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When the Familiar is the Enemy

In the future, I am going to budget $30 every May for a steroid shot.

And I’ll arrange to pick it up two days after Memorial Day.

Just when everyone is picnic-ing and playing cornhole and eating hamburgers, I am over in a corner shoving as many three-leafed poison ivy plants into my mouth and making clothes out of their vines.

Apparently.

Whether it be death by weeding my flower beds, or on this occasion, sleeping next to my husband, I am doomed to suffer by its miserable tongue.

And this is how I celebrate summer. A steroid shot, followed by three weeks of NO SUN EXPOSURE. Can you say torture?! The sun, the beautiful sun, has come to visit, and I am cursed to remain indoors.

In hindsight, if I had known that I would catch the contagious thing simply by laying on the same sheets as my infectious husband, I would most definitely have cocooned myself at night. Or worn long sleeves. Or hunkered up next to the bed on a sleeping bag. ANYTHING. But there is just something weird about sleeping in a California King-size bed by yourself. (Who am I kidding? It’s AWESOME.)

The familiar is often the reason why we curl up next to the enemy and don’t sense the threat.

There are things that we are okay with simply because “we have always done it”, or it brings back good memories, or it’s all we know.

Maybe we don’t need to second-guess everything we do, but there are some areas of our lives that we all could benefit from this looking-inside and asking the Spirit whether the activity we habitually turn to for comfort or enjoyment is the best choice.

In the book of Galatians, Paul explains the difference between living by the law and living by the Spirit. This means we no longer need to box things in, building fences miles away from the sin in order to eliminate all questionable behavior. This is perhaps the easiest way to live the Christian life, because it requires no thought, no self-inspection. No searching the heart and realigning our motives and thoughts with God’s Word. If we stay out of the flower bed altogether, we won’t have to pull the weeds we find there.

This is where the work comes in. It is far harder to examine our hearts and seek the Scriptures to find an answer rather than relying on a man-made standard to dictate our lives.

What does walking in the Spirit look like? Is there a time when setting rules and boundaries is appropriate? Absolutely. Sin is ALWAYS an established fence in Scripture, and for our own good. It is built so that we can know what to stay away from. The Bible is clear on these things, and no way you look at it can compromise the boundary. Exodus lists ten things that are such boundaries.

But in the New Testament, another fence appears to have been build even further back than the first one. This fence says that not only is murder wrong, but hating someone is the same thing. Not only is being in bed with someone who is not your spouse adultery, but so is looking at someone and thinking about being in bed with them. This new fence indicates a shift in priorities…. no longer does just the behavior require attention. The motive and thought and intent behind the behavior do, too.

Because the Spirit of the law says that our words and actions proceed from our hearts (Matthew 12:34), we must keep our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). If we tend to our hearts and ask the Lord to seek us and know us, then we won’t have to so rigidly examine our actions and behaviors. They will naturally align with the state of our heart. This doesn’t mean we will never make a wrong choice or need to ask forgiveness for something. Our heart is, at its basest form, deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). It will not always naturally want to do the right thing. But the way the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in our lives is if we abide in the Lord.

This passage brings me great comfort:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5).

So in the areas of dress, music, even what we put in our mouths and how much… if instead of cozying up to the comfortable or familiar and doing what we’ve always done, let’s ask the Spirit to show us the places where danger is lurking. Even the places that are good…. like church attendance and tithing… where are our hearts? Are they in a good place? Are we doing these things for the right reason, or to get praise from men? Are we missing opportunities to minister because we have drawn a line so far back that we don’t associate with anyone who is “beneath us” spiritually? Are we seeking the Lord and His Word about our activities, or relying on our pastor to tell us what is righteous?

Living by the Spirit is a higher standard. It may require us to come out of our comfort zone and lovingly confront. It may mean drawing a larger boundary than anyone else around us thinks is necessary. It may mean avoiding places or movies that affect us in the wrong way. It may mean starting conversations that would normally be awkward for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.

It will certainly be mean being more quiet. Listening more to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Let’s invite Him in to every area of our lives. Let’s learn to walk by the Spirit.

Let’s get so familiar with the Spirit that we will sense the threats around us.

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Self-Talk Matters

Proverbs-lampandlight-graphics-DAY9Do you ever have “one of those weeks”? When you don’t want to wake up and face the known? Or, worse yet, the unknown? When you want to leave your phone off so you don’t get any more bad news? When you want to stop living because it’s just. too. hard?

This is exactly what the enemy wants to happen. He has tried his dead-level best in my 30 short years to make sure I know that I am not valuable, not loveable, not funny enough, not skinny enough, not capable enough, not good enough, not enough.

And just when I think I’ve replaced his lies with God’s truth, a different circumstance with a very familiar underpinning comes back to haunt me and I find myself once again in the labarynth of confusion and poor self-talk. And once you start believing something? You start living it.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

If he can get us to question our value to God, or to begin to wonder if He really loves us, or ask why He would do such things to us, he knows we will eventually start interpreting life with the burnt-orange colored glasses of hell’s fire. We will actually start seeing circumstances as reinforcements of the truth we have begun to believe.

I can’t believe they won’t return my phone call. They never loved me more than everyone else in their lives.

I knew he wouldn’t stick around forever. People always leave. Why do I insist on getting attached?

I could turn my phone off for an entire week and no one would notice that I’m gone. The impression I’m leaving on the world holds so much magnitude I could measure it with a teaspoon.

It starts with one statement and escalades to several mini-statements and thoughts, and just that quick he’s got us.

Because then we are cynnical and bitter and it eventually leads to an egotistical attitude or one of severe depression.

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And the enemy has us right where he wants us.

Hey, you? We have a choice in the part we play in this story. We can choose to sit aside idly letting bitterness soak into our veins. Or we can choose victory. Joy in the face of despair. Gratitude in the brink of untimely affairs. Peace in the midst of the war for our soul.

We get to choose whether we believe the lie. Whether we let down the guard to our soul and believe the untruth that we are not valuable, not loveable, not beautiful.

What we say to ourselves matters. There is death and life in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).

 

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But Jesus didn’t fight for a meaningless, unloveable, ugly bride. And He will one day present us without blemish and fault before all of heaven. And the accuser will be no more.

The accuser can accuse only as long as we allow him to. He may have more than enough evidence of our malignment to pronounce us guilty, but it is overcome by the blood of the Lamb. Satan’s accusations count for nothing at the foot of the cross.

Are the accusations coming at you like a ton of bricks? Are you believing the lies that your heart, your deceitful heart, are telling you? Then perhaps you may have relocated.

Don’t let the enemy evict you. Get back to the foot of the cross. Get your body, mind, spirit, soul, and attitudes back to the cross. The accuser cannot and will not reside there.

God hasn’t moved.

Me? I’ll be picking up some change of address forms.

 

 

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Pssst… if you liked this blog, then you will LOVE the devotional that just released from our shop. Proverbs: The Path to Wisdom is available here! Also, our FREE Bible study group on Facebook is going to be walking through this study together beginning June 14! Join this amazing community of women here!

 

Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She is also a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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Proverbs is here!

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We are so excited to announce the debut of our newest Bible study called Proverbs: The Path to Wisdom! Not only is this book beautiful with its summery beach theme, but it highlights the treasures of wisdom to be found in perhaps one of the most popular books in the Bible.

 

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The study deals with practical issues such as our words, trusting the Lord, friendship, and the Proverbs 31 woman.

With application and reflection questions at the end of each topic, we pray that you will find the wisdom of Proverbs penetrating your heart! These questions make this study wonderful for individuals or groups!

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Would you love to join an online Bible Study Group that will encourage you and keep you accountable to the Word? We would love to have you walk through the Proverbs study with us in our FREE Bible Study Facebook community. You will find videos, tips, and an amazing group of encouraging women that love the Lord! Join the group here!

 

Grab a copy of Proverbs | The Path of Wisdom and join us!!! We begin the Proverbs study on 6/14!

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Hope Deferred

KS-Instas-May25-17-blog6The death of a dream always means the birth of a new promise. It is hardest to believe when walking through the ashes of what you thought would be your future. Wading through shallow shattered hopes can almost drown you in waves of sadness.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. When those hopes are our hopes.

Before the way of faith was made available to us, we were placed under guard by the Law…. It was our guardian until Christ came. The law. The dreaded law. Yet, it was our protector for some time. It was what kept our depravity at bay. It was our foster parent until our Father adopted us. It was our lawyer until the Judge came. It was our thermometer until the Healer arrived. It was the bank we measured our eternal rewards by until we gained our inheritance. It was the way we got our identity until Christ BECAME our identity. We were like the rich young ruler, craving perfection in law-keeping but lacking so much knowledge in life-gaining.

They were told that Jesus would come, to believe that one day He would be sent. But I know there were times that Abraham wondered when. When Moses wondered how. When even the man who was born to prepare the way for Christ wondered from a jail cell if He was truly the One the prophecies referred to. When the disciples wondered as they fled during Christ’s crucifixion if they had somehow missed the boat and this guy wasn’t really the One Who would crush Rome and save them from oppression.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. When those hopes are our hopes.

I have a new appreciation for it, this law. In an odd sense, it was my chaperone until I married the chaperone. Now, with the Judge Himself granting me grace, I no longer have to live in fear of the consequences of the law. He has freed me from its wages. This does not mean I am no longer bound to any rules, simply that the rules changed. I now do time, not because it is my sentence, but because it shows the immensity of my gratitude.

The death of the law made way for the promise of life. Without the law, what promise would we have? The dark backdrop of the law was illuminated by the brightness of the Child of Promise who ushered in grace. Without the darkness, we would perhaps never realize the magnitude of our salvation. We would take for granted that we were roaming free without chains. But when Jesus breaks the padlock and we leave our shackles behind?

We never forget the beauty of it. It is a defining moment.

Just like the moment of “I do”. The moment of the baby’s first cry. The moment of the body-dunking in baptism. These moments stand etched on our memories and are reminders of who we are and where we come from.

And where we are going.

Those moments of despair? The moments of “no” or “not yet”s? The moment the doctor gives the diagnosis? The moment the casket closes? The moment the baby’s heart stops beating? The day they walked out? Or you did?

The day our hopes die?

He scoops up the ashes and wipes the tears. He takes us by the hand, leads us away from that pile of crushed hopes and broken dreams, points to the cross and says, “This is better than what you wanted. Just wait and see.”

And I beg you, through the tears, to believe the promise. To trade your hopes for the faith to believe that His hopes are better. I’ve heard it said that if your situation isn’t good yet, then He isn’t done with it. This is not a prosperity gospel. It is the promised Gospel.  God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

The death of the law brought the promise of grace. And although it is challenging to sever the attachment, no greater freedom has been found.

With every death comes life. We bring our broken dreams to the cross and He trades them for more… more than we could ask or think. Life abundant.

Life abundantly more than you thought it could be.

When our hopes are no longer ours but every bit His…. then we can be sure they will come to fruition.

And that’s a promise you can bank on.

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The Great Exchange

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Safe.

I would wager that this word means a variety of things to different people. Until recently, I didn’t use that word much. I would say it’s because I never felt that my safety was threatened. In hindsight, though, I feel maybe it’s because I didn’t know what safe really was.

Most think of it in the physical realm: safety from harm. That is definitely a factor. In the Bible belt, we throw around the term “saved”, meaning that we are exempt from eternal judgment because of our acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin.

But hear me on this: just because a person is saved doesn’t mean he is safe.

When I speak of safe, I feel warmth. I immediately picture people and houses and memories. Safe conjures up in me a  feeling of security and acceptance. My secrets are kept secrets and my shortcomings are addressed but forgiven and my name is protected behind my back. My goodness is not measured and my flaws are not showcased and my bad hair days are not terms for divorce. My opinions matter and my voice is heard and my likes and dislikes are recognized and my words are cherished. Safe also means that there is equal give-and-take, whether in conversations or sharing of gifts or in heart-bearing. Safe means that it matters if I am in the room.

At first, I thought this idea of safe being an emotion not related to physical protection was preposterous. But when I started searching it out in God’s Word, I was amazed to see that the Lord confirmed this idea. He speaks often of safety from fear (Job 21:9), from the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25), from fear of evil (Proverbs 1:33), and even from “him that puffs” (Psalm 12:5)! A puffer in the Hebrew is the word puwach, meaning “to kindle (a fire), scoff, bring into a snare.”

Proverbs 18:10 speaks of the Name of the Lord being a strong tower, and while He could be speaking of physical protection, I most often find myself whispering His Name when I am feeling overwhelmed. Don’t you?

Job 11:18 speaks of security bringing about HOPE so that we can rest in safety. That’s not often a word associated with safety. But I feel safe with people who have dreams for me. Because they can hope for me when I’ve given up.

Psalm 31:20 says, “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy Presence from the PRIDE OF MAN: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the STRIFE OF TONGUES” (emphasis mine). (Whatever happened to “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”?)

Proverbs 1:33 says that WISDOM causes safety. The free will we are given makes us responsible for deciding what situations are safe to be in and with whom we should feel secure.

Proverbs 31:11 gives a stunning report that the Virtuous Woman’s husband “safely trusts in her” not to bring him ruin. That was the degree to which he trusted her. He felt safe with her, in EVERY way possible. Do most husbands fear their wives will harm them? I think it would be rare if they did. But Mr. VW knew he could trust her to protect his name behind his back, provide financially for their family, and not squander his resources or his reputation.

I love the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the words “safe”, “safety”, and “safely.”

Yasha contains the meaning “free, avenging, preserve, get victory.”

Betach was one of my favorites to define “safe”: “both the fact (security) and the feeling (trust); place of refuge, assurance, boldly, confidence, hope, surely.”

Shelah means “prosperity” and shalah means “to be tranquil, successful, secure, happy, to be in safety.”

Sagab goes beyond the act of rescuing to include these words in its definition: “exalt, set up on, be too strong.” I don’t think He is simply speaking of physically pushing a kid on a swing to touch the clouds. Job 5:11 says, “To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.” Jesus recognized that true safety goes way deeper than surface physical security. It has everything to do with our emotions, our mental capacity, and even our melancholy. The feeling of safety not only describes our physical condition, but also our spiritual condition.

I think I could go so far as to say that if I am to feel safe with a person, not only do I not fear harm, but I can trust in that person to lift me up and promote my success and ensure my peace in any way possible.

My intention is not to make you unsatisfied with the people or situations in your life, but to encourage you to run to Jesus for your safety. While wisdom can be used to create a place of safety, I know there are positions you will find yourself in that require you to remain. I encourage you to determine if you really are bound by the Word to remain in those relationships or situations, or if living in fear of the unknown is just easier than courage.

Don’t miss that.

If you are currently surrounded by things and people who do not scream SAFE to you, but you know you are where you need to be, take heart. Let me be clear: Jesus very well may call us to do un-safe things or to surround ourselves with un-safe people. But He does call us to remain in His love and claim His peace and security regardless of the unsafe things He may call us to do.

Similarly, if you are in your comfort zone now and feel safe simply because you have created such an environment for yourself, then your safe is in the wrong place and will only last as long as your circumstances cooperate.

The freedom for me came when I recognized that I did not feel safe and dug deeper to find out why. And when I realized that my safety came SOLELY from Jehovah, it changed everything.

As you think about your life in light of these definitions, do you truly feel safe? I will tell you from experience that it is possible to create an environment of safe for others with cards of affirmation and calls of care and gifts of graciousness and have it somehow create in you that feeling of safe. But it is temporary.

Jesus intends to fulfill safe in us. And until you feel safe with Him and His character, it will be well-nigh impossible for you to find safe in the world around you. Security and safety go hand-in-hand. People who act insecure do not feel safe. And you do not feel safe with them because they do not emit security in and of themselves. They are desperately trying to create a place of safety and are going about it from the wrong angle. You can’t create that place of safety. Only God can give it to you. This final Scripture is the most important. Proverbs 21:31 says that safety is of the Lord. He is the source.

The Hand with the power to save ultimately has the power to keep you safe.

And when you beg for it, He will give. Abundantly above anything we could ask or think. He can bestow better work places and happier family members and truer friends and peaceful homes where we feel safe. We can have hearts to confide in and hands to hold and souls who are just as concerned with our interests and ministries as they are their own. And if He doesn’t, we can rest in the safety that we find in Him even though everything around us might be falling to pieces.

This is the desire He has for us: to take our insecurity and replace it with safety.

It’s part of what we call the Great Exchange.

Cara Cobble Trantham is a freelance writer whose passion is to encourage women of all ages to draw closer to the Lord. She lives in Greeneville, Tennessee, with her husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves to send cards in magazine envelopes, counsel ladies over sugar and cream (with a little bit of coffee), and read a good book at the beach. Her bucket list includes eating pizza in Chicago, staying at a bed and breakfast in Savannah, and following a recipe without leaving out an ingredient.

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