An Honest Look in the Mirror

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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? I don't mean a quick makeup or hair check. I mean a real, honest staring yourself down. If you're like me, you're going to see all of your flaws first.  When I look, I tend to see things I wish I could change physically. I've never been a fan of my nose. In fact, when I was growing up it was often the subject of jokes in class. I was once told "You have pretty eyes but an ugly face." Well ok then. That's not very helpful to the self esteem of a teenager. And now that I'm in my 40's I'm starting to notice those lovely lines and drooping eye lids. 

What about beyond the outside physical things? What about your heart and your soul? What do you see? What do you hear in your mind when you're all alone, in the quiet? Are you reminded of all of your flaws and mistakes? Do you go over conversations in your head you've had with people? 

Perhaps you're the opposite. When you see yourself and are left alone with your thoughts, maybe you think "Man I've really got it all together, but that friend of mine does not. She is a mess and should really listen to me." Do you watch people while your out places and think "Wow, those parents really need to change how they're raising their kids"?

What we're talking about here are two extremes: arrogance and insecurity. But are they really two extremes? As Pastor Robb pointed out on Sunday in his sermon, they are not different, they are one in the same. They are two forms of pride. Arrogance is thinking of yourself more highly than you ought. And insecurity is thinking of yourself more lowly than you ought. But when you drop one word from each definition, you get the exact same thing: they are both thinking of yourself more than you ought. 

There is nothing wrong with seeing things that we can tweak in ourselves. The same goes for confidence. There is nothing wrong with having confidence in your life. The question really is, where is your view of God in your life? I recently read a devotional where the author explained that we struggle through life because we do not have God placed where we should. Arrogance and insecurity are not putting others first in our life. Nor is it putting God where he needs to be. Living in arrogance and insecurity is putting yourself on the throne. Your thinking is "I can't" or "I am the best"--the key word is "I". 

When we have God at the center of our thought life, everything else tends to fall into place. As we go through our daily lives, we tend to forget that Jesus is called Emmanuel--God with us. He is always with us whether we realize it or not. He is with us in good times and in bad times. He is with us when we are on top of the world and everything is going great. And He is with us when it all falls apart. He is with us when we feed our addictions, and with us when we are at rock bottom and the only way to go is up. 

He is always with us. So why do we choose not to see him? We are so programmed by our human nature to think of ourselves first. But God has not called us to live a life of one--a life of arrogance or insecurity. How can we ever accomplish his assignment for us if we can't get our eyes off of ourselves? 

Today, evaluate those things you may struggle with like arrogance or insecurity. See if you have God in the spot of your thought life that He desires to be in. He so wants to be first in your life because He loves you so. He knows you better than you know yourself. Give Him a chance to be #1. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 ESV

A Desert Worth Fighting Through

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In our walk through life, we are going to encounter troubled times. It's a guarantee - Jesus said we would. Sometimes those are like dry seasons that seem to have no end. Every Monday we wake up to a new week ahead with a glimmer of hope that we might see some relief from our drought. And then by Wednesday we are fairly aware we are still in the desert. 

What are we to do in these times that seem to be a never ending dry season of life? Do we give up, hang up our hat and wave the white towel? Sometimes, I'll admit it's very tempting. We think through our what-ifs of life and start mentally traveling down a different road. We all have a fight or flight response in us. When we are in the middle of these dry seasons of life one of the two responses will be activated. I realized within myself I am very much a flight person.

It gets hard and my natural response is to high tail it out of there. I had always considered myself a fighter. I've encountered a lot in my lifetime that has made me a little rough on the outside. I have in some cases literally "fought my way through life." However, for whatever reason I don't fight, I flee. If I get hurt in relationships - I cut people out. If I get frustrated at a job - I quit. In my marriage - there's the silent treatment (which is also a flight response). 

All of these responses are natural to the un-renewed parts of my mind. I believe we are supposed to have the opposite response, we are supposed to fight. It doesn't always look like what we think it does. Our fight does not have to be aggressive where we scrunch our face and white knuckle through. Sometimes the fight is quiet and calm. The fight is standing right where you know you're supposed to be.

It doesn't have to mean everyone you know is aware of what you're facing. It's not necessary to blast it on Facebook. It's the quiet, peaceful fight in the middle of the  storm or the dry season. The fight in which we give up our urge to flee and stand strong in what we know the Lord has asked us to do. Scripture tells us  in Psalm 46 that He is with us during it all - He is our refuge. 

Take great comfort in knowing that the God who knew you before you were born has an answer. An end to the dry season and an answer in the storm. He knew it was coming and He's walking beside you hand in hand as you grow through the season. We've all heard it before, God is more interested in us growing through our journey than the actual destination. 

Now is the time to stand. If all you've ever done before is flee - this time fight. 

Psalm 46 NIV

1. God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

2. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3. though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

4. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5. God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

6. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7. The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8. Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.

10. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11. The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Choose Peace

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Every day we see a major lack of peace. On a large world wide scale down to our individual lives. It is so hard to keep the peace in our lives. We are bombarded daily with constant changes and noise. We feel like we can't get a grip on one crisis before another one comes along. In our personal lives we juggle families, work, money, bills, school, and volunteer commitments that all leave us feeling like deflated balloons by the end of the day. Life is coming at us from a thousand different directions, no wonder everyone feels like they're just making it through the day.

Many people today struggle with anxiety disorders. I personally have had a life-long battle with anxiety. This is often a very misunderstood issue. You will hear "you look like you feel fine" or “don't you look nice today." Meanwhile inside, your stomach is turning a million miles an hour like an engine that never shuts off. The kicker is when you hear "just give it to God" or “what scripture are you standing on?" This ends up making you feel like a failure in your faith, like you're not trusting enough in God to control your anxiety. Don't get me wrong! I believe very much that God is our ultimate healer. But, I also believe sometimes healing from things like this is a process and there are things God wants us to learn during the process so we never pick it back up again.

So, with all of the challenges we face in our worlds, big and small, how are we ever supposed to keep our peace? What does Jesus say to us about these things?

In John 14:27 Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Jesus is saying here that He gives us peace, He is our peace. Peace not like the world gives. I have to say, in my 40 years of experience on this earth, I don't think the world has ever given me peace. Jesus knew when He said this how much unrest there would be in our world. Nothing is in the Bible accidentally. He knew what we would face before we ever saw it coming.

Paul also speaks to us about his decision to choose peace and joy in unrest and trials. In Philippians 4:11 he says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."

And in Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Paul knew with all his experiences that the Lord gives us peace and it's our choice to receive it or reject it. Clearly, it's a choice to live in peace. No matter what we are facing, what unrest is out in the world or in our own lives - we choose. It's a choice we face daily. Are we going to pick up the peace or the anxiety and unrest? Every morning it's a new day and a new choice.

I used to think, probably like most people do, that when I get to this certain place in life it will be smooth sailing. I'll have it figured out. There will be enough money, the kids will be under control, and that relationships will work themselves out. I was wrong! Life just continues to happen day after day exchanging one issue for the next. Now I realize, that's just life!

If we are to be the example God asked us to be to the world, we must make our peace a priority. We will never be the example of a problem free life but one of maintaining our peace through all of life's punches.

That right there is the greatest example, pointing back to Christ. Whatever the devil or life throws our way to take us down, we get right back up, owning our peace.

Today whatever you are facing in your life and in your world, I urge you to choose peace. Life will never stop but neither will the love and peace of Jesus.

Identity Labels

In my life, I've had many identity labels: daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, enemy, group exercise teacher, fitness freak, Pastor’s wife and many more. But the one identity I choose to hold closest to my heart is daughter of the King--King Jesus. 

 All through life people will associate you with a label or an identity. We know how brutal people can be to one another. Honestly, Christians can spew more venom towards each other than the world ever could. More often, though, you label yourself. In your mind, you see yourself the way you think people see you, and you start thinking God sees you that way too. You start replaying over and over in your mind how you see yourself until it actually starts to manifest. Many times, this identity is negative. Maybe people associate your identity with something in your past. Maybe it's your job. The devil would like nothing more than for you to forget who you are in Christ. He wants you to forget the price Jesus paid for you on the cross and only look at who you think you've become in the life. 

 While I am thankful for most of my labels, the one I hold closest to my heart is being a child of God. There is nothing wrong with wife, mom or even fitness freak but there is no power in those labels. There is no security in those things. They're all based on human conditions. The true power in life comes when you finally see who you are in Christ and understand the great price He paid just for you. Put your trust in Him not in the hats you wear. Those all involve people. 

 People will let you down. I will let you down. The only One who has unfailing love is Jesus.

It's taken me a long time to put my identities in the right order. In some ways, it's freeing to realize all things fail and are seasonal except One. 

Take time today to think about what your identities are or how you've been labeled by other people or yourself. And remember you are a child of God. All the scriptures below apply to you no matter how you feel about yourself. God's word is true and unfailing. 

I am a new creation in Him!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 

I am righteous and holy.

“And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

I am saved by grace as a gift, not by my performance. 

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8

I am a victor.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

What Are You Doing With Your Words?

Our words have the power to speak life or death to a situation. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child we were ecstatic. What I had always dreamed of was happening. We began to spread the word to the ends of the earth. We had visions of the baby being dedicated in front of the church, being held up like the lion king. Then one day there was a threat to the pregnancy. I was terrified. Being a mom at the ripe age of 21, I had not quite developed a lot of faith. Everyday that passed I thanked God for my baby, but internally I was falling apart. I remembered a paper of scriptures and confessions our church nursery had given me. One stood out to me - "I speak life to this baby. I command it to live". I felt at this point all I could do was confess that over this baby all day. So I did. All day long I spoke that over my baby.

The baby was born and we named him Alexander Christian Yandian. Now that baby is a college freshman.

Our words have the ability to speak life or death to our world. The word says "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 NKJV). It's more than just positive or negative confession--words have power--literally. I'm not coming from a name-it-and-claim-it point of view. I'm not saying you can speak a million dollars into existence. But what I am saying is when we speak words over our life, or other people's lives, they have the ability to manifest because, as Christians, our words have spirit behind them.

Proverbs 18:21 says "Life and death are in the power of the tongue." I, by nature, am not a bubbly happy person. I am more of a pessimist, my-glass-is-half-empty kinda gal. I've really had to work on myself over the years to speak words of life over myself, my life, and my family's lives.

What words are you speaking over your world? Are you speaking words of life or death?

Removing The Victim Crown

Our world today is constantly telling us we are victims. For the most part that is true. There are victims of crime, abuse, neglect, etc. We hear about it everyday. Sometimes the victimization is on a little bit smaller scale. We have been wronged, lied about, slandered, treated unfairly--and the list goes on. Really, every person we come in contact with has been a victim in some way or another. Every person has a "story". You watch TV and any prime time athletic competition show or talent show highlights every contestant's story and how they overcame adversity and are no longer a victim. Perhaps you're a victim of yourself. You never let go of mistakes or you are incredibly hard on yourself. I know for myself I never thought I wore the victim crown until recently. I found myself stuck in some thinking patterns, stuck in shell of unworthiness. We can often be harder on ourselves than any person could ever be on us. We know the internal battles we face daily. 

What's my point? My point is we are not called to live as victims. It is very easy to say out of our face hole "I am a victor not a victim," but do we really believe it down in our hearts? Do we really see ourselves as forgiven, fully capable people? I have recently come upon this phrase: "get past what you'll never get over". That struck me like a bolt of lightning.  There are things in life you will never get over but you can get past them and move forward to a happy and productive life. 

When I was 6 years old my step-dad began to abuse me sexually. This was the beginning of a dysfunctional life I waded around in for decades.  I will never get over that but I am past it. I can talk about it and help people who have turned to self destructive patterns trying to medicate that pain.  

The first step to removing the victim crown is to recognize we are wearing it. Take it off. Stop looking backwards. Nothing can be done about the past, but the future is wide open. When you constantly go over in your head what's been done or what you did, you're chaining yourself to that part of your life. Lift up your head, put on a new crown of confidence, love, forgiveness and strength. 

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." Psalm 3:3