Spiritual Deep Cleaning

Note:  I first wrote this post in 2012 but thought it was worth reposting today.

I was on a mission to clean my house the day before my 34thbirthday.  I thought this was an appropriate birthday gift for myself.  Forget the flowers and candy, I just wanted to sit on my birthday and look at a clean house with everything in order.  While I was on my mission, my tenacious two year old had his own agenda.  He was looking for some candy.  He knew that I often kept gum in my room, out of their reach.  As I was cleaning, he was searching.  I stepped out of my room for a few minutes and when I returned, Elijah had moved the ottoman from the front of my bed in hopes that he would find gum there.  Instead of finding his treasure, he found a mess of clothing and random things that had fallen on the ground and had been covered by the ottoman.  When I walked in the room, I looked at the mess, and did what any sleep deprived, mission oriented, I just want my house to “look” clean if only for a day mother of five would do. .. I pushed the ottoman back in its proper position and hid the mess again.  PERFECT.  As I pushed the ottoman back in its ‘proper’ place, I muttered to myself, “I just don’t want to deal with this today.” My focus was to clean the surface…only what could be seen.

 

How often have we taken this approach with our walk with Christ?   We come to the Lord and we cry out, “Lord clean me, wash me, mold me.”  All the things that sound good, the things we think God wants to hear.   But as He begins to clean (purify) us, He pulls away the spiritual ottoman if you will that have been covering our mess.  God uses different methods to expose our mess and to keep us accountable.  He uses His word (written and spoken), our spiritual leaders, brothers and sisters in Christ, and by directly speaking to us. Of course this is not an exhaustive list. Sadly we often do what I did the day before my birthday. We push the ottoman back to cover the mess.  Too much work to be purified.  We want to remain on the surface. Lord don’t start shifting stuff and showing me how “dirty” I am, my imperfections.  It is more comfortable to appear “clean” as opposed to allowing the Lord to go beneath the surface with us.

But consider this, I would have had to be the one to clean up the exposed mess in my room that day.  However, it is not the same when God shows us our mess.  He doesn’t expect us to clean ourselves, He does the job for us!  He just wants us to humble ourselves and surrender to the process.  We don’t have to get it right on our own!  Isn’t this awesome news?!   Are you resisting the deep cleaning that the Lord wants to do in you?  Allow Him to do it, you won’t regret it!

 

Psalm 51:7

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

 

Disobedience Opens the Door to the Enemy

God’s word and my personal experiences have taught me that disobedience opens the door for the enemy to oppress me.   Disobedience is an invitation to God to lift His hand of protection from my life.  Daniel 1 says that the Lord gave the enemy the victory over His people because of their disobedience.  Also in Judges 13 we see the Lord allowing His people to be taken over by the Philistines because of their disobedience.  These are just two of many examples in scripture.

It is not realistic to think I can insulate myself from trouble because it comes knocking on everyone’s door.  However, I want to walk in obedience so that when trouble comes knocking it is Jesus that answers the door.  When He answers, I ALWAYS WIN.  I do not want to evict Jesus through my disobedience.  I desperately need His protection.  I cannot do life on my own.  I cannot fight the devil in my own strength.  I just can’t.  He is a real enemy.  When trouble comes my money, my degree, my connections, NONE of them can provide a lasting protection.

For the record, the enemy is ALWAYS on the attack.  He is a relentless foe.  He is so serious about doing his job well…to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  I cannot afford to be left uncovered.  There were seasons of my life where I walked in disobedience and the scars were there to prove it.  There were painful consequences that I had to deal with even after receiving Jesus’ forgiveness. The price that I had to pay for disobedience was not worth the pain.

God always requires obedience.  We don’t get to pick and choose when or what we obey. A pattern of disobedience brings consequences.  There is no way around it.  God puts restrictions and instructs us for our own good and ultimately to bring Him glory.   The beautiful thing about God is that He asks us to obey but also gives us the grace to do it.  He wants His children to close the door to the enemy and claim the victory we already have in Him!  There are tremendous rewards now and later for those that obey.

Are you being attacked by the enemy?  Do you feel like you have the victory or are you being devoured?  Are you walking in obedience?  If not repent, receive God’s forgiveness and grace and begin to do ALL you know you should do.

And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:17(NLT)

Repentance is the warm up before prayer

 

Most workout enthusiast encourage you to warm up before exercising because it is crucial to an effective workout.  It warms your muscles, increases blood flow to exercising muscles and the heart, which minimizes the risk of injury and increases your energy.  The same is true for prayer.  There are times we want to jump in COLD and our prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling.  We know we have done wrong and we refuse to acknowledge it, we just want to tell God all we need from Him.   However, I have learned that REPENTACE melts the frost off our hearts causing the blood of Jesus to flow in our situation.  It is arrogant to think that we can just come into the presence of God expecting something without acknowledging that we have done wrong.  God is simply not pleased with arrogance.  He makes it quite clear that He resist the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).  True Repentance requires true humility.

Sometimes we say sorry because we don’t like the consequences of our actions, but would return to that sinful action in a heartbeat if there were no consequences attached; if we knew we would not be caught.   This is not true repentance.  Repentance is saying God I am sorry and I really mean it.  I regret what I have done and I truly want to change.  I want to turn from my sinful ways because I know it displeases you.  Repentance says I want to turn my back on sin and run forward into the arms of Jesus.  It is more than words, it is a shifting of the heart.  It is an invitation to Jesus to come in and make right all that is wrong.   Yes I prayed that initial prayer when I first came to Christ asking Him to forgive me of my sins, but that was not intended to be my only prayer of repentance.  As I go with Christ, His truth shines the light on the parts of me that need to change.  I have given up on trying to fix me because the list is long.   However when I repent, I am inviting Jesus to shower me with HIS grace to walk in victory. For His strength to turn away from the very thing that displeases Him.  It is an ongoing process, but one that brings great FREEDOM!

Is there something that you know you need to repent of so that your prayers will not be hindered?  Anger, jealousy, a bad attitude?   I encourage you to pour your heart out to Jesus and receive His forgiveness so that you can move forward in your prayers.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.  1 John 1:8-10 NLT

 

God Did It! My Testimony of Debt Forgiveness and A New Home

Note: I wrote this post in 2012 and God blessed us to have our 6th child a year after moving into our new home. He is so faithful!

I have settled into my NEW NORMAL!  The last few months have been quite an adventure and we are beginning to slow down FOR NOW.  We were blessed to move into a bigger home to accommodate our large family.  God moved in a supernatural way and opened a door that we could not open on our own. This post is to encourage you to stand in faith and to believe God for the impossible.  This is not just about a bigger house but it is to put spotlight on a God that still honors faith and moves mountains.  Put on your cyber listening ears and allow me to TESTIFY!!!!!

When my husband and I first moved into our previous home 8 years ago, it was so big.  It was just the two of us and we were expecting our first child.  That was in 2003.  But 2005 came and we welcomed our 2nd child, then wouldn’t you know it baby number 3 came in 2007.  We had developed a pattern of having a baby on odd years and the trend continued.  Baby number 4 came in 2009 and blessing number five came 2011.  If you were exhausted reading that imagine what it was like for us. Needless to say, we outgrew our humble abode and desperately needed more space.

But there was just one little problem.  The finances were telling us that we COULD NOT afford to move.  When we first moved in our home, it required a lot of TLC, so we took out a loan to do some home improvements.  After we were done doing what we needed to do to make the home livable, we had incurred a large amount of debt. We were not required to pay back the loan until we moved out of the house and there was no interest.  We did not anticipate having so many children so quickly and assumed that we would be in the house for quite a while.  God however had another plan.  My husband was the only one with an income. I have been a stay at home mom for the last 8 years, so we didn’t just happen to have an extra $28,000 hanging out in our savings to pay this debt so we could move.  But we couldn’t deny that we needed more space.  We petitioned the Lord and had other likeminded believers standing in faith with us. To make a very long story short the debt was FORGIVEN IN FULL!  God seems to major in forgiveness of debt doesn’t He, remember the cross scenario?  We received news that our $28,000 debt was forgiven in full the day that our fifth child came out of his first of three major surgeries.  The news was a great source of encouragement for us during this season of great uncertainty.  We were SUPER EXCITED!  But we still did not have any extra money to move forward to purchase a new home that would accommodate our growing family!

We continued to stand in faith and not focus on our bank account.  We went looking at homes that we knew we couldn’t afford, all the while praying for yet another miracle.  The house hunting process was a very long one and we had many moments of feeling discouraged but pressed forward in faith.  There were many believers standing and believing with us.  In the process of looking for a home, a dear sister at our church told us something that we initially did not have the faith for.  She told us that she was believing the Lord to give us a house that was no less than 4000 sq. ft. and that our new mortgage would be the same or less than what we had been paying for our 1100 sq. ft. home.  WHAT? That was just crazy. We did the smile and nod script when she first shared this impossible desire with us.  But with time, we began to believe the Lord for just that.

To add to the frustration of the house hunting process, no one seemed to be interested in our home that was now on the market.  By divine intervention we had some teachers from our children’s school LITERALLY show up at our front door expressing interest in renting our home. We had previously dismissed the idea of renting because we did not want to deal with having people in our home that we did not know.  BUT the Lord stepped in and sent these tenants to our front door.  They were very serious about renting the property, so much so that they were willing to give us the security deposit months in advance.  It was also an added bonus that they were not total strangers to us. We agreed to rent them the property but expressing to them that we still had not found a home to purchase.

Right when we hit the point of fatigue, my husband came across a home on the internet in an area that we had not even thought about.  The home was only 5 years old and had recently gone into foreclosure. When my husband saw it on the internet, it had been on the market for a few days.  I must admit that when he first showed me the home online, I was not impressed and thought that it looked too good to be true.  I assumed that there had to be a catch and they were lying about the measurements of the home considering the listing price.  He called our realtor and had her schedule an appointment.  RELUCTANTLY I went.  I had my “I told you so” speech all ready for after we viewed the house and realized that it was a scam.  But wouldn’t you know it, God blew our minds!  The home was beautiful, perfect for our family.  We made an offer that was lower than the already reasonable listing price.  We were told that the bank would not entertain our price because the asking price was already so low.  We figured God had brought us this far so why not!  The bank did budge and fast forward to a few months later, I am now sitting in that same house on my computer typing my TESTIMONY!

Yes that’s right, the home is now ours.  Not only is it a beautiful home but it is 4103 sq. ft. and oh yeah our mortgage payment is $25 dollars cheaper than what we were paying for our 1100 sq. ft. home. GLORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now God is not our genie who just gives us whatever we want whenever we want it.  This was a process and it served a purpose. During our season of waiting God taught us:

  1. To give out of our lack, even when it just doesn’t make sense.
  2.  God’s timing is certainly not ours but don’t give up if it doesn’t come when you desperately want it to or expect it.
  3.  To Serve Him faithfully even when we don’t have what we WANT.
  4.  Continually surrender and relinquish control even in areas that is downright uncomfortable (e.g. having all these babies when we just didn’t see how on ONE income?)
  5.  Continue to walk in faith and not be concerned about appearing negligent and foolish in the eyes of others. 6. When the blessing comes, it may not be in the package you expect it but it’s just what you need.
  6.  Look to Him and not man to be our provider.
  7. We don’t have to try to defend why we serve Jesus, He always silences the naysayers in a LOUD WAY
  8. Praise Him in LITTLE and in PLENTY cause He is the same good God regardless of the season.
  9. Serve God and not the blessing!

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Striking a pose on closing day in our new home!
Striking a pose on closing day in our new home!
Tyrone opening the door of his new home as Naomi looks on with much joy and excitement!
Tyrone opening the door of his new home as Naomi looks on with much joy and excitement!

5 Tips For Effective Bible Study

Below are five tips to make your study of God’s word more effective.

1.  Find a passage that deals with your current situation. Do you open the Bible and have no clue where to read? Ask yourself the following questions to help direct your study: Do I need encouragement for something? Am I struggling in a certain area?  This is where google can be extremely helpful.  For example, if you are worrying a lot and find it difficult to have peace do a google search for “scriptures about worrying?” Use these scriptures to guide your study.

2.  Get a journal for Bible study time.  I am a huge fan of writing things down so I have a journal that I use to record all that I have learned in my time of study.  Having my thoughts and notes in one place provides the opportunity for constant review and encouragement when I need it.

3.  Summarize the passage after you read it.  I try to make a habit of summarizing a passage after I read it to see if I really understand what it means.  There is something about writing things down that helps us to retain it.   If I am unable to summarize what I read this means I really did not get it.  I go back and reread it and even look up certain words in the passage or read the passage in different translations.  I especially like the New Living Translation, New King James Version and Amplified. I utilize biblegateway.com to access these different versions.  Remember the point here is to study the word not just read it.

4.  Ask yourself questions to make the passage more personal. Make connections from your own life with the passage.  After reading a passage, ask yourself questions such as:  How am I measuring up to this passage?  Am I living this passage out, or am I falling short?  Be honest with your answers. For example, Proverbs 14:1 says a wise woman builds her house while a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.  I ask myself the following questions after reading this passage and record my answers.  Am I a wise woman?  What does it mean to build my house?  What are some practical things I have been doing to build my house?  Or have I been foolish?  How have I been tearing my house down?  What practical changes can I make TODAY to start building my house?  What can I say to my husband to my children, etc.?  Is there are a need for me to repent?

If it is a promise that is being made in the passage, ask yourself, “Am I meeting the conditions laid out in the passage to receive the promise?” Have I been obedient or have I been walking in rebellion?

If you are reading about a certain character, ask yourself, what qualities about this character pleased God or displeased God?  Do you have any of these qualities?

Take some time and ask the Lord to show you how to apply what you have read.  The scripture tells us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22).

5.  Incorporate what you have studied in your prayers.  As I have mentioned before, you can never go wrong praying the word of God because we know the word is His will.  I view my prayer time as an extension of my Bible study.  I like to pray what I read and again I take the scripture and personalize it.   For example, I want my marriage to mirror what is laid out in scripture. I have made a habit of praying Ephesians 5:22-30. I may not quote the entire scripture but my prayer may go something like this, “Lord I thank you that I am a wife that submits to Tyrone and that he loves me like you loved the church and gave yourself for it. I thank you for a sacrificial love, one that honors you.”  In my prayers I speak the word because I want that to be my reality!

Incorporating these steps take time, but remember when studying the word of God it is about depth not breath.  In other words, the focus should be on how much you retained and how deep you went as opposed to having bragging rights to reading 20 chapters in one day but getting absolutely nothing from it. On some days, I am only able to study two verses because there is so much in it.  Slow down and take your time, the word of God is rich!

What do you do to make your Bible study effective?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

 

Now What?

Now what?  Those were the words I wrote in my journal the day after coming back from the Women’s Advance where I experienced a mighty move of God.  God confirmed His purpose for my life and I gave birth to something new, the gifts He placed in me where activated at a greater level.  I was overwhelmed by his presence, by His love for me.  I was on a high.  I was not the only one.  We were rebuked, and encouraged to let our flesh die so that we may walk in what God has called us to, so that we may produce.  We were cleansed, we were warned, we received prophetic words, and we praised.   The weekend is over, now what?  How do we walk in the revelations we received so that God gives us more?  How do we continue to put our flesh to death? How do we continue to allow the Lord to prune us? The answer is actually quite simple.  We have to make an active decision EVERYDAY to stay in God’s presence.  We have to make bible study and prayer a daily priority.  We have to continue to abide so that we may produce.  Below is a study guide for John 15: 1-8 to encourage us to continue to abide in Jesus.  I am fully aware that not everyone reading this post attended the Advance this weekend but perhaps you have received some major breakthrough and you are wondering how to continue to walk in victory and submit to the pruning process.  I pray that this brief study blesses you as well.

Read John 15:1-8 and answer the questions below

Note: Do not attempt to answer all the questions in one sitting. It is recommended that you answer a few a day to ensure that you are really “studying” the scriptures. If you would like, make a phone date with another sister to review your answers.

vine

Photo credit: http://www.drastudio.com/past/2006/02/25/he-is-the-vine/

1.  Who is the vine? (vs.1)

2. Who is the gardener? (vs. 1)

3.  What does Jesus mean when He says the gardener will cut off every branch that does not produce fruit? (vs.2)

4.  What does it mean to prune?

5.  What is the purpose of pruning? (vs. 2)

6.  Have you ever been pruned before? How has God used being a wife and a mother to prune you? Be specific.

7.  Does being pruned feel good? Why or why not?

8. What dead things is He trying to remove from your life?

9.  Are you allowing Him to prune you, or are you resisting?

10.  What kind of fruit does God want us to produce? (Hint: Galatians 5:22-23). Take some time to define what each fruit means (this does not have to be done in one sitting, can take a few days to do this). Write down ways that you are producing each fruit as 1. A wife 2. A mother.

11.  What greater fruitfulness is God trying to produce in you? (vs. 3) If you don’t know, spend some time in prayer and ask Him, be still long enough to hear Him answer. Grab a pen and paper to write down His response.

12.  What does remaining in God look like? (vs. 4) If you are having difficulty answering this question visit the site address listed below to help. Write the answer in your own words.

http://www.gotquestions.org/abide-in-Christ.html

13.  Do you believe that you cannot do anything apart from Christ (vs. 5)? Does your actions support this? In other words, are you constantly trying to control situations, your life, thinking you can do it all by yourself or do you rely on Christ? Give examples to support your answer.

14.  What does vs. 6 really mean? How do the following scriptures support your answer? (Mathew 3:10, Revelations 20:15, Revelations 21:8)

15.  What is verse 7 saying, write its meaning in your own words? How does believing this change the way you pray?

16.  Are you a true disciple of Jesus, how do your actions support your answer? (vs. 8)

17.  What is the purpose of Jesus’ disciple producing fruit, is it for ourselves? (vs .8)

 

Be blessed!

Anika