Monday, June 27, 2011

Beware of FFPP !

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

Today I was working on a craft project while listening to Chuck Swindol on the radio.  My project is hand embroidered words of affirmation in cute little 4" hoops. I'm focusing on words that uplift and encourage. Words like...grace, forgive, laugh, love, joy, believe, adore, sing, life, praise, hope and serve.  These words exemplify the character traits that we should embrace as Christians. My aim is to put these little hand-crafted encouragers up for sale in my Etsy store so that others can hang them in their houses or office to brighten their day.

While stitching away I heard Chuck say four words that caught my attention...fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  He went on to explain that when our focus is on obtaining any one of these four things, our pathway is leading us into sin.  How true, Chuck, how true!

I thought of other words that get us into trouble...envy, strife, greed, pride, self, hate, prejudice.  Yuck!

Now, I'm even more determined to fill my home and the world with words that build up, not tear down, words that remind me who I want to be and who I want to encourage others to be.  I took a short break from my embroidery to write these words to you, hoping that you would pause a moment to think about the words that describe your life.

Are they words you're proud of? Words that portray the real you? I hope so.

Now, back to my embroidery....must fill the world with good words!

Father, remind me to examine my life on a regular basis to see if the words that describe my life are ones that would make you smile.  Help me to encourage others to reach for the highest goal...a life that pleases you.  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling Flat on my Face

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:22-24  (NIV)

I remember reading these verses over thirty years ago when I first surrendered my life to Christ.  I wanted to leave my old self behind. I wanted to be free of the desires and attitudes that I knew weren't pleasing to God.  Oh, how I tried to be my new self. I tried being righteous and holy...but I often fell flat on my face!

Someone would say something offensive or hurtful to me and my old self would rise up and fling ugly words right back at them. I'd see something I knew I couldn't afford and didn't need and I would ignore the fact that what money I had was slotted for paying bills - I'd charge it and worry about it later. I'd see a movie trailer that titillated my senses with it's horror and I'd rush right off to see it just to feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Or I would glance at someone, give them the once-over and make a snap judgment about their character, based on their appearance. Nothing righteous or holy in any of these things!

Nope, I wasn't very good at squashing the desires and attitudes of my old self.

One day in frustration of yet another failure to behave in a way that pleased God, I cried out to Him that this righteousness and holiness thing was just too hard.  "There is no way I can do it, Lord. I'm just not strong enough to be the person you want me to be!"

And then He opened my eyes and heart to the truth...there is no way we can do it on our own!

The only way to put on your new self (the one that was created to be created to be like God), is to begin each morning in His word and on our proverbial (or literal) knees, seeking His strength, His wisdom, His guidance and then to walk through the day with an ear inclined to His voice, so that when He prompts us to make the right choice, or say the right thing or respond the right way, we can clearly hear his prompting and then be swift to obey.

It's a daily, step-by-step process that allows us to put off our old self and become the kind of people who behave in ways that please the Lord, because that pesky old self is not so easily put off!

Father, thank you for creating me to be like you - righteous and holy in character and thank you for making it possible, because in my own strength, it's an impossible task, but your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Help me to stay tuned in to your voice and to be swift to obey your leading, that I might be all that you created me to be and that I might be a good witness to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. And thank you for forgiving me on those days when I still fall flat on my face!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Can I Pray For You?

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."  Ephesians 1:17

"How can I pray for you?" my friend asked.

Wow - what a great question!  First of all, it means so much to me when I know that someone is praying for me. To know that a friend is taking a little time in their day to ask God to touch my life tells me several things...

One, they care about me
Two, they want to be involved in my life
Three, they know that the very best thing they can do for me is to ask God to meet my needs

To me, the greatest expressions of friendship are lending a helping hand and praying for another. So, when someone asks, how can I pray for you? my first response is to quickly scan my brain for what I need.  Money, healing, wisdom for decisions...all these come to mind, but what I really want, what I truly need, what my heart cries out for most is to know God better.

I want to be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I will be able to sense His presence, know His will, see His hand moving in my life and know the next step that He wants me to take.  I want to know his character, I want to know...really know God.

So, if you want to truly bless your friends, pray for them as Paul prayed for those in Ephesus - pray and keep on praying that God will give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they might know Him better. If that happens, everything else in their life will fall into place.

And now, let me pray for you!

Father, I do ask that you would stir your Spirit within those who have received you, that we might be given wisdom and revelation, so that we might know you better. And I pray for those who do not yet know you, those who have not yet received your Son, Jesus, those who have not yet received your Spirit at the moment of salvation - that you would reveal yourself to them, that they might believe on you. I ask that all who read this might be stirred to know you better. Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Have Good News For You!

"As the Scripture says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."

But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them; and before someone can go and tell them, that person must be sent...

So faith comes from hearing the Good News, and people hear the Good News when someone tells them about Christ." Romans 10:13-15a, 17 (NCV)

I love talking with people. As a writer, I talk through the written word, but whether I am talking with someone face-to-face or through my writing, my favorite subject is Jesus Christ.  Why? Because I know what faith in Christ has meant to He has changed my life and how wonderful it is to walk with Him in an on-going relationship each day - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world.

Once, my sins separated me from God. I was on my own, doing my own thing and my own thing got me into lots of trouble. With the "freedom" to do anything I wanted, I freely messed up my life, broke my own heart and hurt many people around me. I had big plans for my life, but my dreams would never have come true because I kept making stupid decisions along the way that derailed my best intentions.

Then, someone told me about Jesus. Actually, several someones told me about Him. Until finally one day the lights came on and faith was birthed in my heart. At that moment I believed in Him. I knew that not only was He the Son of God, who had come to Earth to take the penalty of sin upon Himself, but that it was my sins that He bore on the cross.

It was for me that He died, that I might be forgiven and that my relationship with God might be restored, but I have Good was for you, too!

God's Word says, "Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved."

So, here's the bottom line. Before you can ask the Lord for help, you must believe in Him; and before you can believe in Him, you must hear about Him; and for you to hear about the Lord, someone must tell you.

I have been sent to tell you...that Jesus Christ loves you,. He wants to forgive your sins. He wants to change your life. He wants to restore a right relationship between you and God. He wants to walk with you everyday through this life. He wants you to spend eternity in Heaven. He wants you to experience the joy of a new life with Him.

I have been sent to tell you the Good News and you've just heard it.

So if faith comes from hearing the Good News, then faith should be stirring in your heart right to believe in Jesus Christ, faith to receive Him as your personal Savior and faith to pray this prayer....

Jesus, I do believe in You and I do want to receive forgiveness for my sins.  I want to live the rest of my life led by you.  I give myself to you, now and receive all that you have for me.  It is my intent to live for you all the days of my life and to allow you to guide my decisions and my path until I go to Heaven to be with you.  I may not be sure how this all works, but I am willing to follow you. Come into my heart and be my Lord.  Amen

*If you just prayed that prayer with a sincere heart, then Jesus Christ has just cleansed you from sin and has come into your heart to live. I am so happy for you and I would love to know about your decision to follow Christ. Please drop me a line at jan(at)janiceeileen(dot)com...and welcome to the family of God!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

But, I'm too comfortable to move!

"Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb." (NIV)

Can you imagine a child refusing to be born?  Imagine it fighting to stay in the womb even as muscles are constricting around it, forcing it into the birth canal (a place much too small for it to fit, I might add). Perhaps it is afraid of what lies beyond the comfortable home it's known for 9 months. Perhaps even the discomfort of labor seems better than the unknown world.

Of course, that child doesn't have much choice. It will be born. It's mother and the doctors will see to that because they know that a new and exciting life awaits that child and staying where it is would eventually mean death.

Have you ever sensed God prompting you to make a change in your life, but you were too scared to move?  Or maybe you were too comfortable to move?

A few years back, I had what I considered a great job. I enjoyed the work and the people I worked with. I made decent money and I knew that I had job security...then I felt God prompting me to move on. I shrugged it off because I was comfortable where I was.

Then things began to sour. The situation at work became uncomfortable. It wasn't bad at first. A few staff changes made for a different office atmosphere, changes in my personal life brought new responsibilities that added stress and my work load changed.  Again I felt God nudging me toward the door, but I resisted.

I couldn't imagine leaving my job...worse, I couldn't imagine trying to find another job. The prospects for a 50 plus woman with only a high school education were not great, so I dug my heels in, determined to tough things out until they got better.

But, they didn't get better. They got worse, until finally I was forced to leave. I walked out the door crying like a baby - hurt, confused and scared to death of the future.

Looking back, I can see exactly why God prompted me to move on. He has moved me into a new phase of my life. My relationship with him is richer and more satisfying than it has ever been. He has called me to a ministry of intercessory prayer and to a ministry of writing - both of which are more fulfilling than I can ever say.

So, let me encourage you...if you feel God nudging you out of your present circumstances - move, because one way or another, you will move - even if He has to make it extremely uncomfortable for you to stay where you are...remember Jonah and the Whale?

Thank you, Lord, for caring enough about us to move us on to the next phase of our lives, even if you have to drag us kicking and screaming from our comfort zones. Thank you also that stepping out in obedience to you does not have to be a fearful thing, because you always have our at heart.  Let us always remember Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."   Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Vanishing Word

"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11 (NKJV)

I subscribe to a writer's site called Writing Forward. Today they posted a Journal Prompt that included this picture:

The minute I saw the picture, I was reminded how often I find a scripture in the Bible that really hits home with me. It usually speaks directly to an issue I'm having or something that's been on my mind.

I underline it in my Bible and write it on an index card, which I keep with all the other index cards I've scribbled scriptures on so that I can have them handy when I want to review them.  So often, though, I find that after just a day or two the scripture that meant so much to me forgotten in the busyness of life. The words just seem to have fluttered away from my mind.

How much wiser would it be if I took the time to memorize the verses that mean so much to me? I'm sure I could do it. It wouldn't take long and then they would be with me forever - locked away in my memory bank, able to be called up at a moment's notice by the Holy Spirit when I need them.

Father, thank you for your Word, which is so important to me. It speaks to my every need if I will just listen and remember. Help me to hide your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against you, but also because your Word brings peace and comfort, healing and strength, courage and joy. Increase my ability to memorize your Word. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anything for a laugh!

I've been doing one of the lessons in Beth Moore's study...Living Beyond Yourself, Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. This week's study is on the fruit of self-control. Today (day 2 of the study) I read about the life of Sampson in comparison to the life of Daniel. Sampson was totally disrespectful of his calling from God. He indulged in unclean habits, a lustful lifestyle and he had an inappropriate sense of humor. He liked practical jokes and riddles, but they were always at the expense of others...always disrespectful of others.

One part of today's study talked about this...

Often we can observe an unspoken rule of thumb among Christians. "Inappropriate subjects are admissible as long as they are humorous." We can tell an off-color joke as long as it's funny. We can show disrespect for a person as long as people laugh."

Then the study asked the following questions...

Do you have an appropriate sense of humor?
Are you more likely to laugh at an off-color joke than one that is "clean"?
Do you talk to others about inappropriate subjects?
Is it often for a laugh?

Followed by this observation...

God loves laughter. His Word tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that "a cheerful heart is good medicine." but when it is at the expense of God's character, another's character, or our own character, the medicine becomes toxic. ...We must never compromise holiness for the sake of humor.

After reading this portion of the study this morning, I was embarrassed by comments I made in jest during a planning meeting at church last night. Comments that were disrespectful of another's character and spoken to get a laugh...although I didn't realize it at the time.

I had to write an email to those who attended the meeting (4 wonderful sisters in Christ) and ask their forgiveness.

Man, this self-discipline and spiritual growth stuff is hard! It hurts when God points out your sin, but I'm glad He does that so that we can clear the air between us and so that I can go on from that point - forgiven and clean.

If you have the opportunity to pick up this study by Beth Moore, I would encourage you to do so.

Anyway - I am going to be careful about coarse joking at the expense of anyone's dignity, character or reputation and about telling or laughing at off-color jokes, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE....if you know me and hear me being inappropriate or disrespectful for the sake of a laugh (or any other reason)...please stop me and remind me about this incident...okay????

Father, forgive me for the times I've disrespected another for the sake of a laugh and for the times when I've not only told off-colored jokes, but have laughed at them when others tell them. Making something funny does not excuse inappropriate topics. I pray that if I do that again, you will bring it to my attention immediately. I want to be self-controlled. I want to continue to grow so that my life might please you. And I want to honor you in everything I do. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

That's enough for now!

"As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, 'That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'" Acts 24:25

In the last couple of days the Lord has been putting information in front of me about self-control. First in something our Pastor said, next in a passage of scripture and next in a bible study I'm doing.  It doesn't take a genius to know that He's bringing the subject to my attention and I'm smart enough to know that when He brings something up, I need to pay attention.

Self-control means knowing when to say yes, when to say no and interestingly enough, Felix hit the nail on the head when he said "That's enough for now!"  Left to it's own desires, our flesh will cry out for things that are not good for us - too much food, unhealthy food, laziness, continual pursuit of material things, status, love and attention...etc.

None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but without the exercise of self-control they can all lead down the road to ruin and misery. We can become trapped in habits and cravings that drive us to do the very things we don't want to do. Left unchecked, our fleshly cravings will drive us far from God.

Self-control is not a negative thing...a list of rules and self-denial.  It's the practice of wise choices that protect us from sin. It's just as important to say yes to somethings as it is to say no to others and it's always good to know when to put on the brakes and say...that's enough for now.

Felix made that statement to Paul because he didn't want to hear the truth. He didn't want to think about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. He didn't want to face the fact that at some point we will all give an account to God for our actions.

Let's not be like Felix. Let's embrace self-control. Let's be determined to make wise choices...ones that will enrich our lives and our relationships - especially our relationship with God.

Thank you, Lord for giving us self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Help use to exercise self-control in all areas of our lives, making wise decisions about when to say yes and when to say no. Father, we understand that in our own strength we are weak, but in our weakness, you make us strong, so we ask you to give us wisdom and strength to practice self-control each and every day. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)