Saturday, October 31, 2009

Incredible Days of Listlessness: Living without a list

When you read this title did you picture yourself lying by the pool with a Strawberry Daiquiri in your hands? That would be nice too, but the kind of listlessness I’m talking about is days without making a list. God has called me to fast from list making for the next two months – through the holiday season no less – and I am both excited and terrified.

What began as a release from a spiritual stronghold in my life has become a challenge from the Lord. One that I anticipate will bring me to a new place of freedom and growth. But, as is true with all freedom, it will take a battle to get there.

God has recently revealed to me that Satan had a stronghold on my life through the avenue of fear: fear of real or perceived rejection. I had to ask for God's forgiveness for allowing this to have a hold on me. Then I began arming myself with scripture to combat future attacks in this area. That’s when God surprised me.

“I want you to fast from making a daily to do list,” He spoke to my heart.
Having just spent two “listless” days in the aftermath of completing a book, I knew that this might be a good thing to do for another day or so. “Okay God, how long?” I asked.

“For the rest of this month and through November and December.”

I blinked. I had already made my list for the day and I was willing to let it go. But two months? “Lord, you realize that’s through the holidays, don’t you? What if I forget something vital? How will I get everything done?”

I could feel His benevolent smile, “Do you trust me to lead you? Will you look to me instead of your list?” The only concession He made was that I could jot down appointment reminders and a list of what I am purchasing for Christmas and birthdays (perhaps so I don’t have to go on a two month fast from overspending in the New Year).

God showed me the connection between my daily list and the stronghold of fear of rejection. From my teenage days on I have planned every detail of my days in order to prove that I am worthy. I believed what I accomplished was evidence that I had value, because I was doing things and crossing them off. I realized I was trying to earn the approval of God, others, and myself. When I was rejected by the one I loved more than anyone, the need for a list became even more pronounced in my life. I even wrote things down after doing them so I could cross them off my list and feel good about myself.

At first the idea of going for two months without a list filled me with raw fear. In fact, I first coined this article “The Terrifying Days of Listlessness” until God reminded me that in Him there is no fear. Now, I am beginning to look forward to the incredible things He is going to do in my life during these next two months.

No longer will I make my list for the day and show it to God asking for His stamp of approval. Instead of constantly referring to it throughout the day to tell me what to do, I will be looking to my Father and asking Him. My self worth will not come from what I do and how many items I have crossed off, but from God’s Word and His assurance of unfailing love for me. Neither will there be the circled items to testify against me at the end of the day that I didn't "earn my keep." No piece of paper saying that I have failed and must do more to be worthy of love. And when someone calls I won’t hurry through our conversation like it is an “interruption” to my day. I can relax and go with the flow, knowing that people are always first in God’s agenda.

God is calling me to be free of the tyranny of the ought’s and should’s, the if-only’s and what-if’s. He is inviting me to rest in His presence and simply be. This is not to say I won’t be doing all the things I normally do. The difference is, I hope to be doing them at my Lord’s direction, simply for the joy of serving Him and others, and not to impress or “buy” approval from anyone.

This will definitely be an adventure. I’ll try to keep you posted and if I forget, ask me how it’s going. I would love to hear from you too. Where do you get your sense of self-worth? What is your weak area and how do you combat the lies of the enemy when he comes to steal, kill, and destroy the truth of God’s love for you?

~ (c) Beth Vice, January 2010

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What I'm Learning About Letting Go: Giving children to God

My husband and I froze in terror as the conversation with our eighteen year old daughter turned from a normal discussion into an audio car wreck. We stared at each other with wide-eyed fear listening as screams, squealing tires, and unidentified noises emanated from the speakerphone. My husband kept our daughter talking until the driver came to a stop and the kids had calmed down enough to inspect the damage. The phone was our only link; we weren’t willing to let that go.

What a helpless feeling! The minute they’re born, our children begin the process of autonomy and range further from our reach. We raise them to be independent, but wish we could protect them from all harm. The hardest part of parenting is realizing that ultimately, we cannot save them from accidents, illness, the hurts others inflict on them, or the consequences of their sinful choices.

Seeing the movie Taken shook me. In it, two recent high school graduates travel to Europe where gangsters who drug and sell young women into prostitution, kidnap a young girl and her friend. During the capture, her father listens helplessly on his cell phone. As a former government spy, he has access to equipment and know how, plus the physical strength needed to rescue his daughter. However, I don’t have any of that at my fingertips. Or do I?

My most fearful yet faith-building parenting moments were when my oldest daughter traveled a total of 16 months with a mission organization. She lived in primitive filth in Samoa; thieves in Africa stole her ATM card and money; and she spent Christmas sick, poor, and alone in Rome.

Anxiety about her situation gripped me night and day. I wanted to go to my child, but was unable to help her. So I reached out to the only One who could. God answered my prayers. He sent caring people to help her and gave her the courage she needed to make it. God also gave me the kind of peace only He can give. I knew no matter what happened, He would be there for her.

Why does God allow us to feel so helpless? So we’ll learn to depend completely on Him. When we realize we can’t do anything to control the situation anyway, we run to Him more readily. There are only three things I know I can control:

* I can dedicate my children to God, acknowledging they are ultimately His. He gave them to me and He has a plan for their lives.
* I can point them to God. I can tell them, and show them by the way I live, that God and His Word are the answer for every dilemma they face.
* I can entrust them to God, releasing them in prayer for Him to direct, rebuke, heal, or comfort according to His will. God loves them even more than I do and is always working for their ultimate good.

I wish this shielded them from experiencing pain. Yet sometimes, pain is a necessary element to help my children see when they’re headed the wrong way. I have to let go of the illusion that I can make them choose to do the right thing, or even the smart thing. I have to let go when their behavior is unwise, or rebellious, or impatient. I have to let them grow and mature and succeed in their own time, in their own way.

The blessing is that even though I must let go of my children as they grow up, God never does. His angels can surround them with peace, protection, and guidance. His Holy Spirit can speak to their minds and hearts to bring forth miraculous transformation and blessings. And the Father’s arms can usher them forward, pull them back, or hold them close no matter where they are.

~ (c) Beth Vice 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Halloween: A Cheap Imitation

Imitations Always Follow Originals
We live in world of copies. Rolex watches have morphed into sidewalk knockoffs. McDonalds now serves specialty coffees that mimic Starbucks. Designer look-alikes are available at every department store. You can get non-fat, calorie free ice cream, beverages, and everything in between. We buy cheap imitations because we want the look, the taste, and the feel of the real thing, but aren’t willing to pay the price to get it. That can be a good thing if you’re trying to stay within a budget or lose a few pounds, but in the spiritual world it can be lethal.

God is the Only Original Designer
Satan can’t create anything new; all he can do is copy and distort what God has already made. He’s out to steal God’s customers, so he presents a product that impersonates what God offers. However, his goal is not customer satisfaction; Satan’s goal is to completely destroy mankind. One of his most effective weapons is to make us think we’re getting the real thing when we settle for his cheap imitations.

Our God Loves to Party
Contrary to what Satan would have you think God invented the whole party concept. He created us with a need for rest and fun. That’s why the Bible lists nine different feasts throughout the year that God wanted His people to celebrate.* On those holidays God said: take a day off, get together with friends, play music, dance, eat, and give to others in need. Be thankful for all the good things I provide for you. In America we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and other holidays with good and honorable themes, mostly faith based.

So what do you think about Christians celebrating Halloween? Halloween is the high holy day of the year for Satan worshipers. It glorifies death, fear, darkness, gluttony, and the occult, which are directly opposed to the message of Christianity.

Please consider.

Halloween is Not Just Harmless Fun
Look at the news during Halloween. The focus is on the newest thriller, witchcraft, and an increasing amount of occult related crime. Just recently, a friend of mine was walking on the beach with her daughter and they came across a coven of witches in black capes. They were in a circle around a crystal ball and stack of rocks. They were getting ready for a ceremony. My friend looked up the symbols she saw there where she got home and it all had to do with Satan worship and witchcraft. This is really going on in our communities today; it is not just fairy tale stuff. And they are actively praying against Christianity!

What do former Satanists say? They say Halloween lures us in with the fun of dressing in costume and eating candy, but behind that cover up is great evil. (check out the movie Halloween: Trick or Treat? from Jeremiah Films and the book, The Annals of a Satanist by Frank Alvarez III). Plus many other books and articles written by those saved out of the occult and living in the light of Christ.

Look at What Scripture Says About Halloween Themes:
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:21-23

The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11-12

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Be an Original
Instead of participating in a cheap imitation, let's use this season of the year to fight against evil and celebrate what is good. Are you willing to be different and follow God’s original design for party fun? Did you know that November 1 is the original Christian holiday? It's called All Saints Day and the early church fathers set it aside as a day to honor all those Christians who have died for the sake of Christ. Do you think it is any coincidence that very few Christians even know about this holiday?

Martyrdom is not just a thing of the past, either. More Christians are being persecuted around the world than ever before in history. Approximately 200 million Christians are currently being persecuted for their faith - they are burned to death, shot, stabbed, imprisoned, starved, and buried in mass graves.

Tomorrow we are having an All Saints Day party - with a potluck dinner, games and prizes - "Who am I?" in Christian history and "Who Said This?" (quotes from Christians throughout history), and watching a movie about a brain surgeon that God raised up from poverty and delivered from uncontrollable rage to peace in Christ. This is partying you can feel good about, that promotes God's message and feeds your soul with courage to do His will. What are you going to do?

Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life. If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life! 1 John 2:24-25, Message

*The feast days in the Bible are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks (Pentecost, Harvest), Trumpets (Later called Rosh Hashanah – New Year’s Day), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), Tabernacles (Booths, Ingathering), Sacred Assembly, and Purim.

If you are interested in learning more about what the Bible says, here's a few great verses to read on your own. May God lead you and your family to honor Him in all things.

Choose Life, Not Death
Psalm 16:11
Proverbs 8:35-36*
Isaiah 25:6-9
Ezekiel 18:32
John 10:7-10
1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Choose Faith, Not Fear
2 Kings 6:16
Psalm 23:4; 27:1; 34:4-5; 46:1-3; 91:1-6
Isaiah 41:10, 13
Jeremiah 10:1-6*
Luke 12:4-9

Choose Light, Not Darkness
Isaiah 5:20*
John 3:19-21
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Ephesians 5:8-17*
1 Peter 2:9
1 John 1:5-7*

Choose Giving, Not Greed
Matthew 23:25-26
Luke 12:15
2 Corinthians 8:7; 9:6-15*
James 4:1-7

Choose God’s Power, Not Demonic Power
Deuteronomy 18:9-13*
1 Kings 18:25-39* (my favorite!)
2 Chronicles 33:1-6
Luke 9:1-2
Ephesians 3:16-21; 6:10-13*

#godlovesaparty #puttingGodfirst #beoriginal #halloweenandchristianity