The Nature Of Our Relationship With God

Clouds of Glory

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/clouds-of-glory-1386569)

What is the nature of our relationship with God?

Is it active — what we do for God?

Is it passive — He does it all in us and uses us without any response on our parts?

I believe it’s a responsive relationship.

God invites; I respond.

God convicts: I repent.

God forgives; I am set free!

God inspires; I live it.

God speaks; I listen.

I speak; God listens.

I request; God answers.

I obey; God empowers and blesses.

I “hunger”; God fills.

I surrender; God’s uses me.

The Essence of Godliness

grapes

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/grapes-1330)

I grew up with the desire to be “godly.”  What I thought that word meant was a focus on my performance, my actions, how I lived.

I wanted to be “godly” because I wanted to “be someone” to God, to others, to myself.  My identity was in being a “good person” or being “godly.”  (My false identity.)

If you had asked me, I would have said something like, “Godliness comes from God.”

In actuality, I lived that godliness was something I did for God.

What I have come to learn in recent years is that godliness comes from God.

In fact, I, in myself, am incapable of being “godly.”

It is the Presence of God, His Holy Spirit, in me that produces true righteousness.

The true essence of “godliness” is a God-filled life.  That’s it, in a “nut-shell.”

The more I am in Christ and He in me, the more I will be “godly.”

How does this happen?  How do I have “more” of Christ in me?  How am I more in Him?

This is how we abide in Him: (everything we do comes from Him).

John 15:1-5

The True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;[a] and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

1 John 2:6

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 3:6

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

Scripture tells us how He dwells within us:

John 14:16

16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

1 John 2:27

27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will[a] abide in Him.

1 John 2:14

14 I have written to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
    Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
    And you have overcome the wicked one.

What an amazing truth this is!  We can abide in Him, and He abides within us.

If we desire to live a godly life, let’s remember that it is not anything we do for God.  It’s what we do from God, or more accurately, what He does in us.

What Comes First — Walk Or Worth?

 

(Thank you, Ann Voskamp, for such a powerful quote!)

I just read the verse Ephesians 4:1 yesterday, and I pondered the significance of the wording of that verse.

Ephesians 4:1

Walk in Unity

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

I kept thinking about the “walk” part.  I hear two very separate camps of thought on the “walk” part when it comes to a lot of churches.

One side seems to place a lot of emphasis on “walking” right.  They focus on the “shoulds” and “should nots”.

The other side focuses on a concept of “love” and “grace” that seems to promote an idea that love and grace means there is no “wrong” only “right”.

In other words, you can’t be against anything unless it’s to be against those who are against something.

Back to the verse in Ephesians though.  If there are verses that tell us how to walk, then I knew that there is a place for considering the Christian “walk.”

I have seen the negatives of religion, where emphasis is placed more on actions rather than the heart.  In those circles, it seems that Ephesians 4:1 is being interpreted to mean, how I walk equals my worth — my spiritual worth.

The power behind this verse is reading clearly what it says.  It says “walk worthy of the calling…”  This verse is saying we walk in a way that fits our calling and worth.

It seems like we need to start first with our worth and calling before we can understand how to walk.

So what is our worth and calling?

Ephesians 1:18

18 the eyes of your understanding[a] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:14

14 who[a] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Galatians 3:26

Sons and Heirs

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

James 2:5

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

So what is our worth and calling?  It’s that we are sons and daughters of the Most High God!!!  It means we are beloved sons and daughters!!!!  It means we are heirs of the heavenly kingdom.  It means we bring glory to God.  And that is just a very small tip of the iceberg.

Some of us are still stuck back at the walk and worthy part.  Somehow, we still think that we have to be worthy of something, and that’s what the “worthy” part means.  So, we “walk” as best as we can, and our life is one big struggle with staying upright, walking, walking efficiently, walking elegantly, walking boldly.  We have manuals about how to “walk”.  We have become so obsessed with the walking part that we judge ourselves and everyone else’s worth by the way we walk.

We have falsely equated walk to equal worth.

I understand that I have great worth in God because of who I am, based on Whose I am — Who He is.  Knowing Who God is and what He is like should affect me.

My life should be lived out, according to the worth I have in Christ.  Because I have great worth in Him, I live in a way that says, “I am a beloved daughter of the Most High God!”

An analogy might be seeing a princess live like she is a beggar when she can have whatever she wants.  In other words, why choose to live in “spiritual poverty” when you have been given a rich inheritance in Christ, as His sons and daughters?

The “fruits” part of our spiritual life is the manifestation of our relationship — not the equivalent of it.

When we love someone, we will want to do things that honors that person.  We will sometimes yield our own preferences to honor their preferences in order to please that person.  Why?  Because we love them, and love always desires relationship.

Grace does not keep us imprisoned to our sins.  It frees us from them.

Jesus did not just die to make us a better image of what we were.  He died to transform us into an image like Himself.  That’s the power of the cross!  It’s His life, His character produced within us.

I believe our “walk” part is very similar to a dance.  God invites us to participate in this amazing and fulfilling dance of life.  God takes the lead, sets the rhythm, and choreographs the steps.  We then are given the opportunity to surrender to His lead and follow His steps or to stumble across the dance floor on our own, trying to get our steps and rhythm right, when we don’t even know the dance.

The choice we have is whether we will surrender to Him and glide across the dance floor of life in the arms of the One Who sweetly whispers in our ear, “Beloved.”

Today, let’s glide…

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(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2277945&searchId=611f1f7a0bc943f5eee6b2411f21be3b&npos=12)

 

To Behold

Skye Island, Scotland

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2518178&searchId=6cad826248cd3f4e93da71e7b49928e3&npos=29)

The words seem to spill out of their own volition.  My heart is overflowing.  There is this awareness of so much goodness — overflowing abundance of goodness…

There is this insatiable hunger.  I can’t seem to get enough of Him.

I met Him and became aware of His love for me, and I fell in love with Him… not the passionate selfish kind of one’s youth.  Instead, it’s a love that makes me complete, content, overjoyed, awe-struck, captivated, inspired, strengthened, at rest.

Before seeing His love for me personally, I had a relationship with Him but it was distant, based on what I had heard or read.  It was built on a lot of “theories” and “head” knowledge.

My worship was related to what I knew about Him with my “head.”  It sounded nice with many fancy-sounding words, but it was a worship of knowledge.  Oh, I had my moments when there was some heart to it…

I was His after all.  Yet, something was missing, and I didn’t know what it was.  I didn’t even know really for awhile that something was missing — how can you when you haven’t had it before?

Then life happened, and with it came pain, hardships, and the ever seeking for a new sense of being.  I tried to be something alright.  I tried to be the most “godly” daughter I could be.  I thought I could be more acceptable to Him if I was more.  I thought He wanted my performance.  Later, I would find out He wanted my heart.

I knew I wanted Him.  I wanted His approval, but most of all, what I was really seeking was His love.  I wanted to feel loved.  So I did or tried to do all the right things.  I was the “good girl”.

What I didn’t realize was that my “godliness” was only “godlified-moralism”.  I would discover that godliness isn’t something you can put on or wear.  True godliness is from Him. 

I didn’t realize that every time I tried to be godly I was doing it in my own strength, with my own ideas and perceptions.  I carried a heavy weight of guilt because I just could never be “godly enough” on my own.

I had trusted Him to be my Savior from my sins, and I knew He loved me enough to die.  My love though was based more on a past-tense event then on a present-day awareness of love.  I didn’t fully realize that He didn’t just die for my sins (which was more than enough) but that He also wanted to take the sinner and transform her to become like His Son.  I didn’t realize all my “inheritance” as His daughter — all that I have in Him.

As the years passed, I became more and more hungry to experience fullness of life in Him, but all I knew was this endless struggle of trying to be godly and falling short.

Then came the day when it all changed.

I remember those moments like I am watching a Cinema movie.  I can recall myself trembling as I awoke to God’s Spirit convicting me and telling me what needed to change — that I needed to find my identity in Him.

I remember crying out to Him and begging Him to tell me what He thought of me because I was forever trying to prove myself to Him, trying to win His acceptance — even though I already was His child.

Then, I remember.  I remember standing there singing those beautiful words to the song “I’m Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave and then it was as if He was singing them to me.

I remember getting up and leaving in the middle of the song to go to a private spot where I could pray.  I remember those gut-wrenching sobs as I began to cry out to God.  As I began to cry out to Him, He began to answer me.

I “saw” that I was no longer running after Him, begging Him for His love.  I saw that He was running towards me.

It was then that my heart ran smack into the heart of God, and I truly came home.

I have never been the same again.

I have this sense of completeness, strength because I have experienced His love for me — so perfect, complete, unconditional.  I no longer live to prove something.  Life no longer has to be a struggle.  It is instead a surrender.  As I surrender to a God I know personally and can trust because He loves me completely, I find all of His gifts and resources at my disposal.

Godliness is not something I achieve.  It’s something He gives/bestows on me as I simply abide in Him. 

Godliness comes from being in His Presence.  Godliness isn’t something I produce.  It’s something He produces in me.

He just wants me — me yielded to Him so that He can transform this broken vessel into something out of which His glory can spill.

My heart yearns to forever be in His physical Presence.  I can’t wait to behold His smile and to look into His eyes and to be lost in them.

I can’t wait to dance in the Presence of the One who made me.

I can’t wait to sit at His feet and to simply soak up His Presence.

I can’t wait to walk with Him and talk with Him… to see the nail prints and to know they are an eternal symbol of His eternal love for me.

His love has changed me.

I wish there were adequate words to describe the depth of my gratitude for Him.

I wish I could help all to see and recognize His love for them — for each and every one of His creation.

With every waking breath, I can’t seem to restrain myself from wanting to share the wonder of this with everyone.  Think me strange or something else, but what I know is once I was “blind” but now I “see.”

I personally see His goodness, His glory, His grace, His love, His transforming truth, His life…  I see Him!

Job 42:5

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

And this…

Feet Of Clay

A potter is kneading the clay to be used to making Lord Ganesha Idols in Pottery Town, Bangalore.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12073361&searchId=88b5c637595cd7c0c9675d03efa58f0b&npos=93)

With another scandalous headline concerning the Duggar family splashed across the news, my heart began to ache once again…

The story “hit close to home” because I grew up in an environment similar to the Duggars. I was surrounded by friends and affiliates who espoused the ATIA teachings, of which the Duggar family is also a part.

This is what I have learned coming out of that environment of ultra-conservatism — how it started “wrong” and how it continued to go wrong:

Note: This was not necessarily the way I was raised or the teachings of my family.  These concepts were what I was exposed to by ultra-conservative groups of which we were affiliated, people with whom we associated, church groups, etc…

1.  There was an over-emphasis on the outward (works, appearance, actions, expressions).

A lot of attention was given to how a person dressed, acted, talked.  Spirituality was based upon those outward indicators that were “supposed” to be inward indicators.

When the outward becomes our focus, it is easy to avoid looking at the inward and to cover up our inner struggles with pretty exteriors.

2.  There was an emphasis on pleasing God, but the reason was motivated from fear — fear of God’s wrath.

Growing up in that environment, God was seen more as a holy, wrathful God — that a person must appease or constantly live in fear of His judgment.

A fearful environment produces shame, guilt, condemnation, anxiety, anger, wrath, judgment, harshness, and extremes.

3.  There was an emphasis on living a “godly” life, but perfection was what was really intended.

We were expected to be practically perfect.

Our worth was judged on our performance — how “godly” we appeared.

There was no room to give grace.  There were harsh consequences for anyone who “slipped up” — even over the smallest or most ridiculous infractions.

4.  It was taught that if you lived the “godly” or really perfect life, you would be honored by the world and would receive material blessings.

This became another form of the “wealth, health, and happiness” type of “gospel”.  There was an over-emphasis on good works, called “godly behavior”, and the results were supposed to be physical and material blessings.

5.  It was taught that you could avoid sin in your life by avoiding sin out there.

Sin was blamed on the the “world”.  So to avoid the “world” meant we could avoid sin. 

This can result in condemnation of the “world” rather than a humble love that reaches out to the world.  This can also result in the avoidance of taking responsibility for our own actions.

My above list is not conclusive or exhaustive, but it reveals some of the heart issues behind the “ultra-conservative” movement.

It’s been 15 years since I was immersed in such an environment.  Since that time, God has revealed many truths to me concerning my past and revealed the wonderful freedom of His grace.

I still try to live a “godly” life, but it is no longer based on the fear of appeasing a wrathful God.  God has been so gently teaching me that He is a loving God and full of grace.  He convicts me ever so gently in a way that doesn’t leave me condemned but leaves me with a desire and hope for growth and the future to which He has called me.

God has been teaching me that I have “feet of clay”.  This means that I am not a “paradigm of godliness or perfection”.  My claim is the righteousness of Christ alone.  My standing is in His righteousness!

When I understand my security is found in God’s grace, I am able to acknowledge my own sins and take responsibility for them.

I understand that I don’t have to pretend perfection or constantly live in fear of being found less-than-perfect.  Instead, I have a desire to run into the “arms” of a loving God who is always ready to receive the repentant child back and longs to restore us into full fellowship with all the privileges of being His child.

I understand that God’s love is not performance-based or conditional.  God chose to love me and to die for me, fully aware of my sinful and unlovely condition.

I am also learning to give more grace to my children and to stop holding them to an impossible standard of perfection.  I am still learning this though…

I am learning to accept myself and others in our all of our imperfect, messy states.  God knows we have “feet of clay” and still chooses to use us, as we yield ourselves to Him.

I don’t claim to be perfect at any of this.  In fact, as my family can attest, I mess up on a regular basis, but I have the confidence to get back up again because I have a God who loves me way more than I can even dare to hope and who won’t give up on me.  I have a God who chooses to use me, with feet of clay, to reveal the power of His grace at work in my life. 

So, when we are tempted to elevate a mere human, let’s remember that we all have just “feet of clay”.  All goodness and true righteousness and true godliness is in God alone!

Soul, take a deep breath and bask in the freedom you have to walk in His power and grace and to be completely accepted in Him.  Get back up on those feet of clay.  He’s not finished with you yet.

A Homeschooling Dialogue

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I recently came across a discussion on Facebook regarding homeschooling.  I thought that I would copy some of my thoughts on this subject.

Let me first try to make myself clear.  I respect homeschooling and homeschoolers.  I understand the reasoning behind why most homeschool.

I also understand why people choose to not homeschool and respect them as well.  Of course, we all might have our private opinions on these matters, but I want to make it clear from the onset that I am not trying to promote one form of schooling above another.  I am not trying to criticize or condemn anyone. 

I just want to share a few thoughts in regards to homeschooling because I believe there just might be a woman out there who is struggling with unnecessary guilt and stress over this issue.

The Facebook discussion was talking about the merits or detriments to the concept of “un-schooling” within homeschooling.  Some parents are very favorable to this method and prefer it above all other means of education.  Others vary from cautious to critical in regards to it.

Let me first say that I was homeschooled and grew up with a lot of homeschoolers.  I also homeschooled my two oldest for two years and my youngest this year.  Though I don’t profess to be an academic genius, and there is always more for me to learn, I am fairly confident that I received a good foundation that has not prevented me or “held me back” in any way.

Let me copy some of my responses to the issue of the un-schooling method of homeschooling.  I believe I can then clarify the point of this blog:

The quote from a friend on Facebook that initiated the conversation:

“Short rant: Have you ever noticed that those who advocate ‘un-schooling’ have an education? So why do they think that not educating their children is a good thing? I’m sorry, I thought that education was to be valued!”

The following quotes are my responses to this discussion:

“If  ‘un-schooling’ means taking your kids for nature hikes and then looking up the plants you find in a book or on the internet, then I am for it. If it means you take things that are not from books, but then learn more about those things from books, then I am for it. Otherwise, I think home-schoolers need to be careful. I was home-schooled all of my life and knew tons of home-schoolers. What I have known and seen is too many home-schoolers who can’t spell, form correct grammatical sentences, or hold their own in a formal academic setting. The result is you have young men who are intimidated by more formal education so they stick to “blue-collar” jobs, which is okay if that is what God has called you to do but not okay if that is a decision based on the fact you can’t survive or thrive in a formal academic environment. What I see is home-schoolers who excuse a ‘poverty’ mindset as ‘learning to be content,’ their families always struggle financially and academically, and the cycle continues. Our goal isn’t to pursue wealth, but it is to be effective and excellent — in all areas of life.

“If our husbands and sons can get good-paying jobs, support their families comfortably, and have more resources to then share with others, praise the Lord!  This is a good thing!  Daniel, Moses, and Joseph were highly skilled and educated young people whom God was able to use greatly. Paul was as well. God can use anyone, but it does take certain skills for certain callings. We don’t want to limit our kids because we have accepted a sub-standard of education, priorities, standards, and goals for our family.  It’s too easy to “spiritualize” our own excuses or weaknesses. There is nothing praise-worthy about mediocrity in any area of life — including education.”

The conversation continued…

Our children need to learn discipline and structure, or they will have difficulty adjusting to college life or a job. If, as homeschoolers, we never keep to a schedule or actually have our children sit down and learn to concentrate in front of a table or desk, how are they going to be able to build the life skills of discipline, self-control, and organization in their own lives?  There is a balance to all of this, but some formal training is very important for learning this. My husband has a job that requires him to sit at a computer, concentrate, focus, and be extremely organized and productive with his time. He can’t just be casual and informal in his work. He’d lose his license. He can’t lack self- control and need to constantly get up and walk around every so often. He has to focus, calculate, create, organize, coordinate, etc… I am thankful for the education that he received that makes it possible for me to be a stay-at-home to five kids and to pay our bills. I want my boys to have the same opportunities in life for their families and to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.”

My last response:

Homeschooling is a valuable and high calling, but it is a high calling. It’s a huge responsibility and just as important as any other area of our parenting. I have many homeschooling friends, was homeschooled myself, and I have homeschooled. I am proud of my homeschooling. What I am trying to do is to caution. As homeschoolers, there is not as much accountability, and this can be dangerous. I am not calling for perfection. I am calling for giving our children a decent education and opportunities to serve God.  Too much is excused as something good when it is not.  That is where the danger lies.  It is not fair to ourselves, to our calling from God, to our children to neglect so great an area as their education. Homeschooling can achieve both, but it needs to be viewed as such. We need to respect the importance of our children’s education and of our calling to homeschool, if that is how God has led our families.”

“If a mom simply can’t homeschool her kids decently and manage all of her other priorities/responsibilities, the question is, ‘Why is she doing it?  Is the calling for her and from God?’ If she homeschools out of a sense of guilt and obligation or even legalism, it is wrong. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.  Homeschooling isn’t required by God to be godly, to raise godly children, or to achieve some level of superior-spirituality. It is a calling, by God, for individual families. We, as women, have to be honest as to what we can and can’t handle and for what God has individually called and created us.”

“So, if God is calling or has called you to homeschool, then do it and do it with reverence and honor for your calling, your God, and your children”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days or even a day when you decide you have to take a day off. It doesn’t mean you won’t want to quit at times. What it does mean is that when the going gets tough, you’ll know to persevere because the calling came from God and not some misguided sense of guilt or legalistic hyper-spiritual view. You will persevere because you will know that because God called you, He will enable you to do this.

“Any other efforts to homeschool will ultimately either fail or not succeed because they are attempted in our own personal strength rather than from the Lord’s calling and thus His gifting and grace. Believe me, I know what it means to attempt something under guilt and then to fall flat on my face from coming to the end of my own strength (which happens quickly).”

“Bless, you homeschoolers, you have entered a high calling. Treasure it!”

The main point I want to discuss in this blog is the factor of guilt.  I believe that there are women, like myself, who grew up surrounded by homeschoolers and with a strong emphasis placed upon homeschooling ones children.  In the community in which I was raised, to not homeschool was paramount to sinIt was taught that homeschooling is the ONLY right way to educate ones children.  With such a strong emphasis placed on homeschooling, there was a lot of pressure to homeschool because “it is the only spiritual thing to do,” and the result was a lot of guilt, fear, and condemnation if you didn’t follow this teaching.  It has taken me years to understand that homeschooling is not spoken of anywhere clearly in Scripture, it is not a formula for producing godly children, and it is not God’s calling for everyone.

I completely understand the reasoning behind why people homeschool — well most reasons.  I also completely respect them.  My desire is in no way to discourage those who have been called to homeschool from doing so.  It takes special character traits and grace from God to homeschool, and you, who are homeschooling, deserve recognition and praise for your efforts and accomplishments!

For those of you who are homeschooling more from a sense of obligation, guilt, fear, pride, or “super-spirituality”, I want to encourage you to examine and to be honest with your feelings and motivations.  If homeschooling has become a means of failure for you as a mom, for your family’s well-being and functionality, and is not accomplishing what it should, perhaps you need to take some time alone to read your Bible, to spend much time in prayer, and to examine your heart before the Lord.  Be honest with yourself and with God.

To not homeschool does not make you weak, a mediocre Christian, a failure as a wife and mom.  Nor does it mean you have “let down” your family.

To not homeschool does not mean your children will all become rebellious and worldly. 

Moms, the questions to be asked are, “What is God calling you and your husband to do for your family?  What is the best educational method for your family?  What method best fits how God has created and gifted you?”

Moms, here’s another big one: If God has not called you to homeschool, it does not mean that you are less gifted or weaker than your fellow Christians who do homeschool.  It does not mean that your life is necessarily easier, nor does it make you selfish.

In fact, to do anything, even something good like homeschooling, out of the wrong motivation is actually selfish (the reasoning is self-centered). It may actually become a means that will destroy or cause much detriment to your family.

It also takes strength of character to admit that you were not created to do a specific thing that perhaps everyone else in your circle of friends is doing.

If God has called you though to homeschool, then you have embarked upon a very high calling.  You will need much humility to walk in God’s grace.  You will need much strength from the Lord to persevere.  The rewards may not even be for others to see; you may not have children who are godly in following the Lord or even children who succeed academically.  What you will have though is the peace of knowing that you were obedient to the Lord and did what you were supposed to do.

You see, dear women, it’s not about a certain method that determines the fruits of our labors or peace within our hearts.  It’s about following our God who loves us unconditionally and who made us with the unique abilities that we each possess.

The measure of our spirituality is not in what we do necessarily nor how we appear.  It is in how much we have learned to abide in God.  “Spirituality” comes from Him.  As we learn to abide in Him, we become “plugged” into the true Source of “spirituality”/godliness, and His fruit will become evident in our lives.

Being You

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I will never forget a few precious words that my cousin recently said to me.

We were discussing decisions regarding children, education, schedules, etc…  I was sharing with her some recent advice I had received from someone regarding education choices for our kids. I then told my cousin what my husband and I had concluded was good for our family, based on the Lord’s leading of our family.

My cousin then said, “It is okay to be you.”  Little did she know at the time that tears began to immediately trail down my cheeks.

Perhaps some of you are not “plagued” with the need to please everyone and to try to live up to everyone else’ standards for yourself and your family.  I, on the other hand, am plagued with a perfectionist tendency.  I have a hard time accepting that I am not made like so many other people.  I have an even harder time believing that being different doesn’t make me less valuable, spiritual, or gifted.

I have a desire to be a peacemaker and just to make everyone happy.  I was like that even as a kid.  I can remember actually asking to take my siblings’ punishments at times because I just wanted everyone to be happy.

Now, I find myself trying to live up to the standards of others — and they aren’t necessarily the same as God’s.  …Those “do’s” and “don’ts” that supposedly make us closer to some specimen of perfection or “godliness.”

I grew up with some very nice people, but some people we knew had a very extensive list of what being “godly” looked like.  The list was more about the outward though it was talked as if it was about the inward.  It was often more about doing the right things rather than being the right person God created you to be.

Growing up with that type of pressure I have a tendency and will probably always battle the tendency to feel that if I am truly doing the best or “most godly” thing, I will have so many kids, educate them a certain way, dress them a certain way, and raise them with a whole list of outward standards. 

I have friends that still hold to pretty conservative standards, and I can say there are many that are genuine and truly godly.  Yet, I am coming to see that my spiritual walk may not look the same as theirs.  That my kids’ spiritual walk may not look the same as mine. 

As my cousin so wisely reminded me, God has created us uniquely different. It is okay to be you.  It is okay to be me, meaning the people whom God created us to be. 

Sometimes that means we do things a little differently than other godly Christians.  And, I am not referring to sin.  I am referring to those areas that truly are personal preferences, “gray areas”, or based on personal interpretation.  Scripture is very clear in many areas, but some areas that we speak of, as if they are “Gospel truth,” are really our own personal convictions and/or preferences.

What this also means is that we need to beware of judging others based on our own personal convictions.  I believe that God does call some us to walk a different path than others.  Again, this doesn’t include sin.

If God convicts you of an area that you feel you need to change or do differently, then by all means do it.  If God calls you to walk a little differently than some of your other friends with more conservative convictions, then by all means walk that path.

We are each uniquely designed by God for His glory —  not for our own.  It’s not about doing certain things.  Rather, it’s about being or abiding in the One Who is.   It’s okay to be you — the person whom God created for His glory. We each serve a unique purpose here on this Earth.  Let’s make sure we are asking God for discernment, obeying His leading, and then living to glorify Him alone.

Let’s be the individuals that He created us to be, uniquely bringing glory to Himself and therein finding our own complete fulfillment.