Weeping in the Sowing

I planted some seeds about 15 years ago, seeds of encouragement and love in the life of a young girl that so desperately needed affirmation and attention. After a couple of years, life's paths took us in different directions and I lost touch. When we reconnected a few years later, it was evident that there had not been much watering and nurturing of this tender plant. She'd been tattered by life's storms and the disease of sin had left some pretty significant scars.
It's amazing how blooms are still possible in what seem the most dire of circumstances. She began a journey of transplanting and regrowth. It was a hard journey, one full of ups and downs, good choices and bad choices. Then she had a beautiful baby boy. I saw growth like never before. She began holding jobs for more than just a few months, making better choices about the people she would spend time with, and making a greater effort to surround herself with a community of believers.
But the weeds had never been removed. They have been so entangling for so long that she simply
cannot recognize them as weeds. The weeds have some attractive blooms in the form of happiness, security, escape, and the affirmation and attention she has desired since I've known her. Plucked from the ground and placed in a decorative vase, the arrangement is quite lovely. A man that dotes on her, the ability to have and do things financially, a fresh start in a new location far from the life in which she grew up, opportunities for her son. It's as beautiful as the flowers on my desk this morning.
But we all know what happens to even the most beautiful of cut flower arrangements. Even if we add the plant food for a week, the flowers will eventually wither and die.
Oh, if only we could be satisfied with the arrangement in which God has planted us. He is the source of our nourishment, health, and stability. We see the arrangements that are pulled together for others, the displays of color that bring joy and satisfaction...temporarily, and we want that. But we fail to realize that the most fulfilling place to be is rooted in the truth, whether we like it or not.
While I look at the areas of my own life where I've allowed the weeds of deceit to cause discontentment, I'm also grieving for my sweet friend, praying and waiting for the rejoicing that will come when she surrenders to God's best for her life.

Psalm 126:6
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.


Forgiven Forever

Before you committed your first sin
Sins were forgiven forever.
Before you confessed your sinful nature
Sins were forgiven forever.
Before you continued to struggle with sin in the flesh
Sins were forgiven forever.
You are a child of God, a perfected saint, because
Sins were forgiven forever.
You have a new covenant written on your heart, because
Sins were forgiven forever.
No offering or sacrifice is needed, because
Sins were forgiven forever.
Your sins are remembered no more, because
Sins were forgiven forever.
Two thousand years ago
Sins were forgiven forever.

Hebrews 10:11-18
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,  “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.



Name - from sinner to saint
Eternity - from death to life
Walk - from flesh to Spirit

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:16-21


Summertime in My Heart

“To everything there is a season…”
…except, of course, for flip-flops. I’m pretty sure even Solomon would have agreed. I mean, didn’t he wear sandals year-round?
It’s so hard to say goodbye to summer…some years harder than others. It’s not that I don’t love other seasons. I love the Fall colors, crisp air, pumpkins, and crunchy leaves. I even love a good Winter snow…if I don’t have to drive in it or shovel it.
But, I miss the sun shining in the mornings urging me to start the day with a smile.
So how do I get through the shorter, darker days? 
I remind myself that I have been given the Son…eternal, bright, and glorious.
Every day the enemy tempts me to forget that I am a completely new creation. He lies about my identity, my worth, and my purpose. He wants to keep me in the dark about the power that I now possess in Christ.
My flesh is used to old habits and sin patterns that confuse and conflict with my spirit. I often place myself back in the chains that have already been broken, and I behave as though I believe the lies of the enemy.
So, I must surround myself with truth. Every day I review what Christ did for me and in me. I read parts of Hebrews and Romans to refresh my memory about my new life, status, and position. I rehearse 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 to dispel any notion that I’m still part sinner rather than fully saint.
Truth melts the cold that threatens to defeat and discourage, and just like the unknown hymn writer says:
               It is summertime in my heart.
               It is summertime in my heart.
               Since Jesus saved me, new life He gave me.
               Even in wintertime it’s summer in my heart.
So, I may be packing up most of the flip-flops (keepin’ a few out just in case), and replacing them with boots, but nothing can replace the summertime that Christ has brought to my heart!


Meditate...Yoga Style

I know there are some in my circles that would not approve of even trying Yoga. Honestly, I've not actually researched why or why not to do it, but I had heard some warnings against "emptying my mind."
Regardless, I went along with someone who'd benefited from the stretching and thought I'd just give it a try. It was very relaxing and felt so good to stretch and release some tension. I was even sore the next day, which means there really is some physical benefit. Due to the warnings, I was prepared for the end of the class when the instructor did, in fact, lead through a process of "emptying the mind." I didn't follow her instructions, well not completely anyway. I did choose to stop thinking about the issues I'd been trying to resolve all day and began secretly rehearsing every Scripture passage that came to mind. While the stretching was beneficial and stress was relieved, I believe it was the focus on God's Word that ultimately left me feeling refreshed and energized for the next task of the day.
Recently, I was challenged again to "...meditate day and night...(Psalm 1:2)" on a particular passage of Scripture. I forced myself to read it over and over, say it out loud, quote it without looking, and as any good teacher would...add some motions! The verses have become precious to me and have come to mind even when I'm not purposing to think about them. They have proven to be "...profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the [wo]man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16)."
I believe that Scripture teaches us to fill our minds with "...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, ...excellence, ...anything worthy of praise...(Phil. 4:8)." So, whether or not I continue to stretch in various poses that improve posture and balance, I will continue to fill my mind with Scripture while emptying it of all other thoughts tempting to consume me. I will choose to meditate day and night on His Word, lifting my hands in praise, bowing to the Divine who lives within me. Namaste.


The best Valentine's Day message...EVER!

Of all the messages you'll receive today...some heartfelt, some manufactured, some honest, some fabricated...there is one true and clear message that you must hear. It comes from the Lover of your soul!

John 3:14-18
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Based on the above verses, fill your mind with these lyrics today:

"Not Guilty Anymore" by Aaron Keyes.
(You can click the link at the bottom to listen...beautiful song!)

It doesn't matter what you've done.
It doesn't matter where you're coming from.
It doesn't matter where you've been.
Hear me tell you, "I forgive."

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

Can you believe that this is true?
Grace abundant I am giving you.
Cleansing deeper than you know.
All was paid for long ago.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

There is now therefore 
No condemnation
For those who are in Jesus.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You are spotless.
You are holy.
You are faultless.
You are whole.
You are righteous.
You are blameless.
You are pardoned.
You are mine.

You're not guilty anymore.
You're not filthy anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not broken anymore.
You're not captive anymore.
I love you.
Mercy is yours.

You're not guilty anymore.
Not guilty anymore.

Click here to listen to this song. May your heart be overwhelmed with God's love today!


Out With the Old

We love new - new toys, new clothes, new friends, new books, new projects, new seasons, new jobs, new houses...new years. All hold the promise of something exciting and fresh, and frequently offer closure from some old things - friends, projects, seasons, jobs, and years - that weren't so wonderful.

I especially love new crayons - sharp, unused, perfect Crayola® crayons. I love them so much that I don’t actually want to use them because the moment I do is the moment they begin their decline. Call it OCD, if you must, but I’m willing to bet that many of you have stocked up during school supply shopping season just as I have. A girl can never have too many boxes of brand new crayons, right? In fact, knowing I have a few extra boxes in the drawer helped to relieve some anxiety when I sat down to color with my niece this Christmas (God bless her 6-year-old, not-so-gentle grip) and when my 14-month-old nephew got a hold of what he must have thought were carrot sticks.

So as the Director of Children’s Ministry (a.k.a. authorized purchaser of brand new crayons), my New Year’s challenge to all of you is to throw out the old crayons! All of them! Who wants to start a new year anyway with all of those broken, dull crayons that are missing their wrappers so that you are not even sure you've grabbed black, midnight blue, or denim?

“But, wait!” you say, “I can melt the old crayons and make a candle with my kids.”

Ummm…right. Okay, go for it. But, your child will never be able to use the crayons for their intended purpose again…ever! And chances are, the basket in which you've been collecting the pieces has fallen over countless times in the craft/linen/toiletries closet, and you still haven’t purchased the wicks or collected all the baby food jars you need for the project…and your child is now 18.

“But, wait!” you try again, “Waste not, want not! We’ll just add them to the basket, and eventually all of them will get used up.” Seriously? When have you ever placed a basket of crayons on the table in front of a child and they've willingly chosen the fat ones with specks of other colors all over them, the ones with the wrappers torn down, or the ones that are so small they have to pick them up with their fingernails? I’m guessing…NEVER. And, let’s be honest, you've never chosen those either. Am I right?

 So let me say it again: Don’t save them, and definitely don’t throw new ones in with the old. Throw them away, and start with a NEW box!

In many ways, we view our salvation like a box of new crayons. We have been born again. The old is gone and we have become new. We are new creations. We have the new life of Christ. So beautiful. So perfect. 

Unfortunately, however, we also try to mix our new life with our old.

So how do we throw out the old? How do we live in this new righteousness that we now possess through the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)?

Let me share with you what has been working for me since I have embraced my new life. I confess I still have hurts that are easier to hang on to than to forgive, habits that are self-gratifying and addicting, and hang-ups that keep me from experiencing the fullness of the “abundant life” that Christ died to give me (John 10:10). So, I’ve taken one at a time and have experienced true freedom from them in this way:
  • I daily saturate myself in the Truth that I have been made new! Some days it takes more effort than others, and I listen to sermons online by preachers that are known for their new covenant teaching. Other times I call my mother, because she never forgets to remind me Who I am in Christ. Sometimes I go back and read portions of books that have changed my attitude toward righteousness, like this quote that I love from the book The Hurt & the Healer by Bart Millard (lead-singer of Mercy Me) and Andrew Farley (Best-selling author and pastor of Ecclesia, a church in Lubbock, TX):
God has done more than credit righteousness to our spiritual bank account. He has actually brought real change to our human spirit, the core of our being. His Spirit has come to live in us, and he has literally and actually made us new and righteous on the inside. We have undergone a change of nature. This is very different from God simply calling us righteous or looking at us “as if” we were righteous. It is a new birth, a regeneration, a DNA swap, a heart surgery, a literal transformation as we have been born of God’s Spirit (John 3: 6; 1   John 5: 4).
Farley, Andrew; Millard, Bart (2013-08-15). Hurt & The Healer, The (Kindle Locations 558-562). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That means that these hurts, habits, and hang-ups are not me anymore. They are the old life that has been replaced, and I’m coloring with the new.
  • I have forgiven those who have hurt me, and have confessed my faults to dear brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for me and who check in on how I’m doing. I know, easier said than done, but there has to be a reason that the Hebrew author said, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16, NKJV).” I have experienced this healing. It works! And in addition, I have been blessed with the added bonus of new and dear friendships. 
So, away with the pride that kept me using that dull red…or…ummm, orange red?…or maybe that’s scarlet…crayon!
    • Stop sinning. Again, you’re probably thinking, “Not so easy.” And you’re right. The web of deceit has entangled us, and it’s hard to break free. But what did Jesus say to the adulterous woman in John 8
    He didn’t say, “What were you thinking you horrible woman? You are not permitted into the temple again until you’ve confessed in front of the town, met for counseling with our head Pharisee, and gone through a Bible study about sexual immorality (which consequently may entice you to think about it more than you ever have).”
    Nope, in verse 11, Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Basically, He said, “Stop. Here’s a new, whole, spotless, creamy white crayon. Don’t use the old speckled one anymore. ” 
    I have struggled with some very bad habits (shocking, I know). Let's just call them what they are...sins. Every time I am tempted, I have a choice. Because I now possess the righteousness of God through my belief in His Son, I have the power, the desire, and the ability to say no. I can even stop after initially choosing yes. I can gladly claim victory over these addictive behaviors. Jesus Christ can break the power of cancelled sin and set me free. It doesn’t mean the temptations have disappeared. The Enemy is too hateful to take them away. I am tempted often, but I look the other way, turn to another channel, and cry out to God as I step in the opposite direction. Don’t misunderstand me to say that sin is no longer a part of my daily battle. I still have flesh that gets tired, irritable, hungry, and craves immediate gratification. But I’m dropping my old crayons-one at a time-as I reach for the new ones I’ve been given.
    My prayer is that in this new year you will experience and embrace the newness that is “You in Christ.”

    So, out with the old! In with the YOU!

    ~Rebecca Phillips