Talking to God

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18
 
    Communication is important for a healthy relationship, including our relationship with God. For most of us, it is easier to talk to our close friends or a close relative than it is someone we just met or hardly know. Therefore, the more time we spend with God in prayer, learning His Word, and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, the better we get to know Him and the better our communication with Him becomes.
 
    Even then, it can be a struggle.
 
    Have you ever known people who can talk to anyone or NO-ONE? I’m not one of those people! I have a difficult time talking to someone who I don’t hear an audible response from. Like my autistic son when he was a baby. He didn’t talk until he was over three years old and he wouldn’t respond when talked to. Therefore, there was little to no communication on his part. I had to consciously remind myself that I needed to talk to him or he wouldn’t ever learn to talk. I’m not good at talking to animals either because they don’t carry on a conversation like humans do. (Although, my cat meows when I talk to him. But I haven’t learned ‘cat language’ yet. I’m still working on that.)
 
    One reason for my ‘quietness’ could be that in my past, I felt that what I had to say was never good nor right. Therefore, my attitude was – “If I don’t talk then I can’t say anything wrong”.
 
    I also used to think that talking to God didn’t matter because He knows everything already. Doesn’t He know my heart and my mind? Then why do I need to tell Him? The answer to this question made sense to me after I had kids. Even though I knew what my kids were up to, what they did good or bad, the fun they had, the disasters they had, I still wanted to hear it from them.
 
    God wants to hear from us even though He already knows all things. There is no right or wrong thing to say to Him, He just wants us to talk to Him like a ‘best friend’ or ‘one of His children’. After all, isn’t that what we are? Or should be?
 
~Joanie Lawrence-Cain


Forgiveness – A Requirement not an Option

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 
15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 

    Most, if not all, of us have been hurt deeply by someone in our lives. And the closer they are to us, like family or best friends, the deeper the hurt. Our natural reactions are revenge, anger and bitterness. Many of us also withdraw. When I was hurt by a family member, I withdrew from that part of the family (all of them, not just the one that hurt me). When I was hurt by best friends, I withdrew from having a “best” friend. I’m getting better, but I still struggle with having very close friends.

    Often, we choose not to forgive because we want to “punish” the ones that hurt us. When in fact most of the time, they don’t even know the damage they have done, or they don’t care…in other words, YOU are the one hurting, not them. Romans 12:19 says we are not to have revenge but are to let God settle the score with those who have wronged us.

    Forgiveness is not easy and doesn’t happen instantly. It is something we decide to do, then begin the process of forgiving. This process may take longer for some than it does for others and it also may depend on the severity of hurt.

    Forgiving doesn’t mean we condone or accept what they did. It does mean that we are choosing to no longer let that hurt be a burden to us.

    Forgiving might be easier if they came to us and asked for our forgiveness. This at least lets us know they acknowledge that they hurt us (and may be truly sorry). But, remember when Jesus forgave those who crucified Him? They hadn’t asked Him for forgiveness.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them,
so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

    According to Matthew 6:14-15 and Mark 11:25, we MUST forgive in order for God to forgive us. It’s not an option. And I DEFINITELY want His forgiveness! How about you?

How to forgive:

-Begin forgiving by realizing that none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. In forgiving my abuser, I began looking at his past. Many past hurts and poor choices of himself and others had led him to bitterness, anger, rebellion, and jealousy. While that isn’t an excuse for the abuse, it is a reason. “Hurt People, Hurt People” In other words, those who have been hurt, as a result, hurt others.

-Then think about is how much you have been forgiven. At one time, I was so focused on my hurts that I didn’t see the fact that I have also hurt others in the past. I pray they have forgiven me (as I trust God has also) for what I’ve done intentionally AND unintentionally.

-Pray for those who have hurt you. I know this is a though one. It’s hard to have compassion to pray for our enemies but in doing this, two things happen. The Holy Spirit begins to work in you in order for you to forgive AND the Holy Spirit will begin to work in THEM also. I’ve witnessed this several times.

-Repent from hanging on to bad feelings against those who hurt you, so you can be set free. When we harbor bitterness, hatred and anger, we are also sinning. Therefore, we need to pray for forgiveness for our thoughts and attitudes.

Who do you need to forgive?

Maybe you need to forgive God or yourself?

(Sometimes this is more difficult than forgiving others.)

Don’t miss out on God’s many blessings by remaining in bondage of unforgiveness.
~Joanie Lawrence-Cain


Your Interior Designer – The Holy Spirit

The last two journals were about “cleaning house” and “taking out the trash”.

    Once we ‘clean house’ (empty ourselves and allow room for the Holy Spirit to make His home in us) and ‘take out the trash’ (leave our burdens with God), then He can be our “interior designer”.

    Most of us desire a beautifully “designed” home. You know, where everything is in place, beautiful pictures and decorations, like we see in decorating magazines. I don’t know about you, but that seems near impossible. My house has clutter, unfiled papers, and unfinished projects, and I’m not the best at decorating. I could hire a professional designer but first I’d need to get rid of the clutter before they could start, just like we need to get rid of the clutter in our lives so the Holy Spirit can make His home beautiful.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.   1 Peter 3:3-4
 

    We can be beautiful on the outside with pretty clothes, good hair style, and lots of “bling”, but 1 Peter 3:4 says it’s our “inner beauty” that is of great worth.

    You’ve heard the saying “we are what we eat”? If we eat a diet of mostly junk food, we’ll eventually have failing health. Or “What we focus on is what we become”. You can tell a lot about someone’s focus by what they have in their homes. You can also tell a lot about someone’s focus by their actions. If one’s focus is on a dysfunctional past, hurts, or other negative things, they will show negativity and bitterness. If their focus is on Christ and Godly things, they will be loving, patient, and giving…in other words, more like Christ.

Is the Holy Spirit YOUR designer?

Are you focusing on Godly things in order to become more beautiful in Christ?

Having a beautiful Spirit is more beautiful than having “outward adornment”.

 
~Joanie Lawrence-Cain


Take Out the Trash

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 

    Last week’s journal was about “cleaning house”, emptying ourselves and allowing room for the Holy Spirit to make His home in us. It may be somewhat easy to “clean house”,  but if we don’t “take out the trash”, (leave our burdens with God), we are tempted to “pick them back up”. Then we are right back to a messy house.

    For many years I struggled with bad feelings toward a couple of people in my past. I routinely prayed for God to change those feelings and give me peace. It was easy to “clean house” by recognizing that I needed to remove my bitterness, hatred, and unforgiveness, but I didn’t “take out the trash”.  Instead, I held on to it by rehearsing in my mind the events that took place and the things that hurt me. I continued to be bitter and not forgive which then led to anger, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and more. Once I started doing what it takes by “taking out the trash”, I began to forgive and find peace which led to patience, kindness and love.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. Psalm 55:22

    It doesn’t say to give your burdens to the Lord, then take them back. No, He wants us to let Him deal with them.

    When we take back our burdens or don’t give them to God in the first place, we are telling Him that we don’t trust Him. How does that make Him, God of the Universe, feel?

     Reasons we take them back may be because it’s a habit, we are independent and think we can do things on our own, or we don’t understand how big our God is.

     So, what can you do to “take out your trash”, i.e.: leave your burdens with God?

             -Pray! We can’t develop a relationship with someone if we don’t talk to them, even God. In communicating with Him, you gain trust and begin to shift your focus to Him instead of on your burdens.

            -Be conscience of your thoughts. Don’t let the past replay in your mind. Replace those negative thoughts with good thoughts.

             -Dwell in God’s Word. That’s one way He communicates with us. Find encouraging verses to rehearse. Write them on a sticky note or postcard. Read them often.

             -Find and focus on positive things. Look for the good in others and in situations. Look for God in everything. He’s there.

     What are you hanging on to that you need to take out to the trash? Regret or hurt in your past? Ill feelings towards someone? Guilt? A character defect or habit?   Whatever it is, God wants you to give it to Him.
 
~Joanie Lawrence-Cain


Clean House

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Philippians 2:5-7

   As Christians who love God, we are His. We want to live for Him, shine for Him, and be a vessel for Him. Likewise, God loves us, He wants to shine through us, and work through us to encourage each other and reach others who don’t know Him. Simply put, the Holy Spirit wants to “make His home in us”. He wants to live in and through us. When our lives are full of sin, idols, and other focuses besides Jesus, there is no room for Him. We need to “clean house”! We need to empty ourselves and allow room for the Holy Spirit to make His home in us.

    Several years ago, I had an opportunity to witness to a very close, non-Christian friend, who was asking about Jesus. I couldn’t find the words to say. It was then that I realized I wasn’t living for Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me to be His witness. I wasn’t reading my Bible, I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t going to Church regularly, nor was I spending any time with God. I didn’t have a “relationship” with Him. I was focused on “other stuff”- stuff of this world. I realized I needed to “clean house” (empty myself of the past, my sins and things not of God) before He could fill me and work through me to minister.

    In Philippians 2:5-7 Paul tells us that even Jesus emptied Himself. We don’t think of Him having to do that because He was God. But in order to teach us how to live, He chose to humble himself, take on the form of a slave and be made in our likeness. As a man, he could have had “clutter” in His life just like we do, but He chose to “keep His house clean” by continually emptying Himself. As should we.

 Are you “cleaning house” to make room for the Holy Spirit?
 
~Joanie Lawrence-Cain


We’ll Be Known By Our Fruits

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  
Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
  
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  
Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.   Matthew 7:16-20
 

    Many people, especially non-Christians, are on “look-out” for when we mess up, then are quick to judge us as Christians. They expect us to “bear good fruit.” Or perhaps, even waiting for us to bear “bad fruit.”

    Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” When we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us by having a relationship with God, we begin producing these fruits.

    When I was in college, as a new Christian, I went to many church functions, hung out with the Christian group in college, carried a Bible everywhere I went, wore jewelry with Christian symbols, owned many Christian books, and had a “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker on my car. I was proclaiming the Christian life but wasn’t bearing good fruits. I was so focused on “Christianity” that I didn’t focus on “having a relationship with God.” Even though God removed my quick temper, I still showed bitterness, envy, hatred, gloom, judgement and many more “bad fruits.”

    In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus is talking about the difference between false prophets and His disciples. He says, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

    It’s easy to get “busy with life” and forget to notice the bad fruits that come out of us (bad habits, bad language, bad attitudes, bad temper, etc.) and we forget to notice how those look to others.

 Are you like a good tree that is bearing good fruit?

     Do you have some branches, bearing bad fruit, that need pruning?

Ask the Holy Spirit to remove those branches and replace them with branches that bear good fruit.

 ~Joanie Lawrence-Cain



New Year’s Resolutions

     As we begin a “New Year”, how many of us will once again make those “New Year’s Resolutions”? You know, the same ones each year, like lose weight, get in shape, get organized, manage finances better, quit drinking, quit smoking, etc. How long do these resolutions last? A few days, a few months? Usually not much past that.

As Christians we might make resolutions to pray more, read our Bible more, memorize verses of Scripture, or give more to our church.

     While all of these are good resolutions, our first priority (not just at the beginning of a year, but all year) should be to love God and to do His will in our lives. Therefore, we should set Godly goals and pursue them for Him and with His help.

     I’m a “list maker”. I feel inspired when I write down all that I need to do daily such as read my Bible, pray, exercise, take my vitamins, eat healthy, clean house, make a craft, etc. I would eagerly and excitedly write them all down with anticipation and confidence that this time I will succeed in doing them all forever. Then in reality, I may do them all one day, some I’d do for a week. Then I’d fail, not doing any of them. Feelings of inadequacy, failure, etc. would flood my mind. I finally realized that I couldn’t do these things on my own. Instead of trying to change everything at once, I needed to ask God what He wanted me to change and ask Him to help me. I have a long way to go but together, one change at a time, we are succeeding.

     My “resolution” became one of my prayers. I replaced each bad habit with Godly things. I made small changes like listening to Christian music instead of secular, reading Christian books & my Bible instead of magazines and surfing through Pinterest, listening to sermons/Christian podcasts instead of computer games, praying more for my family and loved ones instead of criticizing and judging them, making time for relaxation, and spending time with friends instead of making excuses that I’m too busy. What we fill ourselves with is what we become.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish
abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, Ephesians 3:20
 
My prayer for you in 2018 is that you will make one resolution – to draw closer to God.
He will guide you through the changes He would have you make.
 

~Joanie Lawrence-Cain



Member or Disciple?

Are you a member of your church or a disciple of Christ?

Is your primary relationship with the congregation or with Jesus Christ?

     In and out of your church, what do you hear about most: conversations about people and activities in our lives or our relationship with Jesus Christ and what He’s doing in our lives?

Membership – Members in a congregation are expected to:

  1. Give money to support others who do ministry such as the pastor or a missionary.
  2. Maintain the institution. Give enough money to keep the building heated, lights on, and maintained and to make sure that enough people take their turn on committees and council.
  3. Live an upright life and be a good citizen of the community.

 

Discipleship – Our primary relationship is with Jesus Christ, not the congregation. Although, the congregation is the community of people with whom this relationship is lived out and nurtured. 

  1. As disciples, we are commanded to have a deeper relationship with Jesus, become more like Jesus, and share the “Good News” with others.
  2. Disciples think of the pastor and the congregation being in a “partnership” instead of thinking they “pay the pastor”. They don’t complain about what the pastor is or isn’t doing but instead they understand that “ministry” belongs to all God’s people.
  3. Disciple’s life involves praying daily, reading scripture daily, going to church to worship weekly, tithing, serving others in Jesus’ name, and sharing Jesus with the unchurched.
  4. Disciples see that the church can’t grow within the walls of the church….they go out into the community to reach the unchurched, those in need, and those who have not gone to church for some time.

Nowadays, a lot of churches have few members and even fewer disciples.

Therefore, Christ’s call to discipleship is not an option but the livelihood of the church.

Our VISION should be on the Kingdom of God, NOT the church itself.

Are YOU a church member or a disciple of Christ?

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20

As Christians, we are all called to be DISCIPLES!
 

-Joanie Lawrence-Cain



Christmas Joy

    The Christmas Season is here, Christmas Day is near. This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but for many people it isn’t quite as joyful as it should be. Many have lost loved ones during the holiday season, some have lost their jobs, disasters happen which create extra expenses, etc. These occurrences don’t make for “happy times” in ANY season but especially during the Holidays.

     My mother died in November of 1976. Because her death was so close to the Holidays, for many years I didn’t want to decorate for Christmas. I found it difficult to go through the process of getting gifts under the tree, and cooking was way too much effort. After many years, some friends came into my life who changed that. They inspired me to do things I used to do for Christmas. They helped me decorate, encouraged me to cook and went shopping with me. 

     When I began focusing on the true meaning of Christmas, the reason God created us and the reason Jesus came to earth, I began to realize that we are just a speck in the “Big Picture”. James 4:14 says Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

     This verse tells me that it’s not THIS life that is most important, but the life we will have for eternity with Jesus Christ. And knowing my mother and other loved ones are in a wonderful place, knowing God is taking care of them and knowing I will see them again is comforting and gives me reason to celebrate again.

     During those years of struggling, my focus was not on Jesus. I wasn’t reading my Bible, I wasn’t going to church, I wasn’t “casting my anxieties on Him”.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

     Some of us seem to like “hanging on to” our anxieties, grief and problems. Maybe they are our “blankie” we want to keep wrapped up in.  Maybe we are afraid of what it will be like if we give them up. We say we want to get better and we want them to go away, but we don’t do what it takes to make it happen.

     When I found myself: on my knees, crying out to God for healing, began living my life for Him instead of for my own selfishness, regular prayer time and reading my instruction book for life (my Bible), I became more at peace, more joyful, and more inspired.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

     During this joyful time of year, I want to encourage you to pause in your own “busyness”, look around, and find someone who needs a dose of “Christmas Joy”. Offer to help them decorate, cook a meal, bake some cookies or just sit and visit over hot chocolate. It always seems my own joy rekindles when I work to bring joy into someone else’s life.

     We don’t get well on our own…that’s why there are over 59 “one anothers” in the New Testament.

    I still think Christmas was a LOT more fun as a kid…but I have found a lot more joy now that my focus is on Jesus.

May you all remember the TRUE JOY of Christmas and share Him with others!

-Joanie Lawrence-Cain



Be Stirred

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
 
How active is your faith?
Have you just been going through the motions?
Too many distractions?
Do you feel like you could use a “faith boost”?
Is there or has there been someone in your life that is/was “stirred” in their faith
and you wished you were that way?
 

     Most of us have experienced the transforming moment when we realized in our heart God’s salvation plan for us, the moment when we made the decision to turn our life around and live for Him. (If you haven’t, we need to talk) Remember that feeling of being “stirred”? Excitement, fulfillment, relief, joy…. just to name a few emotions you may have had. Remember the almost instant understanding of it all? Were you inspired to learn about Him? Were you inspired to serve Him?

     Do you still have those feelings and ambitions or have they faded and you have gone back to your daily distractions with God in the background. Is your knowing you’re saved by His grace enough for you?

(I know, too many questions.)
 
     But we need to be “stirred”. As Christians, we have a battle to win. We aren’t just here to have a fun, enjoyable, relationship with God and enjoy His beautiful sunsets. In Genesis 1:28 God says we are to …subdue the earth; and have dominion over everything on the earth. His plan is to take back earth after Satan has taken possession when God cast him from Heaven.
 
Because of sin, there are many “broken” people that need to know Jesus
and we may be the only Bible they read.
 
Just as God sent Jesus to be an example, so we need to be examples to others.
He sent the Holy Spirit so we could do the things Jesus did.
 
Ways to become “stirred”:
Listen to sermons (with intent), pray… (often), fellowship with other Christians (not just talking about the weather), journal your thoughts and prayers, read your Bible…(often), become involved in a small group, and real spiritual growth happens when you begin leading a group and helping other in their spiritual walk.
 
Ok, last question: What will you do to “stir” the Holy Spirit in you?

-Joanie Lawrence-Cain