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Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's My Spiritual Birthday Today! Here's my Gift for You!

At the end of this post, I'll tell you how someone will receive a birthday gift in a drawing. It's my spiritual birthday! (Tweet that!)

As a child, I believed I needed to perform perfectly in order to earn God's love and approval, along with the approval of other people in my life. Because I was born in a "Christian" nation and attended church faithfully, I believed I was a Christian. Yet, I still felt uneasy because I never fully sensed that God loved me. I envisioned Him standing up in heaven, His arms crossed at His chest, tapping His toe and muttering, "Kathy, when are you going to become perfect so I can love you?"

I read the Bible and in it God said, "Become perfect as I am perfect." The burden of becoming perfect was so heavy that, at the age of thirteen on New Year's Eve, I took a symbolic bubble bath at the stroke of midnight. As I enjoyed the warm, cleansing water, I prayed, "God, please forgive me for everything I've done wrong and I vow to You to never do anything wrong for the rest of my life." I figured a sinless performance would be sufficient to guarantee my entrance into heaven when I died (tweet that!) and give me the ability to sense God's approval while living on earth.

When I couldn't become perfect because--horrors!--I did something wrong the very next day, I still felt compelled to add something to God's grace. I began to keep track of my deeds on an imaginary scale. On one side of the scale, I stacked my good deeds, and on the other, my bad deeds. I concluded, "Certainly I'll have more good deeds than bad deeds by the time I die. Then God will have to approve of me and let me into heaven because I've been such a good girl." 

But because I couldn't place anything on the good side of the scale unless it was done perfectly, I constantly felt burdened by the weighted-down bad side of the scale. When am I going to become good enough? I constantly wondered.

It wasn't until several years later, at the age of eighteen, that the truth of God's wonderful grace broke through my earthly perspective. I began dating Larry in our senior year of high school. 

Several months later, I attended his church, where I heard clearly for the first time bout God's unconditional love and grace--a grace that offered salvation as a free gift, nothing additional needed, not even my good works. With relief and joy, I asked Jesus to come into my life, forgive my sins, and become my Lord and Savior on that Sunday morning, October 1, 1967. 

I'm praising God for this day--the 48th anniversary of my spiritual birth.  (Tweet that!)

To celebrate my spiritual birthday, I'll give away a copy of our latest book Never Ever Be the Same to the winner of a drawing. To enter, put a comment here of any sort or email me (KathyCollardMiller @ gmail . com --omit spaces). I'll draw the winner Oct. 8, 2015. 

(graphics found www.freedigitalphotos.net, by stuart miles and renjith krishnan)

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Had Mononucleosis

I remember the summer many years ago that I felt constantly exhausted. When I realized I wasn't feeling better even when I rested, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with mononucleosis. The doctor couldn't predict how long it would take to heal but said I could only wait and rest.

Since I had a book deadline and scheduled speaking engagements, I prayed for a fast healing. I just couldn't imagine being inactive and only resting. I felt tense, knowing there was the possibility I wouldn't be able to finish writing the book and that I would have to cancel the speaking engagements. "I love it all too much. It's who I am. How will I feel about myself if I can't accomplish those things?"

Plus, I couldn't imagine the Lord not wanting me to keep the speaking engagements He had given me. Certainly, He wouldn't want me to not be dependable. Faithfulness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. That wouldn't make sense. 

And what would people think of me if I wasn't reliable? Ever since childhood, I was the "dependable" child and student. That was my identity and it gave me a sense of approval and accomplishment. 

In the midst of these confused and rambling thoughts, I realized I had little choice. I had no energy at all. I could hardly move without feeling completely exhausted. (Tweet that!) Even going from my bed to the bathroom required more energy than I had. My family needed attention. My writing had stopped. I had alerted the meeting planners that I might not be able to speak. 

But I felt horrible about it all and as several weeks passed and even resting didn't bring healing, I knew it was going to be a long struggle. How was I going to cope emotionally and spiritually? Could I still trust that God was sovereign and knew what He was doing? Wonder if no one wanted my writing in the future because I couldn't finish this book on time? Wonder if no one wanted me to speak in the future because I had cancelled speaking commitments?

As I spent most of my time sleeping or reading, the tempting ideas haunted me: "You are insignificant. You're not doing anything of worth and value! Don't you feel horrible? No wonder God can't really love you."

I knew that if this had happened years earlier, I would have drowned in those tempting feelings of uselessness and insecurity. But over many years, God had been teaching me that my identity didn't have to be based in "doing." 

That truth was being tested in a fresh and more challenging way
through the mono. When I recognized the temptation to reject my value "in Christ," I began to fight the lies. In God's sight, I wasn't a failure and undependable. I could trust that He was in charge of whether anyone wanted my writing in the future. And He would open the speaking opportunities He wanted for me.

I continued to take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). I told myself over and over again the truth. My value isn't based in activity but in being a child of God.  (Tweet that!)

My weeks in bed--and then a gradual strengthening over a course of nine months--taught me a lot. I learned again, as I must over and over, that I can count all my work, ministry, and accomplishments "a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" just as the apostle Paul did (Philippians 3:7-8).

If you're in a time of testing about your value and worth, be confident that accomplishments and activity don't define you. But being "in Christ" is never threatened. Just think of Paul's declaration.

(images from stuart miles www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Our God Is A Surprising God

Let's use our imagination while we read Mark 1:35-37. I think we'll see how God is a surprising God and He's still surprising you and me often. (Tweet that!)

"In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, "Everyone is looking for you."

As I read that last verse I was struck by the attitude of the newbie disciples. Remember this is very very early in this new "ministry." The disciples had no clue what they'd gotten themselves into. Jesus had healed numerous people the day before and the "whole city was gathered together at the door" (1:33). What popularity and opportunity! 

Now here's the imagination part. After the city dispersed and it was late in the evening and after Jesus had gone to bed, I can just imagine the conversation of the disciples, which certainly had to be initiated by impulsive Simon Peter.

"Hey, guys, don't you see what's happening? This Jesus is doing some great things. It's gonna be great for our town."

Another disciple spoke up, "Simon, you always have big plans. What are you thinking?"

"Okay, let's think here a moment. We've already got the whole city on our side. We know there's a plot of land for sale down by the lake and if we start taking an offering, we can get people together on a regular basis."

"Ah, I get it," another disciple says. "If we don't want to meet at the synagogue--because you know how those Pharisees are, they'll squish any plans we have--let's build...what shall we call it?"

The disciples look deep in thought. Another disciple speaks up. "That's a good question. Let's call it a...church!"

"Great idea. And if we get big enough we can call it a...mega church!"

Then one of them spoke up and said, "But what if Jesus doesn't want to do this?"

"Come on, men, how could he not? Isn't that why he came? He's supposed to set up His kingdom. I have a feeling in my bones that this is the way we're finally gonna be freed of those Romans," Simon interjects, bringing the attention and control back to himself. "And by the way, we'll give Jesus the corner office with the view of the lake and my office is right next to his. Okay?"

A few of the disciples looked at each other with a disgruntled look but no one could out-debate Simon, so they each nodded slowly. 

"Okay, let's go to bed and in the morning we'll contact the city manager and the owner of that plot of land and see how big we can build."

In the morning, they wake up and look into Jesus' bedroom. It's empty. What in the world? Where is he? There are already sick people at the door and the sun has barely risen. And more people are coming down the road toward the house. Where in the world is he?

So they search and search and finally find him. Simon states, "Everyone is looking for you." Is his voice filled with frustration, irritation, or fear? Is his question a cover up for "We want you to be in the house so we can continue our grand scheme. You're making us nervous doing something different."

I find it fascinating that Simon doesn't say, "We need you" but he refers to everyone else needing Jesus. Could it be like us? "I can't risk telling you I'm needy and wanting, but maybe the needs of others are important enough to get your attention."

He didn't say that, but what Jesus says next has to be the bombshell they couldn't imagine. "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out" (vs. 38).

What????? Was Peter thinking, "Go to other towns when what we have going here is fabulous? Everyone will come here to our ministry center and that certainly has to be God's plan, how could it not? The word will spread and just think how our town's economy will benefit from all the people. We can start building and owning hotels."

OK, now I'm getting absolutely too far fetched, so let's wrap it up. Please forgive me if I've used my imagination too much. We don't know what the motives were of the disciples. And actually, the number of disciples I envision haven't been chosen yet. 

But what I am sure about is that Simon and the few others had to be surprised at Jesus' words. It couldn't have made sense to them to go elsewhere when they had something great going on. They had limited knowledge of Jesus' purpose and yet they could have developed their expectations according to what would seem reasonable.

I can't help but think we do the same thing. God opens a door and it seems to be very reasonable to make plans based upon that opportunity. And if God does something different, we're shocked that He surprised us. (Tweet that!) We're disappointed when it doesn't work out or become what we anticipated. 

Our God is a God of surprises and it would make an impressive study to find all the ways in the Gospel accounts that Jesus did something different than people expected. Remember the mud on the eyes of the blind man? 

I certainly believe God wants us to make plans but shouldn't we hold those plans lightly and without a demanding spirit? Let me know what you think. I'm interested.

(photos by stockimages www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Monday, September 21, 2015

God Knows Best

When we lived in Placentia, in Southern California, our home was less than a mile from a lake--as the duck fly. During a particular season of the year we have some of the ducks who reside there decide their old home isn't a good enough place for the birth of their ducklings. They come and check out our swimming pool.

One day, I chased a future mom and dad duck away from our pool and they were disgruntled about it. As I approached, they quacked a little and as I closed in, they quacked louder, finally succumbing to the persistent flapping of my wings, er, arms.

I tried to tell them, "Your babies won't do well here. There isn't any of the food they need and the chlorinated pool water isn't good for you all. Besides, you'll make a mess around here and then I'll be disgruntled!"

They didn't seem convinced by my logic because I had to chase them away several times throughout the day. I knew I'd have to continue that process for several days because they weren't looking at the situation from my perspective at all. But in this situation I know best: The lake is a better place.

My duck experience reminds me of my relationship with God. Just like those ducks, I go looking for something I think will meet my needs that God advises against. I'm convinced I know best when He actually does. 

Here are some ways we might believe we know better than God:

  • My spouse should meet all my needs. (Believe me, God does a far better job of it). (Tweet that!)
  • I think I can achieve perfection. (Just think, then you'd be God!)
  • I can't disappoint anyone, otherwise they'll think badly of me. (Since when do I think I can please everyone?)
  • I know best for others. (Hmmm, I still think I'm God who has supernatural wisdom).
  • My frustration encourages my children to obey me. (Actually, it only makes them afraid and anxious and then they can't think straight).

Any of these sound familiar? Or maybe you can share your own with us. I'm sure we'll relate.

(Graphic from digitalert at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Preach the Gospel to Yourself as a Parent

I recently had the joy and privilege of sharing a devotional at a friend's baby shower. My theme was "parenting gives you daily opportunities to preach the Gospel to yourself." (Tweet that!)

That phrase may not be familiar to you: "preach the Gospel to yourself." I only began to be aware of that particular wording several years ago. Although I knew what the Gospel is and about "witnessing" (which is telling others about the Gospel), I hadn't heard the idea of "preaching it to myself." 

I could have benefited from the idea when I was a mom with kids at home. As it was, I was a very angry and depressed mom when our daughter was two and our son a newborn. Even though I knew Jesus forgave my sins, somehow I didn't think the "Gospel" was applicable to me on a daily basis during that time. After all, I'd already responded to the Gospel and received Christ as my Lord and Savior. I knew I was a Christian but that seemed to be as far as the Gospel needed to cover. 

But the Gospel should be rehearsed by Christians every day, sometimes every moment, and parenting is an especially ripe area for needing to do that. 

Let's rehearse the message of the Gospel:
Because Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and reigns forever, we can be assured of forgiveness, cleansing, power, and hope. 

That is a message we can apply to every day of our lives. Here's a description of not preaching the Gospel on one of my bad days of parenting. 

I yell at Darcy and feel horrible. I rehearse how I yelled the day before and feel so ashamed that I don't ask God to forgive me. Instead I tell myself, "Now I've done it again and certainly God is frustrated with me because I told Him I wouldn't do it again yet I did! Why didn't I use the Holy Spirit's power? Because I didn't, I've ruined Darcy's life and there's no way she can grow up to be a normal person and we'll certainly never have a good relationship."  Only when I'm about to fall asleep has my shame and embarrassment dissipated enough that I pray and ask God to forgive all my sins from the day. 

STOP! That's not the Gospel! That's believing Satan's lies. And rehearsing his lies brought me to the point of almost committing suicide because I was convinced I would eventually kill my daughter in one of my rages and there was no hope.

Here's how I could have preached the Gospel to myself:

After I yell at Darcy, I remind myself that Jesus died on the cross for this very sin, not just to "save" me but to forgive me for every single sinful choice I make. Right then, I can ask God to forgive me and based upon what Jesus did on the cross, and though not deserving it, I can receive forgiveness.

Then I could remind myself that I am cleansed. God cleans the slate each time and He never says "you did it again." He doesn't keep a record of wrongs and I can claim my cleansing. I don't have to beat myself up but instead believe God's promise. Isaiah 43:12 says, "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins."

Then I could rehearse the fact that the Holy Spirit's power is now available to help me the next time I'm tempted. That's why He wants to forgive and cleanse me. I'm a fresh receptacle for the Spirit's help which will bring Him glory. That's why I shouldn't wait until all my sins have piled up and take them to Him before bed. I can preach the Gospel to myself moment by moment as I need it and be empowered for righteousness.

Finally, I have hope because the sovereign God has a plan for my child that can't be thwarted even by my anger. Jesus is in heaven reigning in realms beyond our understanding and He knows how He's going to redeem every mistake and sin I make. He promises to use everything, even my sin, for my good and His glory--and that applies to my child. And besides, I can't be a perfect parent (though I'll try as much as possible), so that my child will need God. (Tweet that!) If I'm perfect, my child will need me because I would then be all he needs. But he needs to preach the Gospel to himself every day.

Psalm 127:3 tells us, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward."

The next time you think of that verse, let it remind you that our children are a gift and a reward for many reasons including giving us plenty of opportunities to preach the Gospel to ourselves.

And by the way, God delivered me from my anger and today my daughter and I have a wonderful relationship and she loves God!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Quotable Quotes: Praise God!

Praise God

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalms 103:1-5 (NIV)

Praising God helps you to remember all the fabulous things He has done for you.

"Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies."--Charles E. Jefferson

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Are A Princess Like Charlotte

from www.icandyworld.com
England's newest royalty, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, is so cute and adorable. And obviously will be very loved.

 I thought, She has no idea who she is. She's most likely just a normal baby who is happy most of the time and unhappy some of the time. Princess Charlotte is unaware of her royalty and her position in her family and country.  (Tweet that!) She is pleasantly clueless and all that matters to her is that she is loved, cared for, and fed.

Sometimes as Christians, we are just as clueless about our royalty in our position in the Family, the Body of Christ, and in our Kingdom country. We just want our needs met and to learn about life.

As simple as Princess Charlotte's life is, her parents don't want her to stay clueless of her future place in the world. They know she can have a huge impact on her world. She has resources that can bring good to others. She will have power to make a difference in her country, even the world. And I'm confident they will love her well by teaching and training her. Little by little, her growing understanding of the place she holds will dawn on her. And hopefully, she'll step gracefully into the incredible purpose that she's been designed for.

That's what God is trying to do for us. To help us grow into and become more aware of the purpose He has designed for each one of us. He is loving us well by teaching us more about the resources that He has given us through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:10 assures us,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
As you look at that precious little Princess, think of yourself. You are God's Princess on His Royal Mission (Tweet that!) (or Prince). He has placed you in a Royal Family, the Body of Christ. He knows His plan for your life. He wants you to impact the world and give glory to Him, the King of Kings.

Do you know your Position as His Princess? Please share something that is important to you about being a Royal Princess.

(photo by digitalart, found at www.freedigitalphotos.net)