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Compare No More

Do you find yourself getting irritated by those who proudly display their creativity on social media? Or watching/listening to that perfect mom who seems to have it all together and has time to post long blogs, write books and even create tutorial videos of their passions? Do the words “show off” pop into your mind or even spill out of your mouth a little? I know how you feel. I have been aiming for feeling differently.

Irritation is the symptom; comparison is at the root of the problem. The comparison trap has been a social problem since the beginning of human history. It divides families (sibling rivalry- Cain and Able anyone?), neighbors (keeping up with the Johnsons) and countries (who has more power?). At the personal level, it can leave an individual just plain frustrated and dissatisfied with life. So, let’s change that.

First, who created the heavens and the earth? That’s right, God did. He also had you in His plans since the beginning of time, life circumstance and all. Really? Your childhood hurts, your teenage struggles and your adult life complexities were all within the scope of God’s vision since the beginning of time. He didn’t make any mistakes then and He certainly did not make a mistake the day you were brought into existence. From your mother’s womb He spoke your name, yours and every human who has ever been birthed. (Isaiah 49:1)

Second, look at yourself in the mirror. Contemplate your image for a few seconds and then look even further, into your soul. You are the image of your Father, and He is not Darth Vader. Your Father is light. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘ am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.'” (James 8:12) He lights up your world with your life because He is in you. Whoa!

Third and last, (for now; stop me in the hallway if you want to hear a thousand more reasons why you do not need to compare yourself to anyone), “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) 

Seriously, need I say more?

Carmen Tanski
blogger of life


Oh that I may see!

Have you ever tried staring into the sun? When I was a child, it was a game we would play. Lets see who can last the longest. Most kids never made it past 3 seconds. And once you were finished, you couldn’t see much for a few minutes. There was a time that I actually wanted to see what the sun looked like. I tried…and failed. It just blinded me. You just can’t see it with the naked eye. But there are telescopes out there, with special filters that allow us to see the sun. And once you actually get to see the sun, oh how beautiful it is!

Just like staring into the sun without the aid of special equipment will give you nothing but a headache, it can be the same when it comes to reading the word of God. The bible says the Word is a“Lamp unto our feet and a light into our path.” Psalms 119:105.  But reading Gods word without the help of the spirit will not allow you to see the true beauty and wonder in it! Sure you will get something, but not in such Glory that it wins your heart. We must pray for Gods supernatural illumination to show us. It is the same prayer David did in the Psalms:

“Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law.” Psalms 119:17-18

The word “law” here is “Torah”, meaning “instruction” or “teaching”. There are wonderful things in God’s teachings, His word. So wonderful in fact, that they can repeatedly change our lives every time we read. But we will not see it until our eyes are opened by the Spirit of God.

So this week, let this be your prayer. That God may open your eyes to see the truth and beauty in His word. Lets stop blinding ourselves, and ask God for illumination.   You will be amazed at what you will discover in his word!



Pray for the rebels

With all the tragedy happening around us, it is easy to think of ourselves as different. We pray for those hurt, but for those who have caused the pain we say, “What is wrong with these people?” Some might even think, “How can God forgive that?” But we have to remember; in one way or another, we are all on the same boat.

The Bible describes our predicament: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). We all fall short. Sure some sins look and feel worse, and some definitely have painful repercussions, but sin is sin. In the bible, sin is described as lawlessness (1 John 3:4)and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7,Joshua 1:18). And as humans beings, we are rebels! Luckily God is in the business of redeeming sinners. He pursues them like he asked Hosea to pursue Gomer. Like he asked Jonah to preach to Nineveh. He goes looking for them. We have betrayed Him, but he longs for us.

The best part of this story is this. In spite of everything we have done, God did something completely irrational — he sought for a way to buy us out of our slavery to sin. The Bible says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Blood of Christ redeems even the worst of sinners. It has redeemed you and me, and it can redeem those who cause harm. So today, lets lift up not just those who have been hurt, but those who have caused it. Remember, the blood of Christ is enough for all! Even the worst rebel.

 



Whats your Purpose?

Sometime were like zombies.  Working just to feed our appetites. Whimsical with no real purpose, no plan.  The enemy loves that!  I can imagine Satan saying, “Keep them busy and they won’t have time for God.”  In CS Lewis’ apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, senior Demon Screwtape dialogues with his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter; “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”  How true is that? Jesus said, “The thief’s (Satan) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My (God’s) purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10
 
Are we truly satisfied with the way we are living?  Is God?  I often find myself hit by the enemies “fiery arrows”.  It’s when I am complacent and busy that I find myself most vulnerable to potentially “give him a foothold” to gain momentum! Peter warns us to, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
 
I am comforted when I read; 
“If we are faithless He remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” – 2 Tim 2:13
 Even when I don’t feel it, I must believe and hold on to His promises. I am so grateful for His divinely inspired writings. I cannot imagine not having The Bible.  What a privilege! Yet many of us don’t appreciate or consume it. 
 
We try and make it in the wilderness on our own.  If you neglect His Word if you ignore His Spirit, then I’d have to say you are an Independent Christian.  No wonder some of us don’t live “a rich and satisfying life!”
 
John 10:10 is suggesting living life rather than just surviving in life. There is a difference to living and surviving, often times  our living is merely surviving.
 
God called us to an abundant life, a life where our every wish and desire is fulfilled in Him. You can live an abundant life, but it must first be in Jesus. After you’ve answering the first question of “your purpose”, ask yourself, “How are you living?”
 
Orlando Marcano 


Surrender the Beast!

Once more, defeated by bad habits, temptation and sinful ways, discouragement has its way with us. When will we ever stop our corruption, rise above evil and conquer goodness? When we surrender.
 
Our sinful nature is like a wild beast. Have you ever heard of a lion capable of taming himself? Or a wolf who pondered on the possibility of becoming vegetarian so he would no longer have to devour weaker innocent creatures? There is only one way for wild animals to give up or control their innate wildness and predatory instincts: submitting to the training and instruction of an expert trainer. So what on earth makes us think we can live a righteous life in our own strength, or even apart from God?
 
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in (surrender to) Me and I in you (allow Me to help you), you will bear much fruit (you will find yourself victorious over sin); apart from Me (on your own) you can do NOTHING.” John 15:5
 
How do we surrender? 1) By seeking Him in prayer, bible reading and study, and networking (active fellowship) with other God fearing people. 2) By closing the door to the many distractions and sources of worldly things that we find so desirable and draw so much pleasure from. But you said we can’t do it in our strength! Wah! (I’m whining to myself here). Here’s the key and the strategy that will help us a little each day and will grow us stronger in our walk with Him: the more we choose to do number 1, the more strength we will have (the more power God gives us through His word) to do number 2. And as we develop an increasing hunger and thirst for number 1, the easier it will get for us to do number 2 without so much struggle. (No, this is not potty talk. Concentrate.)
 
“For the Word of God is alive and active (ready to work at ALL times). Sharper than any double-edged sword (able to cut through the hardest or most stubborn of hearts), it penetrates (nothing can block it) even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (much better than Thor’s hammer); it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (it puts our consciousness on trial, not to sentence us to prison, but in order to set us free).” Hebrews 4:12 NIV
 
Therefore, when we “consume” (read, study, meditate on) His Word, also known as “The Bread of Life,” we invite Him into our thinking process. It is a transforming power. This is why we do not have to try to transform ourselves (we can’t anyways), we take in His sword and It will cut through all the yucky stuff we have sticking to our minds and thoughts. He does the work.
 
If you call the plumber to come fix a problem in your house, would you expect him to do the work without entering in?
 
Carmen Tanski

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Contentment can be found!

We usually look at other people’s lives and think, “Man, they have it good.” We live unhappily thinking that our lives could be so much better than it is now. Wanting more, envying others for what they have and feeling like victims of circumstance. Look at this article from Christianity today:

“Being a Facebook user, I love posting prayer requests or sharing photographs with friends and family members. Within seconds news travels through cyberspace, lessening the distance between family and friends. Unfortunately, this also becomes a temptation for comparisons, which lead to discontent. We log on and see one of our friends has happily posted an achievement. Instead of responding with heartfelt congratulations, we turn a little green. Isn’t this the same thing I’ve labored on for years with few results? Defeated, we log off, busying ourselves with something else.”

We are usually discontent with our bodies, our economy, our family, our friends. Married people are discontent with their spouse, we are discontent with our cars, our home, our hair, our height, etc. We always want what someone else has, all the while forgetting to be thankful for what we have.

Why am I talking about this? Because we have all played in our heads the movie that is the rest of our lives at some point. And many of us have made that movie a reality. Get a degree, get married, have some kids, have a successful career, 2 cars, a house and a dog. You are going to be the best at what you do. Maybe even be a great leader in a church. Wow, life is good!

And by no means is any of this bad. And reaching for it isn’t bad either. Dream big, reach your goals, and be those men and women of God that will make a difference in society. But what happens if all that disappears? What if you never reach all your goals?

There are going to be times, if that time is not now, that you will go through hardships. You will confront disappointments and failures. You might even go broke. There might come a time where you lose that dream job, when you won’t get that dream car, where finishing school seems like an insurmountable distance. Moments when nobody will be able to help even if they wanted to, when life will smack you in the face and you will want to complain to God and say why did you do this to me?

It is in these moments that you will learn that life is more than achievements and monetary gain, more than looks and perception. True joy and Contentment comes from Christ. Loving Him, living for Him.

Man what a tough word, contentment. The dictionary defines contentment as the state of being happy and satisfied. And most say, “If I have a good job, and nice house, I am content”. But the issue is, stuff comes and goes. You can loose everything in an instant. So we need to find contentment in something more permanent.

Paul says in Philippians 4:10:13:

”I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret to be happy at anytime in anything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough. I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength”

Wow, that is powerful. Contentment in your life, no matter what your life looks like, can only be found in Christ. That is the only way we will truly be happy.

Let me ask you: Are you content, satisfied, glad and delighted with your present state in life? If you are not, remember what Paul said: “I have learned to be satisfied.” He wasn’t born a content person. He was born just like you and me, a sinful being. Through faith in Christ, he learned to be truly satisfied, no matter the circumstance.

If you are afraid of the future or discontent with your present, put your life at His feet and trust Him. He is wiser, smarter and more powerful than we will ever be. Plus, you don’t know what he has in store for you:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 5:8-9
 
Lourdes Rodriguez


TGFB! (Thank God For Beginnings)

Often times, we hear or read encouraging words urging us to press on towards a given goal, to keep our eyes on the prize, to give our 110% push because we’re almost there, at the end.
 
A less frequent, but not uncommon, message is the one about the journey. Keep working out, make sound choices, save one dollar a day, don’t give up, put one foot in front of the other, etc.

 Rarely do we hear anything about beginnings. Perhaps because for the most part beginnings are complex. For one, we get many shots at starting over. Then we get frustrated with ourselves, or others, because how many times is it going to take for us, or them, to get it right? And yet, new beginnings are a gift given to us by our Heavenly Father for not just one area, but all aspects of our lives.

The Bible begins like this, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1 NET). But then we quickly find out there was a mess. And God proceeded to organize, with a new beginning. Then, men made a mess of things, again. And God chose Noah and his family to start all over. Then God chose Abraham to start a nation by which all nations would be blessed. And then He Himself came down in the flesh and began the period of Grace by which we all have access to His forgiveness, salvation and a life abundant here on earth and for eternity.

Then, why do we dislike beginnings so much at times? Waking up in the morning can be a drag. We prefer Fridays to Mondays. And let’s not talk about that first day when we start a new diet!

I believe it is all in the perspective. “The LORD’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; your faithfulness is abundant!” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NET). If God’s loyal kindness NEVER CEASES and His compassions NEVER END, then what does it mean when it says they are fresh, or new, every morning? It seems sort of paradoxical. But here’s a story that clued me in to God’s point on new beginnings.

When my autistic son was about five years old, I was gently pushing him towards independence. This was not easy since leaving him to a given task often meant I had to remind him or refocus him a million times. For instance, leaving him to get dressed for school in the mornings was painful. I had to come back to his room numerous times to say, get dressed, time to go, breakfast is ready, we will be late, you will miss the bus, and on and on. For the most part, when I’d come knocking on his door, I would find him totally naked. Almost every day I heard myself saying to him, you don’t have to change your underwear, just your pajamas. And every day he would again strip down. Some days I would find him staring at his reflection in the mirror. Other days I would find him looking out the window, naked. One particular day, I ran upstairs to his room on the usual mission, to get him going. I found him lost in thought in front of his bedroom window, naked. It looked like he was staring at the sun and the sun was staring right back at him. And it hit me, every day is a new beginning. I must rid myself of the burdens of yesterday, daily. Just like my son would strip himself off each morning, not even keeping underwear on, I must learn to embrace each morning, and each beginning anew. If you’re starting a new job, don’t bring the burdens of the old one with you. If you’re starting a new fitness/wellness program, don’t bring with you your past failed attempts. Give your new beginnings a real shot at beginning.

God gave us a true beginning at the cross. He said to the repented thief, “today you will be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43 NET). Jesus encouraged him to leave all his filthy rags behind, right there and then. He needed do nothing to earn this new beginning, just believing that Jesus was the Son of God and his Savior, and he would be in paradise that very day.

Do you believe God for your new beginnings? Do you trust Him that He has made things new for you, not just yesterday, but today and every day? He doesn’t leave us nor forsake us. And if it takes millions of times that we trip and fall, He is always near to take our hand and get us started again on our continuous journey. Our story doesn’t end here, it doesn’t even end when He comes for His church or when we take our last breath. And even that turns out to be yet another beginning, eternity with Him.

In the here and now, however, I encourage you to embrace the daily beginnings that He offers you, for they are His blessed gifts.

by Carmen Tanski
blogger of life


Mountain or Molehill?

I love how eight year olds think they have it all figured out. I was watching my son Noah and his best bud Josh practice their scooter jumps on a DIY ramp they proudly made out of some scraps of wood. It couldn’t have been more than a half a foot high but determination in their eyes and the sense of accomplishment they got every time they successfully jumped off their mini ramp was quite amusing. …”Dude! Did you see that?!” Before that, they were climbing a tree in the backyard. From listening to them talk about it you’d think they were in the Amazon swinging from tree to tree hundreds of feet off the ground when in reality it was more like a 3 foot sycamore.
Perception is reality. In their own eyes these kids accomplished the impossible but I had a front row seat. My perspective was different. I was looking at the whole picture. They were hopping over a quintessential molehill while I wondered what kind of mountains they would face in their futures.

I was so struck by the parallel in my own life. Sometimes, I look at the reality of the moment and see it as an insurmountable mountain, yet from the Almighty’s perspective my molehill is indeed…well, a molehill. Why is it so hard to put things in perspective? Maybe it’s because I don’t have the whole picture. Maybe my perspective is skewed. Maybe I’m on the inside looking in. It’s hard to be in two places at once. I can’t see the whole picture from where I’m standing. I can’t see the entire universe from my fixed location on my front porch. It’s just not possible. GOD however, He stands outside my reality and chuckles as I try to conquer my mountains…ahem, molehills.

I have what looks like a mountain standing in front of me today. Unlike the mountains of my childhood, this one looks far more threatening. It seems to be towering over me. I know there is no way I can conquer this one. The thinking side of me knows that God sees my mountain for the molehill it really is, that His perspective is better than mine. That He is sovereign and that He never loses control. I know that He is right and just in whatever He chooses to do about my molehill, even if it isn’t what I want. But there’s a heart part of me and it is indignant. I want God to move my mountain, or at least help me conquer it. ”Why haven’t you done my will God!” “WHY!?!?” The heart part of me feels discouraged and disappointed. It is frustrated because I know I am absolutely helpless and can do nothing to move this mountain. I feel like the psalmist as I look up at my mountain and really do wonder, “where will my help come from?”

Today I heard someone say that we are to ask boldly and surrender completely. Seems like such a contradiction. I can feel free to approach the throne of grace and make my requests known to God. I can be bold and He won’t hold it against me. And on the other hand I need to acknowledge that God is sovereign. I need to lay my will aside. How do those two work together? How can you ask boldly and surrender completely? Can that even be done?

Like a gentle father God reminded me that not only can it but it has. …”father…take this cup away…but not my will but yours”…what a beautiful reminder that in the thoughts of God we can ask boldly and surrender at the same time. Jesus in the garden didn’t make sense to me. How could it? He really did have a mountain before him. The likes if which no one in history ever has or ever will face. But it made sense to God because He saw the bigger picture.

What will I do about this mountain? Experience has taught me that yelling at it and kicking it will only leave me bruised up. I think I need to try something different. I don’t want to give up control but let’s face it folks, I never had it to begin with.

Even though it goes against everything I want, I have to change my approach.
Like the psalmist, I have to speak to my soul…”Why are you downcast oh my soul…put your hope in God.” I have to try to change my perspective and ask for the grace to see my molehill for what it really is. …”in this world you will have trouble but take heart because I have overcome the world!” I will ask boldly…”let us approach the throne of grace with confidence” and “in every situation…make your requests known to God”.

Sounds doable so far. I can handle that I think.  But there’s one last thing I have to do and that’s the hardest. That’s the one I struggle with the most because that’s the one that makes no promises of me getting my way. It’s not that I don’t believe God can move my mountain. He can. But what if He won’t? Can I trust that He knows best? That His will for me is good? That even if I don’t see the benefits on this side of heaven, it the eternal scheme of things, this will have been for my good? I have to surrender. I have to “trust in the lord your God and lean not on your own understanding” and like Jesus, I have to be willing to lay my will aside…”father…not my will but yours be done.”

By Denise Cruz



Lets Face it…we are all failures.

Have you ever watched those epic fail videos on YouTube? Let me tell you, I can spend hours just watching that stuff. The things people try to do, knowing they cant, is just ridiculous! There was one video of a man trying to do a flip off of his roof onto a trampoline. Well, he jumped…he made it to the trampoline…then he bounced off, hit the side of the house and landed on his head. That video got me thinking.  Our lives are alike like those epic fails. We behave in a certain way, unhindered and going against everything we are. Suddenly we fail and it feels like the world is laughing.

On our own, we mess up, and we suffer. Constantly. Lucky for us, we don’t have to go through life alone. Christ loves us in spite of our failures. In fact, he is an expert at turning failures into success.

Everything that we go through, we go through for a higher purpose. And He might not cause everything, but He does use it. Think of it as growing pains. Paul said it best:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Real growth always involves struggles and pain. Sure it might not feel good at times, but it’s in those moments of suffering that we realize we need Christ. Failing and suffering are all due to our sinful nature. We have all sinned and fallen short of Gods Glory. And it is this very sin that causes all our troubles. Think of it like the trampoline the man jumped on in the first example. It seemed like a solid plan, but the trampoline threw him for a ride that ended in pain. Our sin eventually leads us to an eternity of suffering. But that path was rerouted when Jesus died on the Cross. He died so we didn’t have to. Now we can come to him, as failures and be transformed.   In reality, Jesus draws us to Him, through our pain. Listen to what Gods word says:

“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

We are messed up peoples. But through Grace, God allowed Jesus to come in and pay the price so that we can be free of that burden of and live glorifying his name. But we need to rely on him! Not ourselves.

So next time you see yourself as a failure, remember, God loves to use those who fail. In fact, he makes it a point to use them. Look at Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, even Paul. They were failures on their own. God uses those who fail to show himself to his people. Lets face it we are all failures, but through Christ, we win!



Humility

Humility: Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.

“You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.” 2 Samuel 22:28

A friend and I were talking about humility and he said, “I trust the humility of a rich or a person in power more that the humility of a poor person.”  Think about that!  A poor person often has no other option but to be lowly, but the one in power or without earthly need doesn’t have the need to be servile, meek or modest.  The Bible says that “Moses was very humble—more humble than any other person on earth.”  Imagine The Creator of the Universe saying that about us.  “So and so, was very ??? —more ??? than any other person on earth.”

What would be written about you? Would be the most trusting, honest, integral or the most complaining, gossiping, criticizer and judgmental person.  I cringe when I think about what can be said of me those time when  I’m not walking in the Spirit.  The choice is ours. What will said of us when were gone?

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” – 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)