Monday, February 29, 2016

the ten: an introduction (part 1)

For the next two weeks, I have decided to share my Bible Study series on The Ten Commandments. However, before we actually start this study, I think it is important to ask each of you, dear readers, to stop and review what the Lord actually said to Israel in advance of handing out these necessary "life rules" of His Ten Commandments.

I've been praying about this particular blog series for several weeks now, because I think that too often many of us fall into the trap of looking at God as a prude judge when it comes to His commandments. We envision Him as this harsh, rigid old man sitting on His throne up in the sky... an angry being who's only desire is to impose legalistic rules upon mankind and make us miserable. As such, we begin to question His love as we find ourselves focusing on all the restrictions and parameters He has set before us.

Moreover, I think we easily take out of context the whole story - the complete picture of what actually "went down" when God presented these commands to His chosen people. As a result, we fall into the same trap that man has always fallen into by believing Satan's lie that we are somehow being negated our freedom if we follow God's Word. But the truth is that God's Word gives us freedom! His desire is for us to live refreshed and renewed in His loving grace. Because of this, every single command that God presents to His people offers much love and consideration as to how we can live freely from sin and avoid the corruption that it brings into our lives.

So, in advance of reviewing these ten commands, I wanted to make sure that you know about the prior conversation that existed between God and Moses before the commandments were administered to Israel.

"What?" you say. "A conversation? Wait, there's more to the story than just these rules listed on some stone tablets?" The answer is YES! Before handing over "the ten", God wanted to make sure Moses told His people something very important... something dripping with the proof of His unquestioning passion for us! God wanted to make sure that His reason for giving these commands was understood because they are each based in His boundless, unending love. Read with me what He told Moses:

Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." (Exodus 19:3-6)

When I first read this passage, I must admit, I was confused. I mean, what the heck did God mean when He said, "I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to myself." I couldn't understand the context of it. When did God carry Israel on eagles wings? What exactly did that mean?

As I studied more, I began to see that the children of Israel who directly heard these words, would have definitely known and understood what the Lord meant. For many BIG events had occurred where God had continually proven His love and provided for them. What occurred? Well, let's see... He did redeem them from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. He did save them from the clutches of Pharaoh and his army. He did create a stream in the desert so that they may always have fresh water to drink. He did cover the wilderness ground every morning with manna so they would be nourished with food to eat during their journey to the promised land. Oh, and yes, He did promise them a new land filled with milk and honey... a land where they would be restored as His people and become a great nation. Hmmm. But what did it mean that He carried them on eagles wings?

Did you know that a mother eagle will assemble a nest for her younglings that measures at least eight feet high and eight feet wide? She constructs her nest at a high altitude and furnishes it with animal fur, leaves, and the down from her own chest to insure that her chicks will be warm and protected. For the first part of their lives, these innocent babies know only the luxury and care of their mother and feel safe and secure within their enclosed haven. Their mother feeds them, cares for them, watches over them, protects them. Then, on an unannounced day, the mother eagle will pick up her baby and fly it up up up... and drop them!

WHAT?!!

As the poor baby plummets to the earth, the mother watches as he struggles in fear, trying to figure out how to use his wings before smashing into the quickly approaching ground. Just before the baby eagle hits earth, his mother swoops in and flies underneath him - picking him up. She repeats this process over and over as her baby becomes more acquainted with the art of fluttering his wings. It is a scary, but necessary, learning process for the chick.

Each and every time it seems that the little bird has no hope of surviving the fall, Momma swoops in and carries the youngling on her wings. This is how an eagle learns to fly. Mind you, it isn't an immediately learned process... but it is an important and necessary process for the bird to learn how to survive and flourish and LIVE.

Equally, God wants to teach us how to survive and flourish so that we may LIVE! But, before teaching His children how to fly, He wanted Moses to remind Israel HOW MUCH He had already loved His people and continued to watch over them. This assurance was necessary before dropping them into an open sky full of deathly terror. First, God wanted Israel to understand that His intentions were for their own good and would promise them a happy, healthy and holy life as they prepared to enter into His promised land.

We too are preparing for a promised eternity in the presence of our King. We too are new creatures who must learn how to LIVE as God's redeemed, equipped people. This is our new life in His grace, after all!!!

If we really thought about it, we'd have to admit that everything we have in this life is a blessing that comes from the hand of our generous Maker. Only from man's choice to sin against God do we find ourselves falling downward into certain death and destruction. Yes, once sin entered into our reality, we became hopeless creatures needing to be rescued. So, rather than let us perish, Christ swooped in and provided a new way to save us. Sure, some will struggle against Him and continue to fall to their death. But for those of us who accept His rescued plan, we are given everything we need to survive and flourish in Jesus name. We must never forget this. No matter how afraid or abandoned we may feel, just like that baby eagle... we can rest assured that our Redeemer will always come to save us. He will always be right there overseeing our care and instruction. Sure, His response time to help us might not fit our desired way... many times we would like Him to show up sooner rather than later or at the last second. But usually, those critical moments are the times when He is teaching and showing us the most valuable of lessons. Those are the times when He is stretching us to become more like Him!!!

God gave us the ten commandments because for us to live freely we must also learn "how" to live holy. We must allow our Redeemer to teach us in every step of life, every trial, every test. He offered this loving outline to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan - before they faced many enemies and trials while moving into the promised land. By the blood of Christ, He offers the same outlined gift of holiness to us as we face the enemy today. He does this so our faith in Him will become stronger and we will be able to grasp our destinies as people of the living God!

"When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree." (Hosea 9:10)

How good would a juicy grape taste in the desert? For sure, it would be refreshing!!! How pleasing is it to see the early fruit of a fig tree? It is encouraging and exciting!!! God knows that if we stay within His guidelines, we are free to enjoy the BEST that life has to offer and be showered with His many blessings. However, outside of His guidelines, we live with heavy burdens - lost in corruption and drowning in our own destruction and sin. Hmm. Does that sound like a God who wants to torment us? Absolutely not! That sounds like a God who wants to spare us from wasting our lives by the ravages of sin! That sounds like a Savior who wants to keep us on track during these perilous, terrible, dangerous, grievous, difficult times... the last days of this earth before our glorious King swoops down to save us.

These commands give us what is RIGHT in a world full of wrong. They are important. They remove confusion. They are truth. They are His Way!

Ladies, I don't know about you, but I have no idea what this world will throw at me from one day to the next... but God does.

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

Do you think that this world has plans for you to prosper and keep you from harm? I don't. I find that the world generally beats me up! Satan loves to tear me down and does all he can to distract me away from following God. This is why it is so critical to know and trust that God best understands LIFE... after all, He gave it to us. Satan only takes life away. But God knows how our existence is supposed to work. The only thing He wants is for us to live as healthy as possible in His presence.

I would not begin to assume that I know better than God. His ways are not my ways. I don't need to believe in "me" or my abilities... that would be foolish because I clearly am a mess without my Shepherd! Instead, I need to believe in Jesus and His certainties! This is why our loving Father gave us "the ten". He has plans for us that are greater than we could ever imagine. In Jesus, we have a wonderful, hopeful future!

In order to experience LIFE to the fullest, we must walk in His ways and follow these healthy commands. Of course, He gives each of us the choice to obey or disobey Him. In His unending love, He allows me to personally fumble and fail in my own stubbornness when I choose to look away from His law. But when I see how messed up life gets without Him... when I repent and return to His open arms... He is always there, ready to swoop down and carry me up to soaring heights! Praise His name! How gracious and exciting is my Master and the plans He holds for me!!!

In Jesus name, Lord, help me to overcome my selfishness, fear and uncertainty and trust that You are who You've promised... my Redeemer!!! Let me enjoy Your view and learn how to fly within the safety of Your perfect holiness!

Tomorrow, we will look at preparing our hearts to receive these life-giving commands as we seek to follow God's intended will. I hope that you will join me on this important journey.

I love you ladies, and I know for certain that Jesus loves you too!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, February 26, 2016

a fragrant offering to the Most High

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Have you ever stood next to a woman whose perfume delicately, beautifully, caught your attention?  Someone who wore just enough of her favorite fragrance to captivate those standing nearby?  Not too little... not to much.

I have.  And, of course, my first instinct is to stand closer to that woman and ask her, “What is that lovely scent you are wearing?”

Ohhhh, if we too would chose to wear the Savior in the same such way.  To simply, delightfully, put on His grace each morning and allow His pleasing aroma to be noticed and enjoyed by those we encounter throughout our day.  How wonderful to be able to share in the goodness of His subtle, underlying magnificence - a fragrance so easily identifiable in every intricate detail of this universe. What an honor He gives us to showcase such truth.  What a privilege we have to wear His signature scent while sharing His Name with all who inquire. What an opportunity to wear His perfect design without overpowering others with our own selfish mandates or souring our surroundings with legalism and lustful desires.  Thanks be to Jesus, who gives us the wardrobe of His Word and the gift of His Spirit so that our sin is lost under His covering.  In Him, we are cleansed from all things distasteful, foul, evil.  With Him, we are able to successfully move forward in His pleasing Way... walking as fresh, new, devoted women perfumed by His sweet love.

Friends, there is nothing more classy than our King.  There is nothing more glorious than humbly wearing the scent of His holiness.  There is nothing more satisfying than inhaling His hope and exhaling His joy to all the earth.  He calls us to share His signature fragrance - His unending love - with everyone we encounter.  Will you clothe yourself in His knowledge and allow yourself to become a fragrant offering to the Most High?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.

Thank you, blessed Redeemer, for this great honor.  May we each be willing to project your grace and attract others with your aromatic fruits... with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Through us, may YOU be noticed and desired by all we encounter.

Be His blessing, folks!  Be a fragrant offering to the Most High!!!

XOXO!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, February 25, 2016

take up your cross

Many years ago, I had a terrible accident that forever changed me physically.
While I'm not inclined to share the whole story here, I would like to share a lesson that God taught me and my husband during the course of my long recovery...

You see, as a result of my accident, my right arm was broken clean in half - about two inches above my elbow. My surgeon (who also held a degree in engineering) needed to reconstruct the arm quickly because I needed the arm for stability. There were other issues that would require me to put immediate weight on the arm as I faced a long recovery ahead with other areas of my body. So, he made the judgement call to "rebuild" my arm by incorporating many plates and screws and securing the bone fragments artificially, as if it never had been broken. It was pretty amazing actually.

When I awoke from the surgery, it was as if the break in my arm had never occured... well, except for a few key things. First, I had a new scar. A BIG scar. One that would run the whole length of my upper arm. Second (and more serious)... though successful in restoring the stability of my arm, the surgery caused the nerves in my right hand to stop working completely. I had no motor skills in my fingers and my hand fell over limp from my wrist through my fingers. It was terrible and scary! For no matter how hard I tried... no matter how intense I focused... I could not lift my hand. I could not move my fingers.

As a right-handed person who has played piano my whole life, it was VERY difficult to accept my new fate. I couldn't sign my own name. I couldn't button my shirt. I couldn't do so many things I had always taken for granted. Although the doctor made the right decision in how to handle this part of my injury, this new problem made me feel helpless.... a liability. My orthopedic surgeons and occupational therapists began preparing me for the worst news as many did not think the nerves would ever reignite. They fitted me with all sorts of custom-made, Frankenstein-like devices that would strap around my limp hand and put tension in varying places of my fingers with hopes that I could somehow work the muscles back into submission. It was horrible.  It was difficult.  It was devastating.

Anyway, during the course of my recovery, my doctors decided to transfer me to a hospital that had a specialized program to better help me. Because my recovering from the accident also required me to address other serious physical matters (one being I had to relearn how to walk), I spent many months in therapy... learning how to get back in and out of cars, how to get up and down stairs, etc. Needless to say, my husband and I got to know all my doctors, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists very, VERY well.

While there, one of my hand therapists had a young aid in training named Nichole. Nichole was about 19 years old and very compassionate. She would spend hours with me - working on "bringing back" my hand muscles. The most interesting thing about Nichole was that she was bold... fearless in sharing her faith. She showed no timidity or lack of nervousness to anyone while explaining her testimony and day-to-day relationship with the Lord.  I remember when she first started talking to Chuck and I... how blown away we both were in meeting this little girl who was half the age of many Christian leaders... but more savvy in scripture, more comfortable in Christ, more upfront in sharing her redemption than most adults we knew. It was refreshing... and admittedly, a little convicting.

At that time, I was what I would call an average, lukewarm Christian. I went to church every Sunday. I shared my beliefs with others if it ever came up - but never by my own initiation. I prayed every now and then. I opened my Bible once and a while. I knew who God was... but I wasn't relating to Him like I could be. I wasn't extremely close with Him and seeking Him out daily. I wasn't deeply engaged in His Word. Yes, I believed Jesus was my Savior, and I tried to follow the little bit of teaching I exposed myself to from church and the occasional Bible study... but I wasn't loving Him with my whole heart. So, being exposed to someone like Nichole... someone who daily stood up and proclaimed her faith... someone who loved her God and told others about His mercies and grace... wow! That hit me right between the eyes!!! That made me wonder what more God could have in store for me if I got close to Him. This little 19 year old gave me and my husband something BIG to consider. Would we seek to become closer to God - or not? And if not, why?  Would we remain in our stagnant, comfort zone - or actually "take up our cross" and follow Him?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)

The ongoing challenges from my accident have offered me and my family many, MANY lessons that I can't even begin to share with y'all in one blog post... or even 1000 blog posts! But the most important lesson I learned personally was about daily restoring my relationship with the Savior. Truthfully, I believe He used a horrible, difficult, and devastating situation for me physically to fix me spiritually. I believe he used a little 19 year old girl studying to be a physical therapist as a means to motivate two married 30+ year old adults how to LIVE and FOLLOW the Lord Jesus Christ each and every day.

I have never fully recovered from my accident.  But thankfully, after many, many months of therapy, my hand and wrist have come back enough that I now have function in my fingers and can move the hand similarly to before. It's not perfect though.  I do suffer from a constant, irritating tingle and ache in my thumb and first two fingers.  But I like to use this annoyance as my reminder. A reminder to never take ANYTHING for granted. A reminder to remember God is more important than anything I am physically or have materially.

Whenever I sign my name, I praise His Name.
Whenever I button my shirt, I praise His Name.
Whenever I put on make-up, brush my teeth, zip a zipper, turn a door knob, pet my dog, hold my husband's hand.... I praise His Name.
Whenever I type this blog... I praise His Name!
Whenever I think of Nichole... I praise His Holy Holy Holy Name!

Lord, let me live so boldly that I am unashamed to share WHO YOU ARE with everyone I meet.
May I be a blessing to others and share my own life as a testimony to YOUR GREATNESS!
May every situation, both good and bad, that you have mapped out for my life be a celebration that leads me (and all I encounter) to seek your GLORIOUS NAME!
Most importantly, may I continue to seek and find you every single day for restoration and renewal.
Thank you for bringing me closer to You by breaking me.
Nothing could have blessed me more!!!

Praise be the Name of Jesus Christ!!!
He heals! He restores! He renews! He saves!
He is my King!!!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

when plans go awry. when control seems lost. when life throws a curve.

When plans go awry... 
When control seems lost...
When life throws a curve...

He is sovereign.

When nerves are anxious...
When people unreliable...
When hearts are broken and full of depression...

He is faithful.

When days feel hopeless...
When health appears sketchy...
When everything crumbles and crumbles and crumbles...

He is here with you.
He is peace for you.
He restores.
He saves.
He is able.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

He loves you.

So, to all those weary...
To those heavily burdened...
To those laden with sorrow, hurt, helplessness, death...

He offers comfort.
He gives rest.
He bids you to come.
 
Come and know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Come and experience the fulfilling love of God,
Come and fellowship with the healing Holy Spirit.

Or don't...

It's your choice.
It's your move.
It's your future.
It's your faith.

Just remember, when plans go awry... 
When control seems lost...
When this crazy, chronic life throws sinful, corrupted curves...

He is sovereign.
He is faithful.
He is here with you.
And, He is able.

XOXOX!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Monday, February 22, 2016

the surrender of "old familiar"

What stronghold is dominating your life?
What area is your sinful self still defending, justifying, in bondage to?
Where are you undisciplined?
Where are you struggling?
Where are you still living unholy and unhealthy?

For me, the Holy Spirit has been quietly encouraging me to shine His light upon these dark corners. Like so many, I live laden with several recurring strongholds. Places where the enemy knows how to breed havoc in my life. Places where I fall short physically, mentally, spiritually. Fortresses positioned around my heart where I have not allowed Jesus full access in order to completely liberate me into His healthy, holy newness.

To break free from these "old familiars" would drastically change who I am as well as further glorify my Savior's Name. For it is clear to me that I could never be free of these chains without Him. Yet, still knowing this... still saved by His grace, repentant of my sin, and claiming Him as my Lord forever... I struggle to bow down and let these strongholds go. I hold onto what hinders. I cling to my sin, my guilt, my shame, my weight, and my bondage rather than embrace ALL that my King has offered me.

For some time now, one of my major strongholds has completely overwhelmed me. Without going into personal detail, let me just say that Satan has continued to hit hard and tear me down further and further in this particular area. (I hate how the enemy capitalizes on our weaknesses, don't you?) Of late, Satan has encouraged me to feel defeated, helpless, and stuck. Of course, knowing that God's Word is always my best and only defense, I have prayerfully immersed myself in scripture pertaining to this particular burden. However, I saw no change... no newness... no complete liberation from my chains. Then, this week God asked me some very important questions.

Victoria, what does my salvation cover? 
What does my deliverance and redemption encompass? 
Is not my grace sufficient, offering you divine assistance and power in order for you to be reborn, renewed, and sanctified in all areas of your life? 
If so, why are you not embracing all the privileges of this freedom? 
Why are you still carrying these strongholds of slavery when I have offered you immunity from bondage in my Name? 
Why have you not completely believed that I am able to bring lasting change in these areas and positioned your life so that I may do so?

Wait, why am I carrying these strongholds?
Why have I not believed?
(I shutter at the thought.) Lord, am I the problem?
Have I chosen to hang onto certain "old familiars"?
Have I tucked these strongholds away in my back pocket preventing my own freedom?
Why would I do this when I truly hate these issues?
Has my addiction to sin (especially these sins I hate the most) blinded my spiritual eyes?
Have I withheld from you my complete surrender of all selfishness, lustfulness, gluttonousness, covetousness, and greediness?
Teach me, Master.

Then yesterday, the Lord reminded me of my late grandfather's testimony. You see, before my grandfather knew Jesus, he was an excessive smoker, eater, drinker, gambler, etc. His life held no balance or moderation. His heart knew no peace. He too was laden with many different strongholds that camped around his heart. However, once my grandfather fully accepted Christ as His King, all the excessiveness... all the distractions... slowly began to cease. He chose to believe what was possible and changed his ways. Opening one door at a time, he bowed down and obediently lived God's way, ultimately allowing the Savior to completely change His life. In time, my grandfather's invitation to fully welcome the Holy Spirit into ALL areas of his heart made it possible for him to lay down stronghold after stronghold until all that was seen in him was Jesus. And now, God was using my grandfather's life as a lesson to teach me to bow down... to let go... to obey... to find freedom in the places I had yet to surrender my sin and/or disbelief.

Ladies, how easy is it for each of us to ignore God's graciousness by refocusing our attention on our earthly selves and the grip of our own ugly, tragic burdens. Sure, we can study God's word, hoping and praying for Him to perform a divine miracle to change us - a remodeling, if you will, in His holy name. But if we fail to actually unlock ALL the temple doors surrounding our heart, Jesus will not force His way in where He is not welcome. So, rather than be washed clean in all areas of our new life, some rooms will stay messy until we repent and relent to His perfect authority. This is why salvation is both immediate and a process. This is why it is necessary for us to abide in Him always... to walk in His ways rather than cling to our own... to daily receive and believe ALL that He promises!

I have learned that it is indeed paramount to consider what God's salvation really does encompass. Do we really believe He is able to free us from every excess in our life? Do we really believe He is able to unchain us from every form of bondage? And if we are still living imprisoned to a particular stronghold, have we considered that it may be because we have not obediently surrendered ourselves completely to His grace? What a lesson to learn, right?

Our Savior's wise advise in John 8 to "go and sin no more" never rang more true. For it is possible for the once broken to move out of every darkness and be completely free in the light of Christ. We are able because He is able and benevolently ready to do a good work in us. But we must bow down to Him, ladies. Let me say that again... WE MUST ALWAYS BOW DOWN TO CHRIST IN ORDER TO BE FREE OF EVERY STRONGHOLD!

I encourage you to embrace the NEW of Jesus today... the complete triumph of Christ's salvation that has the power to overcome every prison, every burden. Let us choose to give our highest consideration to the One who has proven His ability to overcome sin and death. Let us open the temple doors and welcome Him in rather than fester in the "old familiar" of sinful defeat. Believe this unchanging truth: nothing can overshadow the King of kings! Nothing! Our Redeemer is ready to win our battles and transform our whole house into His holiness. So let this day be THE DAY to open every temple door and grant Him complete access to change your heart... to renew your life. Let us bow down and embrace the freedom we have been given so that all that is seen in us... so that all that remains is sweet, wonderful Jesus!

If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire. (2 Samuel 23:5)

This is the day!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Saturday, February 20, 2016

do not be anxious... a reminder to choose differently

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Do not yield your emotions to anxiety.
Do not live in worry, apprehension, or fear.
Choose differently.
Rather, in every circumstance... in every moment, go to The Lord in prayer.
He is near.
He is here.
He is available.

He knows exactly what you are going through.
He understands the desperation deeply rooted in trenches of trouble and uncertainty.
He wants to be your Savior... always!
He offers to be your Helper.
He died and rose again to be your Redeemer.
There is nothing He cannot face and overcome.
He loves you.

So, petition and present everything to Him, dear ones.
Tell Him every want, every desire, every burden, every issue.
Bow down to The King.
Worship His Kingdom.
Obey His rule and, most importantly, trust His Way.
Leave all outcomes at the feet of His Throne.
Leave every burden upon His altar - for He will manage them wisely and in His due time.
For there is none greater than God.
There is no one like The One.
He is able.

Yes, no matter what may be going on today,
Always, always be thankful in Him.
Always acknowledge His goodness and grace.
Always rejoice under His headship and glory.
I will say it again: Rejoice!

He is your God.
He is available.
He loves you.
He is able.

Believe!
Discipline yourself under the guidance of His Holy Spirit.
Submit your path to Jesus... for He is The Christ!
Surrender everything to your King today and allow the peace of God to guard your heart and mind.
His Way is a better way.
He alone is the solution to faithfully seek.

So do not be anxious... choose differently!
Today, choose to faithfully serve and trust The Lord God Almighty!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Friday, February 19, 2016

the doing of difference makers

Difference makers.
We all want to make a big difference in life.
We all want to make things better, broader.
I believe the Lord put that desire in every one of us...
To love His creation.  To keep after it.  To care for it.  To make it our domain.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:28-31)

Deep down, we are all gardeners.
We are ingrained to be care givers... To give.  To care.
On the sixth day, God lovingly gave us the gift of this planet.  Entrusting us to love while exposing us to His glory in every dew drop, every spider web, every piece of matter that His breath majestically spoke into existence.

Fast forward past man's sin, and here we are today.
Living on a much different terrain.
Living in our own squalor.
Suffocating in the sinful choices that we have foolishly made.
Gasping for Jesus.

It is easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that if we personally cannot produce inspirational change on an earth-shattering level, then why bother?  We forget that the large oak tree began first as a small seed and under the Creator's rule.  So we overlook small, simple matters that could use our care and attention while still expecting grandiose and immediate results.  But we are not God, are we?  We cannot simple speak creation into being.  No, we are part of His creation.  We were intended to be the living flow of His lung capacity... the image of His goodness.

This morning, I wish to encourage you, dear DW's.  I wish to support you with confidence and truth.  You and I were created first and foremost to love... to love God... to love His creation.  To make a difference with His land, His plants, His animals, while becoming His fruitful, faithful people.  Every element, every atom, every action, and every reaction was originally planned for us to grow His good garden.  The greatest honor.  We are to live intently... to tenderly encourage the sprouting and developing of His Kingdom.  Our Maker made us, blessed us, and commanded us to fill this space while always relying upon His unmatched, unexplainable life of fullness.

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you."  (Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

So today, how do we flourish as difference makers... as progressive, useful gardeners to The Most High household?  The answer is by receiving and blessing both ourself and others with every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  His truth always restores us.  His presence always supports our life... because HE IS LIFE!  We can only grow when we ingest His loving, daily manna and feed one another with His truthful commandments.

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. (Proverbs 16:20)

Every believer of Jesus Christ has been given His new life because He overcame our sin and death on the cross.  In order to fully receive the benefit of this gift in real-time, however, today God calls us to walk with Him - filling the earth with His love.  Today, we must fear the Lord.  Today, we must do all we can to know and share His Way.  And what is God's Way for us?  Well, it really has never changed.  God's Way is always about service... To give.  To care for one another.  We were made in His image.  We were made to follow His suit.  God lovingly gives Himself to us.  We must lovingly do the same for one another.  Yes, God's Way is to love.

So, who can you give to?  Who can you care for?  Who can you love today as you bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you?  This is where you can make a difference - His difference.  This is where you can tend to His garden.  Where you can fertilize God's creation with the confidence and truth of Jesus.

Don't know where to start?  Just stop.  Press the pause button in your heart and pray.  Ask Him to give you His eyes, then look around your life.  He will reveal what needs tending to.  Then obediently tend, Believer.  Don't hesitate.  Don't speculate and worry.  Don't seek your own glory.  Just tend to His garden.  Love God and love others.  Make His difference and do.  Sadly, many who claim Him fail to follow through with the "do."  But a garden cannot grow without weeding and watering, now can it?  So do.  Serve the refreshing cocktail of Christ in this thirsty, wilted world.

"Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it." (Isaiah 45:8)

In Christ, let's choose to be difference makers on planet Earth this day.
Let's love... simply love... being His hands and feet where He is needed the most.
Yes, let's make God's garden beautiful under the grace and guidance of Jesus.
He will reveal what needs tending to.
So today, in His Holy Name... let's do!

"But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."  (Mark 4:20)

Blessings!

Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, February 18, 2016

prayer

Prayer.
Simple, honest prayer.
Communication with God.
Requests to the Throne.
Sometimes, it seems such a small thing for us to do.
Sometimes, it seems so insignificant, so one-sided, so empty.
After all, is God really listening?
Does God really care about our needs amongst the many other urgencies covering this universe?
Does this moment of humility really matter in His grand scheme... in His total plan for all humanity?

Prayer.
Quiet, restorative prayer.
Petitions to the Maker of all things.
Asking for God's ultimate peace and love.
And how great is His love?
How magnificent is His mighty hand?
Clearly, every leaf applauds His creation in each Autumn breeze that passes.
His evidence is extreme and apparent - so surely He is indeed here.
Yes, He has promised to be here... walking beside us... guiding our every step.

But will we listen for His answers?
Will we seek after His Way pertaining to each request asked?
Will we know His Word and make His plan our own?
Will we trust His promises and bank solely on His hope - no matter what?
No matter what...

Prayer.
Desperate words requesting God's good for us.
Seeking His vision while hoping for more of His presence.
What can be accomplished by these softly spoken breaths of desire?
What can be achieved in our pursuit of this extraordinary King?
Let us meditate in His Word for answers today, Believer.
Let us stand firmly together, devoted in our faith, and secure in the One who redeems.

Yes, Jesus... we come... we submit... we pray for more of YOU!
Prayer.
You are our only prayer, dear Lord!
For Your righteousness is all we need!
YOU are all we need!
Blessed be Your Name in every prayer we speak!

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer. (1 Peter 10:12a)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

a relaxed hope... a secure future

Relaxed and secure.  That is what everyone desires, right?  We all long for peace and contentment.  We all wish for hazards and threats to be removed.   We all enjoy laughing and playing.  We all benefit from creativity and imagination.  We were each made special and unique... with gifts to develop, to use, to enjoy, and to be a blessing for one another.  Relaxed and secure... comfortable in our own shoes, as they say. But how few of us are really relaxed and secure?  And isn't it foolish to think we could find any comfort in a most uncomfortable and unpredictable time and place?

The answer lies in our purpose.  For if we know and understand exactly what we were created to do, it is easier to stop festering and worrying over the bothersome unknowns that surround us.  And the unknown is definitely out there, isn't it?  This earth guarantees us the pain of uncertainty due to sin.  We are all too well accustom to the horrors that only mankind is capable of drumming up.  Yes, we live in an unsafe world that is full of volatile, turbulent, and scary moments.  We cannot change the reality that evil is here and present.  But we can depend on the One who has already overcome evil and has placed us here to do His good.  We can live content trusting that His reason for making us is meaningful and impactful.  Why?  Because He said so.  You likely know His Word as well as I, but let's refresh our eyes and rejoice together as we absorb God's truth again...

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)

Every person desperately needs God's love.  As I think about this, inside I am reminiscing about how my forty-six years of life have played out.  How all my own trials and experiences have brought me right here - to my small writing desk - to type out God's eternal truths for you to read.  I realize that my King has already pre-planned that I would convey the importance of striving for His full restoration through LOVE.  He already knows who will absorb the words I write once I post them.  He knows exactly where my little article will encourage, and comfort, and bless.  All that He asks of me is to get up... to follow through.  To deliberately love others in His Name with my actions.  He wakes me up each morning so I will obediently make myself available and willing to reflect His image in the unique way that He gifted me to produce.  It is here that I realized what many have been telling me for some time... "Victoria, you are well-suited to write for Christ." Strange that I would come to think that, you say?  Not really.  In fact, a few years ago, I might have argued heavily against such a calling.  For you see, I am a huge introvert who has historically felt uncomfortable sharing and reflecting openly.  I am easily exhausted and overwhelmed by the bustle and drama of people.  (And let me tell you, if you want to experience bustle and drama, openly proclaim your allegiance to Jesus repeatedly in public forum and see what the enemy throws your way!!!  It's not pretty!)  Furthermore, I am a big, fat, ugly, broken, and obnoxiously flawed sinner.  I know that I am in no way the picture perfect personhood of Christianity, nor could I meet the expectation of others to become so.  This terrifies the living snot out of me and causes me to laugh at the thought of even associating myself with The Devoted Woman.  But... I am devoted to Jesus.  I am His child.  And I love Him.  I trust Him.  I long to be as much like Him as I am able.  And I know others need to know Him so soooo much.  So yes, I will write in love.  I will work faithfully for His honor.  I will give up myself, my career, my whole life to Him because He lovingly gave Himself up for me.  My mind is set above with Him.  My course is set.  My purpose is clear.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-3)  

Over the course of time, God has changed everything about my once big-deal, high-exposure, wealth-making career and turned my focus to this small, independent ministry that is absolutely, positively worth nothing of human value.  But here I have learned that humility is the doorway to all things heavenly and eternal.  For Christ is best found in our humblest places.  What a relief.  For today, I am just me.  I love my husband.  I love my family.  I love my closest friends.  But mostly, I love being near my Savior.  And somehow, simply... He is enough.  Hallelujah!

Relaxed and secure.  This is the peace I know serving my Lord.  No matter what comes, I know He will rein and remain forevermore.  I believe that He cherishes me most.  I am grateful for the joy He extends.  I have faith that He will see me safely through this life and bring me into His presence unharmed.  My hope is secure in His promised Kingdom.  No matter how bumpy, or broken, or burdened this time and place may become... I and here, today, in Christ alone.  My message is His.  My purpose is His.  My WAY is His.  My eternity is His.

Relaxed and secure.  Hallelujah to the King of kings!

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.


I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
(Psalm 32)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson


Saturday, February 13, 2016

fyi...

To all my blog followers...

I just wanted to shoot y'all a note and apologize for not posting as much this past week. In addition to my usual chronic pain, I've been dealing with a series of migraines and fuzzy vision causing me to be a bit off my A-game when it comes to working in front of a computer screen. I do appreciate your prayers and hope to be back and running full throttle sometime next week. God bless you as you choose to live every moment celebrating His glory! Hallelujah to our King of kings!

~Victoria Anderson

Thursday, February 11, 2016

surrendering the day of the bulldozer

There are days...

There are days I wish I could stamp a big "A**" sticker on the forehead of certain individuals I encounter.  You know, those folks who seem to blatantly disregard everyone else's existence while demonstration their own agenda of self entitlement.

Sigh.

I usually meet such people in traffic situations, but they really can show their ugliness just about anywhere. These are the people who cut in line - taking your place instead of waiting their own turn.  They also talk loudly through feature films while kicking the seats in front of them at the movie theater. They are the characters who expect the whole world to revolve around them at all times while badgering and snubbing waitresses, cashiers, valets, and well... really anyone else who is unfortunate enough to serve them.

Yes, there are dark days when I have witnessed their childish tantrums demanding immediate service, complete attention, and full accommodation - all unconcerned with system, order, rules, laws.  Instead, their way is the only way.  Their time is the only time.  They have little (if any) patience and/or discipline, and lack any social skill resembling good manners.  They are the disrespectful.  The aggressive aggressors.  The bulldozers.  Ugh.  And I, for one, am exhausted with the bulldozers.  Aren't you?

This week, I fell victim (again) to two bulldozing candidates... both leaving me frustrated with my hands thrown up in the air and asking, "Really, dudes??!!"  Are you really that selfish?  Are you really that arrogant?  Are you really that overbearing?  Are you really that stubborn?

Now, lest we forget that this is a blog devotional... right about now is when God reminds me of how selfish, arrogant, overbearing, and stubborn I too can be.  For how often do I selfishly disregard God?  How often do I expect Him to perform and attend to my personal needs, my comfort, my plans, my timing?  How frequently do I cut off His pace and talk over His Word?  Sigh... sadly, too often.  WAAAAYYYY to often!  Do you think He looks at me wondering, "Really, Vic??!!  Are you really going to act that selfish?  Are you really going to behave that arrogant?  Are you really going to push your made-up sense of entitlement past my holy omnipotence and blindly expect things to work out for the best?  Are you really that overbearing?  Are you really that stubborn?

There is an event in scripture when Peter chooses to bulldoze.  The story goes something like this:

Judas Iscariot arrives with a multitude of soldiers, high priests, and Pharisees in order to arrest Jesus.
Judas very publicly betrays Christ.
Trying to protect Jesus, Peter reacts (without consulting his Master) and draws his sword - cutting off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest.
Jesus, knowing that God's plan of the upcoming cross was more important than Peter's panicked agenda, rebukes Peter's aggressiveness and kindly, lovingly reattaches Malchus’ ear.
Finally, the mob arrests Jesus and takes Him away to face trial while the disciples scatter in fear for their own lives.
Later, Jesus overcomes all sin and death by sacrificing Himself on our behalf and then rising from the grave - extending Himself as God's gift of salvation to all mankind.
(Thank you, Lord!)

I always think of Peter chopping off Malchus' ear whenever I find myself truly frustrated with others who tend to bulldoze.  For really, we all are bulldozers, aren't we?  None of us is innocent.  We all think we know what is best.  We all want to save our own skins.  We all want to be comfortable, and live as someone entitled.  But in truth, only Jesus is truly entitled.  In His Name alone, we (the aggressive aggressors) must humbly choose to surrender our own agendas in order to know His love.

So, in an effort to remain faithful to the One who generously gave up His life in order to save mine... I hereby surrender the day of this pushy bulldozer to the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Today is not about me or anyone else for that matter.  No... today (and every day hereafter) is all about Jesus and the cross he carried in order to save mankind... in order to heal those who believe in His Way.  Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty - Who was, and is, and is to come!

Lord, teach me to pray for those you put before me.
Help me to seek and trust Your Word first rather than battle against others in selfish aggression or panicked retaliation.
Show me how to use this life to love, and heal, and sacrifice, and forgive... all in Your Name;
Always for Your glory.

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

surrender... and let IT die

Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.  Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.  I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord.  “I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.” (Jeremiah 15:19-21)

What sin are you STILL clinging to?  What idol are you hesitating to sacrifice upon God's altar?  We all have jeopardous strongholds, folks.  You know it.  I know it.  Satin knows it.  God knows it.  And yet, here we are - camouflaging our defiance.  Here we are - quietly excusing bad behavior. Here we are - willfully hindering spiritual growth and stalling our own prayer life.  And for what?  

Because we want something else more than we want to be intimate with God.
Oooo. That hurts to admit out loud, doesn't it?  

We want our secret stashes of sexy.  
We want our questionable content.  
We want our fatty, flavorful fun houses of gluttony and greed.
We want our covetous cravings.
We want our corrupted lusts and appetites to be fed... stuffed... gorged.

Sure, we "say" we want Jesus to save us and abide with us. We claim He is our only Master and King.  But what aren't we saying?  What aren't we exposing into the light?  What aren't we honestly admitting, repenting, surrendering to His authority.  What sin are we STILL clinging to?

Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. (Jonah 2:18)

If Christ exposed His presence today in physical form and drew back THAT curtain of our lives, where would our hearts be facing?  Would we be seen faithfully pointed toward the Holiness of Heaven's Throne Room, or would we more resemble the lost boys in Pinocchio's tale, slowly turning ourselves into jackasses because we wanted to follow the crooked Coachman to the counterfeit amusements of Pleasure Island?  

What sin are you STILL clinging to?  What idol are you hesitating to sacrifice upon God's altar?  What unhealthy resistance to The Way, The Truth, The Life are you hiding in silent shame and/or selfish revolt?  What half-hearted apology or reasoning have you whispered internally to excuse said rebellion?  Are you following The Way?  Are you in agreement with The Truth?  Are you living His Life... or yours?

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." ( John 14:6)

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

Friends, the Lord is a fortified tower.  He can deliver you.  He is able to overcome EVERY stronghold you hide.  He is gracious and willing to lovingly guide you into full and complete victory while readjusting your palette towards His righteousness.  Most importantly, The Lord is good.  He does not want to discredit or abuse you.  His covenant does not promise to deceive or destroy you into a devastated slave.  Rather His NEW Life is the healthiest solution and intended for your absolute benefit.

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

Do not continue to willingly fall into the enemy's trappings.  There is nothing that is more important than your intimacy with God.  If you are STILL clinging to a particular sin, surrender.  You cannot ignore your sin if you want to get close to God.  None of us can.

We must willingly subscribe to His Way.  We must faithfully believe and follow His Truth.  We must transparently, honestly, and obediently live His Life as He commands.  Stop prostituting your attention and time.  Stop snaring yourself in Satan's flesh-feeding traps.  Acknowledge your sin immediately.  Repent now.  Turn to Jesus THIS day!  Do not be distracted to your left or right... do not focus on the sin and fake pleasures that others tout.  Surrender your heart and mind to the Lord.  Make Him alone your only stronghold.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

What is keeping you from complete intimacy with God?
I encourage you to surrender... let IT die so that you may LIVE!

Friends, God will forgive you and is ready to help you overcome every sinful stronghold.
But you must acknowledge that the battle exists.
You must announce complete war against every lingering sin.
You must die in order to live forever blessed in Christ Jesus.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Where sin increased, (God's) grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20b-21)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Saturday, February 6, 2016

what do you give the God who has everything?

The telephone is ringing: Ring Ring. Ring Ring. Ring Ring.

I answer in song: "Hellooooo?"

You say: "Oh Hey, Victoria. How's it going, girl?"

I respond: "So great! How are you doing, sweetie?"

You say: "I'm good... good.... except, I need your advise. You see, I'm going to be throwing this party. It will last... oh, let's say my whole lifetime, and I'm certain it will spill over into eternity also. It really is more of a time to honor someone special to me... well, the ONE who means everything to me... JESUS. You know Him, right?"

I say: "Oh YES! He is THE BEST!!! He would love it if you had a party on His behalf! But don't bother trying to surprise Him... He's always onto me whenever I try that." (Wink)

You say: "Yeah, but here's the thing....I'm stumped. You see, as part of my honoring Him, I want to give Him the perfect gift that let's Him know how much I appreciate Him and all He has done for me... you know, the whole dying on the cross and saving me from eternal death and all that. But I just don't know what to do...? What do you give the God who has everything? Any ideas?"


OK, you may laugh at my little "phone call" above, but it does bring up an interesting question. The whole earth is God's. He created it. He owns it. Every living creature, every mineral, every gas and every liquid was created by His voice. From the grandest thunderstorm to the smallest microbes, he created a variety of splendors for us to enjoy and behold as His workmanship. Above all these things, however, God tells us that we are His priceless treasure. So much so, that we were actually made by God's hands... not just spoken into existence, but formed by Him physically. He proclaims us to be more valuable than any other thing He created. We are cherished and loved by God over all other creatures in Heaven and on earth! So, how are we to respond to this magnificent, powerful, all-knowing, perfect Creator who not only created everything and everyone we know, but chose to lovingly redeem us even when mankind was forsaking Him? It seems like a tall order, doesn't it?

What do you give the God who has everything?

The answer can only be one thing... DEVOTION!

Our Wonderful Father truly wanted us to enjoy all the beauties He had made. He wanted us to savor all the tastes and sounds and noises and colors. He wanted us to enjoy everything that is lovely and pure and good. He made us the sunrise and sunset. He gave us the beautiful flowers and the summer breeze. He provided us seasons of change and variety. He made this earth especially for us to enjoy and have dominion over. How cool is that? He made us our very own universe while generously providing everything we could ever think to need.

But before enjoying our surroundings and planetary habitat, God made us to first need Him to survive. We could not live without His breath of life being breathed into our nostrils. We are made to be the most healthy when we are closest to Him - in His presence. In contrast, it is unhealthy for us to look away or be apart from Him. (Thus the result of man's sinful fall and the outcome leading to death.) God made us to enjoy all the beauty and benefits of this earth, and He did it with the mindset that we would relate together with Him in this setting while enjoying a complete, unwavering devotion for one another.

So, what is devotion? It is 100% allegiance... intense attachment... aggressive fervor... earnest pursuit... passionate adoration.... it is LOVE. Our Master made us to live as healthy human beings by loving Him and remaining in His presence. We were not made to be damaged and broken. We were made to love Him and each other. (Even in mankind's most sinful state today, we still long for that kind of love.) Inasmuch as God loves us, He also created mankind with the option to grant or deny Him our love in return. Why? What is true love if it is not allowed to be a choice? Sure, it wasn't a healthy choice to turn away from our perfect God... but it was a choice.

Unfortunately, mankind chose to look away from God and separate himself by choosing to sin against his Maker. Ugh, how heartbroken God must have been when Adam and Eve turned their eyes away from Him. Mankind chose to believe the deadly deceiver over our life-giving Creator. Yet even at our darkest moment - God still remained devoted to His people.

Since the beginning of time, His love has never changed... His affections for us remain the same. His love was so great that even after our mistake, He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross. Jesus' perfect life was His solution to our sinful, polluted, corrupted choice. And now, by His grace - we are able to be restored to full health as we again seek His presence... in Jesus Precious and Holy and Perfect Name. How marvelous... how wonderful!!! He has given every person a second chance to be with Him and receive LIFE!

So how should we respond to our Savior? What one thing can we possibly offer to our King as we accept this incomprehensible gift? There is only one response that is appropriate... complete, sincere, obedient, unending DEVOTION. Just as He has remained devoted to us, we must be devoted to Him. It is the way that He will be able to know those who truly love Him... who accept His unbelievable gift that offers the merciful opportunity to turn back to a healthy life in His presence.

Let's be clear about this.... God does not NEED us to love Him. He is complete in Himself. But as the lover of our soul, He truly and intimately WANTS us to love Him. He desires and longs to be reunited together with His people - like a Bridegroom anxiously awaiting His bride.

Ladies, let's remember that we should never again let anything distract us away from His love and devotion. He is that special... that precious... that perfect. We are free from sin because of His love. And because He sees us as His treasure... we must give our lives back to Him and let our bodies serve as His temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and change us.

Worship Him with your whole self and love Him with your whole heart. It is the most beautiful, fulfilling and loving relationship you will ever know. It is mutual devotion between the Bridegroom and the bride and it will last FOREVER AND EVER!

"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work." (1 Chronicles 28:9-10)

Blessings!!!

~Victoria

P.S. I'm so glad you called! Hee Hee!

Friday, February 5, 2016

the importance of creativity

I've been taking time out every day this week to appreciate small items collected throughout my home.  Pieces that I enjoy.  Sure, they are just things.  And in the grand scheme of life, worldly treasures do not matter.  But in this hectic day and age where we are bombarded with messages to have the latest and greatest... to buy more more more... to seek out the new and improved, I find it refreshing to pause and be grateful for the creative tidbits God has allowed me to snag and hold onto along the way.

I have this rule, you see.  I really don't need a lot of stuff.  I don't need to live in a huge mansion or drive fancy-schmancy vehicles.  I don't need the most up-to-date technology or the latest designer bag covered in fringe.  No, I don't need a house cluttered full of things I don't even care about.  Instead, I like to keep things simple.   So, what I do have... what I spent my money and/or time obtaining, well, I want to fully and completely enjoy.  I want to smile and be thankful when I walk through every room of my home.

This morning, my eye was drawn to a few vintage cameras I have on display in our living room.  Each I found at a past garage sale, resale shop, flea market, etc.  Each has a former life of photo taking, I'm sure.  Regardless, I really love just looking at these beautiful cameras.  So, when we moved to Texas a few years back, I decided that I would display them somewhere in our new home in a Pottery Barn'esque type of grouping.  And why not?  After all, between my older iPhone camera that's still chugging away and the modern digital camera that the Hubs bought me one Christmas, it is probable that I will never again use these film cameras to take photographs.

Anyway, today I decided to look at my camera collection.  I mean, really notice and study them - like you'd study an exhibit at the museum.  And with each camera... reviewing each of their unique quirks and remembering their specific "ways" of capturing an image, I found myself smiling more and more.  The enjoyment of their existence made me want to become more creative - to share more of myself with the rest of the world.  And this got me thinking about how important creativity is to all of us.

For we come from a creative Creator.  We come from a God who surrounds us with eye-catching reminders of His splendor.  But we must look.  We must observe.  We must take the time to surround ourselves with His uniquely refreshing patterns and know His intricate details.  For if we don't... if we harden our hearts from His grace and become cynically, selfishly nearsighted from the fascinating world around us, how will we ever truly notice the amusing snapshots, the architectural details, or the splendorous sunsets that highlight our Creators unmistakeable presence?  We must always allow His goodness to penetrate our thirst for hope and order.  We must always be seeking Him.  For the beautiful love of Jesus can be seen if we truly look.  His purpose and perfection in all things created was made and ordained to be recognized and appreciated.  

But we must always, consistently look.  We must notice our Savior's existence so that we can strive to become more like Him ourselves.  His is the image of pure holiness.  He is the One whom we are called to capture and display before the rest of the world.  For there are others who are searching, seeking, looking for His creativity.  There are others who will benefit from the specific gifts He has modeled within us for the purpose of glorifying His Name.

Sure, there is a lot of clutter out there.  There are a lot of new ideas, new promises, new ways of doing things.  But the truth of the matter is this: no greater joy may be found than that of the Ancient of Days... the Lord God Almighty!  May we appreciate His love in every atom, every microbe, every leaf, every puppy, every raindrop, every shooting star, every tidbit snagged in this short lifetime.  Let us live with His purpose... grateful, hopeful, creative, and with our eyes open to notice the Lord each and every day.

In the beginning God created... (Genesis 1:1)

Hallelujah to the King of kings!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Thursday, February 4, 2016

first

As we begin this new day, I'd like you to pause and reflect honestly and prayerfully on what I'm about to ask you:

Consider the beginning of a normal, average weekday. (Like today.) Now, in that day, where does God fit in? Is He merely one of many "things" to check off your list? Or is He truly your first focus - your constant devotion?  Do you wake up with Jesus in mind, or do you begin your day distracted away from His truth?  

It is human nature to preoccupy our minds outside of God and to fixate our eyes on the immediate distractions and stresses that occur around us... always keeping "us" in mind.  But how important is it, really, to start each day in the Savior's still?... Beginning every morning with a directed focus on the Creator's companionship?

Allow me to share with you some scripture from the Psalms:

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3) 

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. (Psalm 59:16-17)

But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. (Psalm 88:13)

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6)

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. (Psalm 143:8-12)

Although there are many more verses I could reference, it is clear from just these few passages that there is a vitally beneficial and nourishing relationship to be known with The Lord when we discipline ourselves to pray, worship, and study His Law first every morning.

Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits. (Exodus 22:29a)

When we rise and give our "first fruits" to the Creator, He blesses us and sets the tone of our hearts for the whole day.  Such discipline allows us the necessary time to know and equip ourselves with the armor of His Word.  It keeps Jesus and His kingdom in front of all other matters.  And shouldn't we begin this way?  Shouldn't God be first?  After all, He is God.  He is the Person we were created to glorify and love above all else... even ourselves.

I encourage you to re-think how you plan and begin your days.  Who you attend to first in the morning.  Who you love most evidenced by your schedule.  Believers, seek first His kingdom, His righteousness, and all the rest will be provided.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

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

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

be encouraged today!

I especially love the beginning chapters of the book of Joshua when Israel is in the process of claiming the land that the Lord promised to them.  I love how the Lord encourages His people specifically through the testimony and leadership of Joshua... reminding them to be strong and courageous... to remember that God is always with them no matter what may come.  I've read this book of Scripture over and over throughout the course of my life.  And in my forty-six years, I have leaned desperately on several key passages peppered throughout it's storyline... trusting that the Lord is true... that He will continue to keep His Word and see me and my family through every difficult and scary situation.  So, please forgive me as I attempt to share my newly found shock concerning the spotlight God chose to shine my attention toward while reading this book for the umpteenth-gazillion time.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Be strong and courageous.  (Yep, got it.)
Do not be afraid.  (Doing my best to trust You, Lord.)
Do not be discouraged. (Yeah yeah yeah... I've read all this before.)
For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  (Hurray!)

...

Hm.  Nothing new, right?  Let's try it again...

Be strong and courageous.  (Check!)
Do not be afraid. (Check check!)
Do not be discouraged... (Wait, what?)

Hm.  Do not be discouraged.  How did I pass over that command and not consider it more?  For so much still discourages me each and every day.  So much weighs me down and keeps me glum and feeling overwhelmed, pessimistic.  Pick your poison of personal problems... this life has so many.  Sure, I trust the Lord.  I look to Him to fend off fear.  I lean on His power in order to keep my faith strong.  But have I considered what He has commanded further in this passage?

discourage: (1) to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit. (2) to dissuade (3) to obstruct by opposition or difficulty; hinder. (4) to express or make clear disapproval of; frown upon.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not be discouraged.
Do not lose your hope.
Do not live hindered, broken.
Do not frown upon the life God has bestowed upon you today.
Most important... Do not fail to encourage.

Wow.  What a thought.

This really hit me between the eyes because my chronic pain alone can sometimes defeat my mood before the sun ever rises.  But God doesn't say we won't have pain, does He?  He doesn't promise everything will always be happy, and effortless, and carefree.  No. In fact, anyone who has studied His Word knows that we will certainly face persecution, troubles, and trials.  Hardship is simply a guarantee in our Christian life.  Adversity will indeed meet us wherever we wander.  And although Satan will do all he can to vex our hearts, souls, minds... it is paramount to believe that our God will still be with us wherever we go!  God will shelter us through these storms.  His Savior will teach us how to survive.  His Spirit will show us the correct path - His Way.  And through every hindrance, He commands us to be strong, stay courageous, remain unafraid, and... live encouraged!!!

I think it is easy for us to yield to depression and feelings of defeat.  Too commonly we succumb to the disturbances of Satan and his bad habits - urging us to frown down upon, tear apart, and remain negative, low, contrite.  Yes, the enemy wants us to be discouraged.  He wants us to live beaten down and broken.  He doesn't want us to stand up, brush ourselves off, and continue to move forward.  No, he wants us slowed, stopped, stuck.

But God says to rise up!

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. God commands stand still and believe.  (Psalm 20:8) 

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  (Ephesians 5:14-17)

God says to stand firm!

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you. (2 Chronicals 20:17)

God says to encourage one another every single day, as many times as necessary!

But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. (Judges 20:22)

God says there is hope ahead!
So trust Him to be with you through the muck and mire!

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2)

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17-18)

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)

Yes, do not be discouraged.  Rather encourage.  Rather hope.  Rather live in confidence that the Lord will bring you through this wilderness.  These circumstances are intended to give God glory and honor and praise through the action of our faith and obedience.  So stand up, Believer!  Brush yourself off with His truth.  Pray without ceasing and give thanks to Him as you seek Him first for solutions and healing.  Continue forward this day in His grace and armed with His everlasting truth...

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:17-19)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Do not be discouraged!!!
Rather today, focus in faith on what the Lord your God commands:

"Build up, build up, prepare the road!
Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”

For this is what the high and exalted One says -
He who lives forever, whose name is holy:

“I live in a high and holy place,
But also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite."

(Isaiah 57:14-15)

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson





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