Monday, July 23, 2012

Running the Race

What a fun day I had on Sunday playing with babies in the nursery!  I serve in the nursery at our church weekly, but my usual job is registration--assisting parents with signing their kid(s) in and out.  I love that job because I get to see and talk to every child and every parent.  I get to learn their names and I look forward to seeing them each week.  But last week, I had an opportunity to serve in the baby room and I had so much fun!  It is amazing the things God can teach us through babies and children.

I was sitting in the middle of the floor with the babies and my co-worker and we were playing on the mats.  Somehow, one of the little girl's balls rolled all the way to the cabinets and she wanted it back.  She held out her arm several times and kind of let out a whine, as if to say "please go get the ball for me."  The other volunteer and I urged her to go get it herself.  She sat there for a minute or two weighing her options, then she decided to go for it.  However, she didn't make it.  She started crawling straight toward the ball until something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention.  She decided to veer off her path to the other toy, she looked at the toy, then crawled all the way back around to the spot where she started, completing a perfect circle.  When she got back to the starting point, she saw the ball and the entire process began again.  She cried out for the ball, we encouraged her to go get it, she started crawling toward it, got distracted, then ended up in the same spot.  She did that a total of three times, never making it to the ball she originally longed for.

I couldn't help but notice the similarities in my own walk with Christ.  When I keep my eyes on Jesus, my world is in the correct perspective.  I didn't say things in my life are perfect or that I don't suffer any trials, but I am focused on my Prize, on the One Who holds my life in His hands.  When obstacles arise, I am better equipped to handle them and it's easier for me to shrug off temptation, but if I allow my eyes to take a second look after taking the initial glance, it is much harder to get out of temptation's sticky grip.  Paul describes it this way in Philippians, chapter 3:  "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  It is so important that we keep our eyes on Him always so that we don't have to send up a 911 prayer when we're in trouble.  If we pray to Him continually, then He is able to equip us for upcoming obstacles, we experience peace and we know that He is in control; we don't have to panic like His disciples did when Jesus fell asleep in their boat during a storm.  We can rest in Him and find peace in Him.

In Proverbs, Solomon heeds us to "hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.  Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way" (Proverbs 4:13-15).  We don't have to have all the answers; we just have to keep our eyes on the One Who does so that, one day, we will reach our original goal of Jesus Christ.  We cannot allow Satan to use distractions to cause us to veer off the course our God has set before us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Fear and Worry

Key Verses:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?"  Matthew 6:25-27

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."  2 Timothy 1:7

Josh and I have prayed for Nora-Kate since before she was conceived.  After she was conceived, as she grew in my womb, we continued to lay hands on her and pray for her.  We also, in the privacy of our own home, dedicated her to the Lord long before she was born and long before she was publicly dedicated in front of family and friends at church.  We have never seen her as ours, but as God's.  She is God's child whom He has entrusted to us for a short amount of time.  When I say we dedicated her to God, I mean that Josh and I prayed that God's will would be done in her life and that, ultimately, she belongs to Him.  We continue to pray for Nora-Kate and always will as long as we are able--we pray for her physical life, her spiritual life, her salvation, and anything else that is on our hearts.

We know that our faithfulness in prayer will bring spiritual attacks because dependency on God does not please Satan in any way.  Satan will do whatever he can to hinder our faith.  Well, that is what he has done recently in my life.  For the last month or so, I have struggled with worry regarding Nora-Kate.  Over the last few weeks, we have gone on some small vacations and had several painters and electricians in our house finishing up some renovations, which I allowed to get in the way of my daily devotions with God.  I was just so tired from packing, unpacking, child care, clean up, house renovations, and driving to and from Augusta that I would just rest whenever I got a free moment instead of getting in the Word.  Well, Satan took that opportunity (a seemingly small window) and began speaking lies into my life and I started to believe them because I had not been in the Word like I needed to be.  Consequently, I started worrying about Nora-Kate's life, physical and spiritual.

I obtained spiritual counsel from a couple of very wise, God-fearing women who steered me straight to the Word.  They gave me a few Scripture references, but unfortunately the Bible does not give specific details about what will happen to our children at the Rapture when Jesus returns.  After offering me some places to explore in the Bible, both women told me it was something I had to work out on my own with God, something I had to pray about and seek God's peace on the subject.  So, I did.  I read the references I was given, then the Holy Spirit led me to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  As I was reading through them, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me and I heard God whisper, "Trust Me."  

To that end, when we are afraid of something or someone, our fear says we don't trust that person or thing.  We don't think that he/she/it has any regard for our best interest and some harm could come to us through that person or thing.  For example, if I fear rollercoasters, then I can translate that to mean that I don't trust the rollercoaster.  I don't trust it to make me feel good or keep me safe.  If I fear or worry about the actions of a particular person (it could be a boss, a neighbor, an enemy), then that translates to mean that I don't believe that person has my best interest at heart and he/she could fire me, injure me, or make my life miserable.  Similarly, God has taught me that when I worry or fear, I am saying that I don't trust Him.  I don't trust His plan, His character, or His will, which was very convicting for me to hear.  It is very difficult at times and it takes me lifting up prayers almost 24/7 and going back to the Word as much as I need to fight fear and worry, but it is possible to do.  We just have to trust God--we have to move our flesh out of the way and believe what we know is true.  If we believe He is Who He says He is and He does what He says He does, then that's all we need to know.  We don't have to know all the answers because we know in Whom we are trusting--that's faith.  "And without faith, it is impossible to please God"~Hebrews 11:6.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bold Faith

God has clearly convicted me of the lack of evangelism in my life.  I mean, if my life with Jesus is so great, then why am I not sharing Him and His gospel with everyone I can?  And if it's not so great, then why am I just going through the motions of a Christian life?  I could feel the Holy Spirit asking me on one of my runs recently, What does Jesus mean to you?  Is He so important that people need to know about Him?  Is He so important that the girl over there needs to know about Him?  What about strangers that you pass?  Your neighbors, your family, your friends?  Do they need to know about Him?  I answered Him with an emphatic Yes! to which He replied Then why aren't you telling them?  Well, I can tell you hands down that God has given me an earthly life more abundant than I could ever ask for or imagine (John 10:10 & Ephesians 4:20) and I know my life in heaven will be even greater than the one here.  I have never experienced more joy, peace, self-control, discipline, and love than I have when I am walking with God daily.  He is my fulfillment.  He is everything; He is my Purpose, my Shield, my Defender, my Sustainer, my Redeemer.  I would have nothing without Him and I would be nothing without Him.  Nothing could happen in this life to cause me to regret following my Savior.  So, with that said, I now have to confront this issue of not telling people about Christ; otherwise, I am a liar and a hypocrite.  

The Word is clear on the importance of evangelism, and I don't mean yelling at the top of our lungs, beating people over the head with the Bible, scaring them into salvation, and offering them ultimatums. Evangelism covers a wide spectrum and it all begins with love and building relationships.  It ranges from a smile to an encouraging word, to a giving gesture or act of kindness, to sharing your testimony with someone, or sharing Jesus and the gospel without shame.  The opportunity depends on the relationship and what God is asking you to do, but if we pray for opportunities to be Jesus to others and to share His love with others, God will faithfully and gladly open doors.  People need to know that, without Jesus, they are lost in their sin and that a loving Savior came to the world and was beaten, crucified, and rose from the grave so that everyone could be purified, made new and experience a relationship with the One true God and spend eternity worshiping Him in heaven.

Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  Later, in Matthew chapter 13, Jesus encourages us to sow the gospel to everyone we can because so few will believe and follow.  It is up to us to share.  We cannot count on man to "figure it out" on his own because Proverbs 14:12 says that a man's way seems right to him, "but in the end it leads to death."  So, there are a lot of people who need the gospel and Christ followers are the ones who are responsible for sharing it in a dark and desperate world.

The truth is, we don't know when we will see someone for the last time, nor do we know the date and time Jesus will return to earth, so we have no time to waste.  If my God is as great as I say He is, then why am I not sharing?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Divine Talent

On an episode of Jeopardy last week, there was a female contestant who was boasting of a talent she had.  When it was her turn for Alex to introduce her to the audience, the bit of information about herself that she disclosed was the fact that she could write forward and backward at the same time.  She explained that she could write forward with one hand and backward with the other simultaneously.  When she finished sharing with the audience, glaring a boastful smile the entire time, she just stood there with the biggest smile on her face, so proud of herself and soaking in the audience's applause.  A couple of days later on one of my runs, God reminded me of that moment and I thought how can she be proud of something like that?  She didn't earn that talent, nor did she create it; she was born with it.  God gave it to her.  And she was boasting like she had something to do with it.  Not once did she give glory to God for being born that way.

We all have talents and we were hand-crafted by God with specific talents, skills, and abilities, so that we can bring glory to His Name.  Ephesians 2:10 states that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  We are not created to bring ourselves glory.  I, like all of mankind, was born with a selfish streak, although I think  "streak" is an understatement.  God has been working on my pride for a long time; I am just thankful He hasn't given up on me.  Consequently, I have to be careful in my own life about boasting about things I had nothing to do with.  We, as Christians, were given talents, skills, and abilities to bring glory to God.  Are we doing that?  How are you using your gifts to spread the gospel and Jesus's Name?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Favor of God

Since my husband and I decided to step out on faith with our decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom, we have seen God provide in ways we never imagined.  However, with the commitment of following God at all costs comes tests and trials.  When we moved into the house we currently live in, Josh and I both worked in that county.  Now, God has blessed my husband with an awesome job in "the big city".  As we are so thankful for Josh's job (we thank God constantly for it), we don't like that he has an hour commute each way.  His driving alone, as well as any trips we make as a family to church or shopping, takes 2 hours out of our day.  So, we don't get to spend as much time together as a family as we would like.  Josh also doesn't get to spend as much time with our 21-month old daughter as he would like.  Through prayer and faith, we have put our house on the market, which brings me back to the opening of this post.

Putting our house on the market is a step and a test of our faith.  More than anything, we want to sell our house and move closer to everything we do so that we can spend more time together as a family, save on gas money, save wear and tear on our vehicles, and not spend so much time on the road.  But is it what God wants for us?  Does He want our house to sell and us to move?  Although we think it's best based on our limited perspective of what we can see, God has a bigger eternal picture and He wants what's best for us.  We have done several renovations on our 1967 ranch-style house and we have 3 more that are still in progress.  We were going to wait to finish all the projects before we put it on the market, but someone advised us to go ahead and get it out there so people can begin to visit.  

As Nora-Kate and I were driving to the city last week, we were listening to "Focus on the Family" on the radio.  The producers of the movies Courageous and Fireproof, etc. were the guests on the show and the interviewer was asking them questions about why their movies are gaining such success and fame in Hollywood right now.  They were comparing their movies to the "big guys" in Hollywood and wondering why, when their movies don't have big name actors, they are still succeeding.  The producers' answer was that God's favor was on their movies.  It is their goal to produce movies that God would have them produce; they don't want to take over the movies or make them about their own agendas, but they want to portray what God wants them to portray on the big screen.  They want God to get all the glory from the movies they create.  And that's the same with our house.  We want God to get all the glory in everything we do, whether the house sells or whether He chooses to keep us where we are.  It doesn't matter how many renovations we do or how much work we put into the house, ultimately, if God is not in favor of our house selling, it's not going to sell.  

So, as my husband and I wait on God's timing, we will wait patiently and prayerfully and in complete worship and submission to Him and His will.  I have learned to always pray about everything and when I can't see anything changing, to remember 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which reminds me to be thankful in all circumstances because this is God's will for me in Christ Jesus.  He wants me to pray, but He also wants me to be thankful for the location and the situations He has placed me in because He will get the glory.

We love our God!  He is so amazing and we can't wait to see what He will do in our family!