Sunday, September 25, 2016

When we want to escape...

“Mommy, cows are out!” yelled my little man as he flew through the door. Our youngest had been playing in the sandbox while our oldest fed the cattle hay. Big brother was sure he could get them back in, but little bro wasn’t convinced so he ran to do what all 5 year olds do – tell Mom! I calmed Jesse down, slipped on my shoes and headed outside. J.D. had everything under control, but God continued the lesson He’d start teaching me weeks ago.

Life on the farm is rarely boring and two days are never the same…there are countless opportunities for life lessons to be learned and Biblical truths to be lived out. Awhile back I was watching the gate as my husband did chores and one friendly, red heifer tried to get out. I was able to keep her in, but as I did I thought about how sometimes I’m just like her.

This four legged critter is where she needs to be…she’s safe, taken care of and has all she needs, but still she was trying to go somewhere else. At the very moment she was trying to escape, my husband was providing her with the nourishment she needed. It’s convicting to think about how I respond to God in a similar way.

He protects me. (2 Thes. 3:3, Deut. 31:6) He cares for me. (Zeph. 3:17, Psalm 121:8) He provides for me. (Phil. 4:19) God not only does all these things just like a farmer, but He created me (Gen. 1:27, Psalm 139) and knows the plan He has for me. (Jer. 29:11)

These facts are all true for each and every one of us, but God is also in the details. Acts 17:26 says, "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." This verse reminds me He’s put me where I need to be. Friend, the same is true for you. He watches over us and has boundaries for a reason.

Over the years, God has used these words to bring peace and understanding to my physical world. You see, I grew up on a farm and I was the sister who was NEVER going to marry a farmer and the Iowa girl who's always cold and hates snow. Well, I'm now a farmer's wife who lives in NE Iowa. There have been times I thought this is not where I want to be, but with His Word God has transformed my thinking and I'm grateful for our little corner of the world.

Paul's words in Acts are clearly talking about a physical location and moment in time, but I want to continue this thinking a bit. Do you believe God has you in certain situations or even difficult relationships for a reason? Do you think He's placed you in work environments or ministry opportunities for a purpose?

I’m not in a pen like our cattle…there are no physical fences for me to jump or gates to exit, but the temptation to flee is there. Friend, have you ever experienced this yourself? Have you ever wished you were somewhere else? Tried to flee a situation or run in a different direction?

This can happen in countless ways – perhaps you’re not content with where you are at and struggle with “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” thinking. Whether it’s your marriage, job or a role you play…those thoughts are a lie from Satan. Maybe it’s something entirely different and God is calling you to step out and move from where you are at and you’re tempted to stay. Or you’re scared to walk in obedience. Finally, maybe it has nothing to do with physical location at all and it’s a heart issue. Has God been showing you something He wants to change? Are you willing to stay there and let Him do the work or are you trying to bust down the gate and just get it over with?

Friend, I don’t know if any of these thoughts or scenarios are ones you relate to, but I’d love to encourage you to think about where God has you….

Are you content with that? If not, are you willing to change your attitude about it?
Are you trying to run away from what He is trying to do? If so, why?
How do you view the boundaries God has put in your life?

The night when my little man ran into the house with fear to inform me the cattle were out, God added to this lesson. I realized whether I like where He has me or not, it’s for my own good. And in the bigger picture for God's glory. I know my heavenly Father, my Shepherd, places me where He knows I need to be, but His work is always bigger than we realize and His ways carry more purpose than we tend to understand.

Friend, He doesn’t just have us where we are for ourselves…our place – be it physically, in relationships, in conflicts or in sanctification is for others as well. When we try to escape, run away or stay when God says go others are impacted. Our actions and words impact others…sometimes directly in the form of help or encouragement. Others simply as a witness to the work of God. Let’s touch them in ways for good, and for God’s glory, by staying, or going, where God tells us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Transformers

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about transformers…you know the toy that changes from a man to a car or something like that. My oldest son had one of them and it caused some frustration and created a few headaches. I haven’t helped him with that for a few years, but recently I found myself thinking about them again. Only this time it wasn’t a piece of plastic I was thinking about…it was myself.

At times I’m a secure, confident Christian who depends on and trusts in our faithful, heavenly Father. I believe what He whispers to my heart thru His Word and Spirit, I have the courage to step out in faith and do what He calls me to. Then something happens and I find myself feeling defeated and experiencing doubt. I wonder if I’ve heard God correctly and question what it is He seems to be asking me to do. Friend, this leads to way more frustration than my son’s old toy.

Awhile back this frustration brought me to my knees and led me into God’s Word. I know He is the One who transforms and have been part of a women’s event who’s mission is "to see women’s lives transformed by the Truth." I know this, but my experience as a “Transformer” led me to dig deeper. 

In my last post, I wrote about my "baby" learning to ride his 2 wheel bike...he's removed the training wheels. As I've walked in faith, in a spiritual sense God has done that for me, but as I transform back to my old self it's like I put them back on. I visited about this with my kids and we laughed thinking about J.D., our teenager, putting training wheels on his big bike. That is silly, but in a way it's what I sometimes do in my mind. I'm ready to be done with that, so I went to the only place that will help...

Romans 12:1-2 is a passage I’m familiar with and one I go to, but I’ve never really studied it, so that’s what I did. There is much packed into these 2 little verses that Paul shares. First of all, they are the beginning of the half of the book that is all about our behavior. The first 11 chapters of Romans tell us much about our beliefs while the last 5 chapters instruct us on how to live out those beliefs. One commentator even talked about how these 2 verses could easily be adapted as the Christian's pledge of allegiance. 

First of all, let's read this verse in a few different versions -

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete. (The VOICE)

What do these verses say to you? What do they say about God? Have you ever spent much time thinking and praying about being conformed? Do you realize your need for transformation? Do you wonder how your mind can be renewed?

Friend, these are all good questions to think about and better ones to answer, so let's look at a few key words. Strong's dictionary, which looks at the original language of the Bible, defines conform like this - assuming a similar outward form by following the same pattern, mold or model. This happens when we go with the flow, blend in and don't rock the boat. Have you done this? Stop for a minute and think - "Who or what do you conform to?"

Personally, as I've worked thru this study I've been convicted of conforming to who I once was...in my mind I go back to old ways of thinking, battle lies God's helped me recognize and live out habits time has created. This is not a picture of transformation, which leads me to our next word.

The Greek word for transform is metamorpho, which is where we get the word metamorphosis and it means to change after being with. This is a present tense verb, meaning it's not an on again off again process, it's continuous. It's also a passive word meaning God is the catalyst, but it's imperative as well, which tells us we have a response.

Clearly there is a difference between conformed and transformed, would you agree? I found a few - conformed is an outer response while transformed is inner. Conformed tends to more of a pressing into while transformed is an internal change. If we are passive and let life happen conformity will take place. When we are intentional and abide with Christ and in His Word, transformation is a possibility. Friend, God desires to transform us while Satan loves to see us conform to the world he rules.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, I'm guessing you long for transformation. You are aware of areas of life you want to see changed, but may find yourself wondering how this can happen. Paul gives us the answer - we must renew our mind, which gives us another key word. According to Strong's renew means to make fresh or new, it's achieved by God's power and results in a change of heart. Friend, I've said it before and I'll say it again...our minds are powerful. It's where our thoughts happen and these thoughts lead to our actions and words, we must renew our thinking repeatedly.

Just in case you need further proof for that point, take a look at Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 11:3. Here he says, "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." Our minds are vulnerable and Satan is on the attack, renewal is necessary.

Understanding is the first step, but the important question is – “How does this happen?” There are many things to consider, but let’s start with a look at Romans 8:29 – “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." This verse tells us who does the work and gives a positive picture of confirmation. Are you willing to surrender today so God can transform you as He conforms you into the image of His Son?

Another step we must not overlook is found in 1 John 5:14-15 - "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of Him." With humble hearts and expectant spirits, may we ask God for transformation. He hears our prayers and is faithful to answer them.

Part of this prayer needs to be confession. This is the step that leads to repentance, which means to turn around or change direction. It’s a change that is part of transformation. We must first confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) and then confess them to others (James 5:16). This is never an easy thing to do, but accountability and prayers from others are a part of the transforming work God can do.

This work we need God to do begins in our minds, which means we must practice taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and setting our minds are thoughts that are good, pure and from the Lord (Phil. 4:8). So friend, when those thoughts come that are wrong or lies from the enemy…STOP. Don’t allow that thinking to continue. Pray and ask for Truth to replace them.

Last, but not least it’s God’s Word that has the power to transform us. The Bible is not merely a book of information it is a book of transformation. It is the inspired Word of God that is useful (2 Timothy 3:16) and it is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). God will speak to us, convict us and comfort us with His Scripture. The Holy Spirit will give us discernment and wisdom as we read the words. Simply said, we will be transformed as we read, study, meditate and pray the Word of God.

Friend, before we close I want to share a few things in case you want to dig a bit deeper. We recently worked thru a study on transformation at our local Titus24U group and I was encouraged. We must remember transformation is a process, it involves surrender, time and work. This won't end until we meet the One who transforms us. We each have areas that God is molding and chipping away. He is able to change us from the inside out. So if you want to join Him in the process, take a look at these verses that give us a glimpse of what the transformed life looks like -

Colossians 1:10
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Galatians 2:20
Habakkuk (A different type of prophet book...most share what the Lord says, this is a look at a conversation between Habakkuk and the Lord. Note the transformation that takes place...God's Word changes us!) 
Paul
2 Peter 1:3-11

Some Things to Think About
Where? How? Why am I conforming?




What area(s) need to be transformed?




Related Truth that will Transform (Study, Memorize, Meditate On and Pray This)





Prayer
Heavenly Father, I thank you for your grace and because of your mercy I want to offer my body and life as a living sacrifice. May this act of worship be holy and pleasing to You. Lord, I don’t want to conform to the world any longer. Show me when and where I do this then Lord transform me by renewing my mind. Lead me to your Word, use it to penetrate my heart and right my thinking. Fill me with Your Spirit and tender my heart. In humility, may I let you do what you need to do to mold me into the person you created me to be. Thru this process help me do what you gifted me to do and shine my light so others see and glorify you. Father thank you for choosing me and calling me your masterpiece, may your good, pleasing and perfect will unfold today. Have your way. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus I pray, Amen

Before
Friend, as I worked thru this study and continue to long for transformation, God gave me another illustration. This summer my daughter took an old wood pallet and turned it into a table. It was quite the project...it took time and work. She heard encouraging words, but some thought I'd never let her put it in the house. She sanded, she cut, she sanded some more and varnished. Eventually, she proudly brought in her finished table. Every time I walk by it, I'm reminded of the change that took place and am excited to think about God doing a similar work in me.

 In the Biblical context, transformation tends to be a permanent change. Just like Joy's table it may take awhile to get there, but it is possible. God will be faithful to do His part, let's commit to be disciplined and do our's!! And friend, when that area of transformation is complete, let's take another lesson from Joy, my girl who's started another project, and let the next one begin!!

After

Finally, may this song from Phillips, Craig and Dean encourage you as the transformation process continues!! Blessings to you friend...thankful to join you on this journey!



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just Like Riding a Bike

Riding a bike...chances are you learned how to do that years ago and today can do it with relative ease. Bike riding isn't often on the forefront of my mind, but the other day it was in my thoughts. Our "baby", Mr. Jesse-Man just turned 5 and has mastered his 2 wheel bike. No more training wheels on the Beran farm!

As the whole family gathered around to watch him ride with confidence, he grinned from ear to ear. Before long he was comparing his skid marks to his big brother's. Eventually, we got to recalling each child's first experience with 2 wheels. My daughter, Joy, sticks out...she was only 3 1/2 when her big brother did what she had never done. A week passed and she was determined to do it as well, so our 5 year old mechanic obliged and removed the extra wheels.

After moments of frustration, I suggested putting them back on, but my little princess/tomboy thought otherwise. She'd been able to ride with me getting her started and believed with enough determination she could do it herself. She wasn't turning back...even if it meant a skinned up knee!

Eight years ago, God taught me much through my little girl...at that point in my life He was leading me into ministry, I was working on my book and I was just starting my blog. I shared this story in one of my first posts and wrote, "Sometimes it is hard, I think I can't, I worry about failing and getting hurt, I wonder what others will think, but just like my little girl I have to make a choice. No matter what might happen, I have to do what God calls me to do. Sure I might crash, but she reminded me I can get back up, brush it off and try again. She even went so far after one fall to stand up, smile and say, "There's not even any blood!"

Jesse's latest accomplishment brought this lesson to mind, but God provided another reminder through my son as well...he's done with training wheels. Now that he's rode without them, he won't be putting them back on. His next bike will be bigger, eventually he'll have gears and hand brakes. Someday my dare-devil may even add a motor. He's going to keep moving forward.

I've been convicted I need to do the same...not necessarily with my bike, but as I walk in faith. The timing of this is all God as just a week ago, my eyes were being opened to a tendency in my life. Here's how it tends to go...I step out in obedience and do what God calls me to do and/or believe a Truth He leads me to, but then time goes by and Satan attacks or God tests.

I doubt and get anxious. I feel like a failure and wrestle with insecurity. My mind can be a mess and sometimes I even battle depression. Those are all things I've struggled with my entire life. Clearly, Satan knows my weak spots. Thankfully, I'm finally recognizing my habits...the habits of my mind.

Out here on the farm, we have cow paths through our pastures...it's the route the cattle take. You can spot them from a distance...the grass around them can be tall, but the path is often worn to dirt. I've read a few times that our thoughts do a similar thing...scientists call it memory trace. So if you grew up with insecure thoughts, your brain has a tendency to take that same path and think the same thing. Our thoughts can become a habit. And have you noticed how quickly they can run wild? Mine can go downhill hill from 0-60 faster than any car on the road!!

So what can we do about this? Scripture gives us the answer in 2 Corinthians 10:5 where Paul writes, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I've read this verse countless times and shared it here before, but lately God has been showing me I need to do this constantly. If I want my thoughts to take a different path, I need new ones. Thoughts that are wrong, bad or lies from the enemy need to be removed from my thinking; that will only happen if I take them captive.

I'm beyond grateful for all God's done to renew my thinking and help me understand my identity in Christ, but I'm tired of falling back into old ways. I can see the change that's taken place, but I'm ready for more...not just change, but transformation. I can't do this, but I believe God can do it in me.

The other night I asked Jesse, "Why did you have Dad take your training wheels off?" Side-note - we've been working towards this all summer and I can't count how many times we've taken the wheels off only to put them back on minutes later. My Mr. Strong-Willed says, "Me just was going to do it."

Friend, initially I was going to use that story to lead into the idea that we need to make a choice, but I typed those words and was reminded we have a similar situation with our Heavenly Father. Just like my husband and I were patient with our lil man, God does the same for us...He helps us, prepares us and encourages us. He knows we can do what He created us for, but He won't force us into it. He leads us, but He won't push us.

Rather than being strong-willed, we must be Spirit-filled! We can die to ourselves and let Him live in us. He won't just change us, He will transform us. He longs for us to mature and become more like Christ. He's ready for us to leave the training wheel stage of life behind! Are you ready to do it?

I want to close with 2 things...a song and a prayer. This song has been playing in my head for a week...it speaks to my heart and reminds me of Truth. Friend, we can stay where we are, we can hold on to who we are and we can be safe where He has, but He has called us higher and deeper!

All summer Jesse was hesitant to take the training wheels off, but if you could see him now, you'd see joy, success and even more determination. Friend, if we'd go deeper into our relationship with God we'd experience much of the same. Granted, just like Jesse, we may take some falls and feel some pain, but that's part of the growing process. When this happens we can take another example from my little man...we don't need to go back and start all over again, we don't need to put the training wheels on again. Just get up and start where we are at...keep moving forward - growing closer to Christ, going deeper with Him and higher for Him! So with that, may this song by All Sons and Daughters encourage you today!


Dear Heavenly Father,
Lord, thank you for meeting us where we are at, loving us unconditionally and calling us deeper. I'm grateful for this reminder through training wheels that I too need to move forward. Help me press on, progress and continue being perfected. I want to leave old ways, thoughts and habits behind. I can't do that on my own, so fill me with your Spirit so you can change me from the inside out. Humble my heart Lord, tender it too so I'm sensitive to your Spirit. Help me believe and make me quick to obey. And Father, when I fall remind me who You are...a God who doesn't change, One who never forsakes and is always present. Take away my fear, doubts and worry. Help me cast all my cares on you because you care for me. May I always remember You are good, You are sovereign and You are working for your glory and my good. Today help me take a step forward with You and for Your kingdom. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Friday, September 2, 2016

Expect An Attack!!

A BIG welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe! It's a joy to be sharing there today...I pray my devotional spoke to you. If you'd like to read - "Weed Control is Important", you can do so by clicking HERE.

Along the lines of weed control, I have another illustration from life on the farm...the other day my daughters and I were out walking beans yet again. This year it seems the job is taking forever as we work between the rains. The work is getting harder and our motivation is weakening. I attempted to pep us all up and we headed to the field.

We weren't 20 yards in and we knew we were in for our worst experience yet. The air was humid and the bugs were TERRIBLE! We were walking and swatting and sweating. When we'd stop to cut the weeds (there so big now we need to use clippers), we were nearly carried off by the stinging mosquitoes. It was bad and our attitude steadily grew worse. Ten minutes into the job and we were ready to quit! 

In the hours leading up to this job, I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged. Not even two weeks prior I'd been greatly encouraged and days earlier I'd led a lesson on surrendering to Christ. I struggled with this and was tempted to beat myself up, but that day in the field I was reminded of an important reality. 

Friend, when we are trying to remove the weeds (sin) from our heart and surrender our wills to Christ we must expect an attack. Satan wants nothing to do with us becoming more like Jesus and will trip us up every time we try to glorify God. At the same time, we also have a heavenly Father who will test us and give us opportunities to practice what we preach. These things are a given, but sometimes I forget. 

Our time in the field would have went much better if we had been prepared with bug spray and long sleeves. Our walk of faith will go better if we are prepared with God's Word and His Spirit. 

I've hesitated writing this blog because a few days have passed since this initial attack by the bugs and at times I'm still struggling. The girl who stood up at our women's event encouraging women to walk in obedience and trust God's faithfulness has needed that encouragement myself. I don't want to be a hypocrite, but I know I also need to be honest. 

Sometimes life is hard, parenting can be a real challenge and marriage isn't always glamorous either. Following God doesn't bring continual success, living for Christ requires death to self and surrendering is a daily, moment by moment task. Bad days happen, schedules are full, plans change and feelings get hurt. We remove one weed and another grows back. The attack continues. It may subside for awhile, but we must be prepared for it to start again. 

So how do we prepare? Trust me, that is a question I've been asking, but now in the midst of the battle I find myself focusing on other Truths - one that show us how to fight. 

The first thing I need to remember is - I'm not strong enough to win on my own. And friend, neither are you. We can try and try and try, but it won't work. The battle we are in is spiritual and we need the Spirit if we want to be victorious. So friend, when the attack comes let's remember to ask God to fill us with His Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18b)

#2 - I need to learn a lesson from the attack in our field...after completing our first round we went back to the truck and applied bug spray - this helped keep the enemy at bay. The armor of God, which is outlined in Ephesians 6:10-20, will do the same for us in a spiritual sense. Personally, the piece that sticks out to me tonight is the helmet. "Why?" because my mind is often where the attack comes - just like the bugs stung me where my skin was exposed, Satan hits me where he knows I'm weak - my mind. He brings lies and creates doubts about my roles as wife, mom, woman in ministry and follower of Christ. He brings up regrets from the past and worries about the future. Our pastor often says, "The mind is God's classroom, the Christian's battle-field and Satan's playground." How true! 

Finally, #3 - earlier this week a friend shared a quote on Facebook that helped put things in perspective - "The eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky. The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful, wise and deadly. Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles. Don't fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle ground like the eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You'll be assured of victory. Pray without ceasing." 

Like everything prayer is vital. It changes things - sometimes our circumstances, but always our perspective! When we humble ourselves and approach our heavenly Father...the One who loves us, created us and has a plan for us, we are more apt to look at the bigger picture and remember His promises. I know this, but I must do it. Friend, the same is true for you. May we live Ephesians 6:18 - "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." One final bit of advice - remember YOU are one of the Lord's people, so start by praying for yourself!

May this picture not only bring you a laugh, but serve as a powerful visual as well. That's me sporting my 13 year old son's football helmet...I don't normally wear it around, but we must continually protect our minds. We'll do that when we follow my little guy's example...he's leaning in close to his earthly momma and we must do the same with God, our Heavenly Father and Jesus, our Lord and Savior. The third reminder I glean from the picture...we must remember we are part of a family - the family of God. When attacks come and the battle rages, I tend to want to go into iso mode, but that's the worst strategy out there. There is strength in numbers and God created us for relationship - first with Him and then with our brothers and sisters. We stand stronger when we stand together! 

Friend, I prayed for each person God brought to these words. May He encourage you, prepare you and fight for you! The attacks will come, the battles will be hard, but the victory has been won!!

Dear Heavenly Father, may we not forget that greater are You who is in us than he who is in the world. You have won the battle, you have defeated death and your desire is for us to walk victoriously. Fill us with your Spirit so we can do just that. Prepare us for the attack, equip us for the battle and assure us of your promises! In Jesus' Name, Amen


Sunday, August 28, 2016

The things I write in my journal...(A Study on Surrender)

For as long as I can remember I've been one to journal...I can express myself best through writing. For years, nobody ever saw those words, but over the last 8 God's led me to share some of them here on my blog. He still leads me to pen more in my prayer journal, which are typically for His reading only. 

Today though, He's leading me to share a line with you...on Thursday night I wrote this, "I want to die so that You may live." I stopped after I finished that statement and had an immediate flashback... there was a time not quite 17 years ago when the first 4 words were true. I was in the pit of depression, feeling alone and without hope and I wanted to die. I didn't think life was worth living or I was worth loving. My world was dark and my soul was empty. Thankfully, God intervened and Psalm 40 became a reality in my life as He pulled me out of the pit...He set my feet on the rock and put a new song on my heart. 

Now years later, He's given me the same desire - death, but an entirely different reason. I don't want to die in order to escape, I want to die so Christ can live. Friend, if you share that desire I pray you will read on. If what you are reading seems crazy, I pray you will continue reading as well. I pray God has a message for whoever He brings here...reading friend, that is YOU!

Just over a week ago, I helped with the ReNEWed Life Women's Event and God continues to stir my heart with the Truth our speaker shared. Micca Campbell spent time talking about much, but one of my big take-aways was SURRENDER. She discussed the difference between being a committed Christian and a surrendered one...trust me, we need to be the latter, but often we settle for the initial option. 

God has led me to dig deeper into this topic...it's one thing to know what I need to do and another to do it. I prepared a short study on surrender for our local Titus24U group and I'm grateful to share it with you now. I encourage you to open your Bible, read the Scriptures and see what God has to say to you.

Before we go any further though, I feel the need to include a warning statement here. Don't worry there aren't any bad pictures or inappropriate words, but the following content may create tests from God and/or attacks from Satan. Friend, surrendering is hard, but know you are not alone. Be prepared and expect a challenge, but remember God's grace is sufficient. I attempted to put a little encouragement into a video and as my son banged dishes in the background I surrendered the idea of it being perfect, but my prayer is it reminds you that you're not alone in your journey - others struggle to surrender too and Jesus is with us!!



With that let's begin...

To get us started a quick definition - according to Webster surrender means to cease resistance to an enemy, submit to authority, yield or give up all rights. The Biblical definition I found said to give up your own will, yield to a higher power, submit rights and/or control and to die to self. Luke 14:26, Philippians 1:21 and Colossians 3:3 all give us a glimpse of surrender. What do these verses say to you?

As I began, I found myself wrestling with some questions and I want to challenge you to think about them as well...

Have I surrendered?


What do I need to surrender?


The answer to this question is long and includes things like dreams and doubts, fears and pride, worries and plans, roles, hobbies, relationships, thoughts, feelings, kids, food, Facebook, you fill in the blank. Our walk with Christ is a constant spiritual battle which calls for the same consistent response!

How do I surrender?


Again, there isn't one short, easy answer to this question, but as I studied and prayed a few things came to mind. I must remember who God is...He is faithful, powerful and loving. He has a plan...one for my good. Confession can also play a part in surrendering, along with trust, abiding and renewing. Fixing our eyes on Christ and asking for a filling of the Spirit will aid us in this action as well.


Finally, one last question we must address - Why do I surrender? Friend, this is a good time for a heart examination and an honest prayer to God. Take some time and think about this.



Surrender must be about who God is, not what I get. We need to surrender with the right motives and a pure heart. The act of surrender will help us die to self, embrace His plan and live for His glory. 

Surrender is definitely a military term and as I thought about this I wondered, "Why does an army surrender?" Typically they do this because the opponent is stronger, too powerful and they know they can't win. From a war perspective this made sense, but as I thought about this in a personal way I struggled with the idea of labeling God my opponent. The Holy Spirit provided some wisdom though and I had a new thought - When we are living in the flesh, we are opposing God. We must remember who He is - we can't overcome Him. No matter how strong the flesh is or how much Satan tempts us, we must give up! 

One other interesting find in my military study on this topic...there is such a thing as false surrender. This is a war crime and friend, think with me for a minute how much worse this has to be in a spiritual sense. God knows our heart, partial surrender is not enough - He wants all!

Finally, it's important to remember surrender is followed by a time of transition in war. And friend, in the spiritual sense it's often followed by a time of transformation. So now for our study...

Heavenly Father, I come to you now and ask you to meet me in your word...give me a glimpse of who You are. Tender my heart to allow you to work, fill me with your Spirit so I can discern what You have to say. Lord, I know I need to surrender, but I ask for your help in doing just that. Encourage me, comfort me and convict me where needed as I study. I give this time to You. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

Open your Bible to Luke 5 and read verses 1-11. After an initial reading, what does this passage say to you about surrender?


Now let's slow down and dig a bit deeper...Peter is a main character, so let's read the last account in chapter 4 to see what he had just experienced. What took place here? What is the significance of that?

Also a bit of geography...Peter and the others are fishing on the Sea of Galilee and they figure this is just one of the 30 fishing towns surrounding the lake. Chances are their were many boats Jesus could have chosen, but He chose Peter's. Friend, there are billions of people in the world and God has chosen you, let that sink in for a bit.

Reread verse 4...what does Jesus tell Peter to do? 


Jesus doesn't just tell him what to do, let down his net, He also gives insight into what to expect - a catch. This was such a reminder that Jesus knows the outcome, He's planned our future and it is for good.

Let's move to the very next verse...how does Peter respond to Jesus' command? 


What Jesus was asking made no sense to Peter, but he chose obedience. Friend, God may be asking you to surrender something that seems crazy or too hard or impossible, but I pray we take God at His Word and are willing to do what He says.

What is the outcome of Peter's obedience that we read of in verses 6 and 7?


Friend, when we are willing to surrender and do what God asks, go where He leads or trust who He is...He will bless us. It may not come immediately like it did for Peter, but in His perfect timing it will come. (See Deuteronomy 28 for more about God blessing obedience.)

In verses 8-10a, what does Peter do? What can we learn from his response?


It is vital that we recognize our sinfulness and realize our weakness when compared to the greatness of God. Peter has witnessed Jesus do miracles, but here he experienced his power in his daily life. Acknowledging God's power is vital as we attempt to surrender...are you willing to do that today?


Finally, verses 10b-11 shed light on what Jesus was calling Peter to do. What does Jesus say to Peter? 


Friend, if the Spirit is leading you to surrender know Jesus whispers these same words to you...we don't have to be afraid. Remember Jesus cares, He knows and He has a plan. Whatever we have to give up or walk away from will be replaced by something so much better. (And so you know I'm writing these words to myself before I write them for you...I get that this is hard, but I also know it's necessary and I pray we each remember who God is as we wrestle with whatever He's asking us to surrender today.)

How did Peter and his partners respond? Are you willing to do the same? 



Take a minute and think about the timing of this call...Peter was at the top of his game...he'd just had a catch of fish that nearly sunk the boat and what did he do? He brought it to shore and walked away from it all. Friend, surrender will require the same for you and me, we must be willing to lay our treasures down, let go of the roles we play and follow Jesus. 

One thing that has struck me from this passage is the change in Peter's response from Jesus first command to the second. In verse 5, Peter shares his doubts and I believe internally was questioning Jesus' command. Chances are he didn't want to do this, but as he says, "but because You say so..." I don't know Peter's heart, but I wonder if he was simply going through the motions of obedience. Was he obeying out of fear? I have these thoughts because God is showing me sometimes that's how I work. I've stepped out in obedience and God has worked, but it's not necessarily been because I've surrendered my heart. I've always been the obedient, compliant first born...when an authority gives orders I tend to do them, but I'm learning that's not the type of obedience God wants. As His child He longs for me to have a relationship with Him, to trust Him, to embrace His plan and follow His lead. Like Peter He wants me to be willing to surrender all and work for His kingdom. And friend, He wants the same for you!
Even Superman needs to SURRENDER!
With all that said, I encourage you to pause now and pray. Ask God to show you what you need to surrender and then pray for the strength and discipline to do that. Below you will find a prayer...it may be one you want to use in the days to come to keep this idea of surrender at the fore front of your mind. I've also included some songs that say much about surrender and I pray they encourage your heart. Finally, if you want to dig a bit deeper you'll find some scripture references about the One we surrender to, results of surrendering and the ultimate example of surrender. I trust God will use your time in His Word. If you work thru this study and have any questions, let me know. I'd love for you to leave a comment about what God speaks to your heart...it's a joy to hear the insight YOU share! Praying for you friend!!

Dear Heavenly Father,
You are God, You are King and You are in control. At the same time You are good, loving and forgiving. Help me remember who You are and the power You have. You created me for a purpose and died for a reason. You want to fill me with Your Spirit and use me for your glory. Help me die to self so that You can live in me. Surrender isn’t easy…since I was little I’ve been taught not to give up. I have a no quit attitude, so Lord I need You to change my perspective. Don’t let me see this step of surrender as loss, but gain. When I surrender to You, your plan…the perfect one, that is for my good, can unfold. I know there are things I hold onto and areas I need to let go of, fill me with Your Spirit so I can do that now. Open the eyes of my heart so I can see where I’ve committed, but still need to surrender. Help me put my flesh to death so your Spirit can live in me. Father God, I want to know you more…I ask for eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart willing to receive. Don’t let me forget who you are in those moments when my flesh wants its own way. Tender my heart to be sensitive to your Spirit. Lord, with Paul I want to say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body,  I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In Jesus’ Name, I pray…Amen

Remember Who We Surrender To
Eternal - Deut. 33:27                  Faithful - 2 Thes. 3:3                   Gracious - Isaiah 30:18  
Holy - 1 Peter 1:16                     Immutable – Malachi 3:6            Independent –Psalm 50:9-12
 Infinite – Psalm 147:5               Just - Isaiah 61:8                          Loving - 1 John 4:8
Merciful – Psalm 145:9              Omnipotent – Psalm 147:5          Omnipresent – Isaiah 66:1-2
Omniscient – Psalm 139:1-4      Sovereign – Isaiah 46:10            Wise – Isaiah 55:8-9


Results of Surrender                                             Ultimate Example of Surrender
John 6:44, Acts 2:21                                                             John 3:16
John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:21                                               John 4:34
Ephesians 5:18                                                                      Luke 22:42
Galatians 5:22                                                                       Philippians 2:6-8


“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,
so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19b)

 "I Surrender All"

"Lay Me Down"


"Surrender"


"At the Cross"

"Lay it Down"


Monday, August 22, 2016

Thinking about royalty...

Awhile back I was reminded of a crown I once wore...it wasn't a crown I wanted and it's not one others were striving for either. I never thought much about crowns...the tomboy in me didn't want one and my insecure self knew I didn't deserve one. 

So...it was kind of funny and awkward when the Howard County Pork Council called as my senior year came to a close and asked if I'd be the county "Pork Queen". I'll wait while you laugh...this is a reality in Iowa. The lucky girl gets to hand out ribbons at the fair, ride in parades thru the summer and promote "The Other White Meat." If $100 hadn't been involved, I'm pretty sure I would have said, "No." 

That simple "Yes" opened the door for jokes, new names and crazy gifts. I was called, "Miss Piggy" and given a new nose. It was a job I did, but a crown I didn't want. 

This all took place during a time of struggle...I was a very insecure 18 year old who deeply struggled with my looks. My tender heart took words very seriously and personally. The doubts I already had were confirmed with the crazy crown put on my head. 

I never longed for a homecoming title or crown of my own and once I received one it seemed to solidify the thoughts and lies I believed. The girl associated with pigs...an animal that stinks and squeals and is rarely one others want to be around, felt the title fit. The one who struggled with looks, not being good enough and not feeling loved had a crown that fit. One nobody else wanted, but was given to me. 

Eventually, most forgot the role I'd played, but the struggles continued. I battled doubts and lies as life went on and eventually found myself in the pit of depression. For a few years my world grew darker, but I played the "I'm fine" game and walked thru life trying to hide the pain and pretend all was well. 

God intervened and saved me from a suicide attempt. He drew me to Himself and I eventually started a personal relationship with Him. In the last 16+ years, He has done a mighty work - replacing lies with Truth, pouring out His love and making me into who He created me to be. 

This last weekend I was blessed to help with the ReNEWed Life Women's Event for the 5th time. The day was AMAZING (I'm sure I'll say more in the days to come) - God said and did much. He touched hearts and transformed lives. He reminded me of Truth, His faithfulness and my role.

Our speaker, Micca Campbell, made a statement as she shared her testimony that I continue thinking about - "This is not who you are." These were words God impressed on her heart years ago and ones He used to speak to me today. And friend, I pray they speak to you as well.

How do you define yourself? Do you see yourself as "Miss Piggy"? Define yourself with labels others give? Is your identity rooted in lies? Are you wearing a "crown" you don't need to wear? Perhaps you find yourself thinking - 'I don't deserve a title. I'm not worthy of a crown.'

A couple of years ago, God used this royalty idea to speak to my heart as I spoke with a friend, who I felt I didn't deserve. I remember thinking, "She was a Baylor Beauty when the only title I could have won was 'Riceville Reject.'" If you want to read that lesson about our worth you can find it HERE.

Friend, I don't know your struggle with worth and identity, but I've visited with enough women to guess you've probably had one. I've also walked this road long enough to know God is constantly teaching me more and continuously helping me become who He created me to be. I trust He is, and will do, the same for you.

The other day as I sat and watched God work at our women's event a verse came to mind. Isaiah 62:3 - "You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God." I'm not Miss Piggy, Miss Doubtful, Miss Worthless, Miss I'm Not Good Enough and you're not "Miss fill in the blank" either.

Friend, we don't have to wait for the world to give us a crown, if we've accepted Jesus as Savior and confessed Him as Lord, we are covered in His righteousness. We are a crown in God's hand. We are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) He wants us to shine for Him. (Matthew 5:16) He has plans for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He created us for His glory. 

But, in order for that to happen we must be who He created us to be...we must quit living up to the titles the world gives or the labels Satan whispers with his lies. So to get you started, here's a few verses about who you are my royal friend -

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

"You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." (John 15:16)

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations..." (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)

We must not only accept our role as royalty, but then work to encourage others to embrace their crown as well. These words from Isaiah 61:1-3 offer some instruction about the work we are called to do as royalty in the kingdom of God. 

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor." 

Friend, I'll leave you with this...

Heavenly Father, 
Lord you are king. You are the royal, worthy One. I love you and am grateful you chose me as your own. Help me become who you made me to be...when I'm not living as You created me to live, help me see that. When I'm believing lies about who I am, I ask You to quickly replace them with Truth. When I cling to the labels the world gives and doubt my ability, remind me your grace is sufficient. When Satan throws lies that make me feel less than, may you help me remember that greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. Father, don't just let me accept this position as royalty, but instead use it for your kingdom. May I shine your light and live for your glory. Use me to help the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom and comfort the hurting. I want to be who you made me to be so that I can help others become who you created them to be. So Lord, I ask You to fill me with 
your Holy Spirit and then give me a heart sensitive to your Spirit. In Jesus' precious and powerful name I pray...Amen

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hungry?

Feeding cattle...a job that happens every day on the farm and something I've done for the last week. The other night I walked into the cattle pen to do my chores, but later realized I was walking into God's classroom to be reminded of a lesson we must not forget.

As I approached the gate with the skidloader, the cattle came out of the shed and started lining up at the feed bunks. They were hungry and they knew where to go for nourishment.

While watching this, I had a thought - why don't I do the same thing?

I mean don't you get hungry? Chances are we're all grown women, so we know where the kitchen is, but let's think about this in a spiritual sense. Are you ever emptied? Need your cup refilled? Are you running low on energy? Your love tanking nearing empty? Your level of joy almost non-existent? How about peace? Are you experiencing that?

Friend, God provides all we need. Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." He created the resources and they will never run out. We feed our cattle and God will do the same and more for our souls.

But just like the cattle line up at the bunk, you and I must go to His book. His living and active word will teach, correct, rebuke and train. His Word will fill us. It is the living water that we long for. I can't force a nearly grown steer to eat and God won't force us either, so today will you make the choice to go to Him and get filled up on His Word?

This sounds simple enough and experience tells me Scripture has the power to transform. God's Word has impacted me greatly, but I'm sorry to admit I don't always make the right choice.

As I observed the cattle and thought about God feeding me, I realized a problem with this illustration. Our cattle have no other source of nourishment...if they want something to eat, they must come to the bunk and wait for us to fill it. Sometimes I wish it was that easy for you and me, but we live in a broken world full of sin and distractions.

When we are feeling empty we have many options - picking up the phone and calling a friend, mindlessly wasting time on Facebook, eating another cookie or watching another TV show. Or we can ignore the hunger pains and get busy doing work, work, work. Do any of these sound familiar? Do you ever fill up on the wrong thing? Does it just leave you feeling emptier than you were before? The next time you're hungry, remember where we find the only nourishment that will last.

Another lesson from my four legged friends - they are satisfied with the same thing every day. My kids would probably wonder what was up if I served them the same meal day after day...if it was pancakes they'd be thrilled, but if it was oatmeal we'd probably have a revolt! Have you ever struggled with this in a spiritual sense? Do you long to hear from God and all that comes is a verse that's familiar?

Friend, that's not a problem. God's Word is living and active...it provides what we need. When He gives you a familiar verse or passage, dig in deeper, read it in context, study key words or find it's meaning in the original language. Scripture will satisfy.

Finally, one other thought from my time in the cattle pen - this time an advantage for us. We feed our cattle morning and night, so they eat twice a day. Friend, we don't have to wait for mealtime or bedtime to feed on God's Word. It's available anytime. The same can be said for the One who feeds us as well. We can pray anytime and anywhere.

The only reason we are ever hungry is because we fill up on the wrong food or don't stop long enough to eat His Word or drink the Living Water. Let's be sure to do that today!!

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord you know my every need. You know what I'm hungry for and can provide that nourishment. Help me go to You when the hunger pains hit. May I trust You to fill me up. Give me a hunger for Your Word. Like the deer pants for water may I thirst for You. Thank You for always providing and feeding me, Your sheep. You are a good, good Father and I am thankful. Help me be like Mary and choose what is better - time at your feet. In Jesus' holy name I pray...Amen