Mirror, Mirror

“For we are God’s Masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT).

a beautiful vintage mirror

Many of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy, rejection, insecurity, and defectiveness.  Oftentimes, we exert more energy focusing on Satan’s lies rather than God’s truths.  We allow the self-deprecating, mental recording we have created over time due to past experiences and hurts to play in our minds repeatedly.  We walk around wrapped in a blanket of depression and defeat.  Can you relate?  Allow me to offer you truth.  Allow what I am about to tell you to trickle down from your heads and into your hearts.  You are God’s masterpiece!  Yes, even you.  When we enter into self-loathing, what we are really doing is criticizing God’s own, masterful handiwork — His “greatest piece of work … done with masterly skill … a consummate example of skill or excellence.”

Certainly, our self-image is shaped over time by our personal experiences and human interactions.  My desire is not to dismiss or diminish those events, but rather to encourage you to take control over that recording in your head.  I hope we all want the lives that Jesus died for us to live.  In order for us to have that life, we must know what it is that God says about us and get our minds in agreement with His Word.  Our self-image must align with what it is that God says, not the world.

Sadly, I have wasted many precious years, time I fervently hope to save you, trapped in a mire of self-hatred.  For a long time, and even though I had been a church-going Christian most of my life, I did not fully comprehend or accept who I was in Christ.  Even now, when I am battling many of life’s challenges and feeling weary and overwhelmed, I find myself falling into old habits and dipping a toe in that proverbial mud. During these challenging times, we must be proactive in doing spiritual warfare.  We must invest time and work into replacing those negative recordings with the following truths that apply to us all:

  1. I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).
  2. I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
  3. I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
  4. I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).
  5. I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).
  6. I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).
  7. I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).
  8. I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
  9. I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  10. I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
  11. I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).
  12. I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).
  13. I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).
  14. I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).
  15. I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  16. I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).
  17. I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).
  18. I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
  19. I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).
  20. I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).
  21. I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  22. I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11;1 Thessalonians 5:23).
  23. I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  24. I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).
  25. I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).
  26. I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  27. I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).
  28. I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
  29. I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  30. I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).
  31. I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  32. I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).
  33. I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).
  34. I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
  35. I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and longsuffering (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).
  36. I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).
  37. I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
  38. I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).
  39. I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).
  40. I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).
  41. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
  42. I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).
  43. I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
  44. I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).
  45. I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).
  46. I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).
  47. For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
  48. It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).

God has provided us the weaponry we need to combat Satan’s lies.  We just have to use it.  There is great power in knowledge and I hope now you have a better understanding of who you are in Christ.  With persistence, you are capable of replacing those negative recordings with God’s truth.  Allow the Word to serve an intended purpose … to act as medicine to your soul. Spit in Satan’s face by looking in the mirror each day and reminding yourself of who you really are … God’s very own masterpiece!  God bless you.

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

 

“Tie a Knot”

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand” Isaiah 41:10 (AMP).

HangingByAThread

Life can be overwhelming.  At times, it seems as though there is an evil, sadistic man secretly writing traumatic scripts for our lives.  I envision this beastly man cloaked in tattered, dark garments.  His hair is thin and stark white.  His skin is the color of ash.  I see him seated in a dim, sparse room.  The layer of dust that coats every surface makes the room smell musty.  He sits hunched over a broken-down desk and tightly clutches his pen.  His face twists and contorts in concentration as he feverishly scrawls out page after page.  Only the sound of his pen scratching across paper can be heard.  Amusement flickers in his beady, blood-shot eyes as he quickly skims his handiwork.  A wicked smile crosses his thin lips.  He takes great pleasure in authoring countless scenes filled with turmoil and heartache.  His name is Misery (a/k/a Satan).

Alright, while I admit that I have what some might consider an overindulged imagination, I think you will agree with me when I say life is hard … really hard!  It can also be quite disappointing and unfair.  During these “testing times,” we often lose faith.  Without faith, there is no hope.  It is then that we begin asking the age-old questions, “why, God, why?” and “when, God, when?”  I am no certainly no exception!  Today, I encourage you to cling to hope.  Allow me to begin by sharing with you some sage advice once told to me by my mom. “If you find yourself hanging on by a thread and quickly losing your grip, tie a knot.”

I believe the hardest part about writing is getting started.  Oftentimes, writing can be a chore and I have with it a love-hate relationship.  For me, writing serves as an outlet.  It is a way for me to collect my scattered thoughts and put words to my feelings in hopes of making sense of them.  I write to help heal my brokenness. Because it was something that I almost always did in secret, writing never caused me fear or trepidation.  It is something altogether different, however, when I expose to the world my deepest thoughts and darkest secrets.  Yet, I reluctantly submit in hopes that my own experiences will somehow touch others and help them deepen their relationship with God.  It has taken me some time to muster the courage to write this post.  Caveat … part of what I am about to share will likely shock or possibly hurt loved ones now reading.

On a Friday night not so long ago, I sat precariously on the bed while staring down at a loaded, .38 caliber handgun.   Tears streamed down my face as I seriously contemplated ending my life.  It would be easy, I thought … just point and pull the trigger.  Ashamedly, I did not think about my loved ones.  Instead, I simply thought about the mess I would create.  Irrational thoughts and haunting memories threatened to overtake me.  While my entire life had been riddled with heartbreak and disappointment, I had always managed to get up, dust off, and move forward stronger than before. On this night, however, I could not find an ounce of fight left in me.  I was tired and I just wanted rest.  I cannot adequately describe the confusion, pain, and desperation I felt in those moments.

There were many events leading up to that evening.  Just months prior, I had finally given in to grieving the loss of my mom and was wading through those turbulent waters.  Up until then, I think I lived in denial.  While I knew she had died, I would not allow my mind to process exactly what that meant.  Any time she entered my thoughts, I promptly suppressed her memory.  I was again struggling with chronic pain from a debilitating, autoimmune disease I have battled since puberty. My husband and I were being crippled by financial hardships and were suffering one costly blow after another.  That night, the pressure caused by our circumstances led to us having a heated argument (we almost never argue).  Hurtful words were spoken and, while untrue, they could not be unheard.  I felt solely responsible for our predicament.  I had left my job as an attorney when we moved to Georgia for his new job.  The decision to move was, of course, prayerfully made.  I believed in my heart that God was going to use me in a powerful way and I was excited by the prospect.  While waiting to hear from God about my next, big move, I began a home-based business and spent the year trying to make it work.  That business has been only moderately successful.  I earnestly sought God’s will for my life, but my prayers were met with stony silence.  I felt abandoned and alone.  I had lost all hope.

Something happened to me that night.  As I sat on my bed staring at that gun, too hurt and ashamed to seek God, He found me in the darkness.  In the midst of my torment and wailing, He caused three words to fall into my heart.  Those words were, “tie a knot.”  While the sentiment seems quite simple, it has had a profound effect on me.  Those three words gave me the strength I needed to put down that gun and press on out of the darkness and into the light. I tied a knot.

You may be asking, “Kelli, what does that even mean?”  To me, tying a knot means renewing our faith in God.  It means being proactive and doing spiritual warfare by feeding our faith with God’s Word instead of feeding our doubts with the enemy’s lies.   All of God’s promises are meant for “whosoever.” I am a “whosoever.”  You, too, are a “whosoever” and you can never sink so low as to be out of God’s reach.

Following those events, I found myself studying Job.  Some comparisons between his story and mine are uncanny.  If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to study the book of Job for yourself.  The Bible tells us that Job was blameless and upright in God’s eyes.  He had a reverential fear of God and was the wealthiest and most revered man in the east (northern Arabia).  God allowed Satan to test Job’s faithfulness, however.  In one day, Job lost all of his possessions by thievery and his ten children were killed in a natural disaster.  Later, he was stricken from head to toe with painful boils and disparaged by his wife and friends.  While anguished, and unlike me, Job never lost faith in God.

The book of Job teaches us that suffering may occur for reasons that we do not understand unless or until God reveals them to us (see, for example, John 9:1-7).  As was the case with Job, trials may come because God needs to know something about a faithful servant (Genesis 22:1-12).

The message of Job also has deep implications for our relationship with God.  Trials and tribulations provide spiritual enrichment.  They help build a relationship between us and God (II Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 12:4-12; James 1:2-4; and 1 Peter 4:12-19).  Job further confirms for us that no ironclad relationship exists between suffering and sin.  In other words, just because we as Christians suffer does not mean God is punishing us for sin.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn from Job is that God does not have to answer to anyone for what He does or does not do. Job’s experience teaches us that we may never know the specific reason for suffering, but we must trust in our sovereign, holy, righteous God.  His ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). Since God’s ways are perfect, we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. We cannot expect to understand God’s mind perfectly.  He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Whether we understand it or not, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will. When we do, we will find God in the midst of our trials—possibly even because of our trials. We will see more clearly the magnificence of our God, and we will say, with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).

Friend, no matter what you are going through, God is present and ever-faithful. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV).   God has given us hope as the anchor of our souls (Hebrews 6:19).  This means when we are believing in God’s promises and our minds and emotions war against us because we are tired, have waited a long time, or are facing difficult circumstances, hope keeps us anchored to His promises by faith.

While I still face many challenging circumstances and am still unaware of God’s plan for my life, God has buoyed my strength and renewed my faith.  I now have hope for my future.  Dare to dream!  God has a perfect plan for each of us and wants us all to enjoy an abundant life (see Jeremiah 29:11).

I end with this simple, yet impassioned, plea … never give up!  Even in your darkest days, tie a knot.  We are never so deep as to be out of His reach.  God bless you!

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills. All rights reserved.

 

 

Fruits of the Spirit – FAITHFULNESS

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Picking up my Bible and continuing this writing ministry has caused me a great deal of angst over the last several weeks.  So much so I have put off even attempting it.  In the shroud of darkness that seems to have enveloped me, I sense in my heart God whispering the words, “write through the pain.”  I have resisted stepping out into these troubled waters and have bitterly quarreled with God.  I know writing can and should be cathartic.  Right now, I find it daunting.  Writing this article forces me to feel the full brunt of buried emotions and face brutal realities.  Yet, I relent.  As God is faithful to us, so should we be faithful to Him.  I truly believe this post is as much a lesson for me as it is for you and I suspect, if you stick with me, it will take us in unexpected, yet healing, directions.

Over the past few weeks, I have slowly had to admit to myself that I am angry with God.  Yes … angrywith God.  It is not a fast, red hot anger that cools just as quickly as it sparks.  Rather, it is a deep-seated anger that threatens to take root and live in my heart permanently.  You see, I am heartbroken and this makes me angry.  I know that God could have prevented it and this, too, makes me angry.  Because of this anger, I have struggled to pray.  In essence, I have been giving God the silent treatment.  Imagine the turmoil and hypocrisy.  Here I am, a Christian blogger with a ministry aimed at encouraging others to go deeper in their relationship with God, and I am admitting that I have found myself standing on shaky ground.  Never have I questioned God’s existence, power, or omnipotence.  I have, however, questioned His love for me and have often had the rage-filled question, “where were You in all of this?”

So, why am I so angry?  I am angry because my mom died just over two years ago.  She died.   I cannot tell you how often I have intentionally avoided using the word, “died.” It tastes bitter on the tongue and rips at my heart like jagged shards of glass.  As I sit here now facing reality and contemplating life’s unfairness, a river of tears flows freely and a boulder-sized knot forms in my stomach.  It is hard to breathe.  The heartache feels unbearable.  The pain is such that I have even found myself wishing to join her.  I want to trust that God is with me, but I still feel very alone in my grief.  She was my rock … my best friend.  I talked with her every day.

For over four years, I sat helplessly by as cancer ravaged her body (I wrote more about her story in Fruits of the Spirit – JOY).  I prayed continuous, bold prayers all the while believing God for a miracle.  It never came.  Cancer stole my mom.  I felt, and sometimes still feel, as though God turned a deaf ear to my prayers.  Even now, I sense anger bubble up inside me every time I see or hear the words, “cancer” or “survivor.” Ironically, I am a cancer survivor.

I have never been able to reconcile why God chooses to heal some, but not others and have begun coming to terms with the notion that I may never know.  In fact, I have almost completely given up trying to understand and am committed to fulfilling the promise I made during those final days to never ask God, “why?”  Instead, I choose to cling to faith.  “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact that what is not revealed to the senses]” Hebrews 11:1 (AMP).  When I am hanging by a thread and feeling as though I will lose my grip, I do as my mom wisely advised and I “tie a knot.”

Allow me to briefly explain some aspects of my faith so that you may better understand on what it is that I rely.   I believe that God sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross so that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven where there is no more strife, sickness, suffering, or death.  I believe when Jesus rose from the grave, He forever destroyed death.  I trust that Jesus paid for my sins and secured for me eternal life.  This hope, especially since my mom’s death, has been my foundation.  While I will never be happy that she was taken from me, I trust that I will one day see her again.  Without this faith, life seems hopeless, comfortless, and downright pointless.

So, where was God in all of this?   I am still struggling to fully accept that He was there, loving me and my mom perfectly, all along.  Though comfort does not come quickly or easily, God continues to remind me in various ways, such as family and friends, prayer (yes, my angry, despairing prayers), Bible study, and even nature, that He loves us more than we can comprehend.  He wants to wrap His arms around us and heal our broken hearts.  We just have to let Him in so He can do just that.

Faith is a decision, not a feeling.  We do not lose faith, we choose it.  We cannot rely on our feelings to decide what it is we believe.  Holding onto faith can be a struggle, especially through difficult, messy, misunderstood grief, but living without it is simply unimaginable.  I hope you, too, choose faith.

untitled

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

 

Fruits of the Spirit – PATIENCE

“And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint” Galatians 6:9 (AMP).

There is simply no denying that I have a “type A” personality with healthy doses of “OCD tendencies” sprinkled in.  Quite candidly, I am a perfectionist and I like to be in control of my emotions and circumstances.  When situations arose where I found I had no control, I easily became discouraged and frustrated.  I burdened family and friends with incessant, nonproductive talk about my problems, habitually forgetting they had struggles of their own.  My “woe is me” kicked into high gear.

Over the years, thanks to countless failed attempts to control the uncontrollable, I came to realize that having peace is considerably more precious than having control.  Without peace, we cannot live the joy-filled lives Jesus died for us to live.  “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” John 10:10 (AMP).

For years, I lived life as a “yo yo Christian.”  I constantly went up or down depending on my circumstances.  I desperately needed stability.  I needed peace.  When I finally grew weary enough, I began to crave peace above all else.  I began to understand that while I wanted to have peace in my circumstances, God wanted me to have peace in my heart despite those circumstances.  Peace requires trusting God.  It requires patience.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit only cultivated by trial and is defined as: (1) the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like; (2) an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay; and (3) quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.  By definition, patience is not about our ability to wait. Rather, patience is about our  attitude while we wait.  Do you see the difference?

While many of us desperately desire change in our circumstances, few of us are willing to go through the waiting period and allow God to work. It is only natural to want things to happen quickly and easily when we live in a fast paced society filled with modern conveniences. We want immediate answers to our problems and we oftentimes try reasoning our way through every situation.  Not knowing what to do or when something will change is uncomfortable and quite hard on our flesh.  The reality is, however, waiting is inevitable.  In life, we will be required to wait … a lot.  What we must decide, then, is how we will choose to wait.  Will we choose to trust God and wait with patience while continuing to enjoy our lives?

Allow me to stop here and say what many will find difficult to hear and even harder to accept.  Please know, however, that I say this with love.  My goal is to prompt personal reflection and promote spiritual growth in us all.  My hope is that we all go even deeper with God.  So, here goes … not one of us is smart enough to run our own lifeThere, I said it.  If you do not believe me, consider the messes you have made while impatiently trying to fix problems on your own.  I have made some giant ones!  Think about the days and nights lost worrying and whether worrying really helped improve anything.  We will never get that precious time back.   Despite our decision to either patiently trust God while enjoying peace, or to worry, complain, and commiserate, the ultimate outcome would have been the same.  What would have been different, however, is our attitude and our freedom to enjoy life despite the “storm.”  While we live life forward, we often understand it backward.  Now that we know better, we should endeavor to do better.

The Bible tells us very plainly, “[l]ean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP).  Let me ask you … where do you place your trust?  Do you place it in your frail, imperfect abilities, or do you place it in our perfect, all-knowing God?

You may be wondering what you should do while patiently waiting on God to work in your circumstances.  The answer is this … you do what you know to do.  You pray, you give thanks to God for the work He is already doing in your life even when you do not see or feel it, and you busy yourself helping others.  Ponder this: God will not give us the ability to solve all of our own problems, but He will always equip us to help others.  I believe one of the best things we can do for ourselves while patiently waiting on God is to be a blessing elsewhere.

We are all running a race.  The start and finish of any race is easy and exciting.  During the middle of our race is where we grow weary, lose momentum, and want to give up.  To finish our race and go all the way with God takes courage and persistence.  It takes setting our minds and keeping them set.  God will not fail us.  “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power, they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired” Isaiah 40:31 (AMP).

My prayer today is that we learn to reason less and trust God more.  “But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing” James 1:4 (AMP).  Let us all run our race with steadfast endurance.  Let us run our race to win.

patience1

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Fruits of the Spirit – HUMILITY

“He leads the humble in what is right and the humble He teaches His way” Psalm 25:9 (AMP).

Living a life with humility is hard!  I suspect most of you will agree. Human relationships and interactions are inevitable.  We encounter people daily and, let’s face it, not all of those interactions are pleasant.  Some, in fact, are downright burdensome.  The struggle is real.  Even as I sit here now, I am faced with making tough decisions about some difficult relationships. Can you relate?

Society has become incredibly selfish and narcissistic.  We live in an “all about me … woe is me” world where attention-seekers and crazy-makers (the people who make you crazy) abound.  Many any of us likely experience some of these very people in our own, personal circles.  We may have family members or friends who want to make us solely responsible for the relationship or for their feelings and emotions.  We may have people in our lives who cannot see past their own wants and needs to notice, much less help, a person in need.  We may have lopsided relationships where one side is constantly needing to be “propped up.”  We may associate with those who are overly dramatic by making mountains out of molehills or believing they have it worse than anyone else.  We may even have relationships with people who cannot or will not accept responsibility for their own actions and, instead, live with a sense of entitlement.  These same people are oftentimes demanding, disapproving, deafening, destructive, discontented, or demeaning, and frankly, they are exhausting to be around.  So, how are we to deal with these encounters when everything in us wants to give the person a well-deserved reality check?  Thankfully, the Bible gives us some much needed guidance.

First, we need to get over ourselves.  We must take a hard, honest look at ourselves and consider whether we have allowed pride, a high or inordinate opinion of ourselves, to take root in our own lives.  If so, we must deal with it prayerfully and aggressively.  In truth, God hates pride (see Proverbs 6:16-19).  We must take this issue seriously because, “[e]veryone proud and arrogant in heart is disgusting, hateful, and exceedingly offensive to the Lord …” Proverbs 16:5 (AMP).  Pride is a deceptive sin that keeps us from truly walking in love.  It is deceptive because we are usually too proud to admit we have it.  The key to preventing pride from taking root in our lives is humility … the freedom from pride or arrogance … the modest estimation of our own worth.

Second, we cannot be easily offended.  “Good sense makes a man restrain his anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense” Proverbs 19:11 (AMP).  I believe our emotional and spiritual maturity can be largely determined by how we treat those who mistreat us.  After all, it is easy to be good to people who are good to us.  Real spiritual growth occurs, however, when we choose to treat the “crazy makers” with love and humility.  “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions” Proverbs 10:12 (AMP).  Reacting with humility becomes easier when we stop to consider the reason(s) behind the person’s behavior.  Chances are, the reason has absolutely nothing to do with us personally.  We should all pray for softer hearts and tougher skin.

Third, we must be quick to forgive.  Colossians 3:13 says, “[y]ou must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT).  We cannot wait for an apology before we choose to forgive.  In reality, an apology may never come and refusing to forgive only hurts us.  Refusing to forgive, and allowing resentment to build, would be like drinking poison hoping the other person dies.  Forgiveness is for us, not them.

Fourth, as tempting as it is, we must refrain from gossiping about the “crazy makers.”  With today’s technology and social media, it is increasingly popular to engage in such behaviors.  Proverbs 18:8 tells us that, “[t]he words of a gossip are like tasty bits of food. People like to gobble them up” (NCV).  Gossiping means sharing with others who are not a part of the problem or the solution.  By engaging in gossip, we are encouraging others to sin along with us. The Bible tells us, however, we must refrain from such activities.  “When someone does something bad to you, do not do the same thing to him. When someone talks about you, do not talk about him. Instead, pray that good will come to him. You were called to do this so you might receive good things from God” I Peter 3:9 (NLV).

Fifth, do not allow yourself to be drawn into reasonless game playing.  Oftentimes when we encounter difficult situations or people, we are tempted to answer with reason or logic.  We want the person to understand why their thinking or behavior is wrong. The problem with this approach, however, is that their behavior was based on emotions, not reason.  Their motivation came from feelings, not logic.  In reality, you cannot talk a person out of a behavior they did not reasonably talk themselves into.  Thomas Paine once said, “to argue with a person who has denounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Sixth, we must always take the high, narrowly traveled road.  While we cannot control what other people do or say, we can and must control our response.  “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone.  If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Romans 12:17-18 (AMP).  Real humility involves loving the unlovable.

Of all the Christian virtues, humility is probably the most difficult to develop. We need to spend time with God, devote time to studying humility, and experience tests where we are forced to apply it.  Growing in humility by enduring the struggles is worth it, however.  1 Peter 5:6 says, “[t]herefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you” (AMP).  We must learn to humble ourselves so that at the right time God can lift us to a place of extraordinary freedom.

quotes-on-humility

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

Fruits of the Spirit – PEACE

“Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you.  Not as the world gives you do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled] John 14:27 (AMP).

God intends our walk with Him to be a journey … a traveling from one place to another that usually takes a rather long time.  Our goal on this journey is to reach greater spiritual maturity.  While we will never reach Christ’s perfectly exemplified maturity, we can certainly grow in our own.  I believe our spiritual maturity really takes root when our prayers change from “God, give me” to “God, make me.”

For most of my life, my peace was tied directly to my circumstances.  Only when things were going well was I peaceful and happy.  When faced with difficult circumstances, I lost all peace and lived in utter turmoil.  As a result, I created turmoil around me.  Instead of managing my emotions, I allowed my emotions to manage me.  I lived a life filled with stress, regret, worry, bitterness, anger, resentment, and frustration.  I lamented over yesterdays and fretted over tomorrows.  I desperately desired peace, but I did not know how to achieve it.  My friends, can you relate?

While I am still a work in progress (and always will be), I have made strides in becoming less emotionally reactive to my circumstances by instead staying fixated on God. The Bible teaches us that peace of mind … freedom of the mind from annoyance, distractions, anxiety, and obsession … must precede (come before) peace in all other areas of our lives.  Isaiah 26:3 promises perfect and constant peace to those of us who keep our minds on God. “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You” (AMP).

Over the years, I have learned that God concerns Himself more with our responses to these circumstances than the circumstances themselves.  Let me be clear … I am not suggesting that God does not care about our circumstances.  Certainly, He loves us perfectly and wants us all to have wonderful lives.  I believe, however, He sometimes uses our circumstances to help us grow in our relationship with Him.  He wants us to learn to trust in Him completely and continuously.  “Lean on, trust in and be confident in the Lord with all of your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP).

The Bible teaches us we are to seek and pursue peace.  Psalm 34:14 says we are to “[d]epart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!” (AMP). This biblical concept of peace is not about the absence of trials (see John 16:33, “… you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration …”).  It is unrelated to our circumstances.  It is a peaceful, joy-filled life untouched by outside happenings.  Even in the midst of great trials, the Bible tells us we can have perfect, constant peace. “Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways [under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes].  The Lord [be] with you all” (emphasis mine) II Thessalonians 3:16 (AMP).

At this point, you may be wondering how we go about achieving the peace God promises.  Before offering a number of practical suggestions that have helped me in my own life, first allow me to ask you what I hope are several thought-provoking questions.  How important to you is peace?  Do you agree that nothing else really matters without peace?  Are you willing to make whatever changes in your life are necessary to achieve real peace?  If you are hungry for peace like me, I hope you answered the last question in the affirmative.

Following are several, practical ways I have enjoyed increased peace in my life.  While not exhaustive, I hope these suggestions help you in increasing and maintaining peace in yours.

FIRST – put God first!   In order to have true peace, we must go deeper with God.  The deeper our relationship, the more we understand who we are in Christ and His unconditional love for us.  By knowing God’s character and through experience, we learn to trust Him more and more.  Putting God first means spending time with God and studying His Word.  How often do we use the excuse that we do not have time?  We are all given the same amount of time each day, so how is it then that some of us are so busy accomplishing so little?  How many of us are like hamsters on a wheel busily getting nowhere?  Arrange your schedule around God and not God around your schedule.  If we have time to spend posting to or pursuing social media daily, or we never miss our favorite television shows, can we honestly say we do not have time to spend with God?  The harsh reality is, we do what is important to us.  Jesus called us to be fruitful, not busy.

SECOND – consider what it is you are chasing.  Are you feverishly pursuing financial wealth or independence, a particular job promotion, recognition amongst your peers, or worldly possessions?  If yes, consider the consequences and decide whether those pursuits are worth sacrificing your peace.  For example, are you plagued with guilt after having missed your child’s sporting events or bedtime?  Do you regret having to cancel a long awaited date night with your spouse who feels distant and neglected?  Are you losing sleep and sacrificing good health?  The truth is nothing … not the money, promotion, reputation, or possessions … matters without peace.  Certainly, I understand we all have financial commitments and families to support.  What I am suggesting is that we consider what may be selfish or unnecessary wants and what are actual, important needs.

THIRD – be quick to forgive.  Forgiveness is really for your benefit, not the benefit of the other person(s).  Matthew  6:14-15 says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (ESV).  If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.

FOURTH – overcome procrastination.  We must stop living by our feelings.  If we wait until we feel like doing something, chances are we will accomplish little.  We then become overwhelmed by mounting tasks.  If we will just learn to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, we will enjoy more times of rest.

FIFTH – mind your own business.  I talked about this in my previous post (see Fruits of the Spirit – JOY if you missed it).  Imagine the peace we would have if we just allowed people to be who they are and stopped trying to run everyone else’s life.

SIXTH – learn to say no.  Oftentimes, we take on more than we should because we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and saying no is uncomfortable.  We need to ask for God’s wisdom in knowing what we should and should not take on.  When we take on too much, we lose our peace.  We become stressed and frustrated.  Any joy that might have been obtained from helping quickly will be lost if we become out of balance.

There is no way around it.  In life, we will endure storms.  Our goal, while weathering these storms, is to have the perfect and constant peace God promises.  The Bible makes clear that we are to seek and pursue peace.  “Let him turn away from wickedness and shun it, and let him do right.  Let him search for peace (harmony; undisturbedness from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts) and seek it eagerly. [Do not merely desire peaceful relations with God, with your fellowmen, and with yourself, but pursue, go after them!] I Peter 3:11.  Tonight, I pray we come to realize the importance of peace … that nothing in this life matters without it …, that we begin following God’s commands to eagerly pursue peace, and that we start cooperating with God to make whatever changes are necessary to achieve it in our own lives.

Seek-Peace

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

Fruits of the Spirit – JOY

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations” James 1:2 (AMP).

I would ask you to take a few moments to thoughtfully view and consider the below picture (my apologies for the poor quality) …

Mom2

Most of you do not know her and may be wondering why I chose to include such a picture in a post about joy.  Please bear with me as I set aside my personal angst and do my very best to cooperate with God (I really wrestled with Him on this one).  In sharing this picture, I am attempting to make what I believe is an important point here.

This beautiful woman was my precious mom, Linda.  I took this photo just one day after she underwent a second, major surgery to again remove cancerous brain tumors.  At the time of this photo, she had been battling a rare, aggressive form of cancer consistently for three, hard years.  She had already undergone several major surgeries, numerous rounds of targeted radiation, and nonstop chemotherapy.  By this time, she had lost the ability to stand or walk on her own.  She could no longer do everyday tasks such as bathing herself or doing chores.  She had lost the freedom driving her car provided.  She could no longer really taste food or drinks.  She was confined to her home.  Yet, she smiled.  I have not had the strength to look at this picture even once since before she died.  While it shatters my heart to do so now, I believe it best serves in making a critical point.  What do you see when you look at her?  I see joy.  Her smile, even in the face of such devastating adversity, radiated with unspeakable joy.  Do you see it?  Do we fully comprehend the importance of living a joy-filled life despite circumstances and recognize how petty some of our problems are in comparison?

Allow me to sidestep for a moment and be completely candid.  As I sit here writing this article now, I am overwhelmed with raw emotion.  Welling up inside me is such an urgent need and desire to inspire change not only in myself, but in others. The feeling borders on anger.  I want so much for us all to take a hard, honest look at ourselves and get serious about living the lives Jesus died for us to live and not the selfish, self-centered, sloppy lives tolerated or expected in today’s society. In reality, Jesus died to free you from yourself (see II Corinthians 5:15).  We all must come up higher.  If showing this private picture and revealing my mom’s hard fought battles makes us all pause to shamefully consider our own attitudes and behaviors, then any heartbreak in doing so was worth it and her premature death was not in vein.

In the natural, I am not overly gifted or intelligent.  In fact, I am nothing without God!  I believe what you read here are God-filled words.  Certainly, God is speaking to me right now, but He is also speaking to you not just your spouse, significant other, or friends … not just a co-worker or neighbor.  No, He is speaking to you.  There is a reason you are reading this, so I pray you will press on.

The world uses the words “happiness” and “joy” interchangeably, but the Bible teaches us there is a difference.  Happiness is oftentimes a fleeting emotion.  It is driven by external factors.  Consider how often we choose to pay a high price for a cheap thrill when we know full well the misery inside us will soon return.  Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and is based on our relationship with God.  That relationship is a constant source of everlasting, unmatched joy. True joy is based on knowing who we are in Christ. Unlike happiness, true joy is not dependent on our circumstances.  My friends, this is why my mom radiated such joy despite unimaginable circumstances.  Her joy came from having a close relationship with God and from doing what the Word instructs.  While we all want to have peace and joy in our circumstances, God wants us to enjoy peace and joy in our hearts.

One of the greatest stealers of joy is instability.  Instability causes us to experience a rollercoaster of emotions that greatly affect our joy.  It keeps us imprisoned by our circumstances.  One of our goals as Christians should be to become stable.  After all, what better testimony is there than to show others the very things we say we represent?

When I speak of stability, I am referring to being stable in our thoughts, words, and emotions.  Do you ever stop and think about what you are thinking about?   I have often heard Joyce Meyer say, “where the mind goes, the man follows.” Pause to consider the truth of that statement.  Your thoughts are what drive your words and emotions, and ultimately, your behavior.  Believe it or not, we do not have to stop and camp on every thought that drops into our heads.  No, we are fully capable of redirecting our thoughts.  It is not always easy, but God has equipped us to handle hard things.  II Corinthians 10:15 says, “We break down every thought and proud thing that puts itself up against the wisdom of God. We take hold of every thought and make it obey Christ” (AMP).  This verse not only tells us we must control our thoughts, but also provides reassurance that we are able.  Casting down wrong thoughts inevitably leads to fewer unbridled words and thoughtless actions, and it causes a substantial increase in joy.

From your thoughts, flow your words.  If you think negatively, you will speak negatively.  Conversely, if you think positively, your words will become positive containers of power.  I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed in earnest about a problem and thanked God for the work He was already doing in that particular situation.  Not long after, you would find me grumbling or complaining to family or friends.  With my very own mouth, the very one I had used to go to God, my mindless chatter thwarted any power my prayer had. What did it get me?  It got me a radical decrease in joy and likely decreased the joy in others.

I truly believe one of the greatest ways we can increase our joy in everyday life is by simply minding our own business.  I am often amazed how easily and frequently we express our opinions about things for which we have absolutely no responsibility.  Technology and social media make it easy to spew our thoughtless remarks. What we must remember is we will, on the day of judgment, give an account for every idle (inoperative, nonworking) word we speak (see Matthew 12:36).  Many of us have a bad habit of meddling and talking too much about nothing.  As a result, our careless chatter can tear down others and lead people to ungodliness (see II Timothy 2:16).

I believe what motivates our incessant meddling, fault-finding, and gossiping is a need to feel important, a want to fit into a particular group, or a fear of being labeled.  But, at what cost do we do this?  Should it not matter that it displeases God and robs us of our joy?  Do we not realize that our words are like boomerangs in that whatever we send out will just come right back to us?  For increased joy, the Bible says very plainly,  “[f]or let him who wants to enjoy life and see good days [good — whether apparent or not] keep his tongue free from evil and his lips from guile (treachery, deceit)” I Peter 3:10 (AMP).  We must have the wisdom and courage to be who God created us to be and not give into our fleshly desires.

I hope you will join me in determining to use the power of our thoughts and words to increase joy.  I, for one, want to follow the example set by Jesus and by my own amazing mom.  We should all endeavor to speak life everywhere we go (Proverbs 18:21). After all, I believe God’s decision to give us only one mouth and two ears has very little to do with being aesthetically pleasing (see James 1:19).

joy

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

Fruits of the Spirit – LOVE (Part 3)

“But if anyone has this world’s goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him?  Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and sincerity)” 1 John 3:17-18 (AMP).

I have a confession.  In the natural, I am not what you would call a selfless person.  I am, in fact, rather selfish without meaningful prayer, consistent study, and concerted effort.  I can spend a great deal of time with “me” on my mind.  I can be easily persuaded by my own needs, wants, and desires.  Before helping others, I often considered what was in it for me or what it would cost me.  If I thought it was going to cost me too much, or that I would not receive the accolades I selfishly thought I deserved, I would forgo the opportunity to help someone in need.  Basically, I thought too much and did too little.  It was just easier to assume others would help.  After all, that assumption cost me nothing.

So, who am I to teach anyone the importance of a deeper love walk when I have just confessed to you that my personal love walk is often tenuous?  If you are asking yourself this same question, you are not alone.  Satan began battering my mind before my feet hit the floor this morning.  He urgently reminded me of my natural, selfish tendencies.  He almost had me convinced he was right … that I was just a nobody … that God could not possibly use me as His instrument … that I was too damaged or flawed for anyone to take seriously.  For a period of time, I allowed him to steer me off into an emotional ditch where I wallowed pitifully in the mud (again, ME on my mind).  Once I recognized satan’s ploy and the stronghold he was attempting to get, God brought to my mind something I once heard.  “The light shines brightest through a cracked pot.” The reality is, we are all broken in one way or another. The goal is to do better.  When we know better, we should do better.  So, if candidly revealing my own faults and weaknesses sparks a desire in others to do better, then I humbly offer myself for this purpose.  Chew on that, satan!

In my life, and especially during my career as a criminal prosecutor, I have seen some despicable, wicked things.  Like many of you, I have often wondered why God does not do something to extirpate the evil in today’s world.  Over the years, I have come to realize that God works through His people. We are not waiting on God to do something.  He is waiting on us.  He is waiting for us to remove those invisible “do not disturb” signs hanging on our lives and show the world Jesus.

Did you know that every believer has within them the desire to be and do good?  While this is indeed a reality, I am sure many of you scoffed at the notion.  You may have even created a mental list of those you know to be seemingly bad people.  I am sure we can all agree that some people are just downright difficult to love.  Certainly, it is easy to be good to people who are good to you, but ask yourself a serious question.  What would happen if God waited until we truly deserved it before being good to us?  I would be willing to venture a guess that most of our lives would be a lot less blessed and a lot more lackluster.

God has called us to deeper level of obedience.  2 John 1:6 tells us,  “[a]nd this is love: that we walk in accordance with His commandments and are guided continually by His precepts. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should [always] walk in love” (AMP).  We are to walk in love always  … not just when it is convenient or easy … not only when we feel like it.  No, God commands us to walk in love continuously and consistently. 

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. “A certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothes and belongings [unconcernedly] leaving him half dead, as it happened.  Now by coincidence, a certain priest was going down along that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road].  But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along, came down to where he was; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity and sympathy [for him].  And went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii [two day’s wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return” (Luke 10:30-35 (AMP).  Notice what the Samaritan did not do.  Unlike the priest and Levite, he did not look the other way or refuse to draw near the man in order to assess his needs.  He did not put any limits on what he was willing to do to help.  He did not consider how much it would cost him.  He did not consider his own schedule or any inconvenience caring for the man might cause.  What he did do was show the man love and kindness by helping him.  He met the man’s practical needs.

Mistreating people displeases God.  “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequence of sin).  Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive, or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseless of any kind).  And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:30-32 (AMP).  God instructs us to love one another with our thoughts, our words, and our behavior.  We should not use these things to mistreat others.

It is easy to forget how important it is to walk in love.  In John 13:34 Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment; that you should love one another.  Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another” (AMP).  I believe one of the best ways to tell others about Jesus is simply to love them.  We should live out the selfless, sacrificial love that we have received from Jesus in all our ways.   It does not have to be overly complicated.  For example, showing a clerk just learning to use the cash register patience when you are in a hurry costs you little.  Offering a co-worker whose car is in the shop a ride to or from work costs you little.  Gathering donations to help a single, working mother pay her rent costs you little.  Defending a person whose reputation is being wrongfully challenged costs you little.  I am certain you get my point here.

Imagine a world where every believer actually acted like one in everyday life and not just on Sundays.  Imagine a world where we could eradicate selfishness and bring others to know Jesus simply by performing selfless acts of love.  What a wonderful way to honor God!  We have a choice to make.  We can either be like the priest and Levite and concern ourselves only with our wants and needs, or we can be like the Good Samaritan and love despite any costs.  Which will you choose?

love-like-jesus

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

Fruits of the Spirit – LOVE (Part 2)

“Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy consecrated and set apart for Him and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love” Ephesians 1:4 (AMP).

Have you ever experienced a day where everything and everyone just gets on your nerves?  A day when everything that could go wrong does?  A day filled with so much anger, frustration, and defeat that the idea of loving yourself or anyone else seems impossible?  I call those “black heart days” because it seems as though your heart is hardened and shrouded in darkness … like a lump of coal.  Sadly, I admit that I am in the very midst of a “black heart day.”

On days like this, we need to stop giving satan permission to whisper lies in our ears and focus instead on God’s truths.  We need to remember that God loves us unconditionally and there is nothing, not even our imperfect behavior, that can separate us from His love (see Romans 8:35-39).  The truth is we were created, on purpose, by God’s own mighty hand.  We are an unrepeatable miracle.  God’s love is medicine for our hearts and lives.  If we truly believe in God’s love for us, it will heal our brokenness, rid us of our fears, and buoy our confidence.  “But God … He loved us … even when we were dead (slain) by our own shortcomings and trespasses …” Ephesians 2:4-5 (AMP).  God loves you!  Allow that truth to become more than head knowledge.  Allow it to become heart knowledge.

How much of our precious time is wasted feeling condemned?  For years, I trudged through life under the full weight of condemnation.  It was like carrying around a bag of rotting, stinking potatoes that robbed me of all peace and joy.  Because of my many failings, I felt completely distanced from God.  Surely, after all of my misdeeds, He could not truly love me.  I would repent and ask for His forgiveness, but I never truly received His forgiveness by faith.  Instead, I would pick up my rotting, stinking bag of potatoes and trudge onward.

Allow me to share with you something I have learned from countless teachings and Bible study.  There is a difference between “condemnation” and “conviction.”  Condemnation presses you down.  It casts a burden of guilt upon you.  It impairs your ability to truly love others because you, yourself, do not feel loved.  It is not God’s will that we live under condemnation. “He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation — he incurs no damnation” John 3:18 (AMP).  Conviction, however, is intended to lift you out of something … to help you move up higher in God’s plan for your life.  God has given us the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and convince us to pursue righteousness (see John 16:7-11).  The Holy Spirit’s conviction urges us to repent, turn around, and go in the right direction.  No matter how far into disgrace we may fall, God’s unconditional love is ever-present and never out of reach.  “The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a savior [who saves]!  He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing” Zechariah 3:17 (AMP). The revelation of God’s unfailing love does not give us license to live a sloppy, self-centered life.  What it does give us is reassurance that He loves us completely and unconditionally despite ourselves.  This knowledge should then help us refrain from lengthy guilt trips and motivate us to do better.

Like so many others, I have questioned God’s love when faced with crisis, disappointment, rejection, or heartbreak.  Not so long ago, cancer stole my precious mom.  Even today, the heartache I feel is indescribable. While she was sick, I prayed in earnest that God would heal her.  Never once did I question His existence or doubt His healing abilities.  When she died, however, I began questioning His love for me.  I was prompted to consider not only all of God’s promises, but what He did not promise as well.  God never promised us an easy life.  No, he warned that we would experience tribulation, trials, distress, and frustration in this life (see John 16:33).  What He did promise is to always be with us.  “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” I Peter 5:10 (ESV).  He also promises us His love that endures forever (see Psalm 136, I Chronicles 16:34, and Psalm 100:5).

In preparing to write this post, I spent a good deal of time studying God’s love for us.  It brought me much needed reassurance and comfort.  I hope it has done the same for you!  My prayer tonight is that each of us comes to learn of, fully accept, and feel God’s unconditional love.  How amazing is His love?  We should desire to exemplify Christ and show the world love because He first loved us.

God-loves-you

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.

Fruits of the Spirit – LOVE (Part I)

“I give you a new commandment; that you should love one another.  Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.  By this will all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]”  John 13:34-35 (AMP).

What if I were to suggest to you that love could remedy most of the world’s problems?  Before you dismiss this sentiment as nonsensical or too simplistic, think about it for a moment.  What would happen if every believer truly walked in love … the same, selfless, unconditional love that Jesus displayed?  I believe more souls would be saved and so many of the world’s problems could be solved if we all went out and represented Christ.  Oftentimes, we busy ourselves with trying to follow in Jesus’ steps.  I believe what is lacking in our pursuits to develop His character, however, is consideration of His stops.  No matter how people treated Him or behaved around Him, Jesus remained the same.  He did not live by His feelings.  He did not change based on His circumstances.

Leading up to and through His crucifixion, Jesus exemplified true love.  John 13:1-20 gives us the account of the last supper.  Even aware of His impending betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet as a teaching in humility.  With the unfathomable weight of His impending arrest and death, Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  There, He prayed not only for Himself, but also for His disciples and all of those who would one day be His disciples (us) (Matthew 26).  Knowing Judas had betrayed Him, Jesus still referred to him as His “friend” ( Matthew 26:50).  When Simon Peter severed the ear of a priest’s servant who was there to assist in His arrest, Jesus stopped to heal him. After suffering immeasurable humiliation and prolonged beatings, Jesus asked God to forgive all who were involved in His crucifixion as He hung dying on the cross (Luke 23:34).  In the midst of His crucifixion, Jesus also forgave one of the thieves who had earlier mocked Him (Luke 23:43).  I do not know about you, but reading through all of these accounts has me pausing to shamefully consider my own, selfish behavior and determining, with God’s help, to grow in my personal love walk.

A love walk does not come easily or without personal sacrifice.  Each time we choose to love someone, it will likely cost us things such as time, effort, or money.  Love is a choice.  It is something that we must decide to do on purpose.  Colossians 3:14 tells us we are to “put on love … .”  We cannot wait until we want to walk in love, as our flesh is inherently selfish.   No, we must “eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest] … I Corinthians 14:1 (AMP).

Displaying Christ-like love, when there is nothing in it for us, is the greatest and most effective way to do spiritual warfare.  “Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good” Romans 12:21 (AMP).

© 2016 by Kelli Hammond Mills.  All rights reserved.