No Condemnation

Me being myself and a natural perfectionist, I’m always trying to be perfect. Even though that’s not actually possible and the logical part of my mind knows that, I still find myself in that perfectionistic goal.

Just this morning, I was starting to feel guilty (whether false or true) about something I had been thinking about. And it was sort of like an epiphany when I realized that I don’t have to be “perfect” or think all the “right” things all the time with God. That might sound like something I should have realized a long time ago, but my mentality can often be so perfectionistic that it’s difficult for me to see past that.

blog19

Of course, that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to do the right thing – it’s not giving a free pass to ‘do whatever you want.’ It’s more of in the sense, that when I do something wrong, yes I shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t have to panic (*ahemlikeIusuallydoahem*) about, oh my gosh I’m such a horrible person, I can’t believe I just thought/did that.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of condemn is: “to say in a strong and definite way that someone or something is bad or wrong, to give (someone) a usually severe punishment, to cause (someone) to suffer or live in difficult or unpleasant circumstances.” And for those who are Christians, we are no longer under condemnation. Sometimes that’s easy to forget at least for me, and go into the mentality of, ‘what kind of punishment I’m going to receive’ when I mess up.

blog20

Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

I love that phrase “eternal redemption.” For those who are believers, we are redeemed for all of eternity. In the Bible, there is a term – “kinsman-redeemer” – that connects the Old Testament to the New Testament. A kinsman redeemer was someone who delivers or rescues, redeems property or person, avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner, and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (biblestudytools.com).

Jesus is our ‘kinsman-redeemer.’ He delivered us from an eternity apart from Him and redeemed us from sin so that we can be made righteous.

~ Southern Dreamer

Prison of Fear

Everyone has fears. Some are small, others are big, and then, there are those that completely and totally overwhelm us.

fight song2

Fear is a tricky thing. It can creep up slowly and over time; perhaps subconsciously, until it rears its ugly head in our face. In other cases, it can come suddenly and without announcement. Maybe you’ve been through something traumatic and suddenly things that you did not fear before, are now quite terrifying.

I think, sometimes, we visualize fear in a one dimensional picture: snakes, the dark, experiencing change. But fear can also be the root cause of other issues in our life. Perfectionism (I fall into this category :p): fearing that you must be perfect, fearing the punishment or reaction if you are not. Being a people-pleaser: fearing that you have to make everyone happy, fearing the reaction of others if you say something that contradicts their own beliefs.

In the Bible, there are over a 100 references where it says, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” (http://www.openbible.info/topics/living_life_to_the_fullest). By that sheer number, it’s apparent that Jesus knew we were going to have fear – BUT, that we do not have to be afraid.

John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

God wants us to live life in the freedom of our salvation. He does not want fear to keep us from experiencing the blessings He offers. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know in my own life, its very easy to say, ‘oh, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to give this to the Lord,’ but quite another to actually follow through with it.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yet as the verse above says, God has given us a spirit full of power, love, and self-control. All components that help to combat fear.

Power is the Holy Spirit. If you really desire to be free from fear, this is where everything starts. The others are important too, but without the Holy Spirit, we’re trying to drive a car without gas.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Think of a time when you felt completely safe and secure. Was it when you were wrapped in the arms of your father or mother? Watching a movie in bed with your brother or sister? Similarly, God’s love is our security. We do not have to worry whether or not He will love us one moment and stop the next. His love is perfect, unfailing, and encompassing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love there is: dying for us when we were still stuck in the mud of sin and unrighteousness. His love overcomes fear

blog16
Jeremiah 31:3 and Proverbs 8:35

 

Self-control is the last one mentioned in 2 Timothy. This is where our ‘homework’ comes into play. You have to want to be free from fear and be willing to do the necessary work. Self-control does not include only physical actions, but the discipline of the mind – which can be harder in many ways since it is not a tangible thing.

And Jesus does not expect us to fight our fears or anxiety alone! Sometimes I completely forget that I can ask Him to help me to not be afraid; I’m so set on how can I solve this or how I can work through this, that I neglect the one being who can help me through anything.

Being willing to ask for help – tell a close family member or friend. Expose light onto the fear so it cannot continue to ravage around in your mind, rely on God, and put in the effort are all important parts of overcoming fear. Fear doesn’t go away on its own. It must be a conscious decision to defeat it.

blog15

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Rachel Platten: Music Review

So. This is my first music review blog post…which means I’m not exactly sure how this is going to work. #Totallywingingit 😛 With that disclaimer said, on to the review!

As many of y’all probably know, Rachel Platten rose to fame so to speak last year. With that in mind (plus the fact that I like a lot of her songs), I thought I’d start what will hopefully be many music reviews with her.

1. Fight Song

fight song3

LOVE. This is such a great song! Really powerful and inspirational lyrics such as:

Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Know I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

I think so many people like this song because of what it says: to keep on fighting even if you don’t have friends, feel exhausted, or whatever else you may be going through. Don’t give up.

2. Stand by You

stand by you3

I really enjoy this song too. I know it’s probably meant to be for two people romantically interested in each other, but I don’t think it’s limited to that.

if your wings are broken
We can brave through those emotions too
‘Cause I’m gonna stand by you

and

I’ll be your eyes when yours can’t shine
I’ll be your arms, I’ll be your steady satellite
And when you can’t rise, well, I’ll cry with you on hands and knees
‘Cause I
(I’m gonna stand by you)

This can apply to anyone you love: brothers, sisters, parents, etc… We all need someone that – pun not intended – will stand by us when we’re at our lowest.

I find it interesting what the second stanza says, because in Romans 12:15 it states, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” And that is what line three of this second stanza (I’ll cry with you on hands and knees) is basically saying: if someone is weeping, crying, or sad, be there for them in their grief which is what the Bible says. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us since in John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” All truth comes from God since God is truth.

3. Better Place

better place2

I really like this song! It’s so happy with a light-hearted sense to it.

And the colors are golden and bright again
And the sun paints the skies and the wind sings our song
It’s a better place since you came along
It’s a better place since you came along

And there y’all have it! My first music review 🙂 I hope y’all discovered a new artist or some more songs you might enjoy listening to!

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Proclaim

 

blog9

In this world, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of all the Lord has done in our lives. So often, however, we can find ourselves dismissing that notion. Perhaps because of pride, or maybe we truly aren’t sure how God has been at work in our life.

blog8

Psalm 96:2-3 says, “Sing to the Lord; praise His name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (NLT).

blog11

I find it interesting that the Scripture specifically says tell others about what Christ has done. I believe he says this for many reasons, and while I do not claim to know them all, I feel that there are a few He has revealed to me.

One, when we tell others about the acts of God, it can not only strengthen our own faith but the Holy Spirit can use what we say to increase the faith of the listener.

Secondly, we never know who around us is being attentive as well. It could lead the way to deeper conversations or cause them to become curious about who this God is. And remember that whoever you are talking to, may not have a reaction. Perhaps their face is completely empty of any emotion. Or they act as though you did not say anything. Even though this is difficult, God is not limited by this. Despite their reaction or lack thereof, the Holy Spirit can prod their heart long after your conversation.

And lastly, when we are constantly speaking in a verbal manner about everything the Lord has done, it creates not only a heart of thankfulness but reminds us of how powerful He truly is. Sometimes in our busy, day-to-day lives, we forget. We forget the strength and power that He has and how He can work, act, and move situations – change people.

In Luke 8:39, Jesus says, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

blog10

It can’t get much clearer than that. Jesus literally says, “tell how much God has done for you.” God never does anything just ‘because,’ He always has a reason. Maybe for you, its to strengthen your own faith – or perhaps encourage someone else.

Today, I encourage you to tell one person about something Jesus has done in your life – and remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge act. If you remain uncertain of how Christ has worked in your life, I encourage you to ask a godly mentor or adult who can offer wise insight. If you would like further study, make sure to check out Psalm 145.

~ Southern Dreamer

To Read, To Memorize

blog

People always wonder how to hear the Holy Spirit – to discern what is their own thought and what is God speaking to them. Obviously there is not an exact “take-home” formula for this, but there is at least one area where God has and can surely use to speak to His children: Scripture.

God can do anything, of course, but if we do not invest ourselves in His Word then the likelihood that Scripture is how we will hear Him speak does lessen, I think. Many times in our busy day-to-day lives it can seem like a tiresome task to sit down and put away everything else, to solely focus on Jesus and the Bible (I myself am guilty of this).

blog2

At the beginning of this year, I started a chronological reading guide to the Bible. For someone who was struggling to make time to read the Scripture – and not just a devotion, and also likes structure/plans, this has proven to be a helpful tool to use.

If you’re like me, and have been struggling to make time to read the Bible, I would encourage you to either make up your own daily reading plan – perhaps a Psalm or Proverb’s a day – or Google one online to utilize.

blog3

I remember a few years ago, when my computer was crashing. I was naturally upset because basically all of my Word documents were lost. And for a writer, that is one of the worst things that can happen.

At some point that day, I can’t remember when exactly, the v came into my mind:

(*part of Matthew 17:20*) “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Now, I had never memorized that verse before and that’s when I knew it was the Holy Spirit who was telling me that. Yes, I had briefly read it – once, maybe twice – but I had never committed it to memory.

God used that Scripture, that at some point in my life I had read, to encourage me. If I had never read it, would that still have occurred? It very well could have since the Holy Spirit does not have to depend on our knowledge to tell us things. But the point of me saying this, is to show the importance of reading Scripture.

Joshua 1:8 says, “you shall meditate on it [Bible] day and night,” and Psalm 1:2 echoes it, “on his law he meditates day and night.”

Let us all become more invested in the Word of God, so that as Psalm 1 says, we may become, “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Love Letter

blog4

As I was looking through Pinterest one day, I saw the above quote. And it suddenly struck me on how true that is.

Being both a romantic and an avid reader, it is not uncommon for the thought to cross my mind oh I wish this character were real or I wonder what happens next. The amazing thing about the Bible, is that, in fact both of those thoughts are/can become reality.

The Bible is the truth. “We’ve got 25,000 to 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament,” remembers Lee Strobel in The Case For The Real Jesus, quoting Daniel B. Wallace who has a PH.D., “the average ancient Greek author has fewer than 20 copies of his works still in existence…If you stacked the works of other ancient writers on top of each other, they’d be about four feet tall. Stack up copies of the New Testament, and they’d reach more than a mile high.”

Characters written about in the Bible were real people who lived. The Scriptures are the recount of the redemption story of God wooing us to himself. It’s a love story written to us.

blog5

It’s the story of betrayal, adoration, and joy. A tale where despite our rejecting him, the prince of peace continued to fight for us. To do anything so that we could once more be called “His.”

blog6

What makes this even more incredible, is that He sacrificed everything – knowing that not all would love Him. He loved us before we ever did anything to deserve such. He continues to seek after us even now – even after we have sinned, not listened, and rejected him. The love of Jesus is one that is perfect, flawless. To us, He says:

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:5).

“For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:35).

blog7

~ Southern Dreamer

Resources:

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel

Pinterest

 

Imperfect Prayers

pray

Do you ever feel so much pressure to be perfect? I know that I do, and for all my fellow perfectionists out there, it can be an awful burden to carry can’t it?

Many times, I find myself praying to the Lord and as I am, any one of these thoughts could very well be flowing through my mind:

Is it too short?

This sounds terrible…

Did I already repeat that?

And the root of each comes from the fact that I feel a need to pray perfectly.

But the truth is, that Jesus does not require us to be perfect people, do perfect actions, or even, pray perfectly. The entire message of the Gospel is grace. Grace is a concept that I find so difficult to grasp and my perfectionism likely only extenuates that struggle.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Grace hinges on the fact that you aren’t perfect (I see all you perfectionists cringing ;)). And as much as we hate the thought of that, it’s true. We are not perfect and never will be.

It’s something that is so easy to say, yet rather hard to put into practice: being alright with not being perfect. And I would be a hypocrite if I said that I am 100% ok with not being perfect, and not attaining what in my mind is the “perfect” standard.

Psalm 119:96 says, “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.”

Right there, it says that there is a limit to how “perfect” we can get in our humanity. There is only so much we can do. And even with Christ and the Holy Spirit, we will never be perfect until we come into heaven and are given our eternal bodies.

Understanding this can be freeing, but really changing how your mind is set is much more difficult than “knowing” it. You can know anything and not change your thought habits or actions. Part of recovering from perfectionism – so to speak, is, I believe, giving yourself permission to not be perfect. And to not equate being imperfect or messing up as failure.

Because most perfectionists, myself included, see screwing up as failing. And we hate failure.

C.S. Lewis said, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success” (A/N: Taken from BrainyQuote website).

As you find yourself during your prayer time, thinking that yours is inadequate, remember that each fail forward is a step towards a better prayer life. And even if praying eloquently is never your gift, that’s ok. Jesus never said, “Thou shalt pray perfectly.” He did say, however, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

I hope that we all will find the freedom in not burdening ourselves with the ideal of praying perfectly.

free

~ Southern Dreamer