It’s not easy but it’s for His Glory and Our Good.

Bike“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Growing up I loved riding my pink bike with tassels dangling off each side of the handlebar. Back then the banana seat was a perfect fit, though I’m not sure I could sit on it today!

Just downhill from my home neighborhood kids made a bike ramp. I watched as they took turns jumping the ramp with their bikes.  They made it look easy and so much fun. I decided I needed to join them. So I sat on my bike, at the top of the hill, rolling it back and forth trying to muster the courage to go for it. I finally raced down the hill as fast as I could while keeping my eyes squarely on the ramp. I rolled up the ramp and soared in the air! My body hit the ground hard thrusting the air out of my lungs as my bike continued down the hill! I thought that because the other kids made it look easy it would be easy for me also. Not so much!

Sometimes we roll upon scripture thinking it should be an easy application until we fail at it.

For instance, look at our key verse:

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

After my complete failure at the bike ramp, I am certain I did not feel love for my neighbors right then.

Maybe you too have blown applying this command. Before you say no, let’s explore who our neighbor is.

According to “Baker Encyclopedia of the bible” your neighbor is a concept apparently limited in the Old Testament period…and extended by Jesus to include anyone encountered in life.

Anyone encountered in life? Yes! That means the cashier you blamed for breaking your eggs, the coworker that spread a rumor about you, the friend that said something hurtful, your spouse, your parents, and anyone else you encounter.

This command is not easy to apply every day. But neither is being in God’s will in general.  We must strive to have confidence in God when He leads us to such difficult commands.  It’s not easy but it’s for His glory and our good.

The more we approach scripture with heart motives to look more like Christ, the more we are challenged.  Although the bike ramp failure proved to be a challenge, it did not mean I should give up.  It meant that I needed to practice, practice, practice until it became more natural.  The same applies with our key verse. We must practice loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Though we may stumble with such love at times, God is faithful and just to forgive us.

Be encouraged by Proverbs 24:16 The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.

 

 

 

He Tested God and So Did I

GideonHave you ever tested God? I know I have, and so did Gideon. Recently, as I was reading the book of Judges, I came upon the story of Gideon.  Because this was such a familiar story, I thought I would skim over it, but God got my attention.  I began seeing myself in the story.  Maybe you can see yourself, too.  See the full story of Gideon (here).

  • He was insecure. I can be insecure.
  • He questioned God by asking, “Why then has all this happened to us?” I have asked God the same question.
  • He was fearful. I am fearful at times.
  • He was hiding from confrontation. I have been one to avoid confrontation.
  • He had doubt. I have doubts at times.
  • He needed to know that he was truly hearing from God. I need to know it is God leading me, not my flesh or others’ opinions.
  • He was weak and did not see himself as God did. I have so many weaknesses that I struggle seeing what God sees in me.

I have to admit that at first, it discouraged me just how much I related to Gideon. But, what I learned from his story really opened my eyes. What God was after was Gideon’s belief in himself and an undivided faith in God.

The struggle was real for Gideon, as it is for you and me.  We battle so much self-doubt, fear, and insecurity, that it takes a process to get to where God wants us to be.

Look back at Gideon’s story:

While he was hiding from the enemy, God saw him as a “valiant warrior” (Judges 6:12). I tend to believe that living in fear of his enemies for seven years paralyzed him from ever seeing himself as God saw him.

Maybe you have a past that has paralyzed you from believing that you could ever be more than the sum of your past.  Don’t you want to be set free from that? I know I do!

I have tested God over and over, wanting to confirm His calling on my life.  Gideon also tested God to see if He would do what He said He would do.  Check out the “fleece test” in Judges 6:36-40.

With each testing of God, Gideon’s confidence grew in himself and in God.  I find this to be true in my life, as well.  But, at some point, we need to make a decision to be all in, or take a seat.

I am encouraged that when Gideon tested God not once, not twice, but four times, God never got mad.  He did not say, “Never mind, you are hopeless”.  He did not lose patience, nor abandon him. God was aware of how Gideon viewed himself. He knew what it was going to take for Gideon to believe in himself, and believe God.

When I read about Gideon’s final test for God, it hit me! It was time for me to stop testing God, and choose to have an undivided faith, instead.

Gideon’s response to his last test drew the line in the sand.  When he overheard the enemies interpreting a dream about how they would fall at the sword of Gideon, he bowed and worshiped God.  See, Gideon was willing to do anything for God, but because of his fears and insecurities, he deemed himself altogether insufficient.  Therefore, he needed confirmation that God was who He said He was, that He could do what He said He could do, and that he could become more than the sum of his past.

God knows exactly what it will take for each of us to believe in ourselves.  It is a process, just like it was for Gideon.

For me, it takes a secure faith (believing God) in God’s calling on my life to hang in there.  Because, when the storms come, and they will, I need my anchor to hold.  Do not give up on the process you are going through to anchor your faith.  God is not giving up on you! God can pass any of our tests with flying colors! But, the greatest test is really on us… will you believe God today?

Keep pressing forward. God sees you, even if you are hiding, and He is calling you to a greater purpose. So, live it, believe it, and own it.

 

 

She Had Bold Faith

Bold Faith 1She was a desperate parent seeking help for her daughter. She was persistent in crying out to Jesus to have mercy on her and her child. Perhaps, she approached Jesus with panic and anxiety over her situation.  Still, she recognized that Jesus was her only solution.  Her faith was greater than her fear.

The Lord led me to read about this woman in Matthew 15:21-28 (NKJV), at a time when I needed His help. My anxiety was taking a toll on me.  I found myself crying out for help on a consistent basis, for over a month. I felt there was no resolve to the source of my anxiety, and that led to panic, on occasion.  I thought that if I kept crying out to God, He would answer me.  In my mind, I was doing all I could.

Then, God brought me to a woman I could relate to.  She taught me what I was lacking.

  • She was a mother believing Jesus could be her daughter’s Savior, too.
  • She had bold faith believing Jesus would be sufficient to meet her need.
  • She followed Jesus unashamedly.
  • She recognized Jesus was who He said He was.
  • She knew she was not worthy, but recognized Jesus would meet her as she was.
  • She was interceding for her daughter at all cost.
  • This is where God revealed to me what I was lacking: She bowed down to worship Him with a humble heart and said, “Lord, help me!”

In my anxiety and panic, I was pleading to God with my lips.  All the while, God was waiting for my heart to be still, and bow before Him; acknowledging Him as Messiah; recognizing that He alone is the solution to my every concern, problem, and circumstance.

Someone once said, “The measure of your faith is determined by your perspective of who God is.” Sometimes my perspective gets lost, but God is the faithful and just One to forgive me, and sharpen my perspective with a clearer vision of who He is.

The right perspective is acknowledging God with a reverence of His Holiness, and trusting Him with my children’s lives.  No matter what the outcome, God is still good, and He is faithful to help us through any circumstance. So I tell my heart, “Peace, be still.”

I want to be found with the faith Jesus saw in this women. “Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’” (Matthew 15:28 NASB)

Are you crying out to God and feeling like the sound of your voice is not heard? Humble yourself. Seek and worship God with reverence and praise, then say, “Lord, help me!” He will be faithful to meet you where you are, and speak peace over you.

“Lord, help my faith be greater than my fear.”

 

If The Shoe Fits Wear It

QuestionYourselfRomans12-2 smallFor years, I forced my feet to conform to shoes that did not fit properly.  The right shoe was always more snug than the left. But when I tried a larger size, my left foot would come out of the shoe while my right foot fit the shoe perfectly.

So, I just dealt with it and chose the smaller size. This decision grew to be a painful one over time. A painful knot formed on my right foot that only a shot of cortisone could relieve.  Let me tell you that getting a shot in the side of your foot makes you want to slap someone!  It concerned me that I was the cause of this growing problem. I had not realized it was taking place until it was too late.

This experience left me asking myself, “What else have I conformed to that was not a fit for me? And, if it was not a fit, why did I force it?”  Here are a few things that came to mind:

  • An unhealthy friendship—because I could see so much potential in this person.
  • Meeting expectations others had on me—because I did not want to let anyone down.
  • A spiritual gift that I did not have—because my real one felt insignificant.
  • Saying yes to one more thing on my schedule way too often—because saying no was hard.
  • Filling a void with a purpose I created—because I got impatient waiting on God to show me my purpose.

I had to ask myself this question:   “What grew from trying to conform to what was not a fit for me?”  Well, the answer to this question “stinks” worse than my feet:  🙂

  • Bitterness
  • Resentment
  • Loss of identity
  • Fatigue
  • Stress

Can you relate to any of this, or am I all by myself?

When we force ourselves to fit a mold that was not designed for us, we stunt our growth and suffer.

When we accept Gods unique design for us, we cultivate a willingness to forgive, appreciate others, accept our true identity, and no longer conformed, but transformed for the glory of God.

I am reminded of Romans 12:2 (NASB), “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Read that last part again and let it sink in: “The will of God is good, acceptable and perfect.”

The experience of David comes to mind in 1 Samuel 17. David was preparing to go toe to toe with Goliath and King Saul tried making him wear military armor.  David could not even walk in it.  Instead of conforming to what was expected for one to wear going into battle he chose to walk onto the battle   field wearing his spiritual armor.  The armor designed just for him.  And, by the way, David killed Goliath with the very skill and gifts God gave him.

This makes me want to shout: “If the shoe fits wear it!”

I encourage you to ask yourself the same questions I asked myself.  Be honest.  Then, choose to release what is not a fit for you, and let God heal the pain that has grown from it.  God’s ways are perfect, so seek Him first in all your ways.  You can trust Him.

Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose…”

 

 

It’s Alive People!

Bible aliveReading the Bible used to be laboring for me; now, I crave spending time in it. The difference is that I used to read it to see what I could get out of it. It was a perspective of, “What’s in it for me.” Now I read it with a new perspective of “what is God saying and what are His motives,” so that I can know the heart of God better.
The times when God speaks to me most impact-fully are the times when I open His Word looking for Him, not simply looking for an answer to a single question. For instance, trying to find a “fix” for your husband’s “issues” often results in frustration, but if you seek God, He often reveals that you need to practice forgiveness (Colossians 3:13) toward your husband. Or, if you are seeking a Word for “patience” toward that “special someone” who drives you crazy…you may not find the answer. However, when you seek God, He may reveal a lack of genuine love in your heart toward your “neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18).
God is always aware of my needs and He is faithful to speak truth. He knows my heart. What He wants most from me is for my eyes to be fixed on Him (Proverbs 4:25). God has my full attention when I focus on Him rather than on my perceived need. At this point, I realize just how alive His Word truly is.
For the Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.
My life is a testament to how ALIVE and ACTIVE that God’s Word is. God uses His word to shape and mold me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Sometimes God uses His Word to break me of impure thoughts, attitude, and wrong heart motives. He is faithful to do this, so when I am on my knees and answers are not coming… I know to adjust my prayers to fix my eyes and heart on Him. He is faithful to be God. He is my God– the God who purifies me so that I can have fellowship with Him. He is Holy. He is Righteous. He is Sovereign. He is Lord of lords. He is God of gods. He is my Redeemer and worthy of all of my praise.
I know that pursuing after God’s heart can feel overwhelming and intimidating at times. We can trust Him and need not be intimidated! God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). You too can have confidence in approaching God because He loves you and He is your Creator; But, coming to truly KNOW God requires that you apply yourself. Start with a simple prayer asking Him to meet with you as you read His Word. Let Him know you want to know Him more. If you need a starting place start in the Gospel of John.
If you have yet to experience the truth of Hebrews 4:12, I “double dog dare you” to pursue the heart of God through reading the Bible. Realize that we become more satisfied in Christ the more we get to know Him. I promise: it will be life changing in the best way.
Prayer: Lord, those who love Your Word have great peace…so stir my heart to love Your Word. Let it be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. As I pursue getting to know Your heart establish my footsteps in Your Word and do not allow iniquity to gain dominion over me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

3 Venues God Uses To Strengthen My Marriage

Church PictureAs the wife of a Pastor I have many opportunities to minister alongside my husband, such as: funerals, weddings, and biblical counseling. God uses these three venues to strengthen my marriage.  It is strengthened when I am reminded of the “value of today,” recalling my vows to my husband, and renewing my commitment to simply not quit.

  • I grieve with those at funerals that are saying good-bye to loved ones. I cannot help but remember those that I also have said good-bye to. But in this difficult time, God is faithful to be the light so that I can see His goodness. He is faithful to see us through the days ahead. I am reminded that I’m not promised tomorrow; therefore, today should be valued as treasure.  Today is a gift and every day I have with my husband evokes thanksgiving. Today is a gift that I do not want to overlook complacently, or take for granted. So, as I listen and watch him officiate at (too many) funerals, my appreciation and love for him grows ever deeper. My marriage is strengthened.

Maybe if we took “not being promised tomorrow” as the REALITY THAT IT IS, we would reconsider how we choose to live today.  Today is the day the Lord has made so let us rejoice and be glad in it and embrace the gift that it is. Time.  Time with our loved ones.

  • When it comes to weddings, it is fun encouraging brides “to be.” I love watching them standing at the altar dressed like a “princess” as they gaze into the eyes of their “love.” Weddings tend to make me smile while simultaneously shaking my head as I recall two teenagers (my love and I) saying “I do” over 27 years ago. I am reminded of what we have been through and the difference it makes when we fight “clean” verses “ugly.” (You know, having a mature conversation verses acting like we are in middle school.) I am reminded that when we love Christ more than each other, it keeps us on the path together.  My vows were to love him in sickness and in health until death do us part. (I admit sometimes we have almost been the death of each otherJ.) As I listen to my husband share a word with the couples he marries, leading them in their vows, and pronouncing them husband and wife, I find my heart saying “I do” all over again. Every time! My marriage is strengthened.

Maybe you need to reflect on what God has brought you through and the day you said “I do.” Let it encourage you to persevere and reject giving up. Maybe you need to date again… reigniting that “old flame” for one another that has grown dim.

  • My husband and I also offer biblical counseling from time to time. Often we find that couples think they are the only ones going through their particular situation. The truth is “there is nothing new under the sun.” The enemy uses the same tactics in every relationship. Walking through difficult times with other couples prompts me to reassess my relationship with my spouse. Am I respecting him? Do I choose to be forgiving rather than condemning? Am I choosing to talk rather than withdrawing? Am I loving him as I love Christ? If the answer is no then it is time to strengthen my marriage. If I do not, I can be certain that the enemy is trying to tear it apart.

Maybe you are in a dark season in your marriage relationship and need to be refreshed. Know that you are not alone and that God is “for” your success. Maybe you need to assess where you are so you can strengthen what is being torn apart.

Always be encouraged. Not just in good times but in hard times as well. In this New Year commit to find the value in each day, hold firm to your vows and commit to never quit.  I know it is “easier said than done,” but God will be faithful to see you through.

 

 

5 Words That Impacted My Year

Words on Fingers

Earlier this year I considered what word from Scripture I could adapt and implement in my life that would impact the way I live for God? The Lord led me to this passage.

“Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;” (Psalm 37:4-7 NIV)

The words “delight-commit-trust-be still” reached from the pages and gripped my heart. They became resources for me through this year’s ups and downs.

I have written separate articles on “delight” (here) and “commit” (here).

Often, I found myself in situations that brought on stress, fear, and uncertainty. Sometimes applying the words “trust” and “be still” simply meant repeating them until I settled down.

Trusting in the Lord and being still before Him has been the greater challenges this year.  I needed to have confidence in God to handle the uncertainties. This is a challenge for me because I am a doer and to put my hands up in the air and say “You take over God” can feel frightening. (Random thought: that made me think of the song “Jesus Take the Wheel.”) So the challenge was, and is, to build that confidence so I experience peace instead of fear.

For example, my youngest child received his driver’s license this year. (Insert lump in throat here!) I ran hundreds of scenarios through my mind and with each one he needed me.  Obviously I cannot always be with him, but I know someone who can and is: God! I had to decide to trust God to see my son through any situation. I did not know how God would care for my son but I was reminded that faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Have I mastered this kind of trust? No, but I get better with each trip he takes…

I choose to trust God every time my son gets in the car. When I do I am at peace; however, being still before the Lord and waiting on Him PATIENTLY can be a “nail biter.”  So, I’ve learned that taking a deep breath and remembering God’s faithfulness leads to growing longer nails. J

Have these five words the way I live for God? Yes! They have impacted my mindset, attitude, and outlook. They have affected my interaction with others, my faith, and my well-being. (Plus…my husband thinks I am nicer 🙂 ).

Are you up for a challenge in 2016? Search Scripture for a word or verse for YOU! Pray for God to reveal it to you.  God will give you what you need for next year.  It will be a fruitful lasting word that will impact your life.

Prayer: Lord, show me where in the Bible to look for the word or verse You would have me apply to my life throughout 2016.  I pray that You will etch it on my heart and let it be a change-agent in my life for Your glory. In Jesus Name. Amen.