Archive | August 2013

Stick With It

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Have you ever felt that life just gets in the way of you finishing what you started? Four weeks ago I began an online Bible study, and it has been nothing but a blessing to me. However, life is getting in the way. I work full time. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. On top of that, I attend college online part time. Add to the mix that my husband has felt called to start a home business that will free up more time (eventually) for the ministry to which we’ve been called. Oh yes, we’re also working on the ministry and church plant to which we’ve been called! Life … is … busy.

It sounds like a reasonable excuse, doesn’t it? But I have to confess something that might strike a chord with anyone out there whose life is “too busy.” Life is ALWAYS going to be busy. When we use that as an excuse not to finish a task … a job … a relationship … a Bible study … we’re doing ourselves and God a great disservice. I’ve become rather good at quitting things over the years. Too good. Every time, I had a valid what? Excuse. Oh, well, I was too busy with the kids when they were younger. Gee, work got busier than I expected. I have too much homework. The list goes on and on.

Now I am not saying there aren’t extenuating circumstances that really do occur, causing us to fall short of a goal. However, it is time that I take a good look at where God has called me, what He has called me to do, and to make up my mind through Him to stick with it.

Going back to my online Bible study, God has worked in my heart and life through His word, the book “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God,” and the fellowship of new online friends. I’ve become much more open to radical obedience to my Savior. How much would I miss out on if I were to let life get in the way – as it always seems to do – and quit now? That’s what Satan wants. That is not God’s desire.

Our faithfulness pleases our Father. When all is said and done, I want to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

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Say WHAT???

ImageOnce upon a time, a handsome prince went out on a date (put-put golfing) with a beautiful princess.  They met through the Kingdom of Christian Mingle, and this was their first time seeing one another in person.  They laughed, had fun, went to dinner, and talked for hours.  In fact, the beautiful princess was so taken by the prince that she laid it all out on the table.  She told him of her devotion to the One True King, and alas, he was also a follower of the Prince of Peace! They spoke of priorities and morals, and they determined that should this blossom into much more than one date, they would take their time before joining their separate castles into one.

Two weeks later, they were engaged.  Six weeks later, they were married.  Now how did THAT happen?!

Believe it or not, this is one time in my life where radical obedience to God came into play.  It was a time when I had to step out of my own way, give God my complete trust, and do what He was calling me to do – even though it seemed absolutely crazy.

My (now) husband earnestly and persistently pursued my heart.  We had each been hurt in the past by ex-spouses and the mistakes of lives lived apart from Jesus.  In fact, one of the first things I told him was that I had built up a pretty high wall around my heart after having it broken.  He smiled and let me know that it was his goal to tear that wall down, brick by brick. 

That’s all romantic and junk, but I needed more than wonderful words and attention.  I needed to know what GOD was saying in the midst of this new found love!  Was it love?  I had been so deceived in the past by the father of lies, mistaking lust for love until it was too late.  This was a relationship where from the start, God was the center.  I knew my heart was opening; I could feel a different kind of love blossoming.  Yet I wanted to know, without a doubt, that this was God’s will. 

In my room one night, I prayed.  And then I prayed some more.  I’m not one for “putting out the fleece” to test God, but I asked Him to please show me something specific in His Word to let me know where to go in this relationship.  I opened up to Hosea 2:16. (We’ll forget for a minute that this is a story about Hosea and his harlot wife, and how that relationship reflected God’s dealings with Israel at the time!)  The verse reads “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’” (vs 2:16a, NIV).  My jaw dropped.  I nervously laughed and asked God for further clarification.  I opened to another passage, this time in First Samuel.  “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (vs 1:20, NIV).  My husband has a son named Samuel.  Tears flowed from my eyes, even as I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Really?!”  (Or in other words … SAY WHAT?)  

I allowed God to lead my heart, and He was so, so right.  Often times we are impatient with God’s timing; I was concerned at how quickly my heart and life were changing.  When my husband asked me to marry him just two weeks and one day after we met, I said, “Yes.”  (Surprisingly enough, I had very few friends who questioned the timing!)  Less than one month later, we said, “I do.”  Although I trusted God to lead our marriage, I still wondered why … why so soon?  I had no doubt this was God’s will, no matter how insane it seemed to my practical, sensible side.  I simply wondered.

Within the next year, our family went through much heartache.  Doctors questioned my granddaughter’s lack of weight gain and threw the word “leukemia” out there, scaring us terribly.  (She is now two years old and does not have cancer!)  My new born grandson wound up in the hospital, getting sicker for reasons the doctors could not explain, going through blood transfusions and looking nothing like his sweet beautiful self because he was so puffed up with fluid.  (He will celebrate his first birthday on Monday and is quite healthy!)  My husband’s grandmother, who raised him and was closer to him than any mother, passed away – nearly devastating my husband. More than one person, including my husband, told me that had I not been in his life, they don’t know if he would have survived her loss.  Praise God we had each other through those dark moments.

Yet there was an even bigger reason I believe God called us together in such a whirlwind romance.  Two months after we wed, we were doing a couple’s Bible study.  As we sat sharing, I told him that “no offense,” but I had envisioned marrying a leader in the church.  You know, a preacher or maybe a Sunday school teacher.  He stared at me, his eyes welling up with tears.  I thought I had hurt his feelings!  Then he spoke the words that have seriously changed our lives: “God just called me to preach.”  Just like that.  He knew without a doubt it was God’s voice.  Since that evening, God has shown us repeatedly that the ministries of preaching and (for me) counseling are in our future (and my husband does indeed now teach Sunday school). 

Could God have used other ways to comfort and speak to us had we not met or married as quickly as we did?  Of course!  He is God!  But how incredibly precious it is for me to know that the God of the universe used us to express His love, His comfort, and His direction to each other.  Praise Jesus that we both said YES to GOD!

With All My Heart

Deuteronomy 6:5   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

What does this mean, to love with all my heart?  Image

All … everything, completely, fully, 100%.  No holding back.  No putting God 2nd.  Entirely His.  Am I giving my Lord ALL my heart?  I think about my days.  I try to start with prayer, depending on how many times I hit the snooze button on my alarm.  I try to read a quick devotional, even if it’s on my phone via email.  I pray before meals.  I listen to Christian radio to and from work – sometimes even at work.  I really do … try. 

Or do I?  If I am to love God with ALL my heart, my priorities need a little rearranging.  Okay, no, they need a lot of rearranging.  During those moments when I seek out God before anything and everything, I feel His presence.  He meets me there.  He is always with me, but there is something precious and beautiful about putting Him first in my day.  It’s that first step in putting Him first in my life. 

It’s time to stop putting God in the backseat of my heart. He deserves my all. He gave His everything for me … my little life in return really isn’t too much to ask. 

If We Are One Body, What Part Am I?

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12, NASB).

About 18 months ago, my husband felt God’s call to preach. I was thrilled.  After all, that was what I had desired; I wanted to be the wife of a man after God’s own heart, a man devoted to the ministry, a man who served the Lord.  What I didn’t expect was the fear and questioning that would shortly thereafter grab hold of my heart.

Since that day, I have watched my husband grow in his walk with Jesus.  God lit a fire inside of his heart that burns for knowledge of His Word and sharing it with others.  I’ve found myself almost envious at times of how easily he shares the Gospel with others.  Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that God has called him to preach His message.

So we started college together; he is majoring in religion and I am majoring in psychology with a cognate in Christian counseling.  We prayed and felt God leading us to minister together.  Although it is challenging to go to school (even online), find time for each other and family, balance church in the mix and work full time, we’ve made it happen.

Then my husband felt God leading him to start a church plant, beginning with a weekly Bible study in our home.  Whoa, whoa, wait – so now people will come into our house?  Our house is small.  Quite small.  We have busy schedules, so although our home is tidy, cleaning is not always at the top of the priority list in the midst of everything else.  It’s clean … it’s not “company clean.”  Great, so now I have to fit that into my schedule. And what do you mean start a church plant?  Start a church? Now?  You’re not even ordained yet!  Nevertheless, we began our weekly study. To be honest, we were the only ones to show.  I did my best to encourage him, letting him know that the ones who were meant to be there, were there.  We studied Elijah together and it was a wonderful blessing.  Secretly, I was glad it was just the two of us.

After some rearranging of bedrooms, he got the idea to make our addition the sanctuary.  Okay, that’s better; it has its own bathroom and entrance, so sure, why not?  Yet I don’t think I was entirely convinced that this church plant would happen very quickly, so I didn’t share his urgency in getting the room clean and ready. In fact, I didn’t do much of anything to help at all.  My prayers did not include one about this church growing, or even forming for that matter.  What happened?

I lost sight of God’s vision.  Instead of trusting Him for everything involved in this ministry, I began to worry.  I worried about my husband and his abilities.  I worried about a church board that did not yet exist.  I worried about finances if the ministry become full-time.  I worried about that (imaginary) lady in the back who complained about what I wore that day.  I worried … about me.

One of the first questions my husband asked after feeling God’s call was “Why me?”  This was quickly followed with “doesn’t God know my past??”  Our pastor’s words to him reflected what I knew to be true: God can use your past to minister to others.  That is true for each and every one of us.  Read the Bible and it is evident that God uses some pretty messed up people all for HIS glory!  Since the day he felt the call, I have encouraged him repeatedly that God would use him, not only in spite of his past, but because of it.

Evidently my philosophy along the way became do as I say, not as I believe about myself.  God, don’t You know what I’ve done?  How far from you I strayed?  Yes, yes, your grace is sufficient to cover my sins, and yes, I want to serve you now, but hello?  A pastor’s wife?  I’m just not up for that challenge.  Life in the fishbowl.  Under a microscope. Come on, really?

Something happens when we’re honest with God; He is honest right back.  He touched my heart with four little words: this isn’t about you.  This is about Him. This is about a ministry to spread His Word, not my words, and not my husband’s words.  If this calling was ever, EVER going to take root and grow, I had to get on board.  The body of Christ is only effective if every member does its part, and lately, I have been the heel.

I began to pray for God to forgive my disobedient spirit and to bless His ministry through us.  Something happened.  Something small, yet significant.  We got a call from my daughter saying she was coming to our church.  This may not seem like a big deal, but this set ministry in motion.  We studied God’s Word together, and then we discussed the future of Grace Church.  God moved in our hearts; things are going to happen.  We know some things will take time – everything in HIS time. However, rather than sitting around doing as little as possible, we’re moving forward.  The body of Christ that my husband and I represent is finally working as a whole … because the stubborn little heel finally embraced God’s plan.