Thursday, March 31, 2016

the Word of the Lord stands forever

What lasts?
What really, really lasts?
In earthly terms, the simple answer is nothing.
Nothing in and of this world lasts.
What we strive so desperately to possess today... what we obsess to obtain... what we hope to accomplish in our careers, with our families, in our "moments"... yes, all of it will one day pass away. Our traditions will be lost. Our hopes will be forgotten. Everything we know will fade. Dust in the wind, if you will. All of us are dust in the wind.

For all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

I've been thinking about this reality for several difficult years.  Moments when I've witnessed a man of extreme poverty stare tearfully into my eyes while holding his starving, sick child up and hoping for a miracle. Moments when someone who had ignorantly abused me most of my life suddenly passed away in humble frailty and silence. Moments when good friends that I care about continue to face life-threatening health concerns jeopardizing the possibility of every tomorrow. Yes, it's been a "mouth-shutting" few years of moments where my own whims and desires continue to prove petty - even ridiculous - in comparison to the needs of so many who live without: without encouragement... without love... without eternity... without holy health... without lasting hope.

Yes, all men are like grass. All our glory... all our moments, both cherished and disgraceful, are temporary, worthless vanity. "Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away." (Psalm 144:4) Yes, we will each indeed wither like the flowers picked from the field. Flowers that now sit in plain view in the vase on my coffee table. Every day another petal falls. Each second less of their earthly life remains, as does ours. And when our days are through, each of us will leave behind our belongings for others to use and ultimately dispose of or leave behind again. Belongings that will also one day be dust. Riches and treasures of this earth - gone. Whatever seems so earth shattering today, will mean nothing tomorrow. For nothing really lasts. We simply cannot last as we are. You see, our world is a dying land. Our lives are infected with the corrupted, the broken, the deteriorating effects of sin.

But (and this is the most important "but"...), the word of the Lord stands forever!

For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. (Psalm 33:4)

What, you ask, is the Word of the Lord? What lasts? What remains? What matters so much that it... that HE is faithful and able to stand forever and ever? Tell me, what can really last and reach eternal grandeur and ultimate glory? Certainly not any of us. Certainly not the buzz of celebrities, or the opinions of politicians, or the wealth of the rich and famous, or the popularity of the renowned, or the strength of the mighty, or the intelligence of the brilliant.... no, all of us are dust in the wind. Thankfully, the good news is this: According to scripture, the Word of the Lord is Jesus! Yes, JESUS! And the kingdom of Jesus is eternal!!!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 12-14)

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Revelation 19:13)

No matter what part of scripture you read, I encourage you to see how frequently the Word of the Lord (Jesus) is indeed living, present, and active in the lives of dusty, broken men. Notice in the Old Testament alone how many times He makes himself available to us. (Here is just a sampling...)

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1) Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel... (1 Samuel 15:10) That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan... (2 Samuel 7:4) The word of the LORD came to Solomon... (1 Kings 6:11) Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah... (1 Kings 17:2) Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him... (2 Kings 20:4) So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the LORD... (1 Chronicles 21:19) The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah... (Jeremiah 25:1) The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest... (Ezekiel 1:3) Daniel understood the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD... (Daniel 9:2) The word of the LORD that came to Hosea... (Hosea 1:1) The word of the LORD that came to Joel... (Joel 1:1) The word of the LORD came to Jonah... (Jonah 1:1) The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah... (Zephaniah 1:1) The word of the LORD came to the prophet Haggai... (Haggai 2:1) The word of the LORD came to Israel through Malachi... (Malachi 1:1)...

Friends, it is a certainty that we need the Word of the Lord to survive and flourish! For without Jesus, nothing can last. Without knowing and abiding in Him, our lives amount to nothing. For we are, indeed, dust. But (and there's that wonderful "but" again...), thankfully, the throne of Jesus Christ stands forever! And through Him we are offered a new life to live as we take on His Name as our own! We are invited to be dust born again as new creatures in Christ! WOO HOO! Yes, through the living and enduring Word of God we have God's promise of encouragement, love, eternity, health, and hope... FOREVERMORE! Glory!

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. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 18:23)

Knowing this truth, shall we not begin this new day studying to know the Word of the Lord better? Shall we not live our lives seeking His Way, His Truth, His Life - being doers of what He has said and not just hearers? Shall we not focus all our time, energy, efforts, and goals on His glory and message rather than wasting these earthly moments away in selfish vanity? Jesus has paved the only way for our souls to become more than dusty remnants of death. He has shed His blood and shared His message to save us... TO SAVE YOU AND ME FOREVER! So, won't you place all your faith and trust in His full care today and forevermore? Abide in the Savior and do all you can to fully know and apply His Word! For only Jesus is eternal. Only in His kingdom can you also stand forever!

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Lord, we give you everything - our whole lives! Please reveal yourself regularly and infiltrate our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength with Your Word! May we know You intimately and give you full glory in every moment. Abide in us forevermore so that we may worship your holy presence always!

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

time is finite. Jesus is not.

Time is finite. We are subject to limitation and condition. As such, on our own we are not completely free. For death always looms. It's evidence openly exists and frequently reminds us that every life on Earth is temporary. No matter how much we dislike it... no matter how many ways we may deny or attempt to ignore it, our reality, our truth is that we are bound to the space in which we have been placed. We are limited to the moments that confine our health and our breaths. And as a result, it is logical for us to become accustom to trusting and clinging to only what we can see and prove scientifically - the planetary laws and traditions of nature... 1+1=2, if you will. Simply put, the universal truths of mankind confirm that every man, woman and child's human life is circumscribed. Moments are, well... momentary. Days are numbered, and many of us can't see past our own selves because of it.

Yes, time is finite. But here's something interesting... Jesus is not. Jesus is eternal. Jesus is God. The Bible says, Jesus was. Jesus is. And, Jesus is to come. He is both now and forever. In fact, Jesus already proved His authority and position over this limited planet by changing our equations. He changed what was our known natural into events showcasing His supernatural. Just check out every word spoken and every miracle Christ performed throughout documented scriptural account. He lived, and died, and lived again. Who does that? He healed and restored what we could not. He bountifully fed thousands with a mere child's lunch. He celebrated marriage by turning water into a glorious wine. He caused the blind to see, the cripple to walk, the paralyzed and withered to rejoice in full health. He walked on water, silenced storms, and changed death into life. Yes, with Jesus, mankind witnessed positive, miraculous change. Change that we still write about today. Change that highlighted His infinite rather than our finite. Furthermore, Jesus personally taught us about freedom, eternity, love, holiness. Concepts we all hope and dream about, but couldn't possibly grasp or obtain without His wisdom or help.

And stranger than all these things, Jesus Eternal says that we, mere men, were originally created for a specific purpose in His bigger, better plan. As we marvel over such a concept, He continues by lovingly inviting us to re-learn what we know... to follow Him outside the box... to walk away from our sinful, natural path and wholeheartedly follow Him down a narrower, more gratifying and eternal path of life - - in the company of Eternal LOVE.

Indeed, today we live in human shells surrounded by the confining walls of this atmosphere.  But in Christ we are promised so much more!!!  Sovereign God has offered up a new feast!!! His special, holy bread and wine has been served so that we might partake and become new creatures... by the blood of the One who offered His life in love so that He might save and restore what we could not.  He has come, people.  He lived, and died, and lives again!  And He promised that He would return again to escort those who love Him into the eternal and forever. Finite will become infinite in Christ!  WOW! This is something grander than time and space... this is news bigger than all life and death!  Yes, Jesus invites us to be ready and come... to prepare ourselves daily to live in His holiness, His Way. For we were made to glorify the Giver rather than obsess over His gifts. We were meant for more rather than be subject to worldly limitation and condition.  Believe Jesus, and become free.

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.  (Revelation 1:8)

Time is finite.  Jesus is not.



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Monday, March 28, 2016

elegant grace

About a year ago, I was online looking for something very specific when the Lord redirected my attention to an item for sale on one of those websites geared toward artists and vintage collectors who sell their wares to the public.  Somehow... someway... the Lord changed my course and put before me a vintage painting of an elegant woman dressed in a pink gown holding a bouquet of yellow roses amidst a dramatic, black backdrop.  Mind you, I don't usually seek out or impulsively buy such things without intended purpose.  Sure, I do love art tremendously, and I am a firm believer that if an image really impacts you, no matter who the artist, you should at least try to acquire an electronic or inexpensive print to enjoy... but this was different.  This painting really touched my heart and I immediately knew the Holy Spirit was involved.  It was painted on an 14"x18" canvas board, appeared to be done solely with a palette knife in glossy oils, and was unframed.  On the back of the painting was written in pen the original artist's name (withheld here for privacy) and a date, March 1962.

At first glance, I found myself gasp at the image.  The portrait was of a beautiful blonde woman dressed in formal wear.  It was simple, graceful, understated.  And yet, the deep, nocturnal background in which the woman stood seemed so unusual and modernly accomplished in its technique.  It effortlessly allowed the colorful hues of the subject's dress to pop as she stood casually, charmingly, classically in front of its black limitlessness.  To me, the image of this woman was somehow the woman I wanted to be.  The woman whom I often envision the Lord molding me into as His new, grace-filled creation.  There she was, being sold online for pennies.  Standing in formal attire.  Holding sweet-smelling flowers of friendship.  Satisfied.  She was a vintage treasure awaiting salvation.  An unframed "garage-sale" gem in need of a new home.

For some time, I deliberated about the painting's small price compared to the grand impact it had upon me and finally decided to buy it for my office.  I would frame it and hang it where I most often write for The Devoted Woman.  Where I most often spend my alone time with Jesus in prayer.

After the purchase was complete, I began to think more about the artist's name meticulously written on the back of the canvas.  Who was the person who painted this lovely picture?  Clearly, this was not a world renowned artist.  This was a simple someone from nowhere in particular.  A person who most likely enjoyed painting as a hobby in her spare time.  Perhaps she had taken a class and this was the fruit of that education...?  Perhaps, like me, painting was an occasional weekend escape or a random evening embellishment...?  I didn't know.  But I really wanted to find out.

Immediately, the investigator in me began piecing together the few clues I had already obtained.  I had a solid name, a place of origin where the painting came from, and a date.  In this day and age, such clues are a great beginning in locating someone online.  And so my quest began.  I was excited to find out who this woman really was, and if I could possibly meet her and thank her in person for her work.  Perhaps she knew Jesus...?  Perhaps she loved Him as I do...?  After only a few minutes online, I found her... discovering that she had passed away in her sleep in late September of 2013.  She was married but had no children.  (Just like me.)  She had worked beside her husband in their business for over 20 years, traveling together to more than 75 countries. (Similar to Chuck and I.) She was described as "very nice", "always smiling and lighthearted," "gracious to have around," and "generous in offering herself to others."  In her spare time, she enjoyed dabbling in drawing, painting, and many other creative outlets.  She liked to cook and had a great sense of humor.  And, from what I could tell, in the end she left behind very little family and few belongings of worth.  Then I hit the jackpot: three real-life photos of the artist in her prime.  There she stood looking back at me, a shoe-in for Grace Kelly, standing happily in the middle of the blooming tulip fields in Holland.  Adventuring in front of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Posing in front of an impressive hotel on one of the many Caribbean islands.  She was simply beautiful.  Happily, I became acquainted with a once very real woman whom I never knew, and yet the Lord still introduced me to her one year after her passing - allowing the small details of her former life to bless and encourage my own current life.  Gracious God.  Soon, this simple someone will now very tangibly become a new part of my home.  Her joy will be displayed on my own walls.  Her work a reminder of God's redeeming grace in my own life.  So, I decided to name her portrait, "Elegant Grace" and print out her bio along with the few pictures, so that I might include them in back when framing.

Ladies, I share this story with you because the sum of our lives can amount to more than forgotten, worthless waste.  Instead we can be elevated to the most treasured reflection of someone who displays the image of Christ!  We can showcase the spotlight on God's glorious gift of salvation and the beauty He simply is.  Our actions, our words, our relationships, our careers, our adventures... even our outlets - they all matter to God and can be used to bless.  They are fruit to be grown, harvested, and savored.  Sure, we might consider ourselves small, insignificant, and "simple someones from nowhere in particular," with nothing in our pockets but a few pennies and photo-snapped memories.  But when we welcome in Almighty God, when we express ourselves through the very personal and very specific gifts he bestows upon us as individuals, Jesus pops in front of the black limitlessness.  He shows up and spotlights our hearts with His beautiful.  He reveals His endless, abounding grace through every moment, every encounter, every act we produce... sometimes even after our own expiration date.  So, allow His Spirit to guide your steps.  Afford your Creator everything that you are.  For you are most valuable in His eyes.  Believe that you are important and meaningful to God and know His life-changing grace.

Yes, on this most important of todays, I encourage you to make it your quest to know your Maker's flawless technique as you casually, charmingly, classically stand steadfast and satisfied in His promises.

This is the day to rejoice and be glad in Christ.
This is the day to dress yourself with His perfect, elegant devotion.

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  (Ephesians 4:7)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, March 25, 2016

time + attention

How do you really show someone that they are important to you and that you love them.  That's easy... the answer is: Time.  You give your time to them.  You make your time their time.  You willingly offer them precious moments that you are incapable to recover.  You show them that their agenda is a high priority to you - even more than your own.  And you pay attention to their words, actions, feelings, desires. You listen.  You are present in their present.  Yes, to show someone that they are important to you and that you love them, giving your time and full attention is the winning ticket.

Time + Attention = You are important to me.

Now, with this in mind, how much time will you give to Jesus today... this week... this month... this year?  How much attention will you fully surrender over to Him to let Him know that He is important to you... that you love Him?  I know, you are busy.  There are work deadlines and family chores... There are many, many life demands.  There are expectations.  There are schedules. There are bills to be paid and mouths to be fed. And, yes, I know all these things are indeed important and must be done...  But they should not be done at the expense of overlooking time with your King.  For is not God more important than these earthly things?  Does not your Creator warrant your first fruits?  Did not your Savior-Redeemer die on the cross so that you could be closer together?

So... are you closer?

Are you together?

And if not, why?

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:6-11, KJV)

How do you show the One that He is most important to you and that you love Him?  How can you better pay attention to know His Word, His Way, His Heart, His Hope... His Joy???


Time + Attention.

Jesus, you are important to me!

Jesus, I love you!

THIS is the day that I choose to show you.  This is the day to rejoice... to be full!



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, March 24, 2016

holy ground

When you come to His altar,
You stand on holy ground.
When you open the temple gates,
Do not bring your wares to pedal.
For God alone is to be worshipped.
God alone is to be exalted and praised.
God alone is to be honored.
Not ourselves.
No. Never, ever ourselves.
For all answers and attention belong to Christ.

Simply, stand barren and in need of His nail-pierced hands.
Because the Savior comes to intercede and reward.
The Creator restores and cleanses us new.
The Teacher disciplines and directs.
The Shepherd guards.
The Healer caresses.
The Father... hallelujah, the Father keeps His promises.

Yes, this is holy, holy ground.
There is no celebrity but the famous King of kings.
There is nothing profitable to be earned but the approval of the Lord of lords.
There is no truth but Love, Faithfulness, Joy, Satisfaction.
Dare we reach out and touch the Master's cloak?
Exhaling because He's allowed another breath to cycle.

In prayer and supplication.
In repentance and abandonment of self.
Here, remove your shoes and let your feet be washed.
Stand silently, transparently, and watch your Messiah reign on high.
He will overthrow every table of worthless merchandise.
He will close the mouths of scoundrels and scoffers.
He will pick up all pearls wasted before the swine.
He will remove all moth, and rust, and dust, and death forevermore.
He will whisper affections and feed you until you are full.
No matter how stormy the sky above.
No matter how dark the path ahead.

Yes. Come. Be still.
Stand here in perfect peace.
For you are on holy ground, little children.
Gaze fearfully, hopefully, honestly upon this Rock.
Dig your heels in deep and know His Law...
For Jesus the Christ is your holy, holy, holy ground.

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

reset your mind; feed your soul

Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

This morning my family slept in much later than usual.
I was up first.
I wanted to keep the house as quiet as possible so as not to disturb those still snoozing.
So, today I tried something new.
This morning, I fed and walked all our pets without saying one single word.  Zip, zilch, nada.
Not one peep was uttered, and yet, I was able to maintain a still, controlled, obedient environment.

Mind you, we have MANY pets.
Many saved strays.
Many once abused and lost creatures, now rehabilitated into the Anderson family.
This morning I fed every single creature without yelling, or rather, barking out orders.
Instead, I simply pointed and waited in confident silence.

Chuck and I have trained our dogs to remain outside of our open concept kitchen whenever we fill their food dishes.  This insures that we do not trip over excited, dancing, furry bodies... a good thing, I assure you.  To our dogs, it means that there is a definite line of demarkation - "in the kitchen" verses "out of the kitchen."  Sure, they test us on this rule when they are overly enthusiastic about food.  And, inevitably, a paw may step over the line.  A nose may sniff a little too close.   Whenever that happens, we usually stop what we are doing and command, "Out of the kitchen!" which always resets their minds to correct the intrusion.  Only until we call them by name may they enter in and feast.

Today, however, I didn't say a word.  I chose to lead in quiet... only pointing directions to the dogs as necessary.  And this got me thinking about how I respond to my Master when He appears to be silent.  How I choose to react when God doesn't always seem to answer my emotionally driven and seemingly earth-shattering cravings and demands.  Thankfully, even in His stillness the Lord continues to patiently point me toward His Law - leading me to that place where I can reset my mind on His higher Ways rather than remain in my ravenous state of chaos.  How grateful I am for His assured truth.  It is unchanging.  It is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow... forever!  Sure, sometimes I may overstep.  Sometimes I may take longer to calm down and obey.  But I know I am His and He is mine.  I believe that my Savior has adopted me into His family and trust with all my heart that He will call me by name to come, eat, and be satisfied at His table.  He will nourish my soul.  He will provide.  He will refresh and restore.

Friends, we were created to need God's sustenance.  We were made to obediently consume His Law so that we might know Him intimately and glorify His Name in loving others.  Nothing else is more important than taking in His daily bread and surrounding ourselves in the boundaries of His perfect peace.  So savor the truth of His Word, Believer.  Even if the Master seems to be silent... focus your appetite onto His higher, wiser Way and know His truth!   Reset your mind; feed your soul!

God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow... forever!   Hallelujah!

I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23:12)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

everyday... my reality, my eternity

Everyday, I wake up from a short, restless night. A night that usually consists of about 2-4 hours of sleep. And everyday, I usually wake up in great physical pain. Mind you, not enough pain to stop me from moving altogether, but enough discomfort to make me groan in agony and discourage my will to try. Everyday, it is not unusual for me to wonder if, on that day, I will be able to stand up straight, or walk without limping, or climb stairs, much less make it out and about. Will it be a day in which I require the aid of a cane or not? Will I need to take pain killers today to get me though the throbbing parts of my person that plainly disagree with these fickle weather fronts? Will I be able to walk from point A to point B without serious issue... without my knees buckling... without my back spasming... without injuring myself further... without causing more pain? Everyday, I face these hard questions. Everyday.

You see, overall I appear to be healthy to anyone glancing in my direction. But in truth, I have several difficult issues that will likely hinder me physically the rest of my earthly life. I suffer from degenerative discs in my lower spine and instabilities in both my weary knees due to some life-altering accidents. In the course of my days, I have broken just about every bone there is to break and have accompanying nerve damage and sciatica issues to boot. I have had more surgeries and artificial parts inserted into me than I could ever recount. (I just tell people I'm bionic at this point. Ha ha.) Furthermore, I have constant tingling and limited movement in my right hand due to an injury that actually caused my nerves to stop functioning for some time. (What a lesson in humility that was!) Also, I suffer from insomnia, severe arthritis, occipital neuralgia with ongoing migraines, and accompanying weight/health issues due to the after effects of medications and my ongoing need to exercise more without further hurting myself. So, everyday my simply getting up in the morning, after receiving very little sleep... after my body has stiffened up, can be a great challenge to both my physical frame and emotional psyche.

This is my reality, dear readers.  Everyday.

However, everyday I am still reminded that my Great Physician faithfully cares for me. That my Redeemer still intercedes for me. That my Shepherd comforts me. That my Father still protects me. Everyday, my God has continued to loosen my joints and lessen my pain (even if just a little) so that I can get going, get moving, and get living for Him! Under His perfect care, He has allowed me the opportunity to move nearer to His heart and closer to His Throne in my praise and thanksgiving - - even through the trials of this ole' girl's body.... ESPECIALLY through the trials of this ole' girl's body!

Everyday, before I even have the chance to take in His Word or share His message of good news with others, God continues to awaken me to a new, glorious day of opportunity. A day where I can recognize the many gifts that He has peppered throughout my life. And, everyday is a new day that He offers me the honor of serving Him in some special way exclusive only to me - - even if I'm in pain... even if I can't do what I once was able to do physically. Everyday, my Master offers His full, true purpose - intended only for me, his blessed child, to uniquely carry out in His Name. I am important and valuable to His kingdom! YEA! In fact, everyday my Redeemer asks me to faithfully "be me in Him" and FOR HIM! How wonderful, right? How awesome to be given the opportunity to serve the King of kings directly!

Everyday, my God insures that I am alive and protected under His grace. (And, oh, so many graces does our Heavenly Lord provide, people!) Everyday, the earth in which I inhabit continues to orbit the sun in the exact location it is supposed to be in this enormous universe - all without burning me to a crisp or freezing me to death. Everyday, this planet where I have been placed contains exactly the atmospheric conditions and vegetation required in order for me to exist and survive. All because my gracious God oversees everyday for my good. All because my Master has a plan for my purpose. How can I not shout out in praise for this Messiah? If not me, the rocks will do it for me!!!

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,”
he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37-40)

Everyday, I wake up knowing that my Jesus loves me... yes, ME - Victoria Anderson! How incredible is it that the Creator of all heaven and earth loves me enough to call me His beloved??? Hallelujah! Trust me when I tell you, there is no better way to regain a spring in your step than knowing such wonderful news! Oh, rejoice my soul! The Lord is on my side! The Lord will see me through!!!

Everyday, I begin my new day - THIS DAY - realizing the promise of the cross that He died on to save me, the hope of His presence insured always beside me, and the joy of His kingdom that surely awaits me! Indeed, this is the day to be glad in Him, folks! This is the day to "be me in Him"... FOR HIM!!!

This is my eternity, dear readers... EVERYDAY!!!

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts,“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35)

So, what's your everyday look like?



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Saturday, March 19, 2016

a parable

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.

So what is the conclusion?

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others are like seed sown on rocky places, they hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, their joy only lasts a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop - thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.... The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."  (Luke 8:8, 11-15)

Question: What seed are you?

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, March 18, 2016

slow your pace... check your pulse

It is so easy to become anxious, isn't it? It's easy to feel rushed and pushed around by everything going on in our lives. We want to please our family, our friends, our employer, our church. But as Christians, we also desire to grow spiritually and know God intimately. Sometimes it all feels like too much to handle. For how can we love others well, produce excellent work, find encouragement, offer Christian fellowship, and yet continue our quest toward eternity - all the while remaining still and knowing that Jesus is God? There is nothing "still" about our life. So, how can we live relaxed in God's grace while finding enough time to pray, meditate, study, and memorize His Word?

This past week, I found myself in a conversation with someone who clearly had better Biblical retention than I. They whipped out verse after verse of Scripture and incorporated many truths into our conversation. However, rather than allowing my heart to rejoice in agreement over the Word being recited, through the course of our conversation I found myself feeling anxious, inadequate, sub par.

As days past, I felt compelled to rush and learn more Scripture... and fast! Otherwise, I wouldn't measure up. I wouldn't know as much. I wouldn't be where I "should be" spiritually. But how could I possibly fit more in? With my busy schedule and life commitments, how could I really take more time to know God's Word, well... MORE? I felt overwhelmed.

Mind you, I am regularly in God's Word. In fact, for several weeks I had been taking my time chewing over some truths from a particular section of Scripture that the Holy Spirit had laid on my heart to study and learn. However, because the depth of my memory did not satisfy my selfish ego during one simple, friendly conversation, I now was anxious and dissatisfied. I took Satan's bait and began assembling an ideal of what I "should be" spiritually... and right now! As a result, I felt that the time I spent hovering in this one little passage wasn't going to get me "there" fast enough. The pace of my soul was not at rest.

I began pulling several Bible studies off my bookshelf and even purchased more online. I had ridiculous notions as to when I could actually absorb all the data I was accumulating, but that didn't seem to matter. Clearly, I was spiraling out of control - moving farther and farther away from where God had requested my attention. All because I wasn't quite good enough. All because I could not recall or recite more. But, by golly, I was going to get there. I was going to be soooo spiritually adept that everyone I'd meet would be amazed and astounded! Yep, cause it's all about me, right? It's all about how much of this Bible stuff I know. It's all about how awesome a Christian I am! It's all about... wait, is that what it's about?

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10)

Ladies, there is nothing wrong in taking as much time as you need to intimately know every aspect of the Savior. He is not keeping tally as to how many verses you can recite without the aid of your Bible. Nor is He concerned with how much data you can absorb in one sitting. I am convinced that if we each steadied our pulse to match His generous, patient, loving heart, our pace would slow down so that we would simply know and love His Word so deeply that our whole life would be centered around following the Shepherd where He leads... and when He leads. I forgot this for a short moment and was overtaken by selfish idealism spurred on by an enemy that wishes me dead.

In retrospect, I'm amazed at how quickly Satan convinced me that I was inadequate. Rather than meeting God right where I was, and resting still in what He wanted to show me... I started speeding by all the destinations that Jesus had intended for me to linger with Him at. Had the Holy Spirit not pointed it out, I would have missed precious moments in His presence. I would have overwhelmed my life while ignoring my King's still small voice. Rather than drown myself in numerous Bible studies, I was reminded that where and when the Savior calls me to pause, I should do so. I should remain still and breathe.

So, today I am back in that small passage He originally led me to. I am absorbing every sentence... relishing every Word. I am no longer concerned about how long I will stay in this particular Scripture. I am not worried about how well I could be graded on my retention amount. No, what I care most about today is that I fully learn what God is teaching me. I want to absorb all that He reveals and love Him by living in accordance and obedience.

Let's not get ahead of God. He has paved a path for us to walk beside Him and will teach and guide us along His Way. We must not only hear and retain His Word... we must listen to His voice. We must remain close and ask Him to abide in us. For when we abide in Him, we are exposed to His glory - a glory that is undeniable, unchanging and unforgettable. I encourage you to learn from my "humble stumble" and slow your pace to match His pulse.

This is the day to abide in the Savior and rejoice. This is the day to restore your soul and wade in His calm, holy waters. Be still for as long as you must. Take as much time as you need to pray, meditate, study and memorize every topic, every promise mentioned in God's perfect Word. He wants you to know Him. So, still your heart exactly where you are... pause as long as you must so that you may live in complete and satisfied awareness of His presence. Take the time to relax and know your faithful, loving, mighty, good God. He is right here - in every day. He is ready and willing to restore your soul. Slow your pace... check your pulse... and rejoice in the glory of God.



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

sing sparrow sing!

Each morning I am blessed by the most beautiful praise service (weather permitting). Similar to a curtain being raised over a stage, the sun emerges. It extends its warm rays across the lush, green landscape like the arms of a conductor calling forth a new day's performance. The stage is set. The cacophony of the crickets gives way to the solitary notes of the first soloist. A small chorus follows, chiming in additional accompaniment for the performance. Finally, a crescendo of melodic song is harmonized with a complete choir of sparrows who have rested their voices throughout the evening only to break forth into glorious and faithful worship.

The sparrow... a tiny animal who is always singing, from morning to night. An animal that can teach us a thing or two about trusting God and staying close to Him no matter what the circumstance...

In Psalm 84, we read, "Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young — a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."

It makes me smile to see the Psalmist point out the sparrow building its nest near the very altar of God. It is as if they knew that their happiness and peace would only be found by being close to their Creator. Wow, is that ever true!!!

At the time of Christ, it did not cost much to purchase sparrows. In fact, they were considered the least valuable of birds. Their value was so cheap that a dealer who would sell a sparrow would throw in an extra one.

"These birds are snared and caught in great numbers, but, as they are small, and not much relished for food, five sparrows may still be sold for two farthings; and when we see their countless numbers, and the eagerness with which they are destroyed as a worthless nuisance, we can better appreciate the assurance that our heavenly Father, who takes care of them, so that not one can fall to the ground without his notice, will surely take care of us, who are of more value than many sparrows." (from Barnes' Notes)

So, God takes care of sparrows. He knows exactly what will happen to them. Read Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father."

When a sparrow falls to the ground, God is there. So ask yourself this... if God shows concern for the well-beling of a little bird that was valued at such little cost, how much more does he care about those he loves and created in His own image?

Yes, God takes care of sparrows. But God LOVES us. He is concerned about all the details of our lives. If we read on in Matthew it's pointed out that even the hairs of our head are numbered. Look at verses 30 & 31, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." We are worth a lot more according to our great God. (Note the hairs are not just "counted", but numbered individually!) God oversees every sparrow that falls to the ground, and God oversees when a hair falls from the head of one of His children. How awesome to think that when He protects His own, He protects us down to our individual hairs. (See Luke 21:18)

So, knowing that God is in control of these tiny birds... shouldn't we trust Him with our own lives? Can't we believe that He will certainly protect and provide for us? Is there really any reason for us to fear anything when we are assured in scripture that God is exercising such wonderful care over us?

Bottom line, all events (great and small) are under the control of our Heavenly Father. Not one thing happens without his permission. So, if calamity comes upon the righteous, we must not deduce that it is because the world is without control; it is not because God could not prevent it. No, it is because He sees it best that it should be so. He knows the full story. He sees the big picture. Whatever comes to pass comes by the will of our Creator and is intended to work toward His ultimate GOOD! He has the Master plan because He is the Master!

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:25-27)

We must trust our Almighty Father in all circumstances. We must count each trial as a blessing. We must remember that He is molding us to be used in trials with intent and for a specific purpose. Knowing this, it is important that we show up each day filled with song! Like the sparrows, we must daily rejoice and worship Him for His sovereignty and detailed care over our lives. The circumstances are not the end. They are not bigger than God's plan. So, just think how much it would please our Creator if we had enough faith to look past trouble and start our day in song as the birds continue to do? Oh Lord, give us that kind of faith in You!

Friends, let's keep our hearts nested near the very altar of God. There we will find happiness and peace because there we will be closest to our perfect and loving Creator. Let's stop worrying about the temporary trials we face and trust Him fully. All the while, let's daily sing His praises and thank Him for His ongoing, unending, overseeing protection and care for us. He loves us so much. Trust His intentions and dwell in His house! Don't ever take your eyes off Him. He is so GOOD!

Sing Sparrow....SING!!!



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

the ten: conclusion (part 14)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

It has been an honor sharing "the ten" with you and breaking down God's prescribed way for us to live in His holy will. You may have noticed that in each blog of this series, I deliberately posted the verse (above) from Jeremiah. I did so because I am certain that if we are to joyfully receive and follow God's commandments, we must first remember that He gave them to us with a Master plan. A plan that was meant to deliver us from our sin by one day offering His Son, our Savior, as the ultimate model to receive and follow after. For without Jesus, no man will ever be able to keep these commandments. It is impossible because of our sin. But with Jesus directing our path, we can celebrate a promised hope and future because our Heavenly Father can accept us as co-heirs to His kingdom alongside his perfect Son. Because of Jesus sacrifice for our lives, we can live richly in our Father's kingdom forever!

So, in closing of this blog series I'd like to share with you a little story I recently heard...

Once upon a time, there was a very successful art collector. He would travel the world wheeling and dealing to obtain masterful works from the greatest artists ever known. This art collector had a son whom he loved more than life itself. As the son grew older, the art collector realized that his boy also had a wonderful eye for art. So, he began to bring him on his business trips and together they increased their private collection. As the boy grew into a man, they had traveled to every corner of the world together collecting rare masterpieces from Picasso, Monet, Renoir, etc. Their collection was world-renowned and unmatched by any other collectors. In fact, several museums, galleries, and art enthusiasts would regularly contact the father and beg him to sell his collection... but he refused. These were treasured family pieces that the father and son had accumulated together. No amount of money could compare.

One day the son was called away to serve in the war. The father was terrified that his beloved boy would become injured or worse. So, he insisted that his son write him every day. Unfortunately, one day no letter arrived. The father began to worry and started calling anyone he could to find out if his boy was in danger, injured or worse. Two days later, his fears became a reality when he received word that his son was killed in the line of duty while trying to save another soldier. The father was heartbroken. He looked around his home filled with priceless masterpieces and felt so alone.

A few weeks later, on Christmas day, the father received a knock on his door. In wonder, he opened the door to receive the mysterious visitor. Before him stood a soldier in uniform holding a wrapped package. The soldier shook the father's hand and introduced himself. He was the very soldier that the son had saved. In fact, the father learned that his son had saved many soldiers in the line of duty before ultimately being hit by a lethal bullet to the heart. The soldier shared many stories about the son - especially his fondness for his dad and the special love or art they shared together. He then informed the father that he was an amateur artist and handed him the package. The father looked perplexed and opened the box where before him was a portrait of his beloved son. The soldier's gift had perfectly captured the love and facial expressions of this heroic man. The father burst into tears and informed the soldier that this was the best gift he could have ever asked for. Disregarding all his famous works of art, the father promised to hang his son's portrait in the most predominant place of his home. Every day after, he lovingly looked up at the portrait and fondly remembered their time together.

Years later, the father passed away and the buzz on the street began. Art collectors from around the globe where chomping at the bit to get their hands on this famous collection of masterpieces. Per the father's will, an auction was arranged. On Christmas day (years after he had received his son's portrait from the soldier) many collectors came to bid at this once in a lifetime opportunity.

The auction began. The first piece was introduced... it was the beloved son's portrait. But this portrait was not painted by a master. Nobody cared about it, for it was an amateur's work. The auctioneer started the bidding at $100. But nobody bid. He asked again, "Can I get $100 for this lovely portrait?" Nothing. One gallery owner yelled out, "We don't care about that worthless painting! Let's get to the good stuff!" The auctioneer informed the crowd that according to the father's will, this would be the first painting in the auction and no others would be shown until this particular painting sold. The crowd grumbled.

Finally, a neighbor raised up his hand and said, "I knew the boy. He was such a great kid and his dad loved him so much. I'll give you $10 for it." The auctioneer agreed. $10... going once... going twice... sold for $10. With that, the auction was closed. The crowd began to yell, "Wait! What about all these other treasures? What about these masterpieces? We didn't show up on Christmas day for a picture of some old guy's son! We came for his millions of dollars worth of riches!!! We demand to know what is going on!"

The auctioneer calmly replied, "It is very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever chooses the son... gets it all."

And so it is with us, ladies. If we accept the Son and follow His way... if we submit ourselves to His will and allow Him to change us... we will receive it all. We will be blessed with a life in Jesus that promises us eternal abundance that includes all the richness and worth of God's kingdom. We don't deserve it. We can't possibly afford it - for we are nothing. But according to the will of our Heavenly Father, whoever chooses His Son... gets it all! Amen!

Let's fondly remember the portrait of Jesus before us each day and mirror His image in how we live. He has wonderful plans for us. Plans to prosper us. Plans that give us hope and a future in His presence. Praise God for giving us "the ten" so that we can become more like Christ every day! Blessed be the name of our Savior! We have life... we have worth... because He loves us!



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Monday, March 14, 2016

the ten: when or now? (part 13)

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17)

We hit #10 of "the ten" and I feel like cutting straight to the point on this one this morning. So here we go...

Our value does not lie in what we possess. It does not come from what we wear, what we drive, who we are married to, where we live, how new our furniture is, what job we have, what school our children attend, how fancy our purses are, etc. etc. etc. No, our value is based on one thing alone: God loves us. Because of this, Jesus (God in human flesh) paid the price for our sin and purchased our salvation so that we could live with Him forever in His eternal kingdom. We hold value, because our Messiah, our King, loves us. Period.

Once you see this... once you really understand it... you will realize that acquiring more and more material things or gaining more and more attention from anyone else cannot ever satisfy or compare to God. The tenth commandment is all about contentment. In showing us the best and healthiest way to live, God wraps it all up by telling us to be content... content with who we are... content with what we have... content with Him... no matter what!

A covetous person is one who greedily hungers after the life conditions or possessions of another rather than living contently in their own circumstances.

When we are covetous, we see the world only in terms of how it can benefit us. Short-term acquisitions win over long-term values while we deceive ourselves into thinking we will find satisfaction, "If only we could get _____________." The problem is, that once we have gained _______________ we are still not satisfied. We move onto the next thing we think we need and the cycle starts again. Advertisers know this and do everything they can to feed our greed. So much so, that people live their lives believing fulfillment is waiting around the next corner at the Jones' house. If we could just be like them... if we could have what they have... all will be good. The result of this belief system is that we end up living in the WHEN rather than the NOW.

"When I find that right person and get married, then I'll be happy."

"When my husband stops drinking, then we can grow closer to God."

"When we have a child, our marriage will definitely improve."

"When I lose this extra weight, then I will be able to do more."

"When I can afford a new car, a better house..."

"When I get a better job..."

"When this project is done..."

"When when when when when....."

"We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Corinthians 10:12)

Ladies, this earth will never satisfy. It is corrupt and dying. In the end, it won't matter if you wear a Rolex or a Timex for your time either way is temporary. True joy can only be gained when we submit to our Master and believe that only He is able to fulfill us. For only Jesus is able to give us LIFE. When we accept this truth and are able to praise His name in any and all circumstances (good or bad), we will leave our dead-end "when's" of this world and start living in the "now" of His eternal, holy kingdom!

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." (1 Timothy 6:6-7)

Discontentment has little to do with what you have. If you are unhappy as a single woman and believe that marriage is going to make you happy... I'm sorry, but you are deceived. If you are not satisfied in who you are, where you are, and what God has given you TODAY... changing your circumstances will never bring you lasting joy if it is outside of where God has placed you. To live in the hope He has promised, we must learn to be content in whatever our circumstances are RIGHT NOW. For only God knew what would happen a millennium ago and what will happen a thousand years from now. We must trust that His ways are best for us because He lovingly is able to oversee and manage our lives in whole.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Whatever situation we are in TODAY... let us be at peace and thankful. For God's way is enough. Our cups are full if we have accepted Jesus. He has promised to give us exactly what we need and when we need it. Whether we are physically or emotionally uncomfortable should not trump our trust in His perfect plan and authority. Through poverty or plenty, sickness or health, happiness or heartbreak, peace or persecution... our eyes should always be fixed on Him first. We must focus vertically, not horizontally, because He is enough. In Him alone can we find true peace. Next to Him, everything else is rubbish.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8)

Ladies, let's stop worrying about what we don't have and be content with what we do. Let's stop looking at what this world dangles before us and instead run into the arms of WHOM our worth and completeness really comes. Our Redeemer is perfect. Period. Let us focus on all that He continues to bless us with in every situation. Under His holy headship, we are complete because we have life in Jesus Christ! Let us live secure in Him and enjoy His kingdom NOW! Let us live in praise and contentment of our salvation TODAY!

"We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Saturday, March 12, 2016

the ten: an intermission and realization that God is able (part 12)

Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." (Exodus 4:10-13)

This morning, I woke up very early with my to do list circling around in my mind... kind of like a plane waiting for clearance to land at the airport. You see, my week is turning out to be very busy on both a personal and professional level. So, to begin my day off right, I decided to spend time alone with God and start praying. I have learned that life works better when I spend quiet time alone conversing with my Heavenly Father before proceeding on with the many to do's of the day.

Anyway, as I laid in bed praying, I found myself mentally stumbling over my words while addressing my King. In frustration, I would stop and apologize to God because I was not articulating my prayers well. My thoughts were all over the room and I was feeling defeated. Sure, I am a busy mamba-jamba. That is not unusual. But today was different. I could not seem to find stillness or focus... nor could I enjoy the time alone with my Creator because I was so disappointed in my inability to communicate.

Immediately the verses (above) from Exodus came to mind and I thought, "But Lord, that is not my issue!?? I am not worried about speaking on Your behalf. I'm not shy or nervous about presenting you to anyone." But indeed, that was my issue... and God knew it.

For in the midst of my writing this blog series, I had just today started to give in to the subtle, internal questioning of the enemy. Questioning of my own validity and competence to share God's life-giving instructions. Questioning of my understanding about this topic against those who are likely more knowledgeable than I. Those who hold higher degrees and have extensive understanding of theology. Those who have attended seminary. Those who are biblical greats... leaders of our time. You know, those who impress the masses with their great wisdom coupled with a dedicated team of experts and advisers of holy scripture. No, today I was not overwhelmed by my many to do's, I was demotivated and struggling because I was stressing over my capacity to teach effectively. And it was affecting my prayer life! I had fallen into Satan's trap of comparing my own abilities to a standard that God is not at all concerned with.

I can totally relate to Moses in these passages. He is not eloquent, and He knows it. He is nobody in the economy of Biblical theologians, and He knows it. He is a sinner. A murderer. A coward. A loser. He'd rather beg God to send someone else to do the job... someone more equipped. Someone more "worthy". Sigh. Yep, I was right there with Moses this morning.

However, when I thought about it more, God was gracious to remind me that later on in scripture it was Moses who met God in person to receive these commandments. Wow! It was Moses who had overcome many obstacles and trials that were instrumental to free God's people from slavery. How cool! It was Moses who would now present a new way of living to the Israelites... to share with them a perfect plan that would keep them free from sin and shame. A criteria that would show every man, woman and child how to flourish and exist with the hope of an eternal promised land where they would be blessed with the presence of their Redeemer. What an honor! Finally, it was Moses who later stood in full support of our Messiah at the transfiguration. What a u-turn from, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it."

Today, I am grateful that God reminded me of this truth: When Moses presented "the ten" to Israel for the first time (and every time thereafter), he did so with the full authority of God behind him. God's commands are perfect and for our benefit. They are meant to be shared and followed. They are life-promoting and healthy. As his children, we must keep His promises close to our heart and freely share them anytime and everywhere God calls us to do so. Sure, none of us may feel capable, worthy or able to speak... but God is not concerned with that. God is able.

Ladies, this morning God reminded me that we each have mouths to speak, ears to hear, eyes to see all that God has lovingly provided and promised for His people. Let us not be handicapped by the enemy's lies and give into the belief that we are sinfully crippled and lacking persuasiveness or poise. Rather, let's be bold and deliberate to share our Savior's truths without hesitation or reluctance. God is able!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Hurray! Thank you, Lord! From your simple instruction today, I will now stand taller for YOU. I am more determined than ever to press on with this race and share Jesus as the only solution for our lost and dying world. Join me, ladies. Let us share our freedom from slavery and defeat. We have so much hope in our Lord. He is able to make us more than we are when we stop procrastinating and rotting in self disappointment pertaining to our own abilities. Instead, let's stand up on behalf of His authority and share share share His grace!!! Glory will always be given when we speak His words and when we promote His truths. Yes, God is able. This morning, I praise Him for the much-needed reminder!



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, March 11, 2016

the ten: being a benefit to those who will listen (part 11)

"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)

Chuck and I were discussing this blog series and chatting about which commandment was next in God's line of loving instructions. As we reviewed the commands that I had taken time to write about for DW, we soon realized that we had reached #9 of "the ten". (Wow - we made it to #9!) We decided to remind ourselves what #9 was all about and soon remembered that it was God's command to not giving a false testimony against a neighbor. From there, we looked at each other perplexed. What does that really mean? For as many times as I've read this direction, I never gave it much consideration - except to perhaps think of it as an instruction to not gossip about another or to always tell the truth in a judicial setting. So, I spent many hours during the insomniac moments of several evenings studying and praying over this matter. Here is what I learned...

"Bearing a false witness" or "Giving a false testimony" is all about guarding our mouths and understanding the tremendous impact our words can make on others. It is about submitting our tongues over to our Almighty Father for holy correction and guidance. What we say, and what we don't say.... how we say something, and how we don't say something - these words will either build up an individual or tear them down. We are capable of lifting a person up with truth, honor and love OR we can tear a person down (smashing them brick by brick) into a pile of broken rubble. When we are not walking with God and seeking the counsel of His Spirit, our fleshly nature (equipped with a tameless tongue) can cripple and destroy anyone in our path. In short, whenever we say something to an individual or about an individual that does not mirror or represent what God would say to or about them, we are bearing a false witness and giving a false Christian (Christ-like) testimony.

When I began to realize the magnitude of commandment #9, I was able to understand that this is a big deal to God. This short and sweet command is filled with so much wisdom and covers so much territory that it is life changing!!! For we all have the power to shape those around us merely by the words we speak. With just a few small words, we have the ability to deeply damage and destroy our husbands, our children, our friends, our churches, our co-workers, our acquaintances... ANYBODY! And when we are reckless to do so... when we pose as God's church while saying less about a person than Christ would say about them - we are choosing to work against His kingdom, and thus... sinning.

"The tongue has the power of life and death." (Proverbs 18:21a)

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18)

"You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue!" (Psalm 52:4)

As a race full of sin, mankind does not hold the power to tame the tongue. Scripture assures us in James 3:8 that the tongue is "a restless evil, full of deadly poison." POISON!?? Ouch! Poison kills! Poison is lethal! Poison must be avoided at all cost! God knows this. So, He made sure to teach us that our objective when speaking and representing His kingdom should be to produce words that heal and restore - not words that wound.

"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit." (Proverbs 15:14)

So, how do we use our tongue without administering deadly, evil venom? How do we prevent sickening our marital relationships, alienating our loved ones, destroying our friendships, and dishonoring our leaders? The answer is not found in our own ability, but in God's authority. He alone has the power to change us and mold us into Christlikeness. To live in the Name of Jesus is to be willing to submit everything (especially our tongues and speech) over to our Maker and follow His call to live godly. Rather than maul one another with words and attitudes that lash out in annoyance, sarcasm, anger, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, dishonesty, gossip, disgust... God wants us to speak truthfully, wholesomely and compassionately to and about each other.

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:25; 29; 31-32)

God wants His church to be a living example of Christ - showcasing His message of grace. Because of this, the greatest form of evangelism is to always show His love to others. Simply love. Real love. Godly love. Committed love. If we take care to follow God's way and express the love of Christ through how we speak and treat one another, we are making the most of every opportunity to be effective witnesses of our Savior. We are mirroring Jesus to the world with the very breath and body He used to bring us to life. Christ said it Himself in John 13, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples."

God is love. And in love, we were made to live together as His people. This is the eternal hope that those who believe and follow Jesus can look forward to. As His children, we will one day be standing in His holy kingdom and free to live without the burden of sin and death. We will receive a new life filled with rejoicing, praising and singing in the glorious presence of the great and worthy I AM! Knowing this, the only thing we should ever strive to be is a benefit, a blessing... so that others may see the joy we have in our salvation!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

Ladies, as Christian women, we are accountable to The Holy Spirit in how we speak to and about others. And when I say "others", I am not only referring to the faceless crowds who occupy space on this planet. I am referring to our husbands. I am speaking about our children, our siblings, our parents, our friends. I am directing your attention to those who are a close to you in your day-to-day lives. These are the people in whom we make the greatest impact. So, we need to consciously decide to listen to our Great Counselor and speak to those we are socially intimate with holy appropriateness. We need to follow His call to represent God sweetly with our words... to hush our mouths and listen respectfully... and to bite down hard and determinately when The Spirit makes it clear that we should... well, shut up! (Really - put some teeth in that tongue if you must!)

Secondly, we must be honest with each other when we do screw up. We must not delay in confronting whomever we treated falsely and ask for their forgiveness and prayer.

Lastly, we must discipline ourselves to always praise God - no matter what the circumstance, situation, or trial... no matter what happy or hard moments may come... no matter what evil men or those who seek goodness will say or do. In EVERYTHING we must make our focus ALL ABOUT GOD and not about ourselves. We must start every day deliberately - remembering WHO our loving Master is. And we must continue to praise, acknowledge and uphold His many names through every hour we are blessed to live. For He is our Almighty, Unchanging Father. Our Redeemer. Our Refuge. Our Shepherd. Our Teacher. Our Counselor. The Author and Finisher of our faith. The Day Spring. The Way. The Truth. The Life. The Mighty King of kings. The Holy Holy Holy Lord of lords.

We are His living church. A church that follows the One who always speaks truth... the One who will forever love, encourage and build up... the One who holds authority over life and has overcome all sin and death. The One who wants the VERY BEST for our lives! As His church, we must each be a benefit to those who will listen... a "safe place" of holy comfort and peace - just as Christ continues to be a for us.

This is #9 of "the ten" commandments. Yes, it is short and sweet in it's instruction. But, let us follow it's example and keep our words few - full of hope and praise - as we live our lives celebrating The Prince of Peace!

"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

"I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." (Acts 2:25-28)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, March 10, 2016

the ten: property vs. provision (part 10)

"You shall not steal." (Exodus 20:15)

Have you considered the benefits of your own plasma (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) that are circulating in your vascular system to ward off disease while continuously pumping through a four chambered muscle sitting in the middle of your chest? Have you given any time to appreciate the coral reefs that offer a critical habitat for a wide variety of fish and marine invertebrates while protecting shore lines against erosion and harsh waves. How about the necessity of water - a colorless, orderless compound of hydrogen and oxygen that covers about three quarters of our planet's surface and circulates through our atmosphere so that all life receives nourishment? Or, what about the pollination of plants in cooperation with wind and insects? Have you considered that this very moment our sun is stationed 93 million miles away from earth and sports a diameter of approximately 864,000 miles, which is equal to about 109 earth's? Have you appreciated that every day God's hand oversees the rotation and warmth of the sun while insuring that it's light travels to our planet as fast as 8 minutes 19 seconds. The energy from sunlight supports us all via photosynthesis (go ahead, I dare you to look up how important photosynthesis is), and drives climate and weather conditions to stay "just so" on our little planet. Clearly all these things hold an enormous impact on our lives each and every day. And God chose to make them. He chose to make everything... including us. Why? Because God deserves glory and wished to share Himself with a people He would love over anything or anyone else. Wow!

God is indeed our provider and protector! But as a sinful people, we are self centered and dense. Just about every second, we forget the infinite number of ways that God oversees our existence to insure that we are taken care of. Instead, we habitually listen to an enemy that has made nothing and has done nothing for the sake of our survival. Yet, rather than consider all the wonderful things God continues to do, we listen to Satan's lies and become desperate with what we think we need and don't have. This mistrust in our Creator causes us to become worried and unsatisfied... decisions that do not support our Master's perfect plan to give us a full, abundant life.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

The eighth commandment boils down to us trying to take ownership of what doesn't belong to us. It is a selfish sin that causes us to attempt to supply for ourselves in a dishonest way rather than trust God to provide for all our needs. Through this command, the Lord was promising Israel (and us) that He was committed to always take care of us. Even more important, we must understand that He wants to take care of us. Why? Because He loves us. To live healthy, we must trust that. God has pledged His devotion to us to satisfy and supply for our needs.

Stealing is our desire to find instant happiness. It is a counterfeit form of security that is coupled with a sinful thrill that makes us think we have gotten away with something in our own way, rather than in God's prescribed way. In truth, however, it is really an act of defiance that favors self over the Creator. But here is the thing, whether we accept it or not - we do not own anything. It is ALL God's. We do not even own ourselves. He is in control of our existence. So, when we steal and think we are sneaky to deceive and gain from another's loss - in truth, we are really the one's who are being deceived and losing a bigger battle to the enemy. Satan knows this better than we do, so he has posed stealing as attractive, mainstream entertainment for society to subtly accept. I mean, who hasn't enjoyed watching George Clooney and Brad Pitt's characters skillfully plan and execute the perfect caper in Oceans 11? It is thrilling. It is fun. But, I'm sorry to say... it is promoting something wrong.

WHOA! Wait a minute, Victoria... now you are hitting a nerve. I enjoyed that movie. I thought it was cute and witty!

Hmmm - cute and witty.... Stealing. Mission accomplished, Satan.

Most will not accept that our willingness to accept and follow God and His commandments will separate the wheat from the chaff... the men from the boys, if you will. We will either show up fully committed to give Him everything... or we will not. The love of money, the love of possessions, the love of anything other than God... is sin.

"Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure with trouble." (Proverbs 15:16)

God's provision for us, however modest it may seem at the time, is always... ALWAYS better for us than trying to grab for ourselves and make our own way. That is why Jesus gave little thought to the value of one's possessions when He told people to leave everything and follow Him. He knows He is better. He is more fulfilling. He is everything we will ever need. Period.

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:23-24)

Ladies, we must look at this command broader than we have done so in the past. For it is not just about physically stealing possessions and cheating "the system"... it is about spiritually assessing if we seek and desire anything before God. For if we do, we are stealing life from ourselves! We must ask ourselves some very hard questions. Do we love money and things too much? Do we look to them as a form of security that outweighs the provision of our Redeemer? Are we more concerned about how wealthy we appear and what we seem to have than who we are emulating and how we can give more of ourselves to Him? We are told in scripture that money is the root of all evil. This is so true as wealth and possessions cause us to feel bigger than we actually are. But in the end, glory will only be given to One... and that One will be God. Nothing we acquire here on earth will matter. Nothing we defend to hold onto will last. It will come down to each individual standing before God... alone. There, He will recognize those who believed and followed Him and will deny those who rejected Him. Unfortunately, many cannot let go of what they can grasp in their own hand over what they are promised to receive according to His plan. This is the greatest tragedy.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:21-31)

It is clear that Jesus loved the rich man mentioned in Mark 10. In fact, it is clear that Christ loves all mankind. But even in loving us, God will not excuse us from our sin and grant us access into His kingdom if we cling to treasures on earth and disregard The Shepherd's call to follow His way. We must leave EVERYTHING aside and love and trust Jesus MORE. That is His call to live in His name. There is no greater gift we could receive!

Ladies, let's not rob ourselves of God's gift. Let's not walk away sad with mere trinkets and piddly coins clutched into our hands while losing the key to our eternal freedom, wealth and security. There is no greater necessity than our being close to God.

This world... this universe... will never belong to any human. Every person we love, every object we use, every color, every taste, every sound, every smell, every substance, every distinct molecular composition know, every empty space, every realm, every mass, every form of matter - what we have seen and what we have not seen... it all belongs to God. EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD... FOREVER!

He is the sole proprietor... the legal possessor... the primary owner of all that was, that is, and that will ever be. No matter how big our appetite, we will never acquire anything or overshadow any glory that is His - - nor should we dishonestly make the attempt. The only thing that should matter to us is God! For He is all that we can we truly claim as our own.

If we submit ourselves over to Him, He has promised us great reward and life in His presence. He has offered us a relationship... a friendship that He wants to develop and grow. Yes, our Creator loves us and wants to be with us. How blessed we are that He is a good and faithful King. Let's direct our hearts back to the Savior who freely gives to those who follow Him a living inheritance in His holy, eternal kingdom! He is worthy. He is in control. He will be glorified. He will remain true. He is Jehovah God who provides for His people. THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

There is nothing we should grab onto more than God's attention, His friendship, His eternal presence, His love. He will never forsake us and will provide us everything. For HE IS EVERYTHING!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9)



© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson