Struggle, strain, and surrender

Have you ever watched a game of tug-of-war?  Both teams pull and pull with all their weight, might, and strength to pull the other team across the line in the center of the field.  For a while it looks like it might be a tie and that either team could win.  Then the first person starts to lose his or her grip, shoes slip on the grass, and like dominoes, one person after the other falls down or is pulled across the line.

It is the same with our troubles.

When we try to force something into the way we want it, we struggle and strain.  We push, fight, and don’t want to give in, but eventually we may relent.  We may let go, we may even fall down.  If we are smart, we may actually release the very thing we are trying to force.

We surrender.

The moment we surrender our struggle and fight to God is the moment we can find peace.  We can relax, rest, and allow God’s perfect peace to cover us. Think of the baby who is trying to fight sleep. He fusses, fidgets, whines, even cries as he fights the very thing he needs most. Rest.  It is the same with us.

Do not fight what you need most.  It may be rest, it may be a new adventure on your Faith journey.  Whatever it may be, do not doubt the perfect plan God has for you.  Jeremiah 29:11 promises, “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.”

Surrender to it.  Your life will never be the same.

 

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

check-ups and check-ins

I had my annual physical today.  Nothing earth-shattering, I’m getting older, my body is changing, new experiences are coming.  I am grateful for the good health I have and realize it is a gift.  On average, my family only goes to the doctor’s office once a year, we just don’t get sick.  This made me think as I sat down to read my devotional this morning.

How often do we ask God to give our spirit and soul a check-up?  Do we only go to Him when we are feeling “sick” or “unwell” or do we go to God for check-ups, to make sure that we are on the right track, doing what needs to be done to remain healthy?

Scripture reminds us that we need to be careful to stay in constant relationship with Jesus or we will not grow (John 15, Colossians 1:6, 2 Peter 3:18) and that we run the risk of withering and shriveling up without the Living Water described in John 7:38.

A wise pastor once said at the end of the day he wanted his praise list to be long and his regrets list to be short.  If we keep in touch with Jesus throughout the day we will be able to accomplish this as well.

In my family we call it “checking in.”  My brother and I  will call our folks and say, “Hi, I was just checking in.  Hope all is well.”  The conversation isn’t about heavy topics or concerns, it’s just a way to make sure the communication line is open and clear.  It is the same way with my walk with God.

I will talk with Him throughout the day.  Comment on the beauty of the sky, the deep colors of the changing trees.  The sweetness carried on the breeze, maybe the variation of the songs the birds sing.  I definitely offer up prayers and concerns, but often I just want God to know I was thinking about Him and His creation.

So the question comes– how often do you come to God for spiritual check ups?  How often do you check in with Him?  I don’t ask to guilt you, but instead to encourage you.  He isn’t standing in a gilded throne room tapping His toe at you for bothering Him.  He delights to connect to you and with you– you are His treasure, His precious child.  Why wouldn’t He want to hear from you?

Check-up and  check-in.

 

Posted in reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three minutes

Today our pastor spoke on Ephesians 3:1-3, but it was the surrounding message of the service that struck me even more than our message. Today we spent time praying for the Persecuted Church around the world. It was sobering to realize that every three minutes a life is ended–often brutally– just because the person believed in Jesus.

To drive that point home when the service began there were thirty lit candles on stage and throughout the worship and message a man silently walked to each candle and snuffed it out–every three minutes, until there were no more lit candles.

In over sixty countries around the world it is illegal to be a Christian. In some countries the punishment is persecution, in others it is death–without question. Voice of the Martyrs categorizes the nations into two categories: Restricted and Hostile, a nation’s category can change from year to year, depending on the laws passed in that country.

It is sobering, even disturbing, that here in America, a country founded on Biblical principles, we think we are being persecuted because someone tells us we shouldn’t display the Ten Commandments. Our brothers and sisters are in prisons, under house arrest, are literally running for their lives- just for professing Christ.

Hebrews 13:3 says, Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering... It’s actually the verse that Voice of the Martyrs used as the basis of their ministry.

Brothers and sisters, we need to stand up for those who have no voice and we need to kneel down and pray for them to have the strength to stand up under their persecution.

If you aren’t sure where to start contact Voice of the Martyrs and request a Prayer Map. It will give you a chance to see the countries experiencing persecution and suggest ways to help them and pray for them.

We are not to live this life alone in a bubble waiting for Jesus to return. We are to encourage one another, support one another, and lift up one another in prayer.

(In the time it took me to work on this post over ten of my brothers and sisters stepped into Glory because of their faith.)

Every three minutes.

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Training

I live with two teenage boys. I look at them when they are sleeping sometimes and think, “where did all the time go?” When the boys were little random people would tell my husband and me, “Enjoy them now, while you can.”

I remember thinking, “What do you mean ‘while I can’. They will be my babies forever.” Haha. Foolish thinking from a sleep deprived mom. Fast forward fifteen years. My “babies” are now in their final years in the “nest.”

My mind wanders… Did I teach them enough? Will they be ready when they go off to college? Have l taught them enough skills to survive on their own? Will they remember how much I love them? Will they remember it’s important to keep Christ as a priority, not just a “get-around-to-it” item on their to-do list?

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). It is my prayer for my kids to know Who God is, how God can move in their lives, that God’s plan is always the best plan. There is so much I pray for them, especially now when I feel the time clock winding down.

Scripture says that the Word of God will never come back void. I cling to this truth when my teenager gives me that look that says, “Oh Mom, did you really just ask that?” and somehow I think that I have blown it.

There are some great books for praying for your kids, the most popular one is Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. I have used this book again and again over the years for my boys. My prayer is that when my boys are husbands and fathers they will continue to train up their own children the same way I have tried to train up mine.

There is a chorus from my childhood that often comes to mind when I think of my boys, it was written by the Gaithers.

“Dear Jesus, please make us more patient and kind, and help us to be more like you. And make room for all other children of yours for they are still growing up too.” .

This is my prayer as a parent and for my children.

Kids Under Construction by Bill and Gloria Gaither

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

in and out

I am reading the book Forgotten God by Francis Chan, author of Crazy LoveForgotten God  is about the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  I find myself being challenged, encouraged, and nodding my head in agreement with what Chan says in the book.  We seem to forget the Power we have within.

The “new” church begins in Acts 2 with tongues of fire (Acts 2:3) signifying the filling of the Holy Spirit in the disciples and other believers in the upper room of Jerusalem.  Somewhere we have lost sight of the Power we have inside.

I have mentioned that I have felt frustrated and beaten up emotionally lately.  I realized that Fear was creeping into my Spirit again.  Where is my Power from the Holy Spirit?  Where is my Faith?  I have forgotten Who resides inside.

First John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (NIV)

If the Holy Spirit, Who is inside of me, is greater than the enemy who is out in the world, than I need to live like it.

“The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. 
He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. 
He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. 
This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular
of the represesntative , adminstrating Spirit.
  A Christian is fearless.”
~~Tertullian
 

It’s time to live with a fearless Faith.

 

 

 

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Double-standard

As the political season ramps up to Election Day here in my state, the critical, mud-throwing ad campaigns have seemed to have ramped up as well.

“He said this., “she said that., “can you believe this candidate wants to do away with this program or that program.” It gets ugly. But, it also reminded me of the many ways I judge people or other people judge me.

Being new to my area means I have a clean slate, but I also don’t have people who know my story and understand where I base my beliefs and views. The comment from my co-worker for example, was taken more deeply than she may have intended because of the way I am wired.

We as believers run the risk of turning off non-believers because we criticize the way they live their lives, vote, have relationships, etc. How can we hold non-believers to a Holy Standard when they have no relationship with the One who set the standard?

It is a dangerous line to walk when we expect those who don’t know the Amazing Grace we have found (and that found us) to change their behavior, make healthier decisions emotionally, spiritually, etc, or even attend church on a regular basis.

We as the Church are called to be a light and to be salt (Matthew 5:13-16), but if we are too salty with our desire to “save” the non-believer by pointing out their faults, we will turn them off to Jesus. Too many people are turned off already.

See Matthew 7:3-5, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, and Ephesians 2:8-9 for more reflection.

Let us strive to share Jesus but remember He never condemned the lost, He found them where they were, loved them as they were and drew them up to who they would be through His Amazing Grace.

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

release joy

I am working with non-believers for the first time in almost 15 years.  It has been a challenge to hear comments that are negative, destructive, and in some cases down-right mean.  I am feeling more and more like Pollyanna hanging around Mrs. Snow, who was cantankerous and a bit of a hypochondriac.  Every positive thing Pollyanna said was met by a “yeah, but” negative comment.

Yesterday, a co-worker made a comment about many of us being so new that ultimately, we didn’t know anything and therefore shouldn’t offer help to one another.  It was said with an edge and tone that have followed me like a cold chill for the past 24 hours.  I don’t want to allow it to seep into my spirit, but I feel like it is today.

I want to release these negative feelings and replace them with joy, it is something I am called to do as a believer.  The verses below are my reminders to release joy and not hang on to sorrow or negativity.  I hope they encourage you to do the same.

 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,  and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord  for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

 

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yearning and seeking

When I lived in Illinois, I was a co-leader for a group of high school girls. Every Sunday morning our group would gather together with other high school students for Impact: a time of worship, a message, and some small group time. I loved the Sunday mornings I had with them and I miss seeing them every week.

One of the songs we would sing was “Lay Me Down” by Chris Tomlin. The music was full of energy and the more we sang the chorus the more we would get passionate about the meaning of the words.

I love the song and long to live out what the words say. I want to let go of my pride, my selfishness, anything of “me” that gets in the way of Jesus working through me. I yearn for it.

Some days I succeed, other days, not as much. I can find myself annoyed that I have to do things for someone else, follow someone else’s agenda and not mine. Those are days I can usually connect to needing rest (see rested-restored post). Deep down, it is still my desire to seek God first, knowing anything and everything will fall into place if I seek Him first (Matthew 6:33).

I am going to print out the lyrics to the song “Lay Me Down” and post them where I can see them all the time; my bathroom mirror, at my desk at work, with my written journal, wherever I think I will need them and see them.

What song would help you chose to seek God first each day? Maybe these words will work for you, too.
Blessings.

Verse 1:
With this heart open wide
From the depths from the heights
I will bring a sacrifice
With these hands lifted high
Hear my song hear my cry
I will bring a sacrifice
I will bring a sacrifice

Chorus:
I lay me down
Im not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down
Hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down

Verse 2:
Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine
Take this life and let it shine

Chorus

Bridge:
It will be my joy to say
Your will
Your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will
Your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will
Your way
always (x3)

Chorus
(x2)

Read more: Chris Tomlin – Lay Me Down Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Posted in reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stickers and check marks

The college-age renters above us like to have “deep” conversations late at night on their balcony. Their balcony is about five feet from our bedroom window so I hear a lot, even when I don’t want to hear it.

Lately, there has been a young girl involved in the discussions. She is probably twenty years old or so, based on her voice and topics of conversation. The guys treat her like a little sister for the most part, but I can hear her often striving to be included, to be a part of the group, in almost a desperate way.

My heart aches for this girl. She is seeking connection, worth, value, a sense of belonging. I want to go upstairs, when she is visiting, to tell her the truth. She is already valued, she already has worth. God said she is valued, she already has worth because of His Son.

So many of us go through life thinking we have to strive and strain to gain acceptance. As if there is a chart that God will put stickers or check marks on whenever we meet a goal or accomplish a task. God is not a score-keeper kind of God. He takes us as we are– right now, right here. He calls us to Him when we are dirty, messy, stained, full of shame and sorrow. He calls us to Him because He loves us. We matter to Him and we can find acceptance in Him –right now.

We just have to come to Him. We don’t have to get cleaned up, wear our best clothes, and use the right words. We just get to come “as we are.” We don’t have to give money to the right groups, belong to the right organizations. We just have to come.

There are no gold stars to earn to get into Heaven. The price has been paid through Jesus’ death on the cross. There are no check marks for us to earn, Jesus took our marks for us when he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. All we need to do is accept this gift and we are part of His family. We have a place, we belong. We are His.

All we need to do is come. Just as we are, right now.

Just As I Am

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

By Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871)

Posted in growing pains, reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missions Fields

My news feed on Facebook is full of different ministries and their updates. I have friends who are serving in a missionary role on college campuses, and friends who have been on the mission field in Kazakhstan, Russia, the Philippines, Siberia, Columbia, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Ireland. Other friends are preparing to go serve long term in Ethiopia.

My mom has been supporting children through World Vision and Compassion International for years. She wants to make a difference in their lives, even though she lives thousands of miles away.

My question to you is, who are you supporting? Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Most of us are not able to literally go to all nations, but we can support those who do. There are some amazing organizations changing lives throughout the world.

Some of the organizations I recommend are:

I-TEC — working to help indigenous people support themselves through education and training in a variety of fields http://www.itecusa.org/

A-21 Campaign — working to end human trafficking around the world http://www.thea21campaign.org/

World Vision– serving communities around the world through support, teaching, and training http://www.Worldvision.org/

Compassion International– similar to World Vision

http://www.compassion.org/

Samaritan’s Purse– serving the needy throughout the world, most-known for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

IJM-International Justice Mission works as a legal defense team in other countries for those who cannot defend themselves

http://www.ijm.org/

These are just a few places a person can support. If you don’t find a group that has the same passion as you do, search for one. Support it. Tell people about it, share their mission, their vision with those around you.

We may not travel the world to tell others about Jesus, but we certainly can support those who do.

So, who are you going to support?

Posted in reflections, Walking by Faith and not by sight | Tagged , , | Leave a comment