Monday, April 27, 2015

learning to live

Just as I've learned how to live through life's stages...

The burden of times filled with misunderstanding or hardship;
The entrancing times of loving relationships;
The grief in letting go of those who have passed on;
The unspoken commitment to family and friends;
The successful values or tragic choices that leaders may example;
The truth and security laid out in the scriptures;
The magical times of wishing and dreaming;
The false security of wealth and the fraud of social status;
The difficulty that physical handicap presents;
The activities and events that define a person's history;
The ability to rely on God's power and overcome disaster;
The challenge to look past outward appearances;
The temporary invincibility and security that youth brings;
The honor and horror of growing old gracefully;
The humiliation and relief of never really being a part of the "in crowd";
The speed and slow motion that dance in each second;
The understanding that opinions are not necessarily truth;
The hurt that unkind words and actions can produce;
The knowledge and wisdom of those with experience;
The optimism attained after witnessing the power of prayer;
The ability to stop and enjoy a full breath of everlasting peace;
The wonderful feeling of accomplishing a task;
The freedom of living in complete grace and openness;
The privilege to be heard when expressing my faith;
The contagiousness of love and the silent strength it provides;
The defeat of knowing when a bitter soul remains lost;
The undeniable fact that everything is subject to change;
The inevitable reality that every person's name will be forgotten;
The absolute truth that Jesus is eternal;
The faith that The Almighty's hand is in control of the universe;
The peace in accepting God at His Word;
The blessing that I am worthy in the eyes of my Savior...

Just as I've learned how to live through life's stages,
So have I realized that more learning will come.
For in every moment the Lord has me experience,
Are the tests that He's chosen to bring me closer to His Son.

Just as I've learned how to live through life's stages,
So am I learning to LIVE.

To live is Christ!!!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Saturday, April 25, 2015

money can't buy me love

Many years ago, I was invited to attend a special show hosted at a posh location in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. The show would feature a runway event showcasing different models and outfits, and would be hosted by a famous celebrity style expert recognized from many media venues: television make-over shows, magazines, etc. The whole swanky event was thrilling fun to experience and enjoy with my fellow fashionista friend who nabbed the tickets. We amused ourselves by critiquing all the models... their outfits... their ability to hold a pose just so... all the while feeling very vogue as we enjoyed the girly-girliness of the whole event. It was great fun.

After the show was finished, Mr. Celebrity Style Guru decided to take time out of his busy schedule to meet various people who had attended the event.... "the little people", if you will. Now, in the world of stardom, this person is highly regarded in his industry as somebody who knows what and what not to do... But in reality, he holds no real training or education in his field. However, he and his agent have worked the system well enough so that he is now recognized internationally. As a result, Mr. Celebrity Style Guru is quite wealthy and can be critical to those who hold a different taste to that of his and his associates. As I watched him "work" the room, it was comical to watch the women around him. If the man had a ring on his finger, they would have been on their knees kissing it. They were wooing...WOOING over him. (Did I just use the word "woo" in my blog - ROFL.) It was like being in a room filled with star-struck school girls soliciting a rock-n-roll singer's attention - all because of a celebrity status and heafty financial bank roll. It was ridiculous.

When all was said and done, my friend and I decided to further peruse the merchandise that was on display in varying sections of the room. (Sadly, nothing would properly fit my right leg much less my whole body...but that's a different matter altogether.)

Anyway, I turned a corner and there standing directly in front of me was Mr. Celebrity Style Guru himself!!! Looking right at me, he eyed me up and down. From his mere presence, I actually felt a breeze (just kidding). He proceeded to critique my attire and comforted me that my outfit was indeed suitable and accessorized to his liking. Then he looked at me - waiting for a gushing response... Yes, I believe he actually expected me to gush the same sentiments as the others had before me. I looked at him and said, "Thank you. This is a lovely event. You have an interesting job, don't you?"

Now mind you, I meant no disrespect. I didn't really mean anything. My background was in Human Resources, mainly Staffing and Recruiting, so it was natural for me to be looking at his "job" in an objective fashion (no pun intended). But Mr. Celebrity Style Guru looked at me amazed. He was absolutely speechless and, I think, a little annoyed that I had not shown him more reverence to WHO he was. Nonetheless, I now stood in front of a man absolutely void of words because my statement did not provide any sense of worship to his presence. When I realized he was looking at me bewildered and expecting so much more, I decided it was time to graciously excuse myself from his ego and move into the next room to look at the handbags. (I love a good handbag... again, a different matter altogether.)

Anyway, the experience made me very aware of how the mass public can become consumed to show favor to the rich and renown. It is a little scary to see how so many are, well... sheep. Look at our society. A world filled with people consumed with reinventing themselves so that they are the NEXT BIG THING! It is no secret that in general mankind defaults to honoring and revering the rich and famous.... the bold...the beautiful. We see this all the time with Hollywood celebrities and boisterous entrepreneurs. Just turn on the television and I guarantee in less than thirty seconds, you will be mesmerized by someone fitting the description.

Unfortunately, we Christians can also be at fault to succumb to this horrible behavior. In schools, clubs, universities - we form socially acceptable cliques and class levels of elitism. Our attention to status is down right embarrassing when we consider Jesus command to "love one another"... instead we are more prone to follow our own motto of "love only this group or that person" as long as it suits ME and MY desires.

Worse yet, it is most tragic when our local churches and Bible study groups get their values confused and cater to their rich and famous attendees while ignoring, or even rejecting, the poor and disgraced of this world who bravely come to worship with the hope of finding a loving fellowship of believers. What is wrong with this picture?

Mark Twain once defined "civilization" as "a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities," and he was right. In fact, many Christians are infected with covetousness and idolatry and don't even know it. They think that Paul's admonition in 1 Timothy 6 applies only to the tainted rich and famous and not to themselves.

The Bible Exposition Commentary says it this way, "There are perils to prosperity (Proverbs 30:7-9). Wealth can choke the Word of God (Matthew 13:22), create snares and temptations (1 Timothy 6:6-10,17-19), and give you a false sense of security. People say that money does not satisfy, but it does satisfy if you want to live on that level. People who are satisfied only with the things that money can buy are in great danger of losing the things that money cannot buy." Oh Lord, help me not to live on that level.

Ladies, God is not impressed with money or celebrity. He does not hold stock in man's definition of success, satisfaction, and security. Wealth cannot keep anyone alive when their time comes to die, nor can it buy back the opportunities missed while thinking of personal gain rather than focusing on God and others in need. Jesus made it clear that TRUE LIFE does not come from an abundance of things, nor does true success or security. We must make sure we are not drawn to covetousness. We must guard against worshiping idols... any idol! To be impressed with anyone or anything that does not first give glory to God Almighty is to be hypocritical as we avoid showing favor FIRST to our King of kings. Does he not command our first fruits? (See Deuteronomy 26:1-15)

On March 11, 1856, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal, "A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone."

So what or who is really important? I have to frequently ask myself if I would treat a prostitute the same as I would treat a famous intellect, missionary or world leader visiting my church... They are no different in God's eyes, so should they be different in my own eyes? Should I respect one less than the other? Is a political figure's soul more worthy of my attention than a beggar's? I don't think so. Nor should I feel superior or inferior. The Bible says in Job 34:19, "Who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are ALL the work of His hands?"

The facts are pretty simple... All men are the same in God's economy. All have sinned and require a Savior. All seek love. All need Jesus.

Ladies, do not be deceived by fortune and fame, status and standing... no one person is better than another. No person except Jesus Christ should receive our worship and devotion. Be very, very careful who you praise and esteem highly. If you admire anything, admire what is done in Jesus Name. If you are impressed by anyone, be impressed with those that work for the sake of His call. Do not be swept up in that which is not permanent. For everything you see will one day be dust. Every person you meet was made from dust and will return to dust.

What matters most is what happens in eternity and who among mankind will gain the wealth of our Savior's presence. So, treat everyone with respect and share the gospel with as many as you are able. For, we are all the same in the eyes of God. No one is over another except Christ who is over us all.

He is the rich and powerful King of all eternity! He ALONE is worthy of our praise!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, April 23, 2015

racing forward to spiritual maturity

Today, I will be writing about a topic that is difficult for me to address. Admittedly, I am uncomfortable bringing it up, but I do feel that even though it may be difficult, it is honest and in need of our attention. I also know that the Holy Spirit has been pushing me to talk about it. So here we go...

Today, let's talk about our maturity.  Specifically, SPIRITUAL MATURITY.

The reason this subject is particularly hard for me to address is because I know it is inevitable that I will receive countless emails from readers who want to engage in a theological argument about what I believe salvation really means (faith alone vs. faith plus works). So, before we go any further, let me say this... I am not interested in getting into a theological debate with anyone. If you wish to know in depth my beliefs regarding salvation, please visit DW's formal website at www.thedevotedwoman.org and read our statement of faith under the "What We Believe" section.

However, in the interest of expediting time, I believe that the Christian doctrine of salvation is about complete deliverance and eternal freedom offered by the grace and mercy of God from an eternal punishment for sin. It is granted to those who accept God’s condition of repentance and trust completely in the Lord Jesus as their God and King. This salvation is available in Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and is dependent on God for provision, assurance, and security.

Of course, the debate of "faith alone" verses "faith plus works" has caused quite a controversy throughout history (ultimately causing the Reformation). So, to avoid any argument, let's look directly at what the scriptures say about the matter. Compare with me Romans 3:28, 5:1, Galatians 3:24 and then James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul's writing and James' writing.  Paul dogmatically tells us that our justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be claiming that justification is by faith plus works. So which is right? The good news is, they both are! If you further examine what James is stating, you will see that he is arguing that a person who claims to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, cannot live a life of following Christ without also then producing good works. (James 2:17-18). Why? Because Jesus is God... and God is GOOD!

James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life that showcases the goodness of our Savior (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly saved by faith alone will have good works in their life because they have accepted God's gift to be a new creature in Jesus.

This is in total agreement with Paul who talks about the spiritual fruits that should be recognizable in the Christian life (Galatians 5:22-23). Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created by God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). That makes total sense since our whole existence was intended for the purpose of glorifying our GOOD God.

In summary, both Paul and James state the same thing. Salvation is by faith alone. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Phew!  OK, well not that that has all been said, let's talk about Spiritual Maturity.

Take an honest look at your present relationship with Jesus. Are you following Him at all cost? Do your actions and works point to Him as the FIRST PRIORITY in your life? I know these are hard questions, but if you have accepted Jesus to be the Lord of your life, are you growing and maturing in your faith? Do you strive to know Him regularly? Spiritual maturity in Christ is a lifelong process, but I feel compelled to ask... Where are you in the process? What is your relationship with God?

Why do I ask? Well, I frequently speak with many Christian women who have claimed that they accepted Christ earlier in their lives. Yet, most seem to still be standing at the starting line of their faith when it comes to their relationship with the Lord. They are like infants who have not developed or grown. Most have not taken the time to really know and understand God's Word. And many are not at all eager, or even know how, to share the gospel message with others. This is concerning!

The writer of Hebrews spoke with caution concerning the spiritual maturity of the believers in his day. As he begins to give an explanation of the heavenly priesthood of Christ in Hebrews chapter 5, he is not sure his readers are ready for what he has to teach to them. The problem is not that he is a bad teacher, but that they have become slothful. He refers to their condition as a kind of spiritual apathy that has prevented their development. Read what he wrote to these believers...

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. (Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6:1a)

He writer continues addressing the matter in chapter 6 by actually warning them against becoming lazy in their faith...

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation... We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Friends, we must not take this matter of spiritual maturity lightly. We each need to be disciplined to follow God over our own selfish desires and comfortable routines every single day. I bring the topic to the table to challenge each of us (myself included) to choose to LIVE IN CHRIST NOW - AS A NEW CREATURE DESTINED FOR ETERNITY IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD ALMIGHTY!!! We are not to remain as infants in our faith. Rather, let's crave His solid food... the "meat" of the Word.  Let's dig in deep and know Him as much as possible.

An immature believer can listen to any preacher, teacher or leader out there and not be able to identify whether or not God's truth is really being stated. We must not be like that.  We must KNOW God personally. We must follow Paul's advise and exercise ourselves into godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). We must be able to discern good from evil and follow through with what is good and pleasing to our Master. We must step up and be ready to serve and do whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to do. Let's LIVE our faith and not just talk about living our faith!!!

It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life. You are either moving forward and claiming God's blessings and promises, or you are moving backwards and wandering about aimlessly in sin and lukewarm living.  Christ has gone to heaven to prepare an eternal place for us so that one day we may follow. As followers of Jesus, we must progress in our spiritual maturity and prepare ourselves for our Almighty King. God has made it possible for us to do this and become more like Christ each day! So, wake up your faith and be alert!  Avoid drifting away from the Word (Hebrews 2:1-4), or doubting the Word (Hebrews 3:7-4:13). Don't let Satan distract you from God's promises and cause you to become lazy in your spiritual growth. Keep your focus! Lay hold of Christ and secure your eyes on Him alone! Let's not live close to the starting line of this race. Let's claim the fruit of the Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we can run with endurance and become mature believers who are always ready to do God's eternal GOOD.

We can do all things in Christ TODAY because we are His! So let's GO GO GO!!!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

what are you holding onto that is keeping you from God?

Question: What are you holding onto that is keeping you from God?

Question: What weights are you carrying that, if freed up, would allow you more time, more focus, and more energy for the benefit of His throne?

Question: What tangible goods, selfish habits, and negative thoughts have monopolized your soul and stopped you from spiritual progress?

We all have weight to lose.  For some it is merely physical - which, let's face it, is hard enough.  But for most, we also cling to our own internal and external clutter.  Saving all our stuff for an ambiguous "later" timeframe to tend to.  Holding on tightly to our stored up piles of "fat" because we fear the future unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable.

I am at fault in this.  By nature, I am a planner and project manager.  Of course, alone there is nothing wrong with being either of these things.  However, I've noticed that if left to my own devices, I can turn these positive abilities into negative, fear-igniting rabbit trails.  I can easily fall into thinking, "What if this or that happens down the road and I'm caught unprepared?  What if I will need?  What if... what if... what if?..."  Then I worry, store up, and attempt to hang onto anything that will help me take control of a future scenario that may or may not occur.  I cling to what feels comfortable and dig my nails deep into memories and traditions that seem safe.  But am I trusting God?

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17)

I can also overexert myself with too many hobbies, interests, memories, and desires.  For example, I love knitting, painting, photography, reading... the list goes on.  Now, there is nothing wrong in enjoying these outlets in general and when time truly permits.  But when I allow such enjoyments to turn into hoarded stations of to do's that weigh down my home, my budget, my time, my ministry... well, then they no longer remain a relaxing hobby, do they?  Instead they become excessive loads that stress and wear me down.  Without faith-filled discipline, these interests can easily rule my thoughts, my schedule, and monopolize my space.  They can overtake my life and discourage my heart.  This is not how God intends for any of us to live, folks.  Without the wisdom of Christ to simplify and prioritize our comings and goings, these once relaxing and rejuvenating outlets can quickly turn into nooses around the neck.

I'm not alone in this issue.  I have friends who are overwhelmed by mountains of photo albums and scrapbooking supplies.  I know others who stash their homes full of trinkets, tickets, and what-not's associated with childhood memories.  They keep these things, not because they are particularly special or necessary, but because they feel heavy guilt in letting them go.  Some have too many books to read.  Some have boxes of half-started projects to complete.  The list of "weights" can go on and on, can't it?  But are these weights holding us back from what God calls us toward, friends?  Are they cluttering, stifling, and slowing our pace... preventing us from moving forward while enjoying and sharing the true freedom of Christ in our lives TODAY?  Surely we must be careful to know where our treasure truly is while remaining good stewards of the resources we have been granted.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

And what about our thought life?  So often, we cling to inaccurate ideas about ourselves and others because they are familiar.  We linger in former brokenness with feelings of loneliness, laziness, lustfulness, and limitedness when instead, God calls us to move confidently forward in His grace.  He invites us to live free in His care.  To look only to Him.  To believe and have faith in His Way.  And as we walk alongside His narrow path, He offers to take on our burdens and lighten our loads.  He is a Redeemer who wants to relieve and bless us.  He is a King who wants to remove all trouble, weight, and worry.  So why are we still holding on to anything outside of His glory?

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. (Hebrews 3:1-6)

Think about it.  What do we really need outside of Jesus this very day?  I'm certain that boxes and loads of "stuff" accumulating in our basements, attics, and/or garages are not the answer.  I'm also certain that negative talk and habits of hopelessness are not of Him either.  No, our Master is the God who promotes order and peace.  He is straightforward and holy.  He is truth, light, and hope.  He is able to restore, renew, and revive us... FOREVER IN HIS PRESENCE!

Question: How complicated have we allowed our lives to become - ingesting and clinging to heavy loads of earthly crap that burdens us away from God's healthy eternity?

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved - even though only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:10-16)

Dear Christians, I encourage you to join me in rededicating yourself to the discipline of throwing off every weight, every load, every burden, every distraction, every unhealthy habit in Jesus Name.  Lay it all aside.  Give it up.  Get it out.  Surrender it now.  You need not carry or store this baggage any longer.  Stop subscribing to false securities, distracting thoughts, or would-be possibilities.  All that matters is Christ and the road He has you traveling on TODAY.  Everything else is destined for moths, rust, and thieves to soon enough destroy.

So... LET. IT. GO.  

Give it all up as fast as you are able, and run with endurance down the path God wishes for you to build upon His steadfast foundation.   His Word is the priority to know and share.  His Son is the focus to look upon and mirror.  His Kingdom is all that really matters in life... the NEW LIFE that you truly seek.  No profit, no project, no possession, and no other path can compare to God's perfect peace.  Let Him pioneer your steps, your plans, your future.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Question: What are you holding onto that is keeping you from God?

Question: How urgently will you surrender and throw off every weight in order to gain closeness with The King of kings?

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” (Jonah 2:8-9)

Blessings!

Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

peace and quiet

AaaRRRrrrrgggghhh!

Hi God, it's me again. And, guess what, I'm having one of THOSE days... One of those frustrating days when everyone present in my life is DRIVING ME CRAZY! One of those moments when I don't want to be gracious, or patient, or humble, or giving. I just want people to figure things out on there own. I just want others to grow up and act like the intelligent, responsible adults I know they are capable of being. I just want everyone to stop asking me questions they already know the answers to and/or can figure out themselves. I just want to be left alone and obtain a little bit of peace... yes, peace. And let's not forget quiet. Quiet would be nice too. Quiet would let me think, regroup, relax, de-stress. Yes, that's what I need, Lord... peace and quiet!

AaaRRRrrrrgggghhh again!

Hmmm? What's that you say? You alone are peace? You alone can fulfill my every need? You alone should be the only One I live for... and not myself? Not my wants? Not my way?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Yes, of course, Lord. I know, I know. But today, can't I get a short break? A break from the many takers, complainers, time suckers, attention getter's, and questioners with their long list of floundering requests? Can't you just clamp down and give me some solace from all these bombardments, inquisitions, and ridiculous incompetence's from those whom I honestly suspect are not as deficient as they portray?

Why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: "As surely as I live," says the Lord, "every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God." So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:10-13a,19)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)


Hmmm? What's that you say? I'm judging others? I'm not looking at them as you look at them? And my time is really YOUR time? My every step is in your care? And those whom you've placed in my life at this precise moment are here for a specific purpose of which you have ordained and are overseeing? You want me to love? You want me to live sacrificially as a beacon of your grace? You want my own plans to be discarded and your purpose to prevail?

But how can I do this when all I really want to do right now is slap everybody and scream?

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Everything is possible for one who believes. (Mark 9:23b)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything; because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 3:12 & 4:4b)


Hmmm? What's that you say? Call to you and you will answer? All things are possible in your Name? You are greater than all this? You are both mighty and gentle... ready to save and restore those who seek to know and obey you? Yes, Lord... my desire is YOU. I wish to be restored to your true peace (and quiet) and to know you intimately. So, teach me! Teach me how to stop rolling my eyes and deal with my own selfish frustrations. Teach me to love like Jesus loves and change me to be more and more like Him. Let me blossom in your wisdom and display the holy truth of your word with my very life! Move me past my own disdain and grumbling and bless me with your Way - the only Way!

How then shall I live, my Master? Guide my steps. Change my heart even if you won't change my circumstance.

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. (Psalm 106:1-3)

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:24)


You must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 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 4:25-27; 29-37)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:13-16; 22-23)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:5-10; 12-17)


Ladies, this is my journal entry from yesterday and the verses the Spirit gave me to meditate on. Oh, how blessed we are to be able to call on Him - for He will indeed show us His great Way! He will remind us of His truths! He will reclaim us so that we may regroup in His Spirit and live righteously by His decrees! And yes, in His Name, we can know peace and quiet - even in the midst of our own inner storms. By His grace, we can step forward from our anxious, unhappy, unholy, selfish hearts and learn to truly love others as we learn to love Him more than ourselves. But we must choose to love Him more. We must choose Him alone and be thankful.

If you have felt as I did yesterday, I encourage you to call on God and consider His Word. Refocus your eyes on how you are living. Is it devoted to your Master's purpose or your own plans? Are you actively thankful and living in love with Him and others, or has your own selfishness stumbled your steps?

Yesterday, I stumbled. For a moment, I looked inward instead of upward. I festered and grumbled and roared in sinful contempt about everyone who crossed my path. And then I desperately went to God... and Jesus's rod and staff re-directed my course. My spirit was made to lie down in the green pastures of my Shepherd. There, in His Word, my Comforter restored my weary, anxious, unsatisfied soul.

Mind you, physically I was never alone... I did not receive a break from others... I never got away... I never got MY way. But in Jesus Name, I received peace and quiet from His eternal, unchanging, holy Word. My King used my selfish stumble to show me His true goodness and mercy. My God demonstrated His intimate love for me by once again saving me from myself. Blessed is His Name! Blessed is His yoke! Blessed is His LIFE!

So, as I wrap up today's blog, allow me to share with you what the Holy Spirit kindly shared with me:

Be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:1b-8)

Let us live devoted to God and not ourselves. Let us always do what is good. Let us be thankful. Let us live holy and righteous because He is holy righteous. Most importantly, let us love because He first loved us!

Ahhhh... peace and quiet! Thank you, Lord!

The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:16-17)

The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Monday, April 20, 2015

when all you have left is one labored breath...

When all you have left is one labored breath...
Don't panic.
I repeat, don't panic.

Believe that God is faithful.
Focus on that one, fragile breath He has given you...
Then another.
Then another.

And as you breathe,
Be aware that the enemy is trying to suffocate you;
To weigh you down with congestion, deception.
He will ruthlessly suggest that all is lost;
That all is hopeless;
That you are alone;
That you are far too damaged;
And that nobody cares.

But don't accept those foul whispers.
For they are loathsome and originate from no friend of yours.
Be prompt to take offense to such suggestions.
And reject every felony uttered against the Savior's holy Name!

Because you are not hopeless.
Because you are never alone.
God is here.
God will rescue and save.

Remember His loving plan to keep you alive and close to His heart...
To offer you His Sabbath rest and peaceful life.
He has promised to restore you to fullness, health, holiness.
And He is faithful.
He will heal.
He will make all things work together for your good.
Because He loves you.
Yes, He loves you.

Beloved,
God. Loves. You.

No matter how bleak things may seem,
He will shine His Light ahead every darkened step.
He will guide you through uncertain valleys.
He will lead you to still waters, calm pastures, holy places.
So, do not linger helplessly in the gasping shadows of sinful remorse.
No.  Do not be defeated by clogging self pity.
Do not give Satan a foothold.
Because Jesus has assured that evil can not, will not, does not win.
Hallelujah.

Yes, breathe...
And claim the Savior's victorious new.
No matter your current emotion or sensitivity;
No matter your present circumstance.
Accept the breath of the Living God,
Believe that He is able.
Believe that He is always.
Believe that He will help in His perfect time.
Believe His blessings and inhale His proven medicine: His life-giving Law.
His strength, power, and grace are available and abundant to take, ingest, consume, savor.

So, savor Him.
Feast on His bread and wine.
Eat.
Even if you have no appetite.
Just eat.
Set the table.
Prepare your heart.
Make the effort.
Digest His good fruit.

Yes, taste the sweetness of His perfect, transforming scripture on your lips.
Then taste another.
Then another.
He is able to refresh you.
He came to restore.

When all you have left is one labored breath...
Don't panic.
Focus on that one, fragile breath filled with Jesus.
Focus all your heart, soul, mind, and strength on the Lover of your soul.
Then again.
Then again.
Rejoice... then again.

The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:10)

As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:3-6)

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, April 17, 2015

the truth about lying

Little white lies... sugar coated deceptions... hairy half truths... the nasty art of dishonesty...

Studies have shown that lying and deception is a natural trait that is acted out in every person's life. According to mental health professionals, lying is viewed as a normal human trait that is silently accepted in our social make-up and personal interactions. On average, it has been documented that people begin telling lies around the age of 5 or 6 years old and continue on throughout adulthood. In fact, research has proven that most people will tell lies on a weekly or even daily basis without thought or conscience.

In one particular research study at the University of Massachusetts, subjects wore a recording device for three days and went about their daily routines. At the end of the allotted time period, both researchers and subjects listened to the recorded interactions and tallied up the number of white lies that were told. What were their findings?... The subject's average rate of lies amounted to three lies for every ten minutes of conversation. Wow! That is a lot of deception. When confronted as to why they lied in their common day-to-day circumstances, the subject's reasons were as follows: (1) To avoid hurting another person's feelings; (2) To cover up their own embarrassment; (3) To improve their image in the eyes of others; (4) To reassure the needlessly anxious; and (5) To spare unnecessary headaches.

Little white lies are considered so mainstream, that people usually internalize them as an overall harmless and inconsequential act. Some even think of them as a good and healthy way of dealing with problems... good and healthy just as long as their lies are not exposed. (Is that really good and healthy?) Clearly, just because something is accepted in the mainstream of society, does not make it right. Are lies really harmless? Are they inconsequential? God says no. Read the following verses with me...

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. (Proverbs 12:22)

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25)

It is undeniable. Lying is epidemic and endemic to mankind. Politicians lie to get elected, advertisers lie to sell products, and average, everyday people lie... well, because we can. In the words of a Time magazine essay, ours is "a huckstering, show-bizzy world, jangling with hype, hullabaloo, hooey, bull, baloney, and bamboozlement." So it comes as no shock that mankind's view of lying is considered a normal trait. It is what we are accustom to. In truth, it is normal coming from our nature... normal and sinful.

Some of us lie incessantly to get our way. We do so with little concern for others and our motives are manipulative, cunning and self-centered. Some of us lie out of mere habit. It has become a reflex response where we bend the truth about everything, large and small, to best suit our agenda. Either way, as a people whose human nature is drenched in sinfulness, we find ourselves dripping in our own dishonesty everywhere we turn. Mankind is imprisoned to the act of telling, believing and accepting lies. It is no wonder that we have such a difficult time accepting the freedom of Christ and believing the Lord's word as true, righteous and just. Without the aid of a Savior to guide us, our tarnished reasoning cannot fathom the concept of a truly good God because we are surrounded in our own deceitfulness and false nature. But thankfully, God is not false. God is not deceitful. God is good... He is the only Way, the Truth, the Life.

Satan continues to try everything he can to muddy our vision to God's absolute and unchanging word, but the truth about lying is this: Sin stems from lies. For sin is a transgression against God's divine and holy law - the guidelines that He created for us to live a full and healthy life in His presence. When Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, it was because they chose to follow the counsel of someone other than God. They listened to Satan, the Father of Lies, and believed his false guidelines for life. They took their eyes off their Maker. They followed a counterfeit "god" alternative that contrasted against God's one true and intended solution for how they were originally created to live. They walked away from a healthy, abundant life and loving relationship with their perfect, Almighty Father... a Father who wanted nothing but the best of everything for them. From then on, mankind has been cursed with sin and damned with the death that accompanies. Since then, the lies and warped obsession for false substitute gods have abounded. Without God, man is hopelessly drowning in lies... damaged and lost.

We need truth to live healthy. We need truth to be free to breathe. To live in our old habits and accept the ways of our old sinful nature is not in keeping with the character of Christ or how God intended for us to exist. So, to continue engaging in the practice of telling, believing or accepting lies is not productive to our Christian faith. We are new creatures being refined in His grace. We must confess and seek the help of our Redeemer to unlock us from the chains of this stronghold. The only way to overcome the sin of lying lips is to believe God's word as absolute truth, to love Him with all our heart, and to follow Jesus at all cost. Let us no longer engage in any activity that our Master clearly detests. Instead, let's pray directly from the scriptures on this matter...

Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. (Psalm 119:29-30)

Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. (Psalm 120:2)

Ladies, our Savior is able and willing to free us from the lies of this world. Jesus Christ wishes to teach us how to find true freedom and perfect peace in God's divine and holy law. Let's seek Him every day... every moment! Let's learn His ways - for His path alone is genuine and true. Let's follow His holy example so that we may live fully and healthy and whole in His presence forever.

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, April 16, 2015

devote, dear vapors

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17)

A visible exhalation.
A fog.
A smoke.
A steam, a mist, a gas.
Diffused through air... suspending,
Ah, but vapors do not last.

We rise.
We judge.
We emit and talk,
Acting grandiloquently.
Our pompous, boastful, blusterous thoughts,
Make us think we're more than Thee.

O foolish haze,
So temporary.
Your appearance is short lived.
For life lasts only a little while,
And then it vanishes. 

But Jesus - the One who always was,
The One who is... and who'll always be,
His truth is present.
His Word is sharp.
His Way: Eternity.

So release your grasp, and share your storehouses.
Surrender all you think you know.
Devote, dear vapors,
Until your very last breath,
Praise Him all creatures here below.

Come lose your life to find it.
And do not stress in "what if's" or suppose.
Simply love and give Christ to the least of those you meet.
With all your heart, mind, strength.
With all your soul.

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

back in the day / forward in this moment

Back in the day.  Ahhh, back in the day.  Back when life was young.  Back when times were different.  Back when we felt thinner, healthier.  Back when prices were more reasonable.  Back when the world seemed safer, life seemed easier, times seemed simpler.  Back then.  Yes, back in those precious memories - in those fond, fond days of the past.  Those glorious trophies of time.  Yes, back then... ahhh, life was good, wasn't it?  Younger, sweeter, fresher, newer life.  Ahhhhhh.

Wait a minute.... really?  Is this how we are viewing the best of our LIFE?  By remembering?  By looking backward to various blessings from times past and marking them down as the most special of days?  If so, we are misguided in our thinking.  For the future is where the action is!  In fact, TODAY is where our best awaits!  Why?  Because forward in this moment is where the Savior reigns eternal!!!  It is the place He is leading us to be closer to Him.  It is why He is preparing us to advance... to move ahead... to develop us further in His Name so that we might enter the holy place He has readied for us to live full and satisfied forever!  Progressing.  Improving.  Obeying.  Believing.  We are being restored, people!  We are becoming (yes, becoming) NEW creatures in His Name!!!  WOO HOO!  Forget "back in the day".... let's look forward in this moment!

Sure, our human youthfulness may be passing by, but we are still children when it comes to God's holiness, folks.  And nearer to His holiness is where our very best awaits!  So, His Way is clearly the reward.  His narrow path is the blessing to view now and appreciate most.  HE is the focus of our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength!  Hurray!

So, as our earthly bodies continue to age and deteriorate before our very eyes, and as we reminisce over nostalgic times now past, let me assure you of God's promised future to those who believe in His Son: Our fullest LIFE is in further prominence and joyful assurance when we look forward in this moment and exclusively set our eyes on the everlasting hope and eternal reign of Jesus Christ!  His Kingdom is the ultimate blessing to recognize!  His is the distinction, the eminence, the glory, the honor, the notability, the popularity, the preeminence, the prestige!  His glory!  His grace!  His holiness!  His future.... He is the only fondness to claim!  He is the trophy... the reward of our LIFE!  Yes, HE is the New Day WHO we are to celebrate!  Forward in this moment... JESUS!  Forward in this new day... JESUS!  Ahhh yes, we thank you, Lord, for our past... but we praise you forevermore for our future in JESUS!

Friends, let us always be thankful and appreciate the good moments God has graciously blessed us with "back in the day".  But more importantly, let us use our time and efforts THIS DAY to draw all attention and focus to the Glory ahead.  Upon the Promise to be fulfilled.  Upon the ONE who is moving us into our safest, sweetest, freshest, healthiest, newest and best LIFE by the power of His beautiful, unimaginable grace and generosity.

Forward in this moment... let us rejoice!
Forward to His holiness... let us praise!
Forward to the Kingdom of the Most High God... Hallelujah!
Forward... always forward... to Jesus!!!

This... yes, THIS is that day!

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
(Psalm 118:24)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Monday, April 13, 2015

feelings... nothing more than

"The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an EXPERIENCE rather than seeking God. They look for a FEELING, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshiped." ~Rick Warren

Many years ago, I read the above quote and it stopped me dead in my tracks with this vitally important assessment: Is my worship to God genuine... or is it based upon an emotional response susceptible to my own sentiments and sensations? Do my personal feelings mandate my certainty and/or consistency in Jesus as God and Savior?

I've always enjoyed relating with other believers, reading inspirational truths, listening to profound sermons, singing songs that uplift... yes, these have always filled me up and made me "feel good" about my walk as a Christian. But are these forms of spiritual enjoyment an accurate representation of a heart truly in search of Christ's headship... or have I made them outlets for my selfish hunger to be "moved" or "enlightened" emotionally?

More directly stated, is my relationship with God centered around my ability to "feel good" about Him? Can I only find the time to glorify His name when I have an experience with a seemingly happy disposition about how close I seem to Him? If so, what about when He feels distant and my sense of security is in question? What about when I feel abandoned and estranged from His presence? Does that diminish WHO HE IS? Are His promises less true in those moments? Is my heavenly inheritance as His child compromised when life is uncomfortable and I don't feel warm and fuzzy all over?

Absolutely not!

In truth, I find that many Christian women (myself included) can sometimes become jaded by emotion. We insist that we are not growing in our faith unless there is some form of confirmation received mentally which stimulates our fragile egos. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact, sometimes God intentionally distances Himself so that we can be stretched and tested for greater spiritual oneness and maturity with Him. Look at Job. When Job couldn't sense God's presence in his life, he wisely said this: "But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But HE KNOWS THE WAY THAT I TAKE; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (Job 23:8-10)

Job understood that even though he felt insecure, forgotten and alone, that (1) God was still trustworthy; (2) God would always be present whether Job sensed Him or not; and (3) God's promises were certain. Period.

Ladies, this is key to know. God created our feelings and they are indeed valuable to us. However, they should never rule so strongly to distract us away from trusting His Word and following His Way. Just like Job, we should never hold back from God, but rather pour out all our emotions to Him in prayer and continue to seek and trust Him even when He is not apparent... especially when He is not apparent! Furthermore, we must never allow our emotions to sway our faith from God's unchanging nature. For He has told us that His character is good. Period. He is love. Period. He knows the ways that we will take. Period. He will remain faithful to those who follow Him. Period.

If you have accepted Jesus as Savior, your security is forever safe in His eternal promise. So, be wise and focus your eyes on believing Him - on seeking and following the Savior's path no matter how good or bad you may feel. Don't measure your success by emotion. Rather, treasure the words of your Creator and bank on his truth and trustworthiness. For to everything there is a season and an emotional response. But no matter what the season, God is ALWAYS perfect and faithful and unchanging! He is always in control of your life. Most importantly, He is all that you need. So, live in the wisdom and power of your Lord and give Him your heart, and focus, and glory. He will guide you better than any feeling. He will fill your cup! AMEN!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, April 10, 2015

re-landscaping the impossible terrain surrounding every little mustard seed

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)


Pretty clear, isn't it?
Unless the Lord is involved in our endeavors, all we attempt to do in our lives will be in vain. Apart from God, we are unable to accomplish anything. However, any effort we pursue that faithfully honors Him will succeed... we will be a part of building up His kingdom... we will bear much fruit!

Now, I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, "But Victoria, I don't feel particularly close to the Lord right now. I'm struggling in my faith. My life is a mess. I'm completely overwhelmed and out of control. My relationships are lacking, my home is a mess, and my heart feels nervous and disheveled. How on earth can I be used to bear much fruit when I don't feel close to my Savior to begin with?"

OK, first, don't panic. God knows exactly where you are at today, and what condition your heart is in. AND, second, remember that He has already promised big plans for you to live fully satisfied in His kingdom. Lastly, if you simply believe His promises to be true, but still find yourself feeling isolated and alone in your spiritual walk, I encourage you to pause and consider what Jesus said about even the smallest amount of faith:

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Wow! Did we read that right? Jesus said that if you have a mustard seed-sized faith toward Him, it is enough to experience His great blessing! That is wonderful, isn't it? For in this tremendous universe, a small mustard seed seems so insignificant. But God calls every struggling believer to remember that there is always hope found in Him! Even if that hope feels microscopic compared to the mountainous problems set before us!


All we must do is believe Him today...

Believe His Way.

Believe His Word.

Believe His path and purpose for life.

Believe, and remain steady that He alone is God!

Yes, abide in the Savior! In turn, He promises to take on the heavy lifting and make the impossible possible again. He will make every endeavor pursued in His Name valuable and fruitful. So, seek Him first, dear Believer. Put your trust in Him no matter what obstacles encamp around your heart. For God is able to re-landscape the impossible terrain surrounding every little mustard seed! YES! He is able and has already won!!!

Today with God, you can accomplish lasting change within yourself!
Today with God, you can learn to love your spouse again.
Today with God, you can teach your children obedience and charity.
Today with God, you can become a good steward... an encouraging friend... and a healthy ambassador and hopeful romantic to His eternal throne!

Yes, this is the day that the Lord has made. So, cling to His hope, and yield a bounty that glorifies Him FOREVER!

Ladies, let's start living His blessed life rather than fester any longer in Satan's chaos of doubt! With Jesus, we are able to get through any trial! With Jesus we can overcome sin and stand firm! Yes, let's believe in the simple truth that our God can make ALL THINGS NEW again! He is an able Messiah, and salvation is ours when we remain focused on His strength alone!

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)

This is the day to take hold of your mustard seed-sized faith and seek God's kingdom! Despite life's turbulence and trials, determine to plant your faith solely in His ability and choose to grow closer to Him today, tomorrow, forever!!!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, April 9, 2015

the "birthday" initiative

How do you treat others when you find out it's their birthday? Do you give them a big hug? Do you playfully sing an old round of Happy Birthday to You? Do you treat them to a meal, wish them nothing but happiness in the coming year, post accolades on their Facebook and Twitter pages for all the world to see? Do you throw a party, give a gift, or perhaps offer a card, some balloons, or a yummy cake? Do you reminisce about the day they were born, or think fondly about the story outlining your first encounter together? All this depends on the person, right? All this depends on the level of closeness we feel and/or the social etiquette surrounding our relationship with said birthday recipient.

At the very minimum, I think in general, we might all agree that when most of us find out that it is someone's birthday, we usually take a minute to graciously extend a celebratory acknowledgment favoring their existence on this earth, right?

I was thinking about this as Chuck (my husband) and I will spend this week celebrating his 47th birthday. I was thinking about the preferential treatment I will extend to him in order to insure my sweetie feels especially honored, especially loved, and especially important to me. You see, yesterday was his birthday and it was easy to celebrate "The Hubs!"  It felt right to watch everyone dote over him and love on him.  For birthdays are special, right?

For the mere sake that he was born to this earth, yesterday Chuck found himself enjoying several free drinks and desserts. He received a barrage of voice mails, emails, text messages, and personal hugs from family, friends, acquaintances, and even business associates - all honoring his life, if only for a short moment in conversation. All pausing to share their affection, admiration, and respect to this one human. Yes, yesterday there were many best wishes, many cards, many graces, many outward expressions of love offered to my husband... and he purred through every minute of it. By the end of the day, my husband fell asleep feeling FULL - full from the love he witnessed... full from the warmth he experienced... full from the attention and care he received. Yes, yesterday Chuck was full from a very nice birthday. (Thank you, all!)

But today is a new day. Today, Chuck will not likely receive the same amount of attention or public benevolence as he did yesterday. For in normal, everyday life (the life outside "birthday life"), most of us don't care to use our time, money, or resources revering anyone other than our own selves! Most of us don't purposefully deliberate over the value or importance of every person's existence, do we? No, that kind of attention is reserved for birthdays alone. It can only last for a minute or two, and then who cares about that guy driving next to us, or the teenager behind the cash register? Who cares about the woman sitting alone in church, or the man drinking heavily in the bar? Who cares about the child orphaned, the widow forgotten, the poor, the needy, the lost, the broken.

No, as a people, we are much too busy with our own prideful affairs to spend our blessings "filling up" others, right? Those are "OUR" blessings, after all! So, as days dwindle into weeks, it is likely that the care we might extend from one birthday to the next will not purposefully resurface until the next socially expected occasion.

What a tragic shame.

For we all have been given the capacity by God to FULLY LOVE every person we encounter EVERY day - not just on birthdays. We all have been provided exactly what we need to ALWAYS offer His holy benevolence and redemptive aid.

But do we?
Really, do we?

Furthermore, it is so easy to celebrate Jesus on His own birthday, or a formal holiday that acknowledges His history here on earth. But are we so selfish that we fail to revere Him in the moments between these publicized occasions? Ladies, as Christians, our God is supposed to be the most important Person to us! But do we live each minute embracing the good news of His existence? Do we actually live out His love in both word and deed? Do we sing joyful praises to Him? Do we rejoice together as an eternal family? Do we invite others to partake of His grace and celebrate in His goodness? Do we post accolades everywhere and share His story? Do we glorify Him for all the world to see? Do we daily reminisce about the day He was born, the day He died for our sins, the day He rose again from the grave, the day He will return to reclaim His own? Do we think fondly about how He first encountered us? How He romanced us into His loving arms? How He offers Himself to us each day so that we may actually rest FULL? Or is that only reserved for quick birthday minutes? Is our affection, admiration and respect only meant to surface as a gracious fly-by-night response to God and those He places before our steps? Oh, I hope not! For that is not the message of the Gospel I read. No, we are to acknowledge how especially honored, especially loved, and especially important our God is... and we are to do so in every single second we draw His breath.

So, today I challenge you to consider a broader "birthday" initiative. What is this initiative? It is the decision to be personally responsible to celebrate and extend God's full love NOW!

Every person who is born of this earth is extremely important to our King and should be lifted up to the highest heights TODAY! As God's own, we are called to give preferential treatment to everyone we are exposed to... loving fully in Jesus Name, rather than pridefully competing in sin. You see, we were created to glorify the existence of the only One worthy of all celebration and honor. If we actually chose to acknowledge this fact with every breath, and follow Christ while also loving others His Way, every single day would be just like a glorious birthday party thrown by the richest, most generous King of kings! WOO HOO! His special life would be evident in our own lives and thus, His love would freely be given again and again and again.

All people are important to God, so they should be equally important to us!

Are they?

Do we joyfully give the same warm blessings as Christ gave to the diseased, the homeless, the haughty, the hurt, the shamed, the prideful, the lost?

Oh, how many could know God's peace, love, security, and grace if we actually took a moment to joyfully acknowledge their value and worth in His eyes. At the very minimum in our Christian walk, can't we do this for Jesus, dear believer? Isn't this the most important cause worth pursuing?

So, Happy Birthday TODAY! May we each pay forward our eternal joy and celebrate Jesus' importance and existence while choosing to bless one another with all our hearts in selfless love! Hallelujah to the King! Let us praise Him with our lives and give because He gives!!

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

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

Vision.  We all want vision.  We all want to see a little farther ahead.  We all want to know more about our own well-being.  However, being human, our vision is limited, isn’t it?  Our sight is clouded.  Our focus is murky in a sinful fog with a haze of fear and chaos intertwined.  However, to live well… to live calmly and fully, we still strive to see more of our future, don’t we?

So, how can we achieve better vision?  How can we really know the correct choices and paths that will insure our wellbeing and bring us lasting success?

The answer is with God.  The answer is ALWAYS with God.  For God has a plan.  A plan, mind you, that was custom designed to work deliberately for our good and His glory.  God’s plan focuses past our own simplistic sight and onto His holy, eternal Word.  And with His help, our vision can increase.  For His eyes are omniscient.  His ways are proven.  His truth promises us a happy, healthy future.

Yes, God has a deliberate game plan for our lives.  But, as any good coach would tell you - what good is a game plan if it is not adhered to precisely?  In short, how successful can we be if we avoid to know and follow the perfect strategy provided by our King’s decree?  Really, we cannot have long-term vision without the aid of His Word!

So, consider this…  Do you believe God’s Word and strive to know it fully? Do you believe that He is good? Do you believe that He has every intention to lead you into prosperity?  Do you believe that His vision, His plan, will insure you a lasting future without harm?

If so, why keep focusing on the short term?  Why fixate on temporary setbacks and trials?  Why allow fear and chaos to distract you away from His Way, His Truth, His Life - especially when you know that the Master’s plan is the best plan of all?

Hallelujah, for our King not only knows, but has generously shared His plan to prosper us!  So, let us trust and obey God’s law today as we surrender every burden over to our Redeemer!  In Christ there is a whole new life to be lived!  A whole new direction to walk toward!  A whole new image to focus our eyes upon!  A whole new path with a whole new future!  In Him, we can be whole and NEW!

Yes, with Jesus, we can enjoy a clear vision of hope!  So today, let’s lay aside this world’s sinful overcast and enjoy the warmth and light and freedom found under the full covering of God’s only Son!

Friends, the answer is ALWAYS with God!  For He knows the plans that will benefit us forever! Because of this, I encourage you to look through His eternal lens!  Seek to know the One who has great things in store for your future!

Make God your only vision!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

someday we will be Christians

Jane wakes up a half hour later than she wanted. She lays in bed wondering if she should bother to get the family up and moving so they can go to church. Wanting to do what is right, she decides, yes, they should go... it would be good for them. She pushes on her husband's side. He is still heavily sleeping next to her. "John, wake up! We don't want to miss church!" John opens his groggy eyes, looks at the alarm clock and asks, "Will we even make it on time?" Jane pushes again, "Come on! We've missed it two weeks now!" John gets up grumbling and heads for the shower. Jane rushes to get the kids ready and then showers and primps in record time. Sure, she doesn't look her best, but does that really matter? It's not like God will be sitting right next to her, right? Surely, heaven will understand that she was in a hurry.

She looks at the clock. They are already fifteen minutes late, but they can still catch the majority of the service. Pastor won't notice them sneaking onto the back pew if they plan their entry just right. So away the Jones' go to church. The kids complain the whole way along with John who is wondering why he gave up his Sunday morning for this fiasco. Sure, God is important, but church is full of hypocrites who claim Christianity but don't really live it. Either that, or church houses the over-zealot crazies that only want to judge you. Clearly not his scene. No, he's more comfortable having a beer with his office pals. He's more relaxed hanging out with "the guys" and talking sports than getting friendly with those whacks who sing in the choir. Sensing John's reluctance, Jane puts her hand on his arm and says, "I feel the same way you do... but we really should go to church. It's the right thing to do."

They get to church and rush around to drop the kids in their respective Sunday school classrooms. Then, hand in hand, John and Jane duck into the back of the sanctuary while the audience bows their head in prayer. The singing has just ended and the offering is about to take place. John sits down and realizes the offering plate is being handed down his pew. He rolls his eyes. "Ugh. Now I have to give money?" He rationalizes quickly inside, "No, we can't afford it. Joey needs braces and little Julia needs money to continue her ballet lessons. Too much is happening. We can give "someday" - when the kids are grown and life is less complicated." The offering plate is passed by and Jane embarrassingly looks away from the person she is sitting next to. The soloist finishes her rendition of a familiar hymn while the ushers finish their duties. Then, the sermon begins. Both John and Jane give their pastor a few moments to impress them, but the sermon doesn't appear to be "blow you away good". In fact, it is far from entertaining. So, John subtly finds his most inconspicuous upright sleeping position and dozes off, his head bobbing up and down while falling in and out of consciousness for the next thirty minutes. Jane, however, stays awake - but has also stopped listening to the message. Her eyes are glazed over as her mind races elsewhere. She is thinking about her coming week. She elbows John who let out a heavier breath - worrying he may start snoring. Then she wonders if John will want to go out to eat afterward. She hopes so, because she has not prepared to cook for the family later.

The service concludes and John and Jane run out of the sanctuary to get the kids. However, they take an indirect route around the pastor who is shaking hands. No time to chat. Their goal: to leave the building quickly and get to their favorite restaurant in record time so they don't have to wait for a table. Once the kids are picked up, they say a few superficial "hello's" to one or two familiar faces on their quest to the car. Then off they go. Jane feels relieved that they made it to church this week. John is happy to finally start his day off from work. The kids, however, have questions about their Sunday school lessons and want to talk. Unfortunately, both parents are tired and feel ill-equipped to answer such deep questions about the Bible. So, they quickly distract the children and change the subject with "what's on the radio" and "what do you want to order for dinner"? Questions averted. Onto the restaurant they go. "Oh good," Jane squeals as they pull into the restaurant parking lot, "We beat the church crowd!" This is Sunday.

By Tuesday, the week has blossomed into turbo mode for the Jones Family. Both John and Jane live more like two passing ships in the night as they busy themselves with work, chores, kids, etc. Jane is busy juggling her part-time day job along with being a wife and mother. John is working late hours every night struggling to stay ahead. He worries that there never seems to be enough money. Jane worries about this too because she is in charge of paying the bills... not really because she wants the job, but because John let's things go into collection before paying on time. But she knows that her way is not much better. Over many months, she has quietly overspent rather than managed their funds - making purchases that have increased their credit card debt to match the equivalent cost of a new car. John's method is don't ask questions about money. Rather he buys whatever he wants until the wife complains or the credit card is denied. In the back of their minds, they both know that they should be more financially organized and budget out their income. They know that they are living paycheck to paycheck and jumping out of a proverbial plane without a parachute or plan. But right now, too much is going on to think about stewardship. They just have to keep their heads above water so they can make that Disney vacation a reality for the kids next summer. Someday they will get their act together and plan out retirement and giving to the poor and needy. Someday.

On Thursday, life continues as normal. Jane calls John on his cell and asks him to pick-up fast food for the third time this week. She has juggled too much and is too tired to think about cooking for her family. John rolls his eyes but complies. When everyone is finally home for the evening, the family spends their time congregating in front of the television while devouring their super sized meals. Under John's elevated feet lying on the coffee table is a big, family NIV Bible. During a commercial break, Jane runs to get the kids soda. John looks down at the Bible and thinks, "Someday we really should read through the Bible together as a family." Of course, John knows that he has never read through the whole Bible - nor has Jane. It is just so hard to study - and too difficult to understand. Perhaps they will rent a Christian DVD this weekend to make up for it. The commercial ends and John's attention is back in his favorite detective show. Jane knows the show is too violent for the kids to be watching. But they are finally being quiet, so perhaps she'll just let it go. Someday they will need to correct the error of exposing their kids to all that crap on television. Someday they will set a good example and teach them God's word about violence and sex... but not tonight. Tonight, Jane is more interested to see if the leading man and leading woman of her favorite television show will finally "hook up" as a couple and leave their evil spouses. Tonight, she wants to be dazzled by their high fashion and enjoy the comical wit of the supporting cast members - especially that new homosexual side-kick. Yes, that guy is soooo funny.

By Friday, Jane remembers that she scheduled plans to meet for dinner with some old girlfriends from college. Thankfully, John's mother offered to watch the kids so she could go out without dumping more on John. He would only complain if he had to take care of the children by himself. She quietly thinks, "What a loser... he can't even spend time alone with his own children." She hooks up with her girlfriends at a nearby pub and orders a cocktail... not because she likes to drink, but because all her girlfriends are drinking. The evening develops and Jane finds herself bad-mouthing John. Why? Because all her friends are also gossiping about their men. Each of them expresses dissatisfaction with their husband. Some are casually mentioning plans for divorce. Some have admitted having an affair with their co-worker - someone who finally "gets" them. Jane loves John, but she is really thinking about how he has let her down in so many ways. He is clearly not the prince charming she had envisioned for herself. And though he claims to be a Christian, he doesn't do anything "Christian". Surely she should be with a guy who loves the Lord and acts on it. Yes, if only her husband would do what the Bible says, she would be more spiritual. She would be a better person. Someday, she would discuss this with John. At least she hoped she would. But for now, she will surround herself with her girlfriends. They understand her. They can relate to her complaints and have good advise for her to stand up for her rights with John. "He better shape up or someday I may have to leave him for a younger man," she vocalizes playfully. With that, the waitress brings her another drink and says, "Courtesy of the cute guy sitting across the room." Jane blushes.

It is midnight on Saturday and Jane has not yet come home. John's mother left after the kids went to bed and John is alone - waiting for his wife to return from her night with the girls. This was a hard work week and he's so glad the weekend is finally here. As he grabs another beer from the fridge, he stumbles over something. Frustrated, he begins looking at the condition of their home and realizes that nothing has been done. It is in complete disarray. John angrily realizes that he is the only one "that does any work around here!" He starts to pick up as he walks to his home office, then finally gives up in disgust. He sits down at his computer and begins to play his favorite video game. While playing, an email pops up on his screen advertising an inappropriate website. The pornographic image attachment shows a young girl barely dressed. John knows that he should immediately delete the email, but cannot stop looking at the image. For a moment, he considers Jane's feelings... then God... then Jane again. The second thought of Jane is not about her feelings, however. John is thinking over the ramifications if she found out. What would happen? He maneuvers his mouse over the attached link and debates pushing down with his index finger. Then he hears the garage door opening. Jane is home. He scrambles to turn off the computer before she enters... before he gets caught. Jane enters the house and it is evident by looking at her that she is a little drunk. John questions her about her evening and Jane begins to show annoyance. The fight progresses and Jane begins to tell John how unhappy she is in their marriage by listing all the ways he has failed her. Defending himself, John ignores what Jane is saying and starts blaming her for their pitiful sex life, their screwed-up finances, their horrible life in general. Exhausted, they both separate into different rooms and go to bed.

By morning, the two have apologized to one another. Not because either actually felt sorrow over their own actions - nor because either had any intention to change their ways. They apologized to keep the peace for the kids... to set a good, Christian example. The rest of the day was about ignoring one another and more about goofing off in the house. Jane spent the day organizing her closet and shopping on QVC. John spent the day mowing the lawn and tuning his motorcycle. The kids payed Nintendo. When evening came, Jane decided to take the high road and organized a "family night" together. They ordered pizza and laughed over a game of Uno. By the end of the night, John and Jane were in bed together and discussing there life. Jane insisted that they go to church tomorrow. "We really need more of God in our lives, John." John agreed. They fall asleep in each other's arms - happy that they had mended their issues.

Sunday morning again, Jane wakes up a half hour later than she wanted. She lays in bed wondering if she should bother to get the family up and moving so they can go to church. But John looks so peaceful sleeping. And the bed is really comfortable this morning. She rationalizes that it would be better for their marriage to stay home and snuggle in. God will understand. Church will be there next week. She rolls over and falls back to sleep. And so the week begins.

This is the life of the Jones Family. This is the average "Christian" home in America. But is this Christian? Is this how Christ would live if present in our hearts? Or would we be more? Would we be different? Would we be holier? Would we be NEWER? Are we too busy making excuses to live for Jesus at a later date? And if so, when will that date come... when will that "someday" arrive?

Something to think about. Something to pray over. Something to act upon in Jesus Name this very day... not someday. I encourage you to choose whom you will serve. Furthermore, I implore you to consider what day you will serve Him! Will it be today... or someday?

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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