Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day Twenty Two: Troubling Expectations

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14:21-22
            The Return to Antioch in Syria
They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Stop and Consider: Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
Questions Asked of Me: Why is a hardship inevitable in the nature of things? What does it tell us about God? What does it tell us about our world and our enemy?
I thought that when I accepted Jesus that my “hardships” would be finished. I hoped that because I now had a relationship with Him that I would no longer have to pray the “Dear Jesus, if you get me out of this one I promise to ___________.” That was not the case. Since knowing Him, I have still had to go through a lot; but I haven’t gone through it alone as was the case before. And, being on the other side of it, I know that it was necessary. Jesus trusted me through tough times. He showed me strength I didn’t know I had and is continuing to use it for His glory.
When I had hiccups in the last two years; different trials thrown in my path, there were those that said “Where is your God now? How could He let you go through this?” Those words of doubt just made me stronger. Standing up for Him and having to say it out loud was just affirmation for myself; me telling them but actually being more convicted in my faith in Him with each “Doubting Thomas” conversation. Looking back now…. I am thankful for that and hope that it helped “Thomas” as much as it helped me.
Detour: I loved the way Beth laid out trials in our reading today. “…..But we must first recognize that the inevitable nature of hardships can motivate us to redirect our energies. Fear of trials sometimes depletes more energy than facing trials! Once we accept the inevitability of hardship, we can redirect our focus from fear of trials to faithfulness. In the face of tribulations, we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”
She could not have pegged me more succinctly. I feared moving to Nineveh; loathed it really. I was acting like a spoiled brat that didn’t get what they wanted from Mommy in a store and had to physically be dragged from one department to another. Jesus physically dragged me 18 hours and I think it is pretty fitting that just this week, I learned that Owasso (the real name for the city I live in) means “Trails end.” Lovely.
But I finally accepted what He was doing in moving us here; it was Sunday night nearly two weeks ago after our first small group in our new church. I just prayed and said “Uncle….. Jesus if this is where You want us, I can accept that. Please give me an open heart to the things You have been trying to show me but I have been unwilling to see. I promise You here and now that I will accept any echoes given and opportunities offered.”
When I finally redirected my “fears” of the unknown and gave it to Him (something that was His to begin with but I kept taking back); the faithfulness that I was lacking…. the reason for beginning this study in the first place 22 days ago, began to come back and fully consume me. “…..we often sense a heavenly strength filling our souls right on time.”  Yes….it was right on time. Even my two weeks of pouting and mourning the life I had in Michigan was a trial that He knew I had to go through; with the reason being only one He needed to know.
Beth says more: “Be encouraged to know that difficulty is not a sign of immaturity or faithlessness. The Holy Spirit will do His job and let you know if you are suffering because of sin. Otherwise, remember – we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord Jesus, I am encouraged to know that when we endure, it brings us favor with You. For we were called to this, because You also suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we should follow in Your steps. You did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in Your mouth; when reviled, You did not revile in return; when suffering, You did not threaten, but committed Yourself to the One who judges justly (1Peter 2:20-23). Grant me, Lord, to pay any price in exchange for the gift of Your hard-won salvation.
            1Peter 2:20-23
But how is it your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Dear Jesus:
Thank You for letting me realize my stubbornness. I am appreciative for opportunities to come back to You; no matter how much or how long I pouted and feared what Your plan was for me. I do want to follow the example You set for me and will continue to do that no matter the doubt or wonder of what comes next. I’m sorry for my behavior in the weeks leading up to this move and even when we arrived at “trail’s end.” I can’t imagine how embarrassed You must have been of me or the head shaking that was going on, but I am thankful that You led us to the church and small group we needed before it spiraled any further. I am amazed at the opportunities, friendships, and gifts that You give to me and I know that the echoes shown to me after accepting where I was instead of fearing it was just more affirmation that I should never fear where You lead and I should never worry about what comes next. Remind me that the hardships I go through are for Your glory, so that I may enter the kingdom of God and not a punishment. You have it all under control.
Jesus, thank you for never giving up on me but knowing that I will come around. Please let me be worthy of the gift of salvation that You have given to all of us, and the next time I have fear of the unknown or doubt where You are leading me…just give me “that” look or put me in timeout so I snap out of it even quicker. I promise it will end then and there.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day Twenty One: Rocky Roads

(1956 Olympic Games)

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14:8-20
            In Lystra and Derbe
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left Derbe.
Stop and Consider: When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”
Questions Asked of Me: How do you typically handle compliments and success? Do they sort of go to your head? What usually happens when he depend on others’ positive opinions to feed our pride?
I don’t usually handle compliments very well. If someone says “Hey, great boots;” I usually say “OMGosh, they were only $40 at Kohls, you should get some.” I can never just say “Thank You.” But when I speak at churches or write a blog; even where HE is the theme, topic, or focus…I probably take more credit than I should. I mean, I never act like they are original thoughts…unless they are, but perhaps it does kind of go to my head. Humility is something I work on and strive for. I know that my boldness and transparency rubbed off on Lynnette and I like to think that some of her humility rubbed off on me, but not nearly as much as it needs to. Perhaps I need to go home and hang out with Lynnette more…yeah, that’s it.
I don’t need others’ approval of me…or do I? I love the feeling I get after finishing a blog, especially if I know that it will help others (when He probably thinks that it was all for me and I don’t have a clue.)
I tell my daughters’ never to let others determine their worth. “Don’t let what other’s think of you make you feel better or worse than you should.” Yet, I have recently realized that other’s having a high opinion of me has tended to make me think I just might be better than a few of them; definitely not a good place to be. BUT… it is a humbling place to be when you realize it so it can be addressed and put in check.
When you think of the most humble, sincere people you know, what qualities of there are the most admirable – the ones you’d most like to possess yourself?
Lynnette is the most humble I know. She is THE best listener and her heart just signs through any situation. I remember taking these qualities as her being shy when we first met; and only later realized that she enjoys seeing others succeed before herself. When I came along I was her biggest cheerleader and where she was humble and unassuming, I was quick to share with others what she had accomplished and all I loved about her. She is my biggest cheerleader and encourager as well…. Where there was once a “Lucy and Ethel” feeling with past friends (Me being the redhead and always up to something….), Jesus now brought me a friend to welcome in a new chapter of friendship comparison. Lynnette is Barnabas to my Paul and I would love to possess all of the qualities that she has; humble, prayer warrior, listener, servant, and friend. I know that is why Jesus gave her to me (one of my favorite gifts). He gave me something to emulate and someone to feed off of until I can get it right myself. I am grateful beyond measure.
Praying God’s Word Today: Like Hannah, when rejoicing over the miraculous birth of her son Samuel, may I never forget that You bring death and give life, You bring poverty and give wealth, You humble and exalt (1 Samuel 2:6-7). Or like Job, when wrought with trouble and turmoil, may I still be able to say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In any and all circumstances, may my view of You – just like my love for You – remain ever the same.

Dear Jesus:
Thank you for all of my gifts. I now know that even what I thought were the worst times of my life; were gifts from You….had they not happened, I would never have the relationships or heart that I have. I am grateful for the lessons You continue to teach me and I am grateful for the people put in my path to teach them.
I know what it is to be successful in others’ eyes and I know what it is to feel successful in You; I am grateful for them both. I know that Your love for me was why I had to have one to feel another and I ask for strength and humility in remembering that; everyday whether it be good or bad….happens because You choose for it to happen. Whether I know the reason for it, or the outcome, doesn’t matter…. I will have faith that it will ALL be for Your glory and second guessing it is not an option.



Monday, September 5, 2011

Day Twenty: Let's Get Out of Here

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 14: 1-7
            In Iconium
At Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.
Stop and Consider: There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.
Questions Asked of Me: How should we determine when to trust God to protect us supernaturally and when to run for our lives?
Good question. I like to think that Jesus puts people in my life to help in making those decisions. But sometimes I pretend that Jesus wants me to stay put just a little bit longer; knowing it is my will and not His that I am catering to.
For instance; we lived in a 3,800 square foot house entirely too long. Jesus was giving us signals that we were in over our head but, in our defense, we weren’t Christians yet so we continued to go through the motions; acting as if our lifestyle hadn’t dramatically changed. We became Christians in October and we still heard Him leading us elsewhere; we stayed put…THEN telling ourselves that Jesus would take care of us; He wouldn’t let anything happen to us, right? I mean…after all, we are Christians now. That was not the case.
We continued to pray for Him to expand our territories and hoped that He would bring a job for Robbe but that didn’t happen. Another month would go by of barely making bills and staying somewhere we had no business staying. We finally figured out that it was time “to get outta here” and when we did; everything fell into place. It took us until the middle of February to follow where Jesus was trying to lead but we did it. A week later, a job was offered to Robbe just a mile from our new place; a place that was much more affordable at half the size and we moved just a month before our landlord had foreclosure proceedings brought onto the property we were living in. Whew…..
Still working on the discernment of knowing when it is Jesus and not our own way of thinking that gets us to places…but we are definitely more open to doing the footwork where He says “do the footwork.”
What causes us to doubt that this is equally God’s provision? Look deep enough to define some of the miraculous components involved in using our heads.
I was new to being a Christian when I first thought: “I’m a Christian now; Jesus won’t let anything bad happen to me. I am certain He will swoop in and save the day before I even realize my day needs saving.” And, even though I am certain that being a Christian does not make me invincible to bad things happening, I still somehow believe that Jesus wears a superhero cape and will show up in the nick of time to get me out of any situation. I know that He gave me a personality to do His will. It is harder to imagine that He gave me the smarts and know how to do His will too.
This may be a difficult concept to consider, especially if you have been attacked or injured and wonder why you weren’t delivered. Tomorrow’s reading will hopefully give you a measure of comfort in this regard. But for now, express your willingness to trust God even when you don’t understand.
Praying God’s Word Today: Your Word says, “The inexperienced believe anything, but the sensible watch their steps” (Proverbs 14:15) and are “crowned with knowledge” (Proverbs 14:18). May I not be afraid to use the wits and faculties You have created in me to be part of Your blessing in my life. I trust You wholeheartedly in whatever way You choose to keep Your promises, knowing that the God of old is my dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Dear Jesus:
I trust You completely; You know that. But You also know that I have issues with having continued faith when it comes to something I don’t want to do; i.e…moving to Nineveh. I was uncertain and knew that things would work out for Your benefit but I didn’t know or when and I wanted it exactly like home and I wanted it now if not sooner. Thank You for rescuing me from myself. Thank You for giving me the smarts to figure out that putting ALL of my faith in You ALL the time is what I have to do. Thank You for only letting me wallow in my own doubt so long and finally giving in to what You already knew; Nineveh is home and these Ninevites aren’t so bad; they’re pretty nice actually. Thanks for them too.
I trust You wholeheartedly in whatever way You choose to keep Your promises, knowing that the God of old is my dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Yeah…. What he said.  =)



Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day Nineteen: Using Your Influence

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 13:42-52
            In Pisidian Antioch
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored of the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Stop to Consider: But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.
Questions Asked of Me: Who are some of the people that have the greatest influence on you? How have they earned the right to speak into your life? What qualifies them to be respected and reliable?
My parents, my husband Robbe, my best friend Lynnette, my church leaders, and my friends that Jesus has given to me. They have earned the right to speak into my life because they ALL have three things in common; 1) They love Jesus and have a personal relationship with him. 2) They know where I came from and love me anyway. 3) They want what is best for me and know that Jesus is the only way to get it. If I need help in seeing that purpose….they are always there to point it out.
Respected and reliable are two things I never was but two things I always expected from other people; even before becoming a Christian nearly two years ago. Without knowing…Jesus has shown me that respectability and reliability are two things that go together; if you have one…you more than likely have the other.
I never respected my parents opinion but now I thirst for it. They have been THE most reliable thing to me throughout my life, even when I didn’t know it….just like Jesus being along for the ride without my knowing He was there. Robbe has earned my respect because of all that he has been there for. He didn’t run or take the easy way out no matter how many times I tried to show him the way to the door when things got tough. He has been the definition of reliable and the rock that was needed to see me through to Nineveh. Lynnette is not only respected by me but by everyone around her. She is the epitome of reliability because she always puts others before herself. Lynnette is another’s support that did not waver no matter how many opportunities or tantrums I through her way. My church leaders and friends have my full attention and respect because they have recognized things in me, I did not see for myself and they always came to fruition. I always felt as if I were thrown into the Lion’s Den, they were in the front row smiling … telling me not to worry. You know that no one can harm you; surrounded by Jesus. These friendships given to me never seemed probable or even possible but when you think about the one common denominator being Jesus; they seem completely expected. I know and respect ALL of them because they were just one of the many gifts given to me by Him.
Are there others who have an influence on you for less than godly purposes? How great is their impact? Have you ever found yourself wondering if they’re right and you’re wrong?
I am happy to say that there are no others that have influences on me for negative purposes. Two years ago that would not have been the case….oh what a difference a change of playgrounds can make. I used to think that I was the one impacting their lives for “evil” and I was, but…. it was a two-way street. Everyone I associated with before Jesus didn’t have a relationship with Him. They were just as happy as I was to make bad decision after bad decision, dressing it up as being completely normal and expected…sometimes even fun. Robbe was the turning point from that playground to the next. He was a complete surprise that rescued me in a Starbucks. A guy that was not familiar with Jesus either but saw something in me that needed rescuing and wanted to do it. My husband has a giving heart and started showing me what was possible if I just grew up. Finding Jesus and beginning our relationships with Him just a week apart; only made our relationship stronger. Only Jesus could have done that.
Detour: It is no surprise that our service today in church was about influence. We had a guest pastor and he was one I was excited to hear. Why? Because his mom and I talked before the service. Another chance meeting? No, of course not. If Jesus can do all that He does; how much stronger do you think that gets in His own house? Yeah.
It was not glamorous the way we met. She nearly slipped by our row while making her way to her front row seat. “Yeah, real subtle Jesus.” We chatted about our names and we joked about her son being the speaker and I told her that I would cheer and clap as loud as I could from my fifth row, center seat.
But I digress.
The story was about the Biggest Loser and appetites; not just appetites for food but things we hunger for; sex, love, money, power, success, etc. He went back to the book of Genesis to make his point; relating to the story of Jacob and Esau. He told of the importance of birthright and what it meant….it was everything. To be the firstborn brought huge benefits: double the portion of a family’s inheritance, getting to be the judge for the family in decision making, and a sense of blessing/leadership/status just to name a few.
Even though Jacob and Esau were twins; Esau was born first so he was older – with that, getting the place of birthright. Older brothers are always the one of influence to a younger brother; following in their footsteps, leading by example of what to do….or what not to do as was the case for me, since I was the oldest of three girls.
In this story Jacob was able to influence his brother with a bowl of stew and change the course of history. Esau was so hungry that he sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. He sold all that birthright entailed to satisfy an appetite; in this case a literal appetite but that is not always the case.
I had little influence over my sisters growing up. I got good grades and graduated high school early, went on to college, and then the military. I am sure comparisons were made between my grades and theirs but I didn’t try to help them achieve better in any way. My sisters had little to worry about as I was an adult. I was the “Prodigal Son” that took what I could from my parents and never looked back. They were glad for my lack of influence then I am sure. They didn’t have to worry about hearing “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” because that was something my parents wouldn’t want to see happen to more than one of their daughters I am sure.
I like to think that I had some influence over my children when they were growing up; at least the good parts. I want to take credit for the young women they are today but most of what they have become has been by learning what “not” to do from their mother. I used to think I was making the right decisions for them in the beginning but in thinking more closely, I don’t believe that to be true; even enabling their “appetite” for name brand clothing as early as elementary and middle school.
But now I know that I do influence others and it is for His glory. I am able to influence those that see what Jesus has done in and through me.
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord, help me always to speak what is consistent with sound teaching, being self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. May I be reverent in behavior, not a slanderer, not addicted to much wine, teaching what is good (Titus 2:1-3). My desire to be someone others can trust – in the same measure that I trust in You.
            Titus 2:1-3
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

Dear Jesus:
Please continue to put people in my path that are of good influence. Thank You for giving me good examples to follow and for helping me to see that a change of playground was not only necessary but imperative to the purpose You have for me. Please help me to be of good influence to those around me by what You have done in and through me. I want to be like those You have put in my path. I want to be to someone else what they have been to me.
Help me to be consistent. Help me to be sincere. Help me to influence in the right direction for the right reasons. Remind me that it is okay to have an appetite if I am using that for Your glory; I am hungry for You. I know that I have no idea the plan You have for me…as much as I would like to. But I know that I am hungry to know more of You and the purpose You laid ahead for me.
Thank you for Ryan yesterday, our guest pastor. I am grateful for the message he gave to us and the lesson he left on my heart….
“Hunger for the grace of God that can only be filled by the Spirit.”
Fill me Jesus so that I may be of greater influence on Your behalf for those that are thirsty and still have no idea that You are the only one that can quench that thirst.



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day Eighteen: Speaking of Grace

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 13:13-41
            In Pisidian Antioch
From Papos, Paul and is companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations n Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. All this took about 450 years.
“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: “Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
“Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Thought they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down form the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
            “You are my son; today I have become your father.”
“God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.”
So it is also stated elsewhere:
                        “You will not let your holy one see decay.”
“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:
“Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.”
Stop and Consider: “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
Questions Asked of Me: Rather than guilt and compulsion, what should be our real motivation for having a word of Christian testimony ready for any occasion or opportunity?
For me, it was never about guilt or compulsion for the overwhelming urge to help others know they are not alone. I want everyone to know just how bad things were for me when Jesus found me because if He can help me in my situations; He can certainly help you where you’re at. My motivation now is to be the spokesperson He created me to be and be happy cheering about it no matter the content…but focusing on the outcome. The zeal I have for sharing my testimony is not for my benefit or to any credit of my own but to give Him all the glory and help others to see that in the process.
Evangelism is certainly bigger than any one method or model. What are some of the ways God has uniquely gifted you to be able to share your confidence in His saving grace?
Share my confidence? Hmmmm….. He gave me the personality that He gave me; the same personality that led people to do things as far from Jesus as possible is now the personality that I hope to lead others to doing what He has planned for them. I am transparent in Him. I am open to the point of scary but it is the outcome being what it is that allows me to share what Jesus brought me from. Don’t get me wrong; He somehow gave me confidence while I was going through these trials but being on the other side it is easy to share that confidence of His saving grace. I love the opportunity to show others that things like that don’t just happen in the bible; they happen now and they happen to people like me.
Detour: One of the first things I participated in at my church back home was something called “Discover Your Style”. It is an all-day class that is organized to help you discover your spiritual gifts; creative communication, prison ministry, hospitality, building, serving, and evangelism to name a few. There were a series of questions and there was one set in particular that I was slow to respond to. We were to list four great things that happened in our lives; things we were proud to share. Then we were to list four not-so-great things on the next page; things that we would rather not have happened and would be happy if no one really knew about them.
We weren’t asked to say them out loud; it was strictly for our benefit. But the next page was the one that shocked me most. Of the eight things we previously listed, we were now asked to list the four areas in which Jesus was working in us; the times in our life that we knew Jesus was going to use for His glory. My list was the same as my “not-so-great” list. I realized then that Jesus wasn’t looking to use me in the areas of my college degrees or the birth of my children but He was already using me to talk about brokenness, “Prodigal Son” moment, breast cancer, and DUIs.
Another segment of the class was determining our most prominent spiritual gift; my best friend high on the list of hospitality and prayer warrior. When a show of hands determined who was what, I quickly realized that I was the only one that had the spiritual gift of Evangelism. I freaked out. I immediately thought it meant that my answers to loads of questions had somehow determined that I wanted to go “door to door” talking about Jesus. Um… nope.
The instructor was quick to tell me that it didn’t mean that at all but simply meant that I was a “Cheerleader for Jesus.” Whew…. Yes, THAT IS ME. And the rest as they say… is history. <wink>
Praying God’s Word Today: Lord Jesus, I pray that I will no longer be held captive to fear but will rather set You apart as Lord in my heart, always being ready to give a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in me. But may I do this with gentleness and respect, keeping my conscience clear, so that when I am accused, those who denounce my Christian life will be put to shame (1Peter 3:14-16). May Your grace cover all!
1Peter 3:14-16
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Wow….my scripture that I felt you handpicked for me. Wow.

Dear Jesus:
I am grateful for every gift You have given me; even the ones I questioned initially. I am grateful for all that has happened to me in the “not-so-great” column because I know that You can do great things through those stories. Thank You for allowing me to see the good through the yucky. Thank You for showing me just how captive I was when I thought I was so free. Please continue to allow me to see just how awesome You are even when I am going through some things where most wouldn’t see it that way.
I am excited to see all of the echoes and confirmations that You give to me; even in this entry. Beth Moore pulling out 1Peter is the scripture that I KNOW You handpicked for me. This scripture is the tagline for this blog which is also a gift from You and a gift I hope others benefit from as much I do.
I know my motivation for sharing my testimony because it is YOUR testimony through me. Thank You for this great opportunity to be proof for someone that grace is given every day; to those not looking for it, not deserving of it, and not earning it…. because we don’t have to, it isn’t possible, and we can’t.



Friday, September 2, 2011

Day Seventeen: Exposing the Enemy

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 13:4-12
            On Cyprus
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
Stop and Consider: “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
Questions Asked of Me: Wow. Now that’s calling ‘em like you see ‘em. Is there a time when we should be this direct in our rebuke of someone? Are we sometimes guilty of being too nice?
Yes, I have been too nice so as not to offend or seem like a “Jesus Freak.” Definitely not something I am proud of but had completely forgotten this story of Paul and needed the reminder. I know how he was raised but how was he given such strength and authority for Jesus’ name so quickly? He clearly possessed something that I didn’t at his “Coming to Jesus” moment.
I know that Jesus has used my personality to work for His glory since accepting Him but, even having been reminded of this part of Paul’s journey, would I have the courage to “call it like I see it” as quickly and as readily as He did? I am a spokesperson for Him; a Cheerleader for Jesus but do I do as much as I know He wants of me? I would have to answer that perhaps I don’t but I also don’t think I am in too many places to be put into that position…maybe that is another part of the equation; not putting myself out there enough for Him. I will work on that.
What are some methods the Devil uses to try keeping the clear message of God’s Word from getting through to us? How are we to challenge and overcome these obstacles?
Just like the Devil’s visit to the Garden of Eden; he shines doubt on everything Jesus promises to us through His Word. He paints it in a different light and skews it to benefit him; clearly telling us that the easier, wrong decision is the better choice to make most immediately. If we are constantly in His Word we cannot be touched by Satan or his ‘assistants.’ He can’t distort the clear message of Jesus if we stay out of his way. He can’t skew Jesus’ words to be something they are not without being given the opportunity.
How does it help to know that a real enemy is engaged in battle against you, an actual foe who is seeking to deceive and distract you? Rather than suffering endless pangs of guilt over your inconsistency or weakness of character, does it strengthen your muscle to know that your acts of obedience are blows against Satan’s army? This is war! Wanna fight?
Praying God’s Word Today:  We heed Your call, Lord, to be sober, to be on alert! For our adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. May we resist him, Lord, firm in faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by our brothers in the world – knowing, too, that You, the God of all grace, who called us to Your eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support us after we have suffered a little (1Peter 5:8-10).

Dear Jesus:
Thank you for picking me to be on Your team. I am so glad to know that no matter how hard Satan tries to get to me, You are there. I am sure he was pretty excited when I hid from You. I know that he thought it was only a matter of time before I slipped back to my old ways; but You knew better. Thank you for being there for me when I decided to be obedient and follow You as I knew I should have from the beginning. I know that You have never taken me anywhere that You weren’t already there. Give me the strength to stand up for Your name in any situation and give me courage to seek those that don’t know what You are capable of. I know that with all that I have gone through, it pales in comparison to what You know I am strong enough to go through. Thank you.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day Sixteen: On Mission

Before You Begin:  Read Acts 13:1-3
            Barnabas and Saul Went Off
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Stop and Consider:  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Questions Asked of Me: When you are just not certain what direction God is leading you, how do you go about discerning His will? What have you learned about this process by experience?
Quite frankly, the first thing I do is reach out to my parents and my best friend Lynnette. I explain to them the situation that I am unsure about and we talk together. No decisions are ever really made but they are eager to pray with and for me; as well as helping me to discern more readily the scenario that Jesus puts me in. Moving to Nineveh was such a scenario.
We prayed for my husband to get a permanent job instead moving from one 6month contract job to another. A year ago we prayed for a job in aerospace. He landed BOTH in a land far away from what I was comfortable with…in Nineveh.
It was months that I heard Jesus pulling me there to follow but I couldn’t be sure; probably because I didn’t want to be sure. I just knew my purpose was to be serving my church and ministry that He had already led us to and to write with my friend and go to conferences together. I needed to discern….was it possible that my purpose was in Michigan and Robbe’s was in Nineveh? Jesus would never do that but the alternative was not something I wanted.
I learned that it is more than talking about His will and praying about it. I have learned that when you pray for an answer and get that answer, you also need to live by and abide that answer. I can’t keep praying until I get the answer I want and the way I want it. I knew months before moving that it was His will for me….for us. I also knew that just because I was a Christian now, didn’t mean that I wasn’t still susceptible to pouting and putting things off.
I now know (and probably always did) that no matter what you pray for, or ask guidance about, or try to discern….you must always be willing to listen (not just hear) to what Jesus and those you trust are telling you, and be obedient. Dragging your feet where Jesus is concerned is not an option…. Just ask Jonah.
How deeply does the call to reach nations affect your praying, your heartbeat, and your church’s reason for being? How could this priority increase in intensity for you?
I haven’t had a desire to reach other nations but I do pray for our church members that go there to bring the Word of God to them and to show them the community spirit that our church feels for them. I learned this morning that our new church is about community and bringing people to God but not sure of their reach to other nations. It probably could be an increase in intensity for me but as of now I don’t feel led to reach out beyond my community. But, I am certain if Jesus decides that needs to change, I will be the first to know and act on that newfound intensity.
Praying God’s Word Today: You say to us, “Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation; for instruction will come from Me, and My justice for a light to the nations. I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness is near, My salvation appears, and My arms will bring justice to the nations. The coastlands will put their hope in Me, and they will look to My strength” (Isaiah 51:4-5). Lord, I want to be part of this great work in our day, in whatever fashion You desire. “Speak, for Your servant is listening” (1Samuel 3:10).

Dear Jesus:
You say jump and I ask “How high?” As long as I feel like jumping. But when You said “Move”, I asked “Are You sure?” And then when you said “Move”, I asked “Really, Jesus? But You have set everything up for me here and things are going so well.” I’m sorry for that. I don’t feel compelled to travel and spread Your Word to other nations and I say I would go if you asked me to, but would I? I would pray and prepare and raise money for those that would feel compelled to go, but is that enough? This is a question not yet posed to me before but one I wholeheartedly THINK I would embrace if You told me.
I do want to be a part of this great work in our day, in whatever fashion You desire but when it comes right down to it, I run the opposite direction or stop moving altogether. My intentions and work for You are true. My love for You is unquestionable. Am I ready to be considered for something as big as “other nations”? Or could those other nations be right here at home where others have slowly begun to express their need for You but just not knowing how to get to You?
I will pray about this and speak to my parents and Lynnette. I will do my best to discern what Your will is for me and I promise to try harder to be the person You intended me to be at ALL times and not just when it is something that interests me.
I will be the cheerleader and spokesperson You created me to be. If that means I enroll in Rosetta Stone to learn another language…just give me a little heads up.