GOING DEEPER

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The Holy Spirit in Me + The Holy Spirit In you= The Body of Christ

 
The term worship means “A great respect toward a divine being or supernatural power; the outward showing of such respect” (Miriam-Webster dictionary). Often we experience worship in the form of God praising lyrics accompanied by perfectly paired beats and harmony. You may have the voice of an angel, or you may not be able to carry a note. You may be able to dance rhythmically to the flow of the music, or maybe you just cannot seem to ever figure out which beat to clap on. Either way, when we all stand together in a room where worship is in process, the expression may come out differently, but the feeling in all of us is so similar. For me, I mostly cry. I cry because I am overwhelmed by a feeling I cannot even identify. I absolutely love to sing, which doesn’t mean I sing well, I just love music. In worship, I cannot even get a word out without choking up. Usually this is because I so closely identify with the words on the screen, and the emotion overtakes my speech. But why does this happen EVERYTIME? It is because in worship we are unified. When we are unified in Him, we are His body. We are connected in worship whether we sing or not, move and shake or stand still, cry or laugh, because the Holy Spirit in us is shared and moving. In these moments, we get to form the body of Christ, and that is an overwhelming feeling.
 
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves – Philippians 2:1-2
 
We may all have different political views, economical statuses, parenting styles (the list could go on and on), but when we are like-minded in God, we love the same, and share the same spirit. It is in worship that spiritual peace is felt in the body of Christ, and oh how joyous He is.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3

With everything swirling around us, and the abundant access we are granted to read and share our views publicly with each other, it is important that we spend more time working to keep the unity of the Spirit alive, and not wedging it under the touch screen letters on our smart phones, or the keys on our laptops.
 
 
Zarmena Woods

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Tis’ The Season

Right now, we are amid the most joyfully, stressful seasons of the year, the Holidays. Oh, how we look forward to Turkey, Ham, falling leaves, family, gifts and celebration. We engulf ourselves with tradition and finding the best deals! Even if we try to avoid it, the hustle and bustle surrounds us making it difficult to remember why these holidays even exist. We have Thanksgiving to give thanks, and then we have Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus and then we begin a New Year with a midnight countdown to do it all again the following year.

Although we call it the Holiday season, we do not necessarily link Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day because the three holidays celebrate something extremely different. Is there not a cool parallel to this series of events that is so like our faith? Let’s go through it:

  1. Thanksgiving- We GIVE THANKS for our Country
  2. Christmas- We CELEBRATE the birth of our Savior, thus accepting Him as such
  3. New Year’s Day- After thanking and celebrating, we bring in a NEW year, renewed, and motivated

In relation to our Faith:

  1. Thanksgiving- We GIVE THANKS to God for giving us His son who died for us, so that we could be saved and one day stand with Hi in Heaven
  2. Christmas- We CELEBRATE having Mas(more) Christ because now he lives within us every day.
  3. New Year’s Day- After thanking God, and Praising Him, we are made NEW, have a renewed spirit and are motivated to seek Him more, and tell the world about our HOLIDAY SEASON.

As we go through the Holidays, can we keep this parallel in mind and remember that any holiday we celebrate should involve God. Maybe it is coincidence that these Holidays fall one after the other, but if we can compare it to our coming to faith, maybe we can remember to keep God the focus of each of these days instead of having the Biggest Turkey, or most gifts, or best New Year’s outfit. Let’s GIVE THANKS, have MAS CHRIST, and be made NEW through His love throughout the Holiday season this year.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10
 
Zarmena Woods

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There are No Words for It…

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers.”  Romans 8:26-27

“Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.”  Jeremiah 33:3

“My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would silver; seek them like hidden treasures.”  Proverbs 2:1-4

Have you ever had a moment where you were so overwhelmed with the Spirit of God that you could not even think in Words? Maybe something so unplanned occurred, that was so undeniably God breathed, and you became awestruck to the point where you thought primarily in sounds rather than complete or understandable phrases. I recently experienced a moment so intense that I was dumbfounded and the sounds in my head were something like “OOAAH, EEEHHH , iiiiye”; an array of vowel sounds that make up words, but none were clearly dictated to create comprehensible speech. I realized I was still learning to really, truly communicate with God, and my reply came in the form of spiritual baby babble, much like what we hear as children start to speak. I always imagine what it was like to learn to talk, walk, and grow skills essential to early childhood, being a teenager, and becoming an adult. Now I know!

I started to dissect the way babies learn to communicate, and isn’t it interesting that for almost an entire year before they even utter something similar to a word, they listen? They study the sounds of our voices, and what different tones infer. They SUDY STUDY STUDY, and LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN before even attempting to translate thoughts to sounds that make sense. Oh how drastically different this is in our spiritual walk. When we are young in our journey, no matter our actual chronological age, we TALK TALK TALK! 

The reason I could not speak is because all I had ever done is TALK. Finally, when I was able to listen, and hear my Father, I had not practiced responding; therefore, I did not possess the ability to complete sounds to words, and words to phrases, and phrases to communication.  WOAH! I wonder where else we do this in our life? If you ask me, I TALK ALL THE TIME, and I am sure even those of us who talk less, still talk more than we listen. What are we even saying! Our speech is insignificant without divine intervention. Focus on listening to God and to others; and when you sincerely, wholly hear, your response will be a partial indicator of your growth. 

 

Zarmena Woods


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Scripture Smack Down!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.Ephesians 4:25

There are so many moments in life where I just do not know what to say! At times I am angry with someone and know they have wronged me, and sinned against me, but my feelings cloud my words and I become hesitant to speak. On the other hand, there are times when someone I know is struggling greatly through life, or just found out someone in their family is extremely ill, and once again I am at a loss for words out of fear of saying the wrong thing, being insensitive, or making the situation worse.

The Scripture Smack Down can put all of those worries to rest. Here is what you do! When trouble surfaces, in any way, go to the WORD! Ask the Lord and the Holy Spirit to show you scripture that can slap whatever problem or moment of strife right across the face! It is so much more rewarding and effective to use His word in place of your own.

The next time you are at a loss for words, and are just not quite sure how to handle a feeling, thought, or occurrence, go to Him and His present to us. The words written in the Bible are truly a gift, and we should rely on them heavily as advice and conflict resolution. It is hard to argue with God, and showing a verse to someone evens the playing field. In that moment it is no longer about that person or about you, and the ears of those listening will be much more open and less defensive.

A gentle Scripture Smack Down is sometimes what is needed. Try this during your next unsure, unstable, dumbfounding incidence. Look to the Word, say what He wants you to say, and speak less from your own feelings and more from His Truth.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Mathew 15:18

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

Zarmena Woods


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Selfishness covered by Pride/ Humility exposed by Dignity

Pride is defined as “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”. Dignity is defined as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” The glaring difference in these definitions is the phrases “derived from one’s own” and “being worthy of”.

Insecurity breeds pride. Have you ever noticed when you are experiencing a high level of doubt in one area, or many areas of your life, that you will start to boost yourself with thoughts of the parts in your life YOU are doing great in? You may not be cutting it at work, or you may not be going to church as often as you would like, or you may be less involved in your family than you would truly intend; but, I would bet that at one time or another, if you observed your mind and heart during these doubtful times, you are thinking things like “BUT I drive a nice car”, “BUT I have wonderful children”, “BUT I usually do better work than my coworker”. Is your car so nice so that even though your family is crammed in a small house, you think people won’t notice; Are you actually a proud father, or an insecure husband; do you truly do work that supersedes your coworker, or do you actually slack off more often that you would admit? We find pleasure in knowing that although we may be failing in one area, we are excelling in others. We place a nice, soft blanket, made with the threads of the enemy’s prideful yarn, comfortably over our insecurity. In the Bible, it would be abnormal to see the word pride surrounded by positivity. In fact, pride can lead to things like wickedness, deceit, envy, etc.

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7: 21-23

Often used synonymously with pride is dignity. Even as I wrote that word (dignity) I just made an out loud sigh of relief. I am so thankful that we have dignity to rescue us from pride. Dignity is nourishing to our soul and requires that we must work towards being worthy. Pride can be thought of and POP! There it is! Dignity requires substance, and a true understanding of who we are in HIM!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Being able to humble ourselves, and realize our selfish nature is key to changing our hearts from prideful to dignified. Look at your life now and your life in the past. Think about your intentions, and reactions to feelings of disgrace, shame and discredit. Are you

immediately figuring out something to satisfy your own need to feel better by covering yourself –OR- are you remembering that no matter what the doubt, you can be covered by a light that shines wider, higher, and in ALL areas EVERYWHERE at ALL TIMES. In Him there is no darkness, there is no need to compare or envy and allow thoughts of pride to create substantial roots in your heart and make being a humble representation of the dignity supplied by God impossible to feel or show.

Take off the blanket; it’s time to freeze your own self-interest with the bitter breeze of sacrifice.

#itsnotaboutyou

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels [of compassion] from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John 3:17

Zarmena Woods

 


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I Need More

“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” – Proverbs 30: 7-9
Do you ever feel like you just need MORE? More time for yourself, more energy, more friends, more money, more acceptance, more faith. So often I think things like “If I had more time, I could do this or that”, and somehow the thought seems to be more is better, and if we had more of all or any thing we would be better off. With more of something comes less of something else, and I am wondering what we are willing to have less of for the purpose of achieving more. Here are some things that often get sacrificed with the consuming need for more:
1. LESS time with God
2. LESS time with family
3. LESS time for growth
4. LESS time for purpose
5. LESS time for serving others
6. LESS time for listening
7. LESS energy for responsibilities
 
Sure, there are instances where having more is needed, but we are promised that each day we will have exactly what we need for that day. In each circumstance we are told God will give us just enough to manage that situation. When we are broken, hurt, down, God knows our limit and only allows the right degree of those things we can handle, while moving us towards His will. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)means we have faith that God will provide precisely on time, and solely what is needed, no more, no less.  Only He knows the perfect ingredients for your More/Less recipe. We must trust that when we want more, and we feel like what we have in any area is not enough, that God is the equalizer. Would you ever ask God for LESS money, LESS time for yourself, LESS friends? How thankful are we to serve a God that never allows us to have LESS than we need, even though we are always asking for more.
 
Zarmena Woods

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A Balancing Act

Work, effort, exertion, labor, grind, toil- sounds EXHAUSTING! For some work is consuming, for others work is that thing you do sometimes. There is a very specific balancing act laid out for us in the Bible, but it is rare that we guide our work decisions by it. Often we work on Sundays, and just as often we think we should not have to work as hard as we do just to get by. Guess what? Both are wrong. It is equally as imperative that we work our tails off as it is for us to rest when it is time. This is because when we work we are to work heartily in all that we do so that we may show the Lord to others in that they may learn the truth.

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” …

Hebrews 4:1-11

God said on the seventh day we should rest from all of His work we are doing on the other 6 days. He did this when he created the Earth, and expects it from us; however, if we are not working hard, or if we do not have faith in the promise of God, then we will never enter His rest. We should not be identified by our jobs, nor should we sit back and become lazy, while maintaining the expectation of being granted true physical and spiritual rest. If we are to show the world who God is, then the world should see people who labor and exert themselves consistently in His name. We serve a God who ONLY rested on the seventh day, and this was ONLY after He created the Earth. Being made in His image means embodying His work ethic, and I don’t know about you but have you looked around lately? Have you seen how amazing our world is, or thought about how amazing our bodies are made and function to perfection? 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11

God is always working, but is simultaneously such an involved Father in all of our lives. We should continue to grow to mirror His image by making sure we do not let our profession overtake our relationships, and also that we do not sit back anticipating our efforts and actually do something in their regard. If God was able to rest while creating something as important as the world, there is nothing bigger that we are tasked with that will not allow for the Sabbath to be treated as designed. Conversely, we should work fervently in whatever He has called us to, so that we may be in need to His rest.

 


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Things that are Scary…

“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.” –Psalm 34:7

 As a personal trainer, I decided one day that I needed to prove to my clients  just how powerful I was in their lives by coming up with an extremely, almost impossible workout for them to do in an amount of time that clearly was insufficient for the given task. I wanted them to fear that if they did not do the workouts I assigned on their days without me standing there as an enforcer, that this is the torture they would endure. Although this seemed harsh, their best interest was the motive for this action. Now, let me tell you a similar story about someone who takes this tactic to another level. In this tale the main character decides the only way to get His people to do what is in their best interest is to make an example by the use of His one and only son. This maniac decided to sacrifice His child, and allowed him to die to redeem a people who did not deserve redemption, and who did not even know it was in their best interest to submit and ask for it. I thought making people run for hours as a pushy trainer was bad, but I could never willingly presume death upon my child; thus,  while I thought I was feared to some extent, I realize that I, in no way, bare in comparison to the  Almighty. Some of us hold high status positions at work, on teams, in church, in our homes, in our families, and because of this at times we use scare tactics to get those around to do things in their best interest. The crazy part is it works! Yet, when we are told to fear God, we only mildly do so because we also know about his grace and mercy that he gave us by allowing his only son to be killed. However, while this sacrificial event covers us for our offenses and grants us comfort, what we should also see is his absolute power and willingness to do anything it takes for his purpose.  

If you made a list of things that are scary, what would be on it? Would it be things like not succeeding, not fitting in, being judged by others?  Is there anything on this list that is greater than God? Is it in fact possible that by even having a list of things that you fear, that are not even close to how scary our Lord is, would almost be like mocking Him? We are so blinded by the things the World has shown us we should dread, and so often we take the good sides of faith, all of the love, mercy and forgiveness, that we forget  that we are tiny specs in a vast universe created by an Almighty, one and only, powerful God. We are told over and over again in the Bible to fear Him, and yet we tend not to tremble at his name. Fearing the wrath of unacceptance, punishment, and failure from parents and bosses greatly outweigh the fear of disappointing our Father by wrong doings and actions against His Word.  

We take His grace for granted, and we downplay His power to others such that they would be more likely to come to Him for protection. With fear for something also comes respect and reverence. Can we admit and exclaim proudly that our Savior is the scariest thing of all, and that because of His love we can live in fear while simultaneously living in peace? Let’s not give those things on our list so much credit, and make them seem scarier than they really are. Those items do not deserve the time we give to them; instead, we owe God all the fear filled space in our hearts. Let’s make room for fear of God and show Him how valued He is.  

Zarmena Woods


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YOU Complete ME

“So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.”Colossians 2:10

Integrity is a characteristic revered and admired by all. A definition of integrity that is rarely discussed is “the state of being complete or whole”. Yes, integrity also means “the quality of being honest and fair”, which is the definition we most often refer to, but without being complete, how do we know what true honesty and fairness are? To go even further, the definition of the word complete is “having all necessary parts; not lacking anything”. We see the importance of being complete in the famous speech by the great Jerry McGuire:

“Hello? Hello? I’m looking for my wife…

If this is where it has to happen, then this is where it has to happen.

I’m not letting you get rid of me. How about that?

…Tonight our little project had a very big night, a very, very big night

But it wasn’t complete. It wasn’t nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete because I couldn’t share it with you. I couldn’t hear your voice or laugh about it with you.

..I miss, I miss my wife. I love you. You complete me.”

If we replace “Wife” with “God”, could this not be our prayer, or our plea? Yelling at God in our living room saying “I did this on my own merit and through my own strength, why do I not feel complete?” It is because we have allowed all of the “tough competitors” against God- social media, peer pressure, availability to anything and everything we could desire, and temptation to beat our relationship with Him. But then, in that moment, all we can do is stop and say … “God, I love you- You complete me”. Without the parts of us being entirely intertwined with God we are incomplete and parts are absent even in our successes. We are not wholly satisfied without the presence of God, only partially. I have had many successes that just didn’t feel right because when I looked in the stands and saw those I put there to spectate my game of life, there was someone missing. I had left God out of my victory and because of that it felt empty. There was an empty bleacher seat that was filled with the reality that what I had done and said to reach this triumph did not align with my beliefs. The seat signified my unwillingness to completely surrender myself and show my character in a time of desire and temptation. Like Jerry McGuire I wanted the BIG SUCCESS, and was blinded by the fact that in the process I was losing what makes me whole. Sometimes it seems God is leading us on a hike up the mountain of our desires, but as we climb our leader becomes our equal, and then falls behind. During these times are we turning to Him constantly, thanking Him, praising Him, and continuing to develop our relationship with Him- OR – do we only look forward at what is possible, and forget to look back at what got us on the mountain to begin with. If the latter is true we will learn that the longer the hike to the top of the mountain, the more dirt gets lifted from the ground and clouds the sight of our integrity, being whole, being complete, honest and fair. To be complete in Jesus is to achieve an honorable nature. Let’s aim to keep him close while rising toward purpose and accomplishment.

 
Zarmena Woods

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Mirrors

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 

There are mirrors everywhere these days. There are mirrors in our bathroom, our cars, the reflection of our computers and cell phones, and even in our constant ability to gawk at pictures of ourselves and others through the easily accessible social media outlets. There are apps and filters to take our reflections captured by a lens and shutter and turn them into edited photos to freeze a snapshot of our most possibly perfect self-portrait. Selfie has become a household term and with all of the promotion of constant connection to the world, we are encouraged to update our “friends” daily, hourly, minute by minute of the occurrences in our lives, which are essentially a reflection of us. How can we see true beauty in the mirrors that surround us when, as we look into the mirrors of others, we see unreal, perfect images? Imagine the days when in order to see someone else in the mirror you had to physically be standing directly beside them. In that truly existing, non-filtered moment you could see every single imperfection on their face, clothes, and anywhere else the mirror would reflect; thus being able to develop a true picture of reality. And in those flashes you were able to appreciate the flawless flaws in people and in yourself. 

When I look in the mirror I immediately critique naturally occurring “imperfections” and compare myself to stored portrayals of the ideal person in mine, and most of the world’s eyes. I have never stood in front of a mirror and surveyed my character, love for others, honesty, or any matter of how my heart reflection looks, because those true measures of self-image are not as immediately apparent in shiny glass. 

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

“I am fat”, “I am ugly”, “I am too skinny”, “I will never be beautiful”, “If only I could look like them”, “No one thinks I am worth anything”. These are the cries of our staring selves as we loath the person looking back at us due to their round cheeks, lack of muscles, or wrinkles. So I ask, COMPARED TO WHO? If we are made in the image of God (“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”) and he alone created us specifically (“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13), then what is the goal of our view in the mirror? Are we telling God he is ugly, or imperfect, because if we are made in His image, then when we doubt our appearance we doubt His Truth. 

There is only one mirror of all of those swirling around us daily that shows the exact reflection we want to see in ourselves. If we can mimic this truth found in His Word, we will no longer mock God’s

creations, made solely to be His image, and start to love ourselves so that we can photograph that grace and share it with those who need to hear it. If we cannot love what God has created in us and be confident that he chose for us to look exactly how we do as a part of the purpose he has for our lives, we will be held back from instilling the assurance of this unconditional relationship in others. Let’s work on loving what we see in our mirror, reduce the amount we compare our reflections to the image of others, and strive to achieve an all-accepting sight like our Father. 
 
Zarmena Woods

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