Freedom in Obedience

 

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:22-25

I’m full of the best intentions. I have so many things I want to be good at, get better at or completely change in myself and in my life, whether it is simply a new hobby (Seriously, I should be able to sew a button on a shirt) or my need and desire to spend more time in God’s Word and in prayer, or even a deep character flaw that keeps revealing itself. We all encounter things that tug on us, whisper at us, try to draw us in the direction of God’s will for our lives.

The problem is, I love the idea of change, but I don’t love the work of change. I want to be full of wisdom and God’s Word, but I don’t want to turn off my favorite TV show and study His word or spend some time in prayer. I love the thought of finding time to do Bible studies with my kids over breakfast, so I am demonstrating good habits and priorities, but my pillow seems to call louder than my wrangling my kids in the morning while I impatiently wait for that coffee to brew. I like the idea of praying with my kids when their behavior is making me want to send them to bed at 5:00 pm just so I can have a bit of peace, but submitting to God when I’m so frustrated seems like a lot more effort than showing my frustration to my kids.

If you can relate, you might feel a bit overwhelmed right now. I can make a list of things I should be doing, doing better or completely changing…a very long list. In fact, this list seems so overwhelming, sometimes, I set it aside. Why? Because that is a lot of work and not that freeing. I have my hands full. I already feel overwhelmed most days. The idea of this “list” makes me push it to back of my mind of the things I will do eventually when life is less crazy. I know what things I “should” do and I know what His Word says, but actually putting them into action is daunting.

Deep breath. Adjust your focus, or more specifically, what you are focusing on. “25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” God’s goal in this is your freedom. He isn’t looking to overwhelm you or for you to carry guilt for all the things you aren’t doing. He wants to free you and bless you. That suddenly doesn’t sound so bad. Obedience brings freedom and refreshing because His ways are the best ways to do life.

One of my biggest desires and something that has been whispered into my heart repeatedly is setting aside more time for study and prayer. Most of you know, I’ve had a chronically sick baby. When she was born, it was reflux and colic. Once that ended she got her first ear infection, and then another and another and so on until about 8 ear infections later we were ready to swear off sanity and sleep for good. Doctors and nurses know us by name at the pediatrician’s office. I can tell you most of the official names of inner parts of the ear and most of the medications used to treat infections. Each ear infection has meant a baby I cannot set down, sleep that was interrupted frequently or disappeared altogether while I rocked a feverish, hurting baby for most, if not all, of the night. Evenings with homework and cooking while Myra walked around crying and pleading took all I had to get through and by the time my poor husband walked in the door after a long day at work, I practically threw the baby into his arms and went to find something to help me decompress while trying to hold onto what patience I had for my other two kids. I wanted something easy that required nothing of me. I wanted to stare at a wall, forget how tired I was, have a moment of “me” time. There were a few times during the worst infections, I considered hopping in the car and driving for a very long time and just sitting there in silence for a few hours before heading home. The last thing I felt like doing was grabbing my Bible and disappearing into my bedroom for some reading and praying.

The problem with my approach is, in the end, I never get full, I never find rest, I never get relief. I just survive and start over again the next day. I would pray as I rocked her and as I cooked and as I drove and in between whatever I had going on, but it was always these desperate pleas or requests mixed with moments of thankfulness, which is not bad, but I wasn’t having a devoted time of connecting with God long enough to find his strength or guidance. I wasn’t having regular chunks of time to soak up help, reassurance and promises from His Word. These are the things that refresh, but before the refreshing comes it feels like another thing to add on to my “to do” list.

Life will keep happening. The lists of things to do will not shrink. No additional hours are going to be added to our days. I don’t feel “free” to make a change, but God’s Word says he provides freedom when we put things in order and do what His Word says. I would feel a lot less overwhelmed if I took the time to allow Him to refresh me. I probably wouldn’t feel like I had nothing left to give at the end of the day if I started the day seeking the only one who can truly bring rest, strength and guidance.

What things is He whispering for you to do? You don’t need to tackle all of it at once. Take one item from your list and ask Him what steps you should take to get there. As you do, you will sense the freedom and refreshing waiting for you. Put His Word into action one step at a time until you look back and realize you are now reaping the benefits of obedience.

Tiffany 🙂

Sing a New Song

Life is beautiful but life is also challenging. It is easy to forget how good God is especially when challenges and obstacles are thrown our way.  In my walk with the Lord I have found that there has always been something specific for me to focus on in every season that would help me grow and thrive in my current circumstance.  I often have to be intentional about focusing on what God has asked of me and not on issues and challenges surrounding me.

This season has been…..challenging.  Naturally I am a strong and positive person and it is easy for me to rely on my own strength and form my own opinions about my current situation.  The other day I was driving in my car dwelling on my current situation; my first mistake.  I had been driving for quite a while when out of nowhere I heard God say “why don’t you sing a new song.”  That got my attention pretty quickly, which God is great at doing!  As I pondered in my heart I began to understand and take hold of what God was saying to me and it made perfect sense.  I had been dwelling on my problem and repeating my frustrations in my head like a broken record. It was getting old and frankly it was not getting me anywhere.  I will be honest and say that my natural tendency to be strong and positive had wilted away and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to obey God.  So I asked Him and His response was simple and sweet.   He simply said, “worship me.”  It seemed as though I had received my instruction for this season.  In my mind it made sense to focus on the problem at hand with the idea that if I thought about it long enough I would come up with a solution. This is not the case.  He has the solution to every problem we may face and worshiping Him brings peace, rest and instruction to our heart and mind.  Worshiping Him makes us rise above our current circumstance and enables us to see from His perspective. His instruction to me has not been the easiest thing to achieve. I have found that my worship and meditation on Him has to be intentional. When I feel like my problems are overwhelming me and I feel like I can’t breathe, I remember what He said and begin to recall verses that lift up my spirit. Like these….

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, Psalm 103:1-2

Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! Psalm 98:1

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

These are just a few verses that open the doorways to worshiping Him and remembering His goodness.  So I encourage you to open up your heart to the one who is good and loves you with an everlasting love. Worship Him, partner with Him and see from His perspective.  Get your focus off of your problem and sing to Him a new song.

 

Christine Canas

Draw Aside

When pain becomes my offering

with tears and broken sighs;

when the plough I push seems heavy

and the cost feels way too high …

 

I will draw aside from busyness

I will gently close the door

I will lift my hands in surrender

and worship Jesus Christ my Lord.

 

When plans are not unfolding

and promises still unfulfilled;

when I’m weary at the coal face

and I’m waiting for God to build …

 

I will draw aside from self pity

I will gently close the door

I will lift my heart in surrender

and lean on Jesus Christ my Lord.

 

When loneliness gets hold of me

and hurts obscure my view;

when trials crash onto my shore

and answers seem way too few …

 

I will draw aside from heart ache

I will gently close the door

I will lift my life in surrender

and trust in Jesus Christ my Lord.

 

Poem by Vanessa McNamara

Life Start Church, CA

Mommy Land

Hello Ladies!

We had our Paint N’ Sip last week and the turn out was great! I think most of us were pleasantly surprised with how easy our instructor made it. I was sure I would be laughing at my finished piece, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it turned out pretty well for my first attempt at painting! We will be doing another one as everyone loved it!

This past week, I’ve been in “Mommy Land”. You know…that place you go where your only identity is MOM and all things revolve around your kids. You start counting down until bedtime to find it doesn’t come when you hope and doesn’t last nearly long enough for you to catch your breath. Yah…I call that Mommy Land. Sick kids coupled with summer break seem to make the stay longer. 😉 All of us visit there from time to time and it may not be just Moms. We all have things that demand our attention. Its easy to lose track of our intentions and God’s intentions when we feel a bit overwhelmed. This is just a reminder to take a step back, take a deep breath, pray, lean on Him, and be intentional.

Sharon shared a great message along these lines back in March at our Arise breakfast. Her words were a nice reminder of what our roles, specifically as mothers, are. Marie shared her take away on what Sharon shared and it is good to revisit this, so below you will find Marie’s take on this thing called mothering…

I would like to elaborate on what Sharon shared. Here’s the skinny of what she shared. We, as mothers, set the tone for the household. What she chose to do for her family, was to have freshly baked cookies for the kids’ snack when they returned home from school. The kids loved that familiar smell and the tradition that Sharon set. They felt loved, thought of, special, and safe. They even remember that familiar smell to this day; many years later. Here are my extended thoughts on what she shared and what I took away from it. I don’t have to bake cookies every day, but it is my responsibility to set the tone for my kids when they get home. I want my home to be a safe place for them to talk about their day and share ANYTHING on their minds. If my house is in chaos, the kids feel it, and there is un-needed tension in the house. There is a spiritual fragrance I want my kids to “smell”. I want there to be a peace that only God can provide. I want to help direct my kids to think on spiritual things. (Phil 4:8) While pondering on what Sharon shared, I found this verse and fell in love with it. “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9). I want light in my house and the spiritual fragrance of the Holy Spirit!

My prayer for all of you is that the light of His love burn brightly in your homes.

Have a wonderful week friends!
Tiffany

Love your neighbor as YOURSELF

Love your neighbor as YOURSELF…

As I have walked with the Lord I have always read the verse in 1 Corinthians 13:4 that says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Through the years my perspective of this verse has changed and I have been able to see different angels. I was first able to apply it to my relationships with other people. I would think “love is patient, so be patient with your spouse or friend. Love is kind, so be kind to your co-worker who really annoys you”. For years it was a wonderful verse that facilitated growth in my relationships with other people in my life. Years later God added more seasoning to this passage of scripture and I was shown another perspective. I saw that when the verse said “love is patient, love is kind etc etc….” that God is talking about himself because he IS love. Therefore, God is patient; God is kind etc etc… I thought if God is simply love then truly the only way He is able to see me is through the eyes of patience, kindness and ultimately love. It was a beautiful time of growing deeper in love with Him and understanding the purity in which He sees me and you. Anything opposite to the attributes of love is contrary to His nature.

Recently, I was yet again given another perspective and that is what I want to share. As said before, I applied the famous “love scripture” to my relationships with others and then to my relationship with God but I never once thought to apply this passage of scripture to myself. In Mark 12:31 it says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” By no means am I saying that we must love ourselves first in order to love others because that is contrary to His word. However, I am saying that we shouldn’t leave ourselves out of the equation. God made us to be a beautiful vessel which displays His love and who He is and so it is important to love yourself; it may sound like this:

Love is patient, so be patient with yourself as He is patient with you.
Love is kind, so be kind to yourself as He is kind to you.
Love does not envy, so be happy with yourself as He is happy with you.
Love does not boast, so remember pride comes before a fall. Do not allow yourself to fall into that path of destruction.
Love does not dishonor others, so don’t dishonor yourself. Keep the promises you make to yourself.
Love is not easily angered, so don’t be so quick to become angry with yourself as He is not angry with you.
Love keeps no record of wrong, so stop keeping score of your wrong doings as He does not keep record of your sins.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, so seek truth and embrace freedom in your life as His intent is to set you free.
Love always protects, so guard and protect your heart as He is guarding and protecting you.
Love always trusts, so trust and have faith in yourself that you have what you need from Him.
Love always hopes, so don’t be afraid to hope for the best in your life. Don’t expect the worst as He does not expect the worst in you.
Love always perseveres, so press on and don’t give up as He has not given up on you! Whatever dream or goal you have keep pressing on and finish the race.
Love yourself enough to experience victory as He has already made you victorious.

I have recently begun to apply this to my life greatly. I was driving in my car and I thought, “Gee Christine, why can’t you just get your act together?” As clear as day I heard the Lord say, “But love is kind, so don’t think those things; be kind and love yourself because I love you.” We love because He first loved us and so give (to yourself and to others) as freely as you have received.  Be patient with yourself today and then you can be patient with others. If you find it difficult to look in the mirror and love yourself and be kind to yourself then I would encourage you to let God love on you; let Him love on you so much that you will reflect His love. Then you will be able to be kind to yourself and love yourself enough to guard your heart or persevere to your next goal or dream. God is loving and faithful; He believes in you, so agree with God and believe in yourself and most of all love yourself.

Christine Canas

Arise Brunch Coming Up!

Hello IRC ladies!
At the January Arise Breakfast we drew numbers to be matched up with a girlfriend for February, until the next Arise Breakfast on Feb. 16th. The objective of this is simple: spend time with the Lord and the girlfriend you’ve been matched up with, and then we’ll discuss at the Arise Breakfast on Feb 16th.
There are only three requirements to participate in this Match-up:
1. Pray for your friend and read the Word on her behalf
2. Meet with your friend at least once, in person (or as many times as you’d like).
3. Give your friend you’ve been matched with one prophetic word (whatever the Lord speaks to you during prayer or in the Word for her).

If you weren’t at the breakfast but would still like to come, you are welcome to join us!

We are really excited about this, as it’s a time to draw closer to the Lord and get to know another IRC woman better as we continue to work to developer stronger relationships with God and our girlfriends.

For everyone who’s already participating, thank you! I think this is going to be amazing.
For the February Arise breakfast (on Sunday, 2/16 at 9:30am at my house we will share about our experience of being matched up with another IRC girlfriend and discuss how it went, with spending time with the Lord on their behalf and getting to know that person better.

Thanks and it’s such a pleasure serving our King with you!