12 January, 2015

What's New

A few weeks ago I was offered an esthetician job, but I declined it.
I know, pretty bold of me in this day and age given the economy, lack of jobs and, given my last and first post, my continuous frustration with job search. Especially when I had a thousand connections to various people at this certain salon who vowed to help me (and did), where the salon needed two estheticians and my chances of getting a job there were doubled. 
As for me, I went above and beyond in other ways to snag this job and, in the end, did eventually earn the prize. But when I did, I felt less than satisfied.
If anything, I felt confused. None of this feels totally right, I thought to myself over and over again. I would change my mind every day on whether or not I would actually take the job. There were a lot of sketchy things about it. 
I often had to stop at the salon to fix things or to bring back papers that went missing due to the lack of organization on their part. I volunteered two (unpaid) hours of my own time after my two interviews to visit the salon, all just “to see if this was really where I wanted to work,” as per the manager’s request. 
Once I had the job, I endured the six-hour (unpaid, and probably illegal) orientation. Through it all, I remained patient with a smile on my face. It was still a job possibility, and a job was the goal.
I thought of taking the job, mainly for the chance to not become one of my current elderly co-workers who turned careers out of our jobs for the awesome benefits. I thought about willingly becoming a slave to this new job, and being trapped in a place that seemed disorganized and so adamant about things being done her way, that I would grow to hate. 
Nothing seemed to clear the cloud of indecisiveness.
[Read the rest of our sponsored post at An Autumn Murmur]

It is a wonderful thing when you have someone's attention; to feel wanted, needed, loved and cared for without any distractions. We look for that in our relationships and friendships, but it is quite amazing to me that, although God is everywhere, we always have His undivided attention. You do not have to pretend to be anything with the Lord; you can be yourself with Him because He sees every part of you- covered and uncovered.

As a woman, I used to go through phases where I felt like I had to be extra feminine or exaggerate certain qualities about myself in order to get the attention of that special guy. You know, that one guy in particular that we all want to notice us and see that we are worth his time. I would go out of my way to create a platform or strategically align myself in a way that would let this guy know how I felt without chasing after him. Have you have been in a space with a guy you like thinking, this is my only opportunity to get him to notice me?  And if he does not, you may think, what more could I have done? Maybe some of you have not had that experience, but I have. What is funny is that I was trying to get him to notice me, but hiding at the same time because I did not want him to see me. How does that even work? As I think on it now, it seems so silly to think that this is what I used to do. 

People often go to extremes on Instagram, Facebook, other forms of social media, or in person to present themselves in a way that seems more attractive and appealing, knowing deep down that the way they would love to perceived is not who they really are. What I have learned through time is this:

If God desires to present an opportunity for you to connect with someone, He is going to do it His way, and in His timing.

I went to an event once, and there was an artist there that was amazing and very humble. You could really see the fruit of God in his life. There was a light about him that could only come from God. I will also admit that I thought he was an attractive man. So anyway, I went to this event and a friend of mine was serious about taking it upon herself to introduce us. We saw him and she walked quickly behind him and stopped him, and I was freaking out in my mind because I did not want her to catch up to him, but she did. She introduced us and he was very nice, but what she wanted to happen did not. She thought that there was going to be an instant and undeniable connection and attraction between us, so she was a little frustrated when that did not take place. I was fine because I knew that nothing was going to happen. The bottom line is, it was very clear to me that this situation was forced. 

I am not saying that we are not called to step out in faith. We may fail or be rejected many times before we get what God desires to bless us with, and sometimes it is simply not for us. But, let me also be very clear about this: I do not believe in a woman pursuing a man and I am always very careful in my interactions with them and want to make sure that I am following God’s leading. 

Moving forward with the story, some months later, this same artist was performing in a show that I was attending. This time I saw God move in a way that was smooth, clear, and orderly. I got to talk with the artist and he did not remember me from the event where my friend tried to introduce us the first go around, but he did remember my name and a previous connection we had earlier in the year. On this occasion, I did not have to try, be, or do anything extra to be seen. I was thankful for the opportunity to meet him, but more than anything, in that moment I knew and was reminded as a woman to always let God present me in the way He chooses. 

The truth is that the false exterior that we try to create is not who we are. Deep down, we hope that a man will see your flaws and love you regardless. However, the only way that this is possible is through Christ's love for you. It is amazing to realize the amount of strength that comes from God when you know He loves you unconditionally. You will wait on Him, even when it gets frustrating and difficult.

Know that your identity does not lie in how a person or experience defines you, but through Christ. I have felt invisible in the sight of men at times, especially the ones I have found to be attractive. I would get very upset, asking God if anyone saw me. God let me know very clearly that He saw me. When Christ sees us, there is nothing in the way blocking or keeping us from the sight of those who are purposed to see us. In following Him, He will align us in the right way and time for the right one. At this point in my life, I am content and I take it as a compliment that God is keeping me covered. It is not a punishment but for a great reason.

Enjoy this season, and learn to live and love like Christ. When we know how to love like Him, we are able to love another.

We love because he first loved us, (1 John 4:19, ESV).

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About the Author :

Francine E. Ott is truly thankful to have a relationship with God and is seeking Him daily for guidance and any opportunities to walk closer with Him in truth and love. Francine is a choreographer/dancer, teacher, and soon to be counselor who has a heart to see God's transforming power, renew, restore, and heal the minds, souls, and bodies of people's lives.

2015. Brand new year, brand new start.

Right now, my social media feeds are flooded with inspirational quotes encouraging women, sparking them to believe in themselves and their ability to change this year, as well as their ability to stick to the things that they have set their minds on to accomplish. Be it losing weight, saving money, finishing school, writing a book...honestly, I am not sure it even matters what the goal is – it is all about you, girl. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Just for clarity’s sake, let me stop for a second to elaborate on what I mean when I speak of the self-esteem, “believe in yourself” message. Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities.” In the secular world, it plays a really big role in motivation, which is why memes are popping up all over Facebook and Instagram right around this time of year with sayings like, ‘Be your own motivation’ and ‘Repeat after me: You Can Do This!

Now, some people might say these messages are not a bad thing. After all, so much of this modern culture is trying to beat women down with photoshopped images of unrealistic women promoting unattainable perfection. They advertise so many products to improve ourselves – hair dyes, waxes, weight loss pills, wrinkle cream, etcetera, etcetera - that I cannot even count. Women could use someone reminding them that they are beautiful, I agree. But the fault in this kind of “You can do it!” message is perfectly summed up in this quote from Alistair Begg:

To believe in Jesus means to quit believing in myself…to quit relying on anything that I believe would make me acceptable before God.

I used to be all about this, but the Lord has brought me to a new place where I simply cannot not get behind the “Believe in yourself” mantra and promote dependency on Christ at the same time. They completely contradict each other. The scriptures are very clear in this:

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLT)

Ladies, I have to be real with you: You cannot do this. Do not believe in yourself. It is a direct lie from the enemy trying to get you to take your eyes off of Jesus and cause you to fail. Because the more you fail, the more you will begin to doubt the power of God. There is no fruit to be born or harvested in trusting in our own abilities, and it is time we come to grips with this truth. Put not your confidence in yourself, but rather put your confidence in God’s ability to work through you.
Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.” (Romans 3:22-27 NLT)

I am not telling you this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you. There is a hope and a promise that, even though we will continuously fail to attain perfection, perfection itself has already been attained for us so that we do not have to. "'Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit,' says the Lord God Almighty," (Zechariah 4:6 ASV).

And I paraphrase…

So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?...Yes the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God… Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God…because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of High Priest we need because He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever. (Hebrews 7:11-28 NLT)

I believe with my whole heart that it is time we really start to check our hearts. Are the messages that say we can do it all, that we are strong and able, that we should believe in our abilities to do whatever we set our hearts on and anything else we can lump into those seemingly encouraging statements, the the kinds of messages we were warned about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4?

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will teach them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT)

It feels good to think we can, I will admit it. I am with you; it feels good to hear that we are able and we are strong and we can. But without Jesus, we can do nothing. Jesus told us so: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5 NIV). Saying, believing, and preaching otherwise would be to put ourselves in a lofty place that we do not belong, and though it sounds harsh to say, it makes us our own idols. And there is nothing good or Godly for us on the other side of that.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 NIV)

Something interesting to note about this particular scripture is though we are not able to do anything without Jesus, to ‘humble ourselves’ implies that it is by our choice or by our doing to do this. But because of our own sinful nature, we even need Jesus to do this, because it is our flesh that cries out in greed for control of our own lives. Submission is our choice, but we need Him to help us with that, too. He is so good to us that way. And even though we are warned that when we exalt ourselves that God will surely humble us, Jesus offers us this amazing promise that if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us. Our glory is in heaven, it is not here. Our ability is there, it is not here. We are not able to do this – He is. He is God alone and there is none like Him (1 Samuel 2:2, Jeremiah 10:6,
1 Chronicles 17:20, Deuteronomy 33:26, Isaiah 45:5-6, Ephesians 4:6, John 1:1-4, and 1 Timothy 1:17).

You are worthy because He said you are.
You are able because He is doing through you.
And you are justified because of His grace.
But it is all about Him.

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About the Author :

Samantha Iammarino is a story-teller by nature, currently enjoying navigating marriage, motherhood, and ministry. She is an avid coffee drinker and writes…a lot. Samantha loves Jesus, books, and creative expression through art and music. She hopes to write a book in the future, and to continue sharing love and truth through her women's ministry, Something Beautiful, as well as her church's youth group.

In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, we read of God's test of Abraham by asking Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice.

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:1-2 ESV)

Abraham took his only son and set out on a three-day journey in order to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, just as the Lord had instructed him to do so.

Can you imagine the agony that Abraham might have felt during his journey as he traveled? Yet, he never let the pain or the anguish stop him. His life still responded in faith to the plan of God.

Everything Abraham did was a response of faith.  He did not even have to say a word. His very life spoke volumes to The Lord, from his early arising to begin the journey, to erecting and preparing the altar for the sacrifice. Even when Abraham bound his only son, placed him on the altar, and stretched out his hands to slay him, his life was still responding to God in faith.  

After God saw Abraham's response of his amazing faith, He then responded to Abraham.

But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:11-12 NKJV)

Abraham's response to the plans of God caused God's response to be "Now I know."

Look at your life.

How is your life, your actions, your thoughts, your habits, and words causing God to respond to you?

Our desires and intents for our lives should always be to live faith filled lives before God...a life that evokes the same response Abraham received: "Now I know that you fear me."

God not only let Abraham know that He could trust him, but He also responded to Abraham's faith-filled response with blessing and increase.

After Abraham passed his test, God spoke these beautiful words of blessing over him:

Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son — blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”(Genesis 22:15-18 NKJV)

God responds with blessings in the lives of those who reverence and fear Him.

Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. (Psalms 34:9 NKJV)

He will bless those who fear the LORD, Both small and great. (Psalms 115:13 NKJV)

The godly are showered with blessings; (Proverbs 10:6a NLT)

Your response of faith may cost you something. It may require a lot. But ladies, we cannot live our lives any other way.

The Bible teaches us that the just shall live by faith. The just do not just talk about it. Faith dictates our life.

I encourage you to ask God to show you anything that has hindered your life's response of faith. When He reveals it to you, ask Him for grace to overcome so that He can look at your life, and say, just as He did to Abraham, "Now I know."

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About the Author :

Pastor Pamela Bell is a passionate, lover of God, who desires to see God's people walk in the knowledge of who they are in Christ. She resides in Mobile, AL and serves as an Elder at her church, Gulf Coast Christian Center. Pastor Pamela enjoys reading, spending time with friends and all things chocolate.