Category Archives: Soul Food (inspirational thoughts)

Take Time to Be Holy

One principle I’ve learned over many years of attending Sunday School and Bible study is that the recipe for growth as a Christian calls for four key ingredients: prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service. And I’ve observed that these four ingredients are not only the means to growth but also the result of growth. The more we do these things, the more we want to do them and the better we get at them.

This principle was confirmed for me in a rather startling way a couple of weeks ago when one of the hymns we sang at church was “Take Time to Be Holy.” While we were singing, my attention was drawn to the repeated phrase: take time to be holy.

Take time. Take time to be holy. Take time to be holy.

The journey toward holiness begins with our choice, and it requires a time commitment. We can’t just sit around waiting for holiness to happen to us. (That’s why we feel like it takes forever to get there.) It isn’t simply given to us. It’s a process that is activated when we take time.

That Tuesday morning, I decided to listen to the song more closely so, while still laying in bed, I searched for the song on my phone and found a version of it sung by Joseph Habedank. And this is when I was startled by a joyous observation. Look at the first lines of the first verse:

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord — That’s PRAYER!

Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word — That’s BIBLE STUDY!

Make friends of God’s children — That’s FELLOWSHIP!

Help those who are weak — That’s SERVICE!

I’ve been a Christian for 39 years. I’ve been serving in the church since I was a teenager. My father’s a pastor. But I still struggle with the pursuit of holiness. Here’s the thing: As with any other pursuit, it’s not enough to desire holiness, to fantasize about it. Life isn’t a fairy tale where if you wish for something hard enough, it comes true.

The missing link is time coupled with effort. Commitment. I need to “take time to be holy” instead of spinning my wheels wondering why I’m not getting anywhere.

Time is a precious commodity. How am I spending it?

How are you spending yours?

Ann-Margret

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The Internal Disease

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Patti Callahan’s Becoming Mrs. Lewis, a fictional novel based on the real-life events surrounding the relationship between C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman. During one of their conversations, Joy expressed dismay at her tendency to be tempted by certain sins. She was struggling and I can imagine that she might have been angry, too—angry that she was bound to a nature that she could not be rid of or change.

I’ve been there. I’ve subconsciously—perhaps even wilfully at times—questioned God for making me a certain way, with weaknesses and tendencies that I am uncomfortable with and ashamed of. Why couldn’t He have made me to be naturally kind and pure and unselfish? This is spiritual immaturity and a lack of wisdom.

I love C.S. Lewis’ response: “God doesn’t judge by internal disease, but by moral choices.” In other words, we may not be able to control what tempts us, angers us, saddens us, or hurts us, but we do have agency to react to each situation in a moral and godly manner. Shame shouldn’t lie in one’s natural inclination toward particular sins but in choosing to yield to those temptations when God has clearly given us the free will to choose otherwise.

It’s like the hyperparathyroidism I battled for many years: I did nothing to create the disease in my body and I could do nothing to get rid of it. However, I had the choice to either change my diet and habits to minimize the symptoms or ignore my doctor’s guidelines and suffer. (Thankfully, surgery eventually solved my problem but even that was beyond my own capabilities.)

Looking back on my life, my sense is that many of us expend a lot of energy fighting with or denying our sinful nature when all we really need to do is daily choose God’s will over our own, God’s plan for us over our own.

Ann-Margret

thinking girl

 

Joy Unspeakable

Growing up, I used to enjoy the vinyl records my parents played (I may have just given my age away!) and occasionally I hear some of the songs echoing in the far recesses of my brain. One of them was a hymn sung by a then-popular television evangelist, and it made me smile to remember it a few days before the new year because it is about a three-letter word that has become my theme in recent months: JOY!

Joy Unspeakable, written by Barney E. Warren in 1900, goes like this:

I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need;
While I sit and learn at Jesus’ feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.

It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Full of glory, full of glory;
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory,
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

I have found the pleasure I once craved,
It is joy and peace within;
What a wondrous blessing, I am saved
From the awful gulf of sin.

I have found that hope so bright and clear,
Living in the realm of grace;
Oh, the Savior’s presence is so near,
I can see His smiling face.

I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.

Isn’t that beautiful? The Bible says that the peace we find in Christ is beyond understanding (Philippians 4:7). Similarly, it’s fitting to say that the joy He gives us is “unspeakable”—indescribable. How do you explain that deep, bubbling joy that begins far down in your soul and overflows even in the midst of pain, hardship, uncertainty and need? It defies human logic and flies in the face of worldly standards of happiness.

I don’t know whether you’ve made any resolutions or goals for 2019, but I have one overarching one: to seek my joy in Christ alone and to share that joy with others. One way I try to do that is through my daily posts on Facebook, which you can follow here. I hope you’ll come and visit and be encouraged.

Be sure to check out the “31 Days of Encouraging Others” challenge I posted. In case you don’t have Facebook, here it is in a nutshell:

January challenge

Oh, one more thing before I close: Click on the “Freebies” tab above to find my latest free colouring page (“Rejoice!”)

I wish you a joyous New Year!

Ann-Margret 

P.S. Thanks for your patience while I took a break from my blog. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be posting but I’ll be around a little more often. 🙂

 

Devotions: What’s the Outcome?

Note: I apologize for how quiet it’s been on my blog the last couple of weeks. Life happens sometimes. Amiright? Updates to come… 

Bible with glasses

One of my favourite topics to write and speak about is something I used to struggle with for years and, I suspect is a common issue: my quiet time with God or, to put it another way, my devotional life.

You may be a new Christian who needs to learn how to develop a devotional life. Or maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while but your quiet times are dead in the water and need resuscitation. Maybe they’re just irregular and haphazard and you need some renewal. You may be very disciplined in your devotional life but feeling like you need a new spark, a bit of a turbo boost to take your quiet times to the next level.

Let’s look at why quiet time with God is essential to our spiritual growth:

  • Jesus demonstrated and talked about a devotional life. (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 21:37, Luke 5:16)
  • It is our primary source of spiritual nourishment and growth. (Psalm 1:1-3)
  • It protects us from sin and strengthens us in times of crisis and temptation. (Matthew 26:40-41, Psalm 119:11)
  • It guides us in our everyday lives and in long-term decisions. (John 10:27)
  • It results in fruitfulness. (John 15:4, 7)
  • It plugs us into God, our source of power. (John 7:37-38)

The first step to reviving our quiet times is to acknowledge that something is missing in our encounters with God and His Word. Then we must reconsider the value of the Bible in our lives (see Psalm 119:50) and start relating to it the way Jesus did. He knew Scripture intimately and used His knowledge to teach others. Jesus also lived Scripture and walked in fulfilment of God’s Word.

It’s important to remember that the Bible is not just a story—it’s your story. It explains your origins, your value, your redemption, your call and your future. When you can recapture that sense that God’s Word is living, breathing  and life-changing, you can begin to connect with Him in a new and exciting way.

Remember to focus on the outcome of your quiet times and not on the activity itself. Your goal shouldn’t be about how many chapters you read or how long you pray, but about really connecting with God and becoming more like Him.

Ann-Margret 

If you would like to read more about how to effectively engage with God’s Word, you can find my articles on the American Bible Society Bible Engager’s Blog here.

 

You Can’t Clean with Filthy Rags

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Can I assume we all enjoy living in a clean house? What might be less certain is how many of us enjoy cleaning our homes. Ironically, the more we avoid cleaning, the more cleaning we have to do when we reach the point that we can no longer ignore the dirt. . . or somebody is coming over and we couldn’t possibly let them see things less than perfect. Now we’ve got two problems: a big ugly mess and the daunting task of cleaning it up.

Conversely, some of us may work hard at keeping our homes clean (and Pinterest-worthy!) because it makes us feel good about ourselves, not necessarily for the sheer pleasure of having beautiful surroundings.

Some time ago, God showed me that this was my approach toward righteousness. Perhaps you can relate. We know it’s important to be pure and holy and we desire it because it makes us feel good, but we don’t necessarily pursue it for the right reasons or go about it the right way.

At our church Bible study one day, someone pointed out that righteousness and self-righteousness are not the same thing. Ironically, my reaction to that was self-righteous: I thought, “I’m not self-righteous. I’m painfully aware of my own sins and shortcomings!” However, I was confusing self-righteousness with arrogance or pride. It struck me later that self-righteousness is not thinking I’m righteous; rather, it’s trying to be righteous on my own strength and wisdom, doing it as a duty, or works.

Isaiah 65

The Bible warns us that our own righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). . .not even fit for cleaning our homes with! Scripture has many verses about delighting in the Lord, about finding our joy in Him and in His righteousness, not in our own. If we delight in the Lord and grow in our relationship with Him, He will make us righteous in a way that no amount of discipline and hard work ever could.

Ann-Margret

Saturday Round-up

I’m competing with the royal wedding this morning. Ah well. Hopefully some of you will drop by when the festivities are over. 🙂 (No, I’m not watching. I have a television but I don’t have TV, if you know what I mean. I just watch Netflix and DVDs. My current obsession is Lie to Me.)

Speaking of Royal Marriages…

Last week I learned that one of my favourite hymns, Unto the Hills, was penned by the fourth Governor General of Canada, John Douglas Campbell (1878 – 1883), and that he was married to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise. Useless information but still pretty cool, especially as I’m Canadian. The hymn is based on Psalm 121, by the way:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

And that reminds me of this more modern take on the Psalm:

Are You Rejecting the Promised Land?

This year, I’m reading the through the Bible using the M’Cheyne Bible Calendar (it goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice). So, I’ve been in Numbers, a book that isn’t necessarily one you’d turn to for inspiration or spiritual enlightenment. That’s what made it all the more surprising when I tripped over this nugget several days ago:

“As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.” (Numbers 14:31)

What’s the big deal about this verse? Let me highlight the words the land you have rejected. The Israelites didn’t make it into the Promised Land for one simple reason: They rejected it. God didn’t take it away from them. For forty years, He patiently led them toward it and all they did was grumble and moan and complain and whine and murmur and reminisce about (of all things!) the garlic and onions back in Egypt. For forty years, they made it abundantly clear that they didn’t want the blessings God had in store for them. For forty years, they rejected His goodness.

It hit me right in the face: How many of God’s blessings, whether good health or success in my work or healthy relationships, have I missed out on because I was too busy navel-gazing at my pity parties? How many doors that God has opened have I not walked through because I didn’t want to leave something else behind?

I could write a whole Bible study on this theme, and maybe I will one day, but I just wanted to share those thoughts for now. I’d love to hear your own comments!

Read a Good Book Recently?

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Why not take a few minutes to write a review on Amazon or another bookstore’s website that sells the book? I can tell you from personal experience that even a one-sentence positive review can be a huge boost to an author.

If you (or your kids) have read any of my books, would you please consider writing a review? If you have friends who have bought my book, could you encourage them to do the same? Thank you so much! You can find my books on Amazon here.

One for the Road

May this encourage you today: “God’s power, glory, and majesty make me feel like I don’t deserve to be in the same room with him. His love, mercy, and compassion let me know I don’t belong anywhere else.” — Eric Collier

See you on Tuesday!

Ann-Margret

Love: Just Do It

L'Engle 2

“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (John 14:21 NLT)

We often talk about the importance of loving other people but, if I’m completely honest, I think my biggest struggle is truly loving God. Loving Him, that is, beyond a mere emotional, mushy feeling of admiration and affection. Loving Him in all that I do. Loving Him in the way I live out what I read in His Word. Loving Him in the way I invest my time and energy and attention. 

Anyone else find this difficult at times? Let’s remember not to rely on our feelings, because (a) they’re not enough and (b) sometimes they’re not even there. We need to CHOOSE to love God, not only with all our heart, but also with all our soul and strength and mind. (Luke 10:27)

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