Decluttering….Far More than Organizing

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I am a pack rat.

I admit it – I keep all kinds of things.  Drawings, papers, articles.  The problem is, I don’t organize it well enough it find it, and soon forget I even kept it until I start weeding things out.  So, at that point, you would think I would say, “Toni, you haven’t used this in X months/years, get rid of it,” right?  Wrong.

Nope, I refile it with better intentions of using it, reading it, writing about it, etc.  And, again, 6 months later…I run across it again.  Some would say I need a better system.  Some would be right.

Anyway, today is the day that I begin decluterring – again.  So, I’m trying to toss things I don’t need.  I’m getting better.  I think I may even be able to overcome my addiction at some point in my life!  But, it made me think of something else:

Jesus said that when we become His followers, we are no longer that which we were before, but are new creations.  So, why then, do we tend to hang on to the “stuff” of our past for so long?  Maybe for some its the pain of a divorce, or the shame of an immoral relationship…for others it could be the hurt of abuse, or the indignity of past addictions.  The truth is, no matter how early in our lives we came to Christ, we all have a past as a sinner.  And, the instant we trusted in the power of the blood of the Lamb to forgive us for those sins, we became something new, something wonderful, something Divinely inhabited by the Holy Spirit.

So, why do we allow Satan to steal our joy by holding on so closely to those things we need to toss from our lives?  I believe part of it lies in lack of forgiveness.  Jesus said we are to forgive others, and He said that if we do not forgive, He cannot forgive us.  Who are we to say, “I can’t forgive myself for _____________,” when the One who created us, says, “I freely forgive you”?  Dare we put ourselves above God and say our judgment is stronger than His?  God forbid!

I believe part of it lies also in familiarity, though.  Even though those things are something we would gladly do without, comfort sometimes makes it hard to let go.  Think about it – an old, tattered, soft, worn-out t-shirt is so comfortable.  You wouldn’t wear it in public, and its threadbare, but you keep it simply because its comfortable.  We are so afraid of getting rid of the familiar sometimes that we miss out on the Divine!  With the t-shirt – God wants to replace it with a robe of pure white!  A white that we can’t comprehend!  But, we’re content to hang on to the tattered, worn-out t-shirt with the stains all over it.

I am pleading with each one of you – get on your knees – get on your face before the Lord of the universe and ask Him to reveal anything Satan is using to rob you of your joy in salvation.  And ask Him to remove it, completely.

Most importantly:  let Him remove it.

Psalm 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

More than you can imagine!

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For anyone who knows me, you know that the biggest struggle for me comes from covetousness.  Satan knows EXACTLY where to hit me – right between the eyes every time.  Bigger house, newer car, nicer clothes, motorhome, a boat, etc – these are all things I’d love to have.  Yet, I know that being a believer in Jesus Christ does not guarantee me any earthly treasure.  However, sometimes knowing and letting go are two very different things.

At church tonight, one of our elders spoke about Heaven.  He spoke mainly about the New Heaven, the one to come after the Great White Throne Judgment.  Fellow believers, let me tell you, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

Do you realize the sheer size of the holy city of Jerusalem when it comes down to earth at that time?  Even if it were built just like human cities, the size alone would astound even the most skeptical of critics.  Fifteen hundred miles wide, long, and high!  This city is a 1500 mile cube!  Not only the size, but consider this:  the paving material is, as our elder put it, “the most prized possession in the world today – gold.”  But, this isn’t the kind of gold on your wedding band.  In comparison, that’s cheap.  This gold is so perfectly pure that it is like glass.

Then, there’s the “pearly” gates.  First, imagine how enormous gates for a city such as this would be.  David said that 1500 miles would cover the USA from the Canadian border into Mexico, and from the Mississippi River into the Pacific Ocean.  Now, imagine that height as well.  So, again….how big do those gates have to be?  And each one is created from a single pearl.  I don’t know about you, but I had heard the pearly gate thing before, and have read it.   But, when I really think about the SIZE of it, the wonder comes back again.  One pearl equals one gate.  Unfathomable.

The foundations of 12 different precious jewels.  I think maybe the idea here is that God uses what we perceive to have immense value as building materials.  But, when you think about it, it makes sense.  God sees more value in us than He does those jewels.

So, how does this tie into the covetousness thing?  Glad you asked.

On one hand, it doesn’t.  It is simply a wonderful reminder of what awaits us in Heaven when we get to see our blessed Saviour.

However, on the other hand, I needed to hear it tonight, because this week has been one of those weeks I have really struggled.  On this hand, this reminder taught me something…something simple, yet very profound hit me as I listened.  Maybe, just maybe, I’m like Fanny Crosby.  She once said that if she had the chance, she would have been born blind all over again.  Why?  Because the first face she would ever see would be that of her Saviour, Jesus.  Now, I have my eyesight, hearing, full use of my arms and legs, but maybe there is still a correlation:  not having everything I long for here on earth means that when I get to Heaven, it will be that much better.

Yeah, right now we live in a mobile home…hey, we’re adults, let’s call it what it is…we live in a trailer.  But that does not define me.  I buy clothes at Walmart, garage sales, and resale shops.  But that does not define me.  I drive a used minivan – and I still owe on it.  But that does not define me.  I do not have a perfect figure, and I am a diabetic.  But, that does not define me.

What defines me is who I am in Christ.  He has forgiven my sins!  Even mine!  And, everyday I wonder why.  As humans, we are so caught up in what we do to deserve something, that we find it hard to understand how the Creator of the world can forgive us so freely – without us doing anything to “deserve” it.  What defines me is knowing that I have a place secured in Heaven…that my Saviour went there to prepare a place for me, and is returning again to bring me home.  How or when, only Heaven knows.

Either way, the song Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus says it perfectly, and I’ll leave you with these words, because tonight, the Lord used them to speak to me:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Strangers in a Strange Land

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We went to my sister’s house a few weekends ago for my nephew’s birthday party. First of all, I love my nephew dearly – he is very sweet, and shares the same sense of humor as so many in our family. He reminds me so much of my sister as a kid growing up, and of my dad – the eternal prankster.

Anyway, my sister lives in a big city in southeast Texas – on the coast. Our family lives about 20 miles out of our small town. Let me add a little more detail – just to be sure this post makes sense!

The town I live in…to be more exact, live outside of, has only one Super WalMart. We have one Bealls, a Brookshire Brothers grocery store, a feed store, Tractor Supply, Lowes, and two vets. There are of course several smaller businesses there as well, but we are still a relatively small town of about 8247 people. This is also in deep east Texas, where the people are hard-workers (for the most part), laid back, and lead simple, quiet lives.

The town my sister lives in has, on one corner, a WalMart, Walgreens, Target, Home Depot, nail salons, etc. And that’s just the ones I can remember. My town has no mall….to get to one we have to drive 1 ½ hours south or 1 hour north. For my sister to get to a mall, she has to drive about 15 minutes, and that’s due to traffic.

So, here’s where the meat of this post comes in:

I needed some jeans while I was there (and got to buy TWO sizes smaller than the last pair I bought!!!), and wanted something other than WalMart jeans this time, so she and I went to the mall. (OK, to be honest, we went to the mall to pick up my favorite brother-in-law’s cookie cake because it was his birthday, too.) Anyway, we were starving so we grabbed a bite to eat in the food court before we made our rounds. As I looked around, I actually told my sister, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

Now, I grew up in the city (albeit not one as big as where she lives), and have lived in or very near large cities most of my life. But for the past 2 ½ years, we have lived here in the country. And, I must admit, I was not prepared for how much it has changed me.

The mall itself seemed like something out of Star Trek. Even the malls we do have nearby are no comparison. After people-watching during our Arby’s meal, we made our way to the store I would buy my new (smaller!) jeans in. I picked ‘em out, tried ‘em on, and went to pay…the cashier took my payment, and this is the part that I had to laugh at: she wrapped my blue jeans in tissue paper and put them in a brown shopping bag and tied it with a bow! My sister jokingly said, “You don’t get service like that at home, do you?!” Nope. We get WalMart bags!

I did a little more shopping, and we headed back to the house. I really was amazed at how much different the city seemed to me now that I had lived in the country for a while. I was, in fact, uncomfortable there. I felt terribly out of place – like people could look at me and tell that I didn’t belong.

But you know what? I didn’t mind a bit. Because that’s what Christians do, anyway. We experience that out-of-place feeling daily in our lives, regardless of where we are. We can be at the convenience store around the corner or the post office.

Wherever we are, we are out of place. We are strangers in a strange land, because our home is not here. Our home is in Heaven and the moment we feel too comfortable here, we have lost the focus on what is important. Sin abounds in this earthly residence, but in Heaven our citizenship is secure and wonderful.

Jesus promised us that this world would hate us, because it hated Him. But we are not to fear – for HE HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD!

So, today I want to remind you that if you feel completely out of place in the world, don’t fear. Rejoice! This is NOT your place! You are designed for far greater things than this old world! God made you to enjoy the Heavenly home He created just for you!

 

Facts don’t change…but the outcome can

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The facts are in. They cannot be disputed. They cannot be changed. Deal with it.

Obama is President.

It is not what we, as Bible-believing Christians, wanted, but it is a truth.

He is making unprecedented changes in record time – much to the disapproval of conservatives everywhere.

We knew it would happen. We knew he was going to go for the biggest change – and he promised the very changes he is making. And then some.

An assault has begun, nay, been stepped up, on the very fabric of American freedom and foundation.

Again, those who listened to his campaign rhetoric, knew what was coming.

Nope. We can’t change what happened. We warned everyone we could think of that an Obama presidency would mean disaster for families, conservative values, and sanctity of life preservation. But, when the votes were tallied, he won. And, since then, many of us have done nothing but complain.

Now, I am not in any way suggesting that we should stop fighting Obama – on the contrary, we should scrutinize his every move, and make a phone call if he does anything in the direction of a liberalistic ideal. We should fight for our every right as we still have them – and fight to get back any we lose along the way.

However, more even than fighting the President, we should take action where we live! How? Support organizations which uphold the values and principles we stand behind. Prayerfully and financially (along with volunteer efforts, etc.) support organizations such as the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), Focus on the Family, etc., which fight for these things everyday – often with more pull than a single individual can muster.  Instead of arguing across the fence about our right to keep and bear arms, join the NRA!  When there is an opportunity to have your voice heard, don’t sit at home and say, “I just can’t believe what those {goofy} liberals are doing now!  When will it stop?”  Get up, get out, and get going!  Stand in front of an abortion clinic.  Talk to women who are considering one and offer CHRISTIAN advice.  Do something!

But there are more opportunities: volunteer at your local pregnancy help center to help prevent abortion in unwanted pregnancies, volunteer at local soup kitchens, encourage your church to have a more active and widespread outreach ministry, pray for our leader.

God never intended for Christians to be spectators – LIFE is not a spectator sport! Nor are we meant to be mere commentators! He never wanted us to sit around bickering and complaining about things we cannot change. He did mean for us to reach out to make a difference. He did mean for us to find ways to serve the downtrodden in society. After all, isn’t that where Jesus spent the majority of His own time?

So while we do need to stay abreast of what is happening here on our own soil, in the White House Oval Office, and abroad, we cannot let it dictate our mood or attitude any longer. If we do, our words will be ineffective because there will be no action to speak of.

I encourage everyone reading this to find at least one way each week you can make a difference: write to your senator/congressman/woman, etc., volunteer, support a worthy cause, etc. Do something to promote worthy “change” – not just moan about the bad.

Your voice can make a difference

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The following is a link to a page on the ChinaAid website.  China is notorious for persecution against Christians; however, sometimes God blesses those fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with early release, better treatment, etc., due to an outpouring of concern from the international community.

Help bring justice to Shuang and her family

This elderly couple is facing a death – the husband lay dying in the hospital clinging to the hope that he will once again see his wife before he goes to be with his Savior.  Sadly, his wife is in a Chinese prison for “damaging government property,” when her real crime is believing in Jesus Christ.

At the bottom of the page are 2 ways to help this family:

1)  Monetary donation – this will help ChinaAid with supplies such as food, clothing, etc., that is much needed by families affected by persecution in China…

2)  Write emails.  Chinese officials feel pressure already due to the outcry of Christians around the world.  If they are bombarded with emails insisting they let Shuang Shuying free, there is an amazing chance that God will cause them to do just that.

In this case, writing those emails may be even more effective immediately due to the impending death of Shuang’s husband, Hua Zaichen.  I urge you to get involved – TAKE ACTION!  Christians were never intended to be idle bystanders, watching from the sidelines!  We are intended to be victorious!  God reveals His glory through our obedience!   It will only take a few minutes out of your day.  They need only be short, polite emails insisting on Shuang’s immediate release from prison.

So, go write some emails. 

 

What are you still doing here?

The Name Game

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From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1594:

JULIET:
      ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
      Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
      What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
      Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
      Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
      What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;
      So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
      Retain that dear perfection which he owes
      Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
      And for that name which is no part of thee
      Take all myself.

Although I’m taking this a bit out of context, Shakespeare’s intended meaning is the same:  Juliet meant that it doesn’t matter what name we give to something, it remains the same.  Think about it:  does a rose smell any different if I call it garlic?  Nope.  Still smells delicious – just with a different name.

As it is with a lie.  Still reeks, just with a different label.

A lie is a lie regardless of the packaging.  It’s sort of like being given the most hideous gift ever, something truly revolting, in a beautiful package trimmed with bows, ribbons, exquisite wrapping and a lovely gift card with real gold lettering.  The package itself does not make the gift any less revolting.  In fact, it makes it worse because you expect something fabulous, and instead, get…..horrific.

In our society, we have given way to “New Age” beliefs, numerology, scientology, kabbala (sp?), hinduism, buddhism, islam, athiesm, homosexuality, abortion on demand, success-oriented churches, astrology, etc.    And in doing these things, we heap lie upon lie.

Satan, the author of lies and confusion, loves it.  He doesn’t really care what we call his lies as long as we believe them.  But the fact remains, it is still a lie.  It doesn’t matter what name we give the religion or agenda, if it is contrary to the Word of God, it is a lie.  Regardless of the name.

 

 

Everything happens for a reason….but whose reason is it?

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I know someone who is very fond of saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” meaning that everything that happens is supposed  to happen.   It’s actually a fatalistic view of the world, of course – depending on who says it.

You see, when a Christian says, “Everything happens for a reason,” what he or she means is that the Lord can use anything for the good of His Kingdom.  However, the actual statement, is somewhat faulty.  Let’s examine.

God is in complete control – period.  However, BECAUSE He allows us free will, things happen everyday that are outside the will of God.  For instance:  adultery, murder, homosexuality, unwed mothers, theft, idolatry, gossip, etc., are ALL outside the will of God.   God CAN use those experiences for good, but that is because He can REDEEM a situation – NOT because He condones it.

The things that happened in my past – wait, let me rephrase – the things that I did in my past are there because I chose to do them – NOT because God wanted me to do them, or to have those experiences.  Quite the contrary – had I lived within His will for my whole life, I would have been spared much of the pain of the guilt of sin.  But, I chose my own way for a season.  Some would say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  But, whose reason is it?

The truth is, the things that happened in my past happened for my reasons.  They were what I wanted.  They were not what God had planned for my life.  He knew it would happen.  He allowed it to happen.  And in his infinite grace and wisdom, He chose to REDEEM my life IN SPITE OF WHAT I DID.

That’s the key – in spite of me.  God redeemed my life, saved my soul, and gave me hope not because of me, but in spite of me

God calls us to obedience, and through obedience, He can bless us.  But when we are disobedient, He sometimes allows us to feel the sting of the consequences of our actions so that we can learn a lesson for next time. 

Regardless, we serve a God who is in the Miracle Making Business.  In fact, He has a monopoly on the market.  So, when the world condemns a situation, God can redeem it for His purposes.  This is evidenced by Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  In my KJV Bible, the word His is italicized.  Emphasized.  Special.  It is THE word to take note of in this verse – HIS purpose. 

So, yes, in a sense, I guess everything happens for a reason.  But, we need to be very careful in placing the blame of reason where it rightly belongs.  Did it happen because God supernaturally caused it to happen (and He can!)?  Or, did it happen because we were living outside the will of God and ignored His laws and precepts?

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