How to Grow In Grace

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Last year was a hard year but a good year.  And by the great grace of God, I have come out a better person because of it.  “Better?”, you ask?  Yes, not just better as a survivor of some horrible event, but thriving as a “growing in grace” kind of person and better because of what I experienced.  Here are few lessons I’ve gained:

1.  Acceptance:  Often we think that we are in control of our lives.  I’ve found that we can certainly own our lives to an extent but then there are some things, events, or occurrences like death, cancer, or accidents that you wrestle with but in the end have to accept.  No one likes to submit to what can’t be controlled.  However, one of the hard truths about life and death is that every person alive needs to accept what life hands them.  For instance, death has a place in everyday living.   Get used to it because death insinuates itself at the most inconvenient moment.

2.  Trust:  Since we are talking about death, along with dying comes the mourning and grieving process.  My friend once texted me (after I made a “faith” move) with a three-worded message:  “Trust the process”.  These words are sound advice.  The process of trusting is hard in itself and requires a deep faith but to accept what you can’t control and use self-control for what you can’t accept is truly the essence of living by faith.

There’s a process to learn faith in the deeper parts of life, like trying to understand life and death itself.  I believe death is one of life processes where understanding only comes in the grieving and you have to give space for mourning.

3.  Agreement:  One of my close missionary associates once said to our team, “How about we just agree with the Lord!”  My eyes met another team members’ confirmation to understand that the Lord was definitely opening our eyes and unstopping our ears in one accord (agreement) in a power-filled lunch.  Whoa, what an impartation!

Jesus actually said to do this, to agree with his teaching in John 8:31-32  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Agreeing with the Lord means holding to the teaching of Jesus for the purpose of true freedom.  There’s no going your own way AND the way of culture.  You can own your life by being accountable for your actions but you have to trust the leadership of spiritual mentors in your life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  It’s when you hold to righteous teaching then you will make progress and experience freedom on a whole new level.

4.  Leadership:  To grow in the knowledge of God by faith you have to live within the teachings of Jesus.  He started with a small group of willing people who were seeking some direction in their lives.  At the end of his ministry, Jesus had a band of brothers who were well-versed in the disciplines of learning, teaching and evangelizing.  Believers often skip the fact that this training was difficult, or intense, or challenging.  In all actuality, they were with Jesus as He walked, taught, and touched lives.  We have been given the same opportunity to be among those who are looking for a relationship with Jesus and we can easily lead them by the way we live our lives.  We can lead with what we know about Jesus and how He has touched our life.  Share that…it will take you far in leadership.

5.  Influence:  To be under the influence doesn’t mean the same anymore.  I’m not talking about drinking alcohol or smoking pot.  I’m speaking of the spiritual influence of total submission to the Holy Spirit.  The fact is once you examine the life Jesus lived he was led by the same Holy Spirit that we have access to.  He was all man and all divine.  You might say, “A perfect life was easy for Jesus!”  Yes, He lived a perfect life.  He butted up against sin many times but never did; was tempted by Satan himself, and He was tormented as He took a confident stand for all mankind!  For the entire time Jesus walked the earth, he was walking in his own humanity but totally submitted to the influence of the Holy Spirit.  We, as believers weren’t given a junior version of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that empowered Jesus is the same Helper that believers submit to.  Want to live a sinless life?  Go ALL IN unto the power of the Holy Spirit and be a person of influence under the Influencer.

What I’ve learned has been gained by applying the Biblical teaching into my everyday life.  Life is a good teacher and we have the choice to respond to every occurrence or situation.  But when it comes down to the end of the day, we all have to reconcile our responses and experiences under the lens of faith.  This is living the Christian life as a disciple of Christ.  It’s full of power, disciplines, and experiences that will help you Home.  There’s nothing like an encounter with God that will meet you where your history has left you.  There’s more beyond what we know, I am grateful and am all in the growing in grace.

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Count It All Joy Through Gratitude

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I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11 (NIV)

My last post was about joy, counting it ALL joy, and the gap in between our dreams and reality.  At least finding joy a habit was my intention.  I realize this week gratitude is directly connected to the golden thread of relationships, happiness, and abundance in life. If you’re like me, you can read a post about joy and think it’s all pink and rosy every day.  I hear you saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be more grateful.  It might work for her but she doesn’t live out in my life.  It won’t work for me.”

Oh friends, it’s time to stop kicking the tires on this life and embrace it for all it’s worth.  Let’s all go bravely forward and count it all joy.

I like to go beyond a nice idea or a concept.  It’s one idea to live with joy but it’s a whole new way to live with God’s joy.  I’m all about application and gathering the tools of creativity, words of gratitude, love, applied discipline, to understand and get a hold of the way the concept works in your everyday life. Until you practice and witness your own shifts and awakenings, none of this makes much impact.  Have confidence by faith!  Joy is attainable and is a good idea.  Do you follow me so far?

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 (ESV)

The Bible is a great start to instructing us how to live and how to count everything for joy, but it’s not the whole letter of the law.  You also have to apply joy to your life.

What does living in joy look like?  It’s daily looking and adopting God’s ways into your life. I encourage everyone to keep a gratitude journal. Be grateful when God teaches you how to live.  It’s a way to bring His character into our weaknesses.  For me, when I feel left out or last in line, I go to my gratitude journal and make a list of all the ways I am blessed.  Believe me when I say this, if you think you aren’t blessed to live in the land of the free and home of the brave, travel internationally to suffering and oppressed nations.  You will notice the difference immediately.  Gratitude journals can turn whining and complaining into thankfulness and appreciation.

So, what is a gratitude journal?

A gratitude journal is a blank notebook where you write lists for which you are grateful. Every night, before you go to bed, you take about three minutes to write down a list of five things (or any do-able number).

Some days, you might be feeling particularly abundant, and those five things just fly onto the page.

Some days, it might feel like you can’t think of even two things. Then you remember how you have a roof over your head or food to eat. Next, you remember your cat (again) and you have hot water to get clean and drink.  No matter what you’re feeling, find time to write down at least five things every single night.  And they don’t have to be new and different.

My experience is when I write out what I’m grateful for, those items add joy to my day.  I become more in tune throughout the next day. It’s like turning on an inner-switch, and sets your awareness to look for joys to journal each night. So you might be driving out of your neighborhood in the morning, and catch the flash of a cardinal in the sunlight, and instead of blowing it off, you stop and notice it for a moment. You take it in. And you make a mental note to include the bird in your gratitude journal. Then, when you’re having lunch with a co-worker, she grabs the check and pays it. And not only do you thank her, but you make a mental note again (I carry a small notebook and pen in my purse). Your day becomes a basket where you collect things. The joy habit soon comes to life!  In essence, you become a joy and gratitude magnet. And oddly enough, cool things start to find you. But you have to learn to be grateful now for all what you already have.

When you really try this, you will see how your joy increases.  You see, Jesus is joy and anytime you notice the things He put in your path to bring joy or a smile to your face, His intentions change your intentions.  Now not everything in this world is joyful.  Believe me when I say, you can choose how you see the things of this world and how to respond to the world around you.  When you feel the smile of Heaven, it makes a difference in your soul.

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!  John 15:11 (NLT)

(Notice I posted a joy verse in different ways to help you see how grateful I am for reward of seeking joy in all things.  Gratitude shapes your perspective!)