Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day Fifteen: Righteous Renegades

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 11:19-36
            The Church in Antioch
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Stop and Consider: Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
Questions Asked of Me: What experiences have you had with people who take bold risks to share the faith of the gospel? Do they make you feel guilty? Annoyed? Suspicious? Challenged?
I hear great things that great people are doing in not so great areas; just to get Jesus’ name out there. I even hear great things about everyday people doing amazing things in not so great areas; and yet it wasn’t me. I feel challenged but am I challenged enough to do something about it? Every time I don’t think it possible to do something; that dang Jesus shows up and points out exactly how I can do something. I love writing this blog but sometimes I feel it is me being transparent but in a safe place. I know the people looking at this blog are Christians or open to the idea of Christianity but am I sharing my faith of the gospel with others I am not so sure about?
I have. I think I did that this time last year but it isn’t something you put on a “To Do” list and once it is done you don’t have to worry about approaching it again and I know that… but what am I doing about it.
I have a secret to reveal in my “Detour” section that follows. Soooo excited. A bit “renegade” ….but excited.
What kind of difference would you love to see your church make in your community? How could you be part of God’s plan in following through on this desire?
I wish I could answer this question but being SUPER new to the community of “Nineveh” and even newer to my church, I wouldn’t have a clue what to hope or pray for. BUT…. I have committed to Jesus to be part of his plan by simply getting “plugged in” as quickly as we have, but I can’t take credit for any of it.
A phone call to an area church before moving here just because I can see it from our apartments was purely logistical. A visit to a larger church like what we were used to was by design and comfort level and just enough for my husband Robbe in the six months before I followed him here; Jesus’ involvement behind the scenes for each scenario of course.
But, getting plugged in was a necessity and one I ‘think” I would have followed up on for sure. Just as I said I was going to call the church office I phoned before moving here… but I didn’t get around to it. Jesus decided not to leave it to chance and must have gotten tired of waiting because she “just happened” to call me this afternoon; following up. Of course she was.
Needless to say, I don’t know the needs of the community and I don’t know what our new church is or is not doing….yet. But I DO know that we are now connected with the right people at the right church and are committed to doing what we need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. AND, if that benefits others in the community…. Even better.
Those who took God’s Word to the streets remind us that adversity gives our faith a place to shine. What can you do to keep your faith sharp in advance of its greatest challenges? How can you ensure that struggles will not lead you to doubt but to daring deeds?
It is my opinion  that the best thing we can do to keep our faith sharp is to stay connected with those that are looking to do the same thing. “Although one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
Just as I went down a bad path by following the wrong people, it is nearly guaranteed to be a good path when following the right people; or perhaps even leading…depending on the situation and the plan that Jesus has laid out before us. Another way to deter struggles leading to doubt instead of daring deeds is to be transparent in what we are going through with friends Jesus has put in our path. If we are encouraged and also do the encouraging; we can be stronger together for His purpose instead of isolation and doubt. I am excited at the opportunity and to prove this theory with the new people Jesus continues to put in my path daily….even in Nineveh.  =)
Detour: When asked before about people taking bold risks, sharing the faith of the gospel I answered that I felt challenged, and I do… but I also don’t feel prepared to meet the challenge; or so I thought. I was asked to write an inspirational, business driven blog about Avon; being a new Representative. I wrote the blog and will continue to do so but it has taken a direction all its own.
For me, being an Avon representative is more than playing dress up and that is the gist of my blog in its entirety. I am going to be blogging beauty tips, product information, business hints, and inspiration; inside and out. As I wrote the first blog something began to happen…. Jesus showed up and reminded me that this was yet another opportunity that He had put in my path; an opportunity to make new friends in my area, offer them great skin care and makeup products, and share the opportunity of becoming a representative and begin their own home business. BUT what I didn’t realize was that this new blog was also going to be an opportunity to share the faith of the gospel to those that may not already have a relationship with Him. What??
No one was more surprised than me but when I wrote my second blog today it hit me. The one book that I turn to for advice, proof, and confirmation for my Avon business AND in real life is the bible. I was assigned to read a book on inspiration and business and share what I learned with other Avon representatives for them to improve their “business” as well.
This is more than improving businesses but a way that Jesus has given to me to be bold and take a risk. I have been given this challenge that I didn’t think I was ready for but Jesus seems to think that Nineveh and Avon are the best ways for me to practice living boldly for Him so I am doing just that.
Who knows? Maybe this blog that is written for Avon can reach someone that is looking for success. Someone that is struggling with more than selling makeup and skin care but looking for answers in all the books except for the one I use daily. If just one person reads and gets something more than beauty tips from this other blog ( ), I am certain that Jesus won’t quit challenging me with other opportunities to take risks for Him.
Praying God’s Word Today: We are aware, Lord, that during times of hardship and cultural deception, the people who know their God will be strong and take action. Those who are wise among the people will give understanding to many (Daniel 11:32-33). May we not be those who are lulled to sleep by the times or driven to despair. May we instead be like warriors in battle trampling down the mud of the streets, fighting because You, Lord, are with us (Zechariah 10:5).

Dear Jesus:
I know that there are many people going through many things. I know that you want those that have a relationship with You and have put our faith in You to show them a way out by living as a Christian. Thank you for the challenges and opportunities that you have given to me lately.  I am scared of the unknown but know that You would not put me in a position that You are not already there.
The things that I have gone through in the past are not a shame to You but proof of what You can do with ANYONE. Please continue to give me the strength You give and remind me that no matter what we have gone through, those that call ourselves Christians were not given the gift of Your love and salvation to keep to ourselves but to share with those that are unaware of what is out there.
I am ready to take some risks and live boldy for You; more boldly than I think I have been by just “preaching to the choir”. Thank You for trusting me with those that are still lost as I was and for allowing me the chance to make a difference for You.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day Fourteen: Season of Suffering

Before You Begin:  Read 2Corinthians 11:22-33
Paul Boasts about His Sufferings
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
Stop and Consider:  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.
Questions Asked of Me: Have you been through seasons when it felt like the floodgates were open, when trouble was coming from all directions? What do you think God expects of us in times like these?
I think everyone has but, speaking personally… OH, have I ever. Not everyone has the literal “Coming to Jesus” moment that leads to complete surrender but that is exactly where I was; and it was the floodgates wide open and broken off that humbled me and brought me to my knees. And I think that is what God expects.
Don’t get me wrong; accepting Jesus does not mean that those floodgates don’t ever reappear but it DOES mean that WHEN they do…I am not alone. It DOES mean that He will give me the tools and resources and people….to get through it; to get through ANYTHING. One of these days, via this blog, I will share my story completely…in living color and HD as to the extent of those floodgates and just how amazing a relationship with Jesus is at times like that….no matter how long those times last; minutes, days, weeks, months, or years.
Having been there, what are the best ways to help others who are going through their own odysseys of suffering? Think of someone who could use your encouragement today.
Leading by example. Jesus did it for Paul, Paul did it for me, perhaps I can do it for someone else. It is always easier to jump after seeing someone else jump. Since finding Jesus, I have realized that part of my purpose is to be transparent and to help others see the intimate relationship that is possible with Jesus and what can be attained through that relationship. It is hard to open up, especially when you aren’t sure how that honesty will be received. BUT the best way to help others who are going through their own sufferings is to share the sufferings, and their results, that you have also been put through but use the outcome for His glory.
Praying God’s Word Today: I rejoice today that You are protecting us by Your power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time, though now for a short time we have had to be distressed by various trials. May the genuineness of our faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Peter 1:5-7)

Dear Jesus:
No one knows more than You just how much I rejoice and what I have had to rejoice over. The power of Your salvation has been life-changing for me; and I don’t say that lightly. I love how Beth Moore clarifies our time on earth is “a short time we have had to be distressed by various trials”….making our issues seem so miniscule and small. They are …even if they don’t feel so miniscule as we go through them. I personally know that I have You to thank for that.
You know my trials. You were there when those floodgates opened, and opened wide. But You knew the results and were worried about none of it. As much as I would like to know the ending of all my trials AND triumphs, I guess it is good enough to know You know the ending and it all works out for a reason.
No matter the season; fair weather or dark….You have it all under control and I WILL have genuine faith in You; for myself and as an example to others that are weathering their own season.



Monday, August 29, 2011

Day Thirteen: Pride and Prejudice

Before You Begin:  Acts 10:9-28
Peter’s Vision
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Peter at Cornelius’s House
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
Stop and Consider: You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit with a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
Questions Asked of Me: Has God opened your mind about some form of prejudice in your life? How has he led you to correct these tendencies? What might happen if you followed through on them?
I used to judge everyone; prejudice aside. I would judge based on handbags or shoes, to paychecks and addresses; no one was safe. I don’t know who I thought I was but Jesus was quick to show me who I wasn’t. I would talk about anyone to make myself look better or feel better about myself. He has humbled me in a way I didn’t think I deserved….in the beginning.
We kept a house for months longer than we should have. He kept showing us in different ways we couldn’t afford it and move on but for whatever reason, we kept shelling out money we didn’t have just to pay the bills, no frills to speak of. When push came to shove, we finally realized that it was more house than we could handle but was it too late? We began selling “stuff” and “toys” we didn’t need; a car that was merely a status symbol for me but sitting in a garage, undriven, Two motorcycles for Robbe; undriven…much and just lending itself to a lifestyle we could no longer afford. Just to name some biggies.
We downsized in the heart of winter to a house half the size; the judging and prejudice of others a thing of the past, but the reality of the humbling affect from Jesus ever present. I felt punished in the beginning but kept telling myself that is what He needed from us.
There was no question “What MIGHT have happened if I followed through on them?” I did follow through on these prejudices I had (all in the PJ era …. Pre-Jesus) but they happened.
I hurt feelings and what I thought would make me feel better about myself in being prejudiced towards people that made less money or wore different brands of shoes…. Actually didn’t. But instead of making that realization, I continued to hang out with those that acted like me, dressed like me, drank like me….and we all know how that turned out.
Just another set of scenarios that makes me wish I had found Jesus sooner. But even THOSE moments will be used for His glory one day. Not my finest moments for sure but if anyone can find a way to use them for something positive…. I am certain Jesus can.
If you knew that prejudice was one of the things blocking your free flow of communication with God and His Word, how much importance would you place on removing it?
I didn’t place any importance on it from the beginning…. I ran from it. I no longer was prejudice against others but I was soooo worried about being the one prejudiced against, I tended to shy away from situations where I felt that was an opportunity….even a bible study or two.
I was worried that walking into a bible study, these Christian women would be able to tell I wasn’t one of them. I was worried that it would be painfully obvious, even though I had a bible in hand, that I didn’t know many of the stories in them; stories that they so readily talked about and nodded to in agreement.
I place the utmost importance on removing prejudice now and even try to do what I can to make others feel at ease when I think they look like I did just two years ago. I know that I was afraid to read my bible and pray to Jesus, feeling less than those He directed me to. I know that even just the feeling or fear of being prejudiced against was enough for me to feel unworthy in seeking knowledge from His Word or communicating directly with Him.
Because I know how that feels; I would never want another to experience that.
Detour: From Beth in her extended reading today: “God had issued Saul an undeniable apostolic calling. He probably assumed his place was with the other apostles. But when he arrived in Jerusalem and tried to associate with them, “they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). As despicable as he had been, our hearts sting for him a little, don’t they? Perhaps each of us can relate to the unique stab of loneliness.””
I was lonely. In a room full of people that I thought I was “friends” with or thought I was better than…. I was lonely. I had alienated so many people by my prejudices and simply “pre-judging” that many times I had just myself to contend with. I didn’t fit in anywhere and unlike Paul; I didn’t have the backing of Jesus or Barnabus.
I joke all the time about using my powers for good and not evil now but this is just how I see it. I used to be the center of attention for one reason or another; life of the party, drinking the most, dressing the most outrageous, or just having fun and making others wish they were part of the party I was running.
Jesus let me know quickly that I can use that personality for His glory by doing the things He wants others to follow; going to church, being a part of fellowship with bible study or small groups, getting people excited about worship or women’s conference opportunities or just being the first one to be transparent and let others see…they are not alone.
THAT is the best part about being saved by Him…. I didn’t have to change who I was but I had to change the playground and those in it that were not following Him, and I had to change the things I was doing to excess that weren’t in His name. I still got to be the goofball that said and did what was on her heart…but He changed my heart. I still was the one that gets to have fun but it is always in a playground where He picks the playmates.
And you know what?  He has YET to say “I told you so.”
Praying God’s Word Today: Father, I take Your clear Word as a warning when You say, “If you really carry out the royal law prescribed in Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself; you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:8-9). I confess my sin of letting tastes and preferences legislate my behavior toward other people equally created in Your image. May I not just realize my fault; may I act on change in attitude.

Dear Jesus:
Thank you for showing me that I have no business being prejudiced of others. I am no better than any of those around me; either then, or now…having a relationship with You. I know what it is like to even feel as if I may be prejudiced against and I am grateful that You showed me quickly that I had nothing to worry about; almost as quickly as the way you humble me at a moment’s notice. There is no better time than time spent with You and I will continue to thank You for Your Word and the parables You share to make things so apparent to us. I am forever grateful for Your love for Paul when no others would trust Him….You did that for me. I am so blessed to have found those letters that Paul wrote throughout the New Testament and I know that You were the reason for me even stumbling across them.
Please help me to continue to not show prejudice to others; not only in my words and actions, but my thoughts. Please continue to show me that we are no better than those we see. Allow me to recognize prejudice in myself and in others and keep me from being too prideful to do anything about it.



P.S. I know that I can be a handful at times. And I know that You probably get requests like mine every day. But, I want You to know that I DO appreciate all that you have done for me and continue to do for me every day. I am grateful that You do not turn Your back on me even when I get quiet in Your Word or devotion. The people that You have brought into my life this weekend are proof that You have no prejudice against me or my actions of this past month as I literally dragged my feet to Nineveh. Help me to have a heart more like Yours and those you put in my path.
Oh… and thanks for not saying “I told you so”. You were right again when You asked us to continue looking and getting out of our comfort zone of churches. Saving our seats in Row 5, right in the center, was just icing on the cake.
And you know how I love icing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day Twelve: The Encourager

Before You Begin:  Acts 9:26-31

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabus took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Stop and Consider: But Barnabus took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
Questions Asked of Me: Who are some of the people that have been particularly encouraging to you at times when you were down, lonely, or just plain out of sorts? How did their encouragement help you?
Without question it would be my mom, DeAnne, and Lynnette. These women have been there through it all. Okay; maybe DeAnne first, then getting the courage to let mom in on all that I was going through, and then Lynnette.
DeAnne was the probation officer early on that knew what I needed and the only thing to get me through it; in Jesus, but she couldn’t say a word until I was ready. Even when she wasn’t able to talk about Him, she was there encouraging me and showing me what was possible if I was open to change and humbling myself. I soon realized it was harder than I thought.
DeAnne actually encouraged me to reach out to my mother and begin communication with her again. I am certain now, looking back, that she knew of my mom’s relationship with Jesus and she could pick up where she was unable to, in directing me to the one person that I could put all of my trust and hopes in….Him. DeAnne and my mom actually began talking with each other this time last year too despite living 2500 miles apart.
My mom was the one who encouraged me…along with my dad, to seek Him. If I really wanted to change my life and truly get on the right path, I couldn’t do it alone. I told her I wasn’t on my own, I now had her and my dad to help me in making better decisions. I had my husband Robbe and I had better friends that wanted to see better things from me. She said it wasn’t enough. None of the things I mentioned would be enough…. without Him.
She was there for me in the hardest times I ever had to go through and even though she has never told me, I am sure that she had to stick up for me just like Barnabus had to stick up for Paul.
Then there is Lynnette. My Barnabus for sure; perhaps even in her own household, although she would never tell me. She was the most surprising of friendships found in my first bible study at my new church. Without question or hesitation she looked beyond my past and embraced me as a friend she knew that Jesus called me to be; even if I didn’t have a clue and her husband was probably a bit “iffy” about too.
She helped me to find inner strength I didn’t know I had. She encouraged me most last summer when she knew I would be speaking to people that most would shy away from. She knew I was going to be ministering to women that didn’t seek Jesus and probably even blamed Him for the situations they now found themselves in. I was scared and I was feeling less than worthy to do what I knew Jesus was calling me to do. Her response…. “You may be the only Jesus they see. You can do it….even if you don’t think you can.” Those words have stuck with me ever since in many different scenarios. When I don’t think I can make a difference in being a messenger for Him, she reminds me that I can because He tells me so.
How could you be an encouragement to some of the believers you know, those who are feeling weary or misunderstood?
I hope that I can do that by writing this blog. Even though sometimes, I wonder if anyone reads it. I want to be a Cheerleader for Jesus by writing for Him, sewing for Him, speaking for Him, and learning and sharing for Him. I want to tell those that are feeling weary and misunderstood that I’ve been there. He found me at my worst and turned my life around. Even when He asked more of me than I thought I could muster; I was obedient and followed Him, hoping to figure it out sooner rather than later. It is not only possible with Jesus but guaranteed. Being transparent for His glory was not something I thought I could do and when it was put in front of me…. I did it; surprising us both.
I don’t want others to feel they can’t write or speak in front of hundreds so giving Him the trust and glory is not for them. I want them to be encouraged that because He gives me strength and courage, through my bad days and good….they too, can benefit from what Jesus does in, through, and for me.
Detour: We visited a new church today. We are happy with the church that my husband has been attending for the last six months and I have been to twice in two weeks but there was something missing; the “getting connected” opportunities. The church we attended today just happens to be down the road and has small groups as well as a variety of bible studies to choose from. I was happy to learn that one of the studies is one I missed at my church last summer when I was in California; so I signed up for that straight away.
I definitely could have used some encouragement on the way home today as we now have a clear dilemma. Where are Lynnette, DeAnne, and mommy now?
We walked into the church this morning and were welcomed by Women’s Ministries and then Small Groups. We were immediately introduced around to pastors, ushers, and bible study leaders. They were so darn friendly. The service was smaller than we are used to but the message was right where we were at. We even got to sit in our same row back from the stage, right in the center, as if Jesus saved us a seat.
Of course He did.
The pastor spoke of the Young Rich Ruler found in the parable in Mark 10. I didn’t relate to this parable; not having the treasures to be pulled from but I did relate to him especially when He asked Jesus “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I know that I can’t be good enough or do enough to get into Heaven on my own merit BUT the relative part to me in this statement was asking a question, merely to get the answer and go about my day….just doing whatever I was asked to do.
I did exactly that after church today when I called my daddy. I was looking for advice on which church to attend. I wanted him to give me the answer and encourage me in the decision being made for me. Instead…. We talked about it a bit and then he said it was a decision my husband and I would have to talk about and get on our knees and pray about it.
I found myself, just like the Young Rich Ruler, not liking what was told to me but wanting my “quick fix;” someone who would just tell me what I had to do and move on. I am certain that no matter where Jesus tells us is “our” church, us attending the service today and me calling daddy, were not unintentional.
1.    To inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence
2.    To stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.
3.    To promote, advance, or foster.
I hope to inspire with courage and confidence but know that I need to be filled by Jesus more than just one day a week in order to do that; for others, and for myself.
I want to stimulate by offering assistance and approval to those that Jesus puts in front of me. How many will I truly get to reach at the larger church when there are no opportunities to interact with others in the congregation?
I need to promote and advance others to a better, stronger relationship with Jesus. Will those opportunities be available to me in a church I love on Sundays but have no interaction with anyone during the week?
Talk about the ultimate encourager….. I think Jesus may have helped me answer my own question in just putting “fingers to keyboard”. Even though a smaller church is not my comfort level….is this about me? NO. This is about Him working in me, through me, and around me. It is NOT about me. Despite our comfort level in a larger church setting and sitting with 3,000 of our closest friends during a service, He knows I need the interaction with others on a more personal level. Just as He knows I need the intimacy of our devotion time together via this blog, our coffee and study time, and prayer.
Praying God’s Word Today: God of endurance and encouragement, I thank You for granting us agreement with other believers so that we may glorify You, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with a unified mind and voice (Rom. 15:5-6). With this in mind, open my eyes to new opportunities to encourage others daily, while it is still called today, so that none of us will be hardened by sin’s deception. For we have truly become companions of Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start (Heb. 3:13-14). Make me an encourager!
            Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
            Hebrews 3:13-14
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

Dear Jesus:
Thank you so much for those encouragers that you have brought, and continue to bring, into my life. Please open my eyes more to the opportunities put before me to encourage others. Confirm with me this week that a change of church to better serve you is what you are asking of me. Show me that the decision to change to a smaller church with better connections is what you want from me; letting me know that you want me to step further out of my comfort zone of the “mega church” into a more intimate, healthy church that lives for You and has already begun to encourage and welcome us to their family. Thank you for my daddy that doesn’t just give me the answers but directs me to You to help me figure out what You think is best for me. I appreciate the encouragers in my life in all capacities and promise to continue to encourage others, especially those that feel weary and misunderstood; only You know just how weary and misunderstood I felt when You found me.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day Eleven: Noticeable Differences

Before You Begin:  Acts 9:10-25
Saul’s Conversion
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with the authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
Stop and Consider: All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?
Questions Asked of Me: What changes has Christ made in your life since you put your trust in Him? Even if you received him as a child, how is He continuing to change you…. as recently as today?
The list of what changes Christ didn’t make would be a shorter one but I digress. Since I put my trust in Him my life has taken a completely different turn. I feel like I always have someone in my corner that sees the best in me and gets excited with every newfound opportunity; even moving to Nineveh. He has given me strength I didn’t know I had. He has given me courage to get through things I didn’t know I was capable of getting through. He has given me the greatest relationship of all with Him as the center but He has also given me my family back. They didn’t want anything to do with the old me; it was too hard to watch bad decision after bad decision even from a distance or the silence that was deafening. He changed my heart and gave me the ability to forgive as I was forgiven by Him, my parents, my daughters. There were no scales over my eyes but He changed the way I look at things, trying to be more like Him.
And….even when I fail miserably; knowing what I should do and reacting completely the opposite, He just shakes his head, extends his hand to mine, and gives me another opportunity to get it right.
How do you react to your seemingly constant need for repentance and refinement? Does it drive you crazy? Does it discourage you? Or does it comfort you to know that He’s still willing to keep working on you?
OMGosh…. I am just grateful to know He is still willing to keep working on me. My pastor in Michigan always said “With Jesus, failure is never final.” Whew….I love that I have the opportunity to repent, sometimes every day. How in the heck could it drive me crazy or discourage me to know that I get to say I’m sorry – and mean it – and get a “Do Over” ??
“Jesus, you and I both know how terrible my reaction was to my first night in Nineveh. Thank you for helping me see how spoiled I had become and giving me this blog to “out” myself for my behavior and to give you the glory for getting me back to reality.”
I love that failure is never final and I am grateful to have a relationship with the God of second chances and I will continue to repent and welcome refinement at every opportunity.
Are there elements of your reputation that make it hard for you (especially at work or within your family) to relinquish visible control of your life to Christ? What patterns of expected behavior present the toughest obstacles to overcome?
In the beginning….YES. I have mentioned before that, after accepting Jesus, I was worried that my “friends” would be able to tell. Instead of trying to get others to seek Jesus in that room full of other alcoholics, I was worried about them being able to tell that I found Him. If I had it to do all over again, I would race to that same group of people and relinquish ALL visible control to Jesus so others would want it too. Even had I known about Paul’s conversion and his eagerness to preach that Jesus was the Son of God, I don’t think I could have the courage to act on it as he did.
I am pretty transparent now when it comes to people knowing of Jesus in my life; sometimes even wearing a t-shirt to the gym or using a scripture sleeve at Starbucks…. anything to encourage conversation about Him even if I don’t initiate it.
Detour: I knew there was a reason I liked Paul so much. Beth sums one of the reasons perfectly in her reading today: “The Lord told Ananias to look for Saul praying at a certain house. The Bible doesn’t tell us the content of Saul’s prayer, but it does tell us what happened next. Ananias came to Saul, and….
Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-18)
Paul’s version of these events appears in Galatians 1:14-18. He was careful to tell the reader that he did not consult any man but went immediately into Arabia following his conversion. Apparently Saul thought he’d better get to know the One who obviously knew him so well. He had already learned more about Scripture in his young years than most learn in a lifetime. What he needed now was to come to grips with the Author.
I love how Paul, even knowing more Scripture than most at that time, didn’t think that was enough. He wanted to learn more of the author of those books; the One who obviously knew him so well.
I am addicted to education and love learning. I turned to the Bible to learn more of Jesus; through his parables and the people in those 66 books with a history of their own but one I saw similarities in for myself. THAT is where I came to see a kindred spirit in Paul; not looking for Jesus when he was found by Him, being on the wrong road – literally and figuratively speaking, and trying to embrace the good and bad parts of his past, learning to give Jesus the glory for it all.
Beth also mentions Paul’s physical characteristics: “A writer in the second century described him as “a man rather small in size, bald-headed, bow-legged, with meeting eyebrows, a large, red and somewhat hooked nose.” Little about his physical appearance was intimidating, but when the Spirit of God fell on him, he became the spiritual heavyweight champion of the world!
Leave it to Jesus for me to be humbled even more. My Bible crush is on a man that many would not find attractive yet in stumbling across Paul as the author of all those letters in the New Testament, I was never drawn to someone more because of his love for Jesus and all that he attained to be for Him, in Him, and through Him. I am so grateful that Jesus picked him that day BECAUSE of his past, to be a spokesperson for him….no one more surprised than those of us on our own road to Damascus.
If Jesus can use Paul and change his life the way he did; He certainly can do it for me. I hope that others around me can say the same thing…. “If Jesus can use Gidget and change her life the way he did; He certainly can do that for me, right?”
Praying God’s Word Today: O Lord, place deep within my heart the desire to put it all away – anger, wrath, malice, slander, lying, filthy language – everything. For the reality is this: I have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to my Creator’s image (Colossians 3:8-10). As one who belongs to Christ Jesus, I have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). May I bear the precious fruit of this change in ever-increasing measure as You stir up obedience within me.
Colossians 3:8-10
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Dear Jesus:
Please continue to change my heart every day. I have made the mistake of getting too comfortable in my surroundings and my relationship with You. I want to hit the reset button today and put away the things I once thought were important and turn only to You. Help me to live as the new creation you made every day and not slide back into any patterns I once lived by. I am grateful for the second chances that You give to me over and over again and I promise to make the best of every chance given. I’m sorry for just living obedient but grumbling all the way, not being grateful or faithful when things don’t go my way. I relinquish all visible control to You but I also want you to know that I give You my heart and my feelings and my common sense too so that I can live up to the potential that YOU know is in me. I want to be noticeably different all the time to everyone and I know that to be that way I have to give everything to You every day.
Consider it given.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Day Ten: Change of Plans

Before You Begin:  Philippians 3:12-21
No Confidence in the Flesh
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.
Following Paul’s Example
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and tell you again with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Stop to Consider: 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.
Questions Asked of Me: Saul’s life is a testimony to zeal misplaced and then transformed toward an eternal purpose. How does a sense of purpose play into the activities you perform each day?
I was married to a DJ for ten years; my zeal was definitely misplaced. My only intent and purpose was to have a good time and to get others to have a good time; buying them drinks and then expecting them in return….to excess. My probation officer; yes, I had one… would tell me it was time to use “my powers for good and not evil.” I realized later than I care to admit, that she was only half kidding. She was one of my first peeks into Jesus and the purpose He had for me. As a probation officer she wasn’t allowed to talk about God unless I brought it up first but when I did…. the conversations took on a life of their own. She suggested to me the “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren but not in a direct, “read the whole book” kinda way. She would make me copies of certain chapters, being sure not to have the title of the book on any of the pages…she wasn’t allowed until I asked.
I was striving to know what my purpose was before I had even accepted Jesus in my heart; before I even had the courage to ask his forgiveness and see what a relationship with Him was like.
Slowly but, maybe not so surely, lol…..I started to realize more of my purpose. I wasn’t to hide from my past but embrace it for Him; letting others know what He is capable of. I treat every day as an opportunity to be transparent for Jesus. I don’t try to bring up my past in every conversation but I don’t shy away from an opportunity to tell what He brought me from. I try to use my powers for good and not evil. Once people wanted to be like me because I was always the center of attention; popular based on the brand of handbag I carried, the shoes I wore, or drinking to oblivion to forget worries of the day or week. Now I try to be the cheerleader, putting Jesus as the center of attention. I don’t care about designer handbags or shoes but let my bible covers, coffee sleeves, and totes stand out with their crazy designs and awesome messages ALL from Him.
Yes….my purpose is to use the personality for good and not evil….EVERY DAY.
If you’re regularly suffering from a lack of purpose and meaning, does the problem lie with the things you’re doing or with the way you’re doing them? Or both?
Both. Definitely both. When I suffer from my “lack of purpose” I know it is because I am not living to my full potential. Knowing the purpose He has given to me but NOT living it. Or wavering on my purpose but being a cheerleader for myself instead of where it needs to be; in Jesus.
I must add, in true Gidget fashion, it isn’t every “regularly suffering” but something I definitely need to keep in check and be reminded of. My friends and family never have a problem sharing their insights with me when THAT happens.
Of the things Christ has saved you from, what are some of the most significant? If He hadn’t come along when He did, what might you have become? Where might your doubts and determinations have led you?
THE most significant is saving me from myself! I always thought I knew what was best for me. I survived breast cancer so I had every right to “Party like a rock star” right? I did everything to excess; living, drinking, shopping, and even working. I wanted to be the best at everything I did and in some instances….I was; maybe even too good. But the problem was that I never wanted to be the best Christian, wife, daughter, or mother I could be and THAT is what was the most significant thing that Jesus saved me from; a life without an amazing husband, great parents and sisters, and ALL three of my daughters.
If Jesus hadn’t come along when He did, I wasn’t far from becoming lonely. Lonely because all I knew was fading. My so called friends turned and ran in the opposite direction when the DUI arrived and the pocketbook at the pub departed. My marriage was a mess because a DJ without a DJ wife that encouraged that crazy behavior and drunkenness was not welcomed in any establishments. My daughters had washed their hands of me and my immature, partying, lying, and mean ways. My job had just been eliminated due to the rough Michigan economy.
My doubts and determinations would have led me right back to what I knew. After the probation and court drama was over, I would have been back in the bar with the same “friends” and same husband; enabling me to get back to the “fun” Gidget. I would have chosen all of those stroking my ego over my own family; parents, siblings, and daughters. “I had gotten by this long without them….I would be just fine with my comfortable surroundings I had known this long” right??
I had slid into that pit and loved it….had Jesus not come along when He did, I would have dove into it proving to everyone that was all I was good for.
Thank GOD that didn’t happen and Jesus has given me all the opportunities He has.
Praying God’s Word Today: You, Lord God, the One who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk on it – You have called us for a righteous purpose, and You will hold us by Your hand (Isaiah 42:5-6), leading us where You desire. May my desire be Yours, and may I follow faithfully, directing my zeal and passion for holy, eternal purposes.
            Isaiah 42:5-6
This is what God the Lord says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, show spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it; “I the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles….

Dear Jesus:
You and I both know what you pulled me from, and thanks to this blog and the strength that you give to me to be transparent for your glory….so do those that read it. I don’t like to think about where I would be right now if You hadn’t shown up when You did. I am glad that this bible study, this journey with Paul …. is asking me these questions to remember just where I was and how grateful I need to be for where I am now; not just emotionally but physically, here in Nineveh. I know what it is like to live zealously for the wrong purpose. Help me to remember my purpose and direct my zeal to where it is always supposed to be… for Your purpose. My passion for You is not a phase but a lifestyle and a relationship. Please remind me to share that passion with others ALWAYS and not just when things are going as I think they should. I should know well enough by now that EVERYTHING You and I have been through has been for the greater good and I appreciate that; I am grateful for that....

......I am faithful in that.