt expressed emotions. The noise of curiosity at work yesterday regarding friendly conversations with the techs. A concerned voice asking questions about busyness that interrupted a peaceful moment of laughter at the end of a chaotic day.

 

And as I think about everything, the current context is noise. Those sights, sounds, thoughts, and experiences meant to draw us close to God. Yet sometimes they have the opposite effect.

  • To distract instead of focus
  • To influence negatively instead of positively
  • To persuade away from God’s will instead of into it
  • To deceive instead of truthfully inform
  • To conform instead of reform
  • To compare instead of appreciate
  • To make jealous instead of cherish
  • To bring dissension instead of peace and harmony
  • To make hopeless instead of infuse with hope
  • To push down instead of lift up
  • To reject instead of accept
  • To deject instead of inspire
  • To cause sorrow instead of bring happiness
  • To discourage instead of encourage
  • To accuse instead of listen

 

Noise in our heads. The voices of conflict that pull us in opposite directions in our search for truth. The voices of the law, full of rules and stipulations, battling the Voice of truth that pulls us toward Himself. The voices of selfishness, keeping us focused on ourselves, trying to drown out the Voice of love that encourages us to reach out to people.

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1 Corinthians 13:1 says “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal”. Meaning I can be the noise. I can be the noise in my life. I can be the reason I’m not hearing from God, I don’t feel connected to God, or I don’t feel loved by God. Maybe I am drowning out His grace. Maybe I am filtering out His love. Maybe I am denying myself His compassion. Maybe I am refusing His forgiveness.

 

I can also be the noise in someone else’s life. I can be the voice telling Noah he is crazy to build an ark when there is no such thing as water from the sky. I can be the voice of an Israelite whining at Moses that God is trying to kill me in the wilderness and I’d rather be back in my Egyptian slavery. I can be the voice of a Pharisee demanding that Jesus judge the woman caught in adultery (John 8). I can be a voice in the crowd demanding that Pilate crucify Jesus (Mark 15). I can be the voice of Abraham, begging God to save the city for just a few righteous people (Genesis 18). I can be the voice of Jonah that encouraged an entire city to repent (Jonah 3), or I can be the voice of Jonah who soon after berates God over the city’s turning to Him (Jonah 4). I can be the noise of praise that celebrates His goodness and points people to a miraculous God (1 Chronicles 16:9, Psalm 105:2).

 

No matter what the noise is in my life, there is good news. Psalm 93:4 says “The Lord on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea”. And Psalm 65:7 promises “You who still the noise of the seas, The noise of their waves, And the tumult of the peoples”. He can help us tune out all the noise that tries to drown out His voice. He can help us silence the voices that are talking us out of His love. He can help us turn down the volume on all the negative influences so we can more clearly hear Him.

 

Noise is everywhere. Noise is all around us. There will always be noise. There will always be an influence [of sin] trying to draw us away from our Creator. There will always be pushy influences (wind – 1 Kings 19:11). There will always be loud influences (earthquake – 1 Kings 19:11). There will always be flashy influences (fire – 1 Kings 19:12).

 

And bigger than any of these things is our loving Father. His “a still small voice [whisper]” (1 Kings 19:12) will always speak volumes of love. Will always beckon us to come to Him without hesitation or hindrances. Will always be able to overcome the noise in our life.

 

And as I look at my life and I think about the noise, I realize it is important. For it is going to qualify what kind of person I really am. It is going to strengthen my faith. It is going to prove what I really believe. So I am praying to filter out God’s voice, God’s influence, God’s love, and God’s direction from all the noise. For only in listening for and following His holy whisper can the noise not affect me, hurt me, redirect me, or influence me.

 

Help me Jesus to process the noise correctly so that Your purposes are accomplished and Your name is glorified. Help me to be a person who hears, sees, and knows You despite the noise of life (Matthew 13:15). AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin, 2/14/16

 

BONUS SCRIPTURE GRAPH OF MY THOUGHTS:

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Whatever

Whatever.

Whatever

Only eight letters, but it is a word filled with possibility. With potential. With hope. With destiny. With power.

 

Sure, I say “whatever You want God”. I pray “whatever You will God”. I believe “whatever You promise God”.

 

But do I really mean it?

 

Am I really open to whatever God has purposed?

Am I really available to whatever God’s direction is?

Am I really obedient to whatever God’s instructions are?

Am I really content with whatever path God leads me down?

 

Am I really joyful with whatever my circumstances are? Even when things don’t work out the way I want? Am I really at peace when my idea of whatever bumps into God’s divine plans – and they don’t line up? When they disagree? When God says “no”?

 

Because God has His whatever in mind. It has eternal value. It has His best enfolded into it. It contains more goodness and blessing than I can imagine.

 

But His whatever comes with a price. I have to let go of all my ideas and dreams of what I want to grab hold of His plans. I have to lay down and possibly walk away from what I want to fully embrace His purposes. I have to let go of the emotions choking the life out of me – disappointments, hurts, pain, shame, anger – to allow His love to redefine and fill me. I have to believe His plans are for my good, even if my circumstances or feelings contradict His goodness. I have to believe His way is the best.

 

I have to think positively, no matter what is happening to me, in me, or around me (Philippians 4:8). I need to be content with the season I am in and go with His flow while He’s trying to teach me, grow me, and change me (Philippians 4:11). I need to find ways to love people by serving them (1 Peter 4:10, Matthew 25:40). I need to stop judging people, their circumstances, and their decisions (Romans 2:1).

 

So I sit here and wonder if I really have the right attitude. Am I a believer who truly and wholeheartedly says “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16)? Am I a follower whose foundation is “And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us” (Joshua 9:25, Jeremiah 26:14)? Am I seeking Him regularly so that I am “a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3)? Do I try to honor God in all my decisions, giving preference to His way instead of my will (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17, Matthew 6:10)?

 

I admit that I struggle with those “whatever” seasons. When it isn’t entirely clear which direction He is pointing me. Where I get a small vision of the fulfillment of a dream, only to have it not come to pass. Where I taste the full extent of His goodness only to feel like He pulled the spoon away and said “no more”. Where the future is cloudy and uncertain, so I can be easily persuaded by fickle feelings and erratic emotions.

 

And I feel like He is telling me that these “whatever” seasons are the most important. Because I have to decide if I truly believe He has my best interest in His sights and that He is ordering my steps so I find His best. Because I have to decide if my words are just the fading vapor of an insecure faith or the product of a deeply rooted truth. Because I have to decide if my heart is lukewarm (Revelations 3:14-16) and uncommitted (James 1:6-8) or a spiritual garden of growth (Matthew 13:23, Galatians 5:22-23) and love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

 

So when I am facing a whatever moment, how will I act and react? What will I think? Will people benefit or cringe from being around me?

 

For each one is an opportunity from God. A chance to recite my faith or reinforce my doubts and fears. A chance to walk forward with grace or back up in shame. A chance to stand strong in spiritual power or to retreat in human limitations. A chance to be wrapped in His love or to be isolated by human emotions.

 

A chance to do better. To think bigger. To speak boldly. To love brazenly. To hope unconditionally. To believe fearlessly. To know positively.

 

No matter what happens, I will always believe in God. And I can only pray that such audacious and radical faith will transfer into each and every one of my whatever moments so that He is honored and His influence is obvious.

 

Thank You, Father, for using all of our whatever moments. Help us to be more like Jesus, who prayed “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). Help us to be focused on You and steady in Your love. AMEN.

 

Marie Fremin.  2/7, 2/8, and 2/10/16.

Parable of the Sower

In my small group last night, our conversation turned to people who say they love God but live in ways that seem to contradict that love. So we started talking about what it means to love God. And I think it comes down to attitude.

 

When we are willing to completely surrender our lives to Him and live within His boundaries, He promises to bless us beyond measure and give us peace and joy that human understanding cannot explain. This means that sometimes we have to make the hard choice to do things His way instead of doing things our way. This means accepting His “no” with grace and poise instead of fighting Him. This means letting go of our ideas to hold onto His promises and dreams.

 

But it’s not an easy way. In Matthew 7:13-14, He says “Enter by the narrow gate”, because this is the better choice. But it requires sacrifice, surrender, and surety. And most people just aren’t willing to go there. They aren’t willing to say “no” to what they want. They want to do things their way. In their timing. By their methods. According to their emotions.

 

And God showed me as I drove home last night that it goes back to the sower and the seed.

Parable of the Sower.jpg

In Mark 4 (also Matthew 13 and Luke 8), Jesus tells the story of a sower who is out sowing seeds: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 14 The sower sows the word.

 

God gives us all faith seeds. From the moment we are born, we are implanted with the ability to believe in God. We are full of the possibilities of knowing Him and walking with Him. Which simply means we all have the opportunity to believe.

 

But our enemy will come against us at every opportunity to keep us from believing. Keep us from sprouting truth. Keep us from developing faith. And Jesus shows us three examples of this is Mark 4 by illustrating three unproductive seeds.

 

Seed #1: And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes [snatches] away the word that was sown in their hearts [lest they should believe and be saved].

 

Some people allow themselves to be distracted away from God and go their own way – because it looks and feels better. They know God is asking them to walk forward, with Him, but they want instead to walk a side path. Because it looks better, it has fewer rules, and because it makes them feel good. There is no surrender, no rules, and no boundaries. They are free to live as they please, and if God is with them, great; if He isn’t that’s OK. They allow themselves to be snatched from His love by their own desires. When life is really as simple as allowing God to adjust and expand your desires. Psalm 37:4 reminds us to “delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”. In enjoying God and following His plans, He will allow us to have joy, peace, and happiness. He wants us to enjoy our life, but on His terms – not ours.

 

Seed #2: Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root [it lacked moisture] it withered away. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble [in time of temptation fall away].

 

Some people stay at a shallow, uncommitted level where they don’t grow roots of dependency. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-18 that all people would know God and be rooted in Him – “17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—”. There is a depth of His love that requires us to be rooted in confidence, faith, and trust in Him. Because only when we are rooted in Him will we stand firm and stand still in the middle of pain, trials, and hardships. He doesn’t want us to have shallow, undeveloped, and immature roots. For when we are not grounded in Him, we will be easily convinced to go the wrong way. We will be easily persuaded to not trust God’s voice and direction. We will be easily deceived into believing God does not love us. So God wants us to be rooted – firm, committed, wholeheartedly sold out – in Him, so we know who He is and we know who we are in Him.

 

Seed #3: And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things [pleasures of life] entering in choke the word, and it [he] becomes unfruitful [bring no fruit to maturity].

 

Some people are so absorbed by personal pleasure and living as they please that they have blocked out room in their heart for God. They want to feel good and look good, because their substance comes from outward appearances and personal pleasures. If it feels good, it must be OK. If it looks good, it must be the right thing. But what they don’t realize is that they don’t produce life. They don’t produce eternal value and change. They don’t produce growth. They don’t encourage maturity and selflessness. Because they have no substance. They have momentary value and temporary pleasure, which will not last. When the moment passes and the excitement wears off, the value is gone and the pleasure disappears. And God wants so much more for us than that. He doesn’t want us to live from one pleasure to the next, from one moment to the next, from one piece of happiness to the next. He wants us to live “being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory” by His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18), because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Because though we live in the world, we “are not of the world” (John 17:16). Meaning we can live beyond the moment and above our feelings. Meaning we can think eternally instead of just now. Meaning we can have “life more abundantly” (John 10:10) than the moment, the emotion, and the trend.

 

And then Jesus tells us there is a fourth seed, the way a believer and follower should live. Because He has already told us how not to live – selfish and snatched away, ungrounded and faltering, and driven by the moment and pleasure. So now He has to give us something to strive for, the goal of being His follower.

 

Seed #4: But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit [having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience]: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

 

This is the only productive seed. This is the only seed to have a harvest. Because it is the only seed that isn’t selfish in its roots. It is the seed that chooses to endure instead of be pulled out of the good ground. It is the seed that chooses to develop roots of faith in Him instead of being distracted away. It is the evidence of people who get what God wants to do so we decide to trust Him completely. And because we do, we “bear fruit”. And we continue to bear fruit. We continue to grow, to mature, and to change. We find new and exciting things in our life, the evidence of His presence.

 

The seed is in you and is yours to plant. Are you allowing it to grow and develop in Him? Or are you keeping it in darkness and isolation, hoping to feel good today? The choice is always yours. What are you doing with your seed?

 

Marie Fremin, 1/27 and 1/30/16